As identity theft remains a persistent problem, the risk is especially acute for senior citizens.
Several factors combine to make seniors the most vulnerable group for identity theft. First off, their generation tends to have the most money, making them a profitable target for thieves. Second, seniors may be less comfortable with online banking or similar technologies, which means many people assume incorrectly they’re at a lower risk for identity theft.
The most common types of identity fraud that seniors experience include opening bank and credit accounts in their name, as well as payday and car loans. As with younger victims, personal information is stolen and used to create fraudulent accounts that fund illicit purchases and leave a financial and administrative mess for the victims to sort out.
Other common scams that target seniors primarily include fake technical support or charities, Medicare or Social Security, IRS, or bank official impersonations. These calls are designed to keep people on the phone long enough to create enough urgency that the victim shares personal financial data that enables fraud.
Reducing the Risk
As with victims of all ages, there are a few warning signs of potential identity theft or fraud that seniors need to watch out for. These include debt collection calls for accounts or loans you didn’t open or apply to, as well as bank and credit card statements that show unusual or unauthorized activity.
Other important measures include:
- Review bank statements and your credit reports consistently to identify potential problems.
- Avoid giving out personal information over the phone.
- Understand that government agencies will contact people by mail, not by phone.
- Pay attention to your incoming mail. A sudden increase in bills or pre-approved offers may indicate additional accounts have been opened illicitly.
- Store financial documents securely to prevent someone inside your home from stealing the documents or information.
A credit freeze may offer additional peace of mind. By preventing lenders from accessing your credit history, you reduce the risk of fraudulent accounts being opened in your name.