Identity theft happens to millions of people every year, and the elderly are disproportionately affected. The problem is serious enough that a bill called the Seniors Fraud Prevention Act has been introduced in Congress twice (2013 and 2015). It’s important that we be aware that our elderly loved ones are in the crosshairs, and take steps to protect them.

There are several factors that make the elderly more vulnerable to identity theft and other kinds of fraud. For one thing, older generations often look back to a time of more openness and trust. Self-reliance can be another issue. Elderly adults wishing to maintain their self-reliance can sometimes be reluctant to seek out or accept counsel from loved ones on things like online security.

Here are a few of the ways identity thieves and cyber criminals are attacking the elderly:

  • Stealing snail mail

It’s easy for an identity thief to steal an elderly person’s mail and gain access to any number of bank statements, tax and other financial information, personal identification information, etc. They can also go through the garbage to find bills and other discarded documents.

  • Scam phone calls

Identity thieves have long made it a practice to call the elderly pretending to be representing charities, reputable organizations, or financial institutions. They are often very convincing, and can trick the victim into revealing personal information.

  • Phishing emails

These are increasingly common in recent years. Identity thieves will send emails mimicking a bank or well-known financial institution and ask their targets to verify account information or for their social security numbers. The “Nigerian prince” scam is another well-known example of phishing.

When looking out for elderly loved ones, the best bet is to be proactive rather than reactive. The following are some good strategies for heading off identity theft.

  • Ensure that they are being looked after by trustworthy caregivers

Watch for any kind of suspicious or untoward behavior. Make sure background checks are conducted for all caregivers or any other staff working closely with your loved ones. References you know and trust are a big plus.

  • Have regular discussions with them regarding the latest scams

The IRS maintains a list of common scams that may be encountered by taxpayers called the “Dirty Dozen”. It’s a great resource to share with your loved one. Here’s the link to 2017’s Dirty Dozen list. These discussions might also take place in conjunction with an elder law attorney.

  • Monitor their financial activity

Keep an eye out for any unusual cash withdrawals or other expenditures. This could be a sign that your loved one is being victimized by a scam of some kind. Purchasing some kind of identity theft protection can also be a smart move.

We are proud to serve the citizens of Livingston Country and Macomb County. If you have questions regarding your elderly loved ones, follow this link to get our contact info and schedule a consultation.

Post A Comment