Identity Theft Protection for Seniors
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- Seniors tend to have good credit scores and established savings, making them perfect targets for identity theft and other types of fraud.
- Phone scams are one particularly common method used to commit senior identity theft.
Identity theft can happen to anyone at any age, but seniors are particularly vulnerable. Seniors tend to have good credit scores and established savings accounts, making them prime targets for many scammers. They may also be more trusting than individuals in other age groups and more likely to provide their personal information.
Luckily, you can help better protect against your elderly loved ones from becoming victims of identity theft. It helps to educate yourself and the seniors in your life on how to recognize scams, set up identity theft protection options and know the available resources if they do fall victim to fraud.
How to protect your loved ones from senior identity theft
- Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers. Phone scams are one particularly common method used to commit senior identity theft. For example, scammers may solicit fake charity donations or claim that the recipient of the call has won a sweepstakes or lottery and then ask for a fee to be wired in exchange for the winnings. Scam callers may also pretend to be a grandchild or other relative asking for money, or they may pose as an official from a government organization such as the IRS or Social Security Administration.
The best way to prevent identity theft and other types of phone fraud is to ignore calls from numbers you don’t know. Educate your senior loved ones to avoid unknown numbers; if they do pick up, they should hang up as soon as the caller asks for personal or financial information.
Since scammers may claim to be a representative of a bank or government agency, tell the seniors in your life that it is okay to hang up if they suspect something is unusual, and to contact the financial institution or agency separately to verify the call.
- Check statements and other financial records. Regularly checking financial records, such as monthly bank statements, credit reports and credit card bills, can potentially help catch fraud early on. Make sure the seniors in your life review these documents for warning signs of identity theft, such as unfamiliar transactions on a credit card statement.
You can help your senior loved ones by going over their credit reports and other financial documents with them, looking out for any inaccurate or unfamiliar accounts or addresses. You can also help them set up a free, one-year fraud alert on their credit reports, which warns creditors that they may be a victim of identity theft. Potential lenders are encouraged to take extra steps to verify your identity before granting new credit.
For a free monthly VantageScore 3.0 credit score and Equifax credit report, create a myEquifax account and click "Get my free credit score" on your myEquifax dashboard to enroll in Equifax Core Credit™. A VantageScore is one of many types of credit scores. You can also get free credit reports annually from the three nationwide consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) — Equifax, TransUnion and Experian — at AnnualCreditReport.com.
- Set up direct deposits. Help your elderly loved ones set up direct deposits for any recurring payments they receive, such as Social Security, retirement or other benefit income. Once a direct deposit is in place, your loved ones won’t have to worry about someone taking a physical check from their mailbox and forging a signature in an attempt to steal the money.
What to do if you’ve fallen victim to elderly identity theft
The shame of falling victim to a scam may prevent some senior citizens from reporting an identity theft or other fraud incident to the proper authorities. Scammers know this and use it to their advantage. However, if you or a loved one has fallen victim to elderly identity theft, it’s important to act immediately.
The Federal Trade Commission recommends calling the fraud department of the company where the incident occurred, such as a credit card company, and explaining that you suspect you may be an identity theft victim. They can help you close and freeze accounts. Additionally, you should change your login information as soon as possible.
Then, you should place a fraud alert with one of the three nationwide CRAs, order a credit report to check for any unauthorized activity or other incorrect information and create an identity theft report. You only need to contact one of the nationwide CRAs to have an initial one-year fraud alert, active-duty alert or extended fraud alert placed on all three of your credit reports. To place a fraud alert on your Equifax credit report, you can create a free myEquifax™ account online.
Seniors can also call the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 833-372-8311, a free resource set up by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime to report fraud against anyone aged 60 or older. The National Elder Fraud Hotline is staffed by professionals who specialize in supporting victims of fraud, so remind your elderly loved ones that the case managers are there to help, not shame the victim.
Identity theft protection options
One way to help better protect against identity theft is to subscribe to an identity theft protection service that allows you to monitor your credit reports. The best identity theft protection companies should be known for quality customer service and offer features that help better protect your identity and provide credit monitoring alerts.
No one is immune to identity theft, but you can help protect yourself and your elderly loved ones by knowing the risks and taking proper precautions.