Is it easier for crooks to prey on senior citizens, or is it that most targets are the seniors?
Well, one thing’s for sure: A disproportionate percentage of identity theft complaints come from people 50-plus (though I’m sure some readers would hardly consider 50-somethings to be seniors—but you get the point).
Some scammers go after seniors because they know that many older people have a lot of money saved up. And it’s also no secret that many seniors aren’t as sharp as they used to be, and also are not caught up on technology.
Some common scams that target the elderly:
- A caller pretending to be “your favorite grandson.” This lures the victim into announcing the name of that grandson, and then the crook identifies himself by that name. If the victim has hearing loss, he can’t tell that the caller’s voice doesn’t sound like his grandson.
- The caller then gives a sob story and asks Gramps to wire him some money.
- Retirement home employees access resident records for their Social Security numbers and other data, then sell these to crooks.
- An e-mail supposedly from the victim’s bank (or IRS or FBI) warns them that something is wrong and that they must act immediately to resolve the issue—and the action involves typing in their Social Security number, bank login information, etc.
- Scam mortgage companies. These fraudsters will get ahold of applicants’ Social Security numbers, other data and even their deeds to commit identity theft.
How to Help Prevent Identity Theft
- Some seniors are active on social media. Be very careful what you post on Facebook, Instagram, etc. Don’t post anything that could reveal your location or when you’re away from home.
- If you’re looking for employment, refuse to take any job in which the “employer” wants you to cash checks through your account or get involved with wire transfers.
- Don’t keep sensitive information in your wallet/purse.
- Don’t leave your cell phone, wallet, etc., out in public where some punk could skate by and snatch it.
- Use a shredder for all personal and financial documents.
- Automatically delete, without ever opening, e-mails that seem to have come from your bank, the IRS or FBI. Same for e-mails announcing you won a prize or say something very suspicious in the subject line such as “Dear Blessed One” or, “I Need Your Help.”
- Never conduct financial transactions on a site that has only an “http” in the URL, but instead, an “https” and a yellow lock icon before it.
- Use Hotspot Shield VPN when on Free WiFi. Free WiFi is often unencrypted and vulnerable to hackers.
- Make copies of your credit cards and other crucial documents and keep them in an easy-to-remember place in case any of these cards, etc., get stolen or lost, so you can quickly cancel the cards, etc.
- If you want to mail a letter that contains sensitive data, deposit it at a post office collection box.
- Believe it or not, crooks will get information out of obituaries to commit identity theft. Leave out details like date of birth, birth town, name of schools, etc., and just note age of passing and give details that an ID thief can’t use, such as, “She loved doing volunteer work with children.”
- Check your bank and credit card statements every month for suspicious charges.
Retirees don’t have to be victims of fraud as long as they are paying attention to various scams and recognize their responsibilities regarding preventing identity theft. By putting systems in place fraud doesn’t need to happen.
Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.