ID Theft, Medicare Fraud Prevention in People Over 45

My job as a security analyst is to educate people on the prevalence of ID theft, and this especially includes those over 45, and I also must point out that scams involving Medicare are on the rise.

3DAccording to Reuters, Identity theft led the list of top consumer complaints once again in 2013, with U.S. consumers reporting that they lost over $1.6 billion to various types of fraud. Of the 2 million consumer complaints that the commission received last year, 290,056, or about 14 percent, were related to identity theft, the FTC said.

People over 45 attract identity thieves because often the 45-plus crowd is more trusting, and have more wealth and disposable income built up. They’re not too eager to report identity theft for fear their families will think they’ve lost control. Crooks know all this. Learn how people over 45 can protect against identity theft and Medicare scams.

Identity Theft Prevention for the 45-Plus Crowd

  • Know that those closest to you (family members, caregivers) can be a thief waiting for a prime opportunity. Be leery of anyone asking for even a small loan or giving a sob story.
  • ID information and other personal data and documents should be locked up in a safe.
  • Get a PO box for your mail—to receive and to take outgoing to.
  • Shred personal documents you no longer need.
  • Thieves like to rummage through trash for discarded direct mail and credit card offers. Call the FTC OPTOUT at 1-888-567-8688 to stop these offerings.
  • Memorize your SSN so you don’t have to bring it in public.
  • Thin out your wallet.
  • Cancel unused cards.
  • Never have any personal information printed on your checks except your PO box address. Have only your first and middle initial with your last name printed on checks.
  • Have your bank issue an ATM-only card rather than an ATM debit card.
  • Don’t wait till you’re a victim of crime to have a handy list of all your financially related contact information already composed.
  • Update your devices operating systems
  • Update your devices antivirus, antispyware, antiphishing and firewall.
  • Lock up your devices with a password.
  • Use string passwords including upper/lower case and numbers.
  • Use a passwords manager. Never use the same passwords twice.

Credit Card Scams

  • Don’t be phishing bait. An e-mail comes to you claiming you must make a payment and includes a link where to do this. These scam e-mails make gullible people think they’re from banks, retailers, even what seems like the IRS. The link to a phony website entices victims into typing in their bank account or credit card numbers: a done deal for the thieves.
  • Review bank and credit card statements promptly. Reporting something suspicious within two days means minimal liability with bank accounts. Wait too long and you may never recover your loss.
  • Never lose sight of your debit card. Always watch clerks swipe it. Don’t hand it to anyone else at the store.
  • Consider ditching the debit/credit card. Use an ATM card and a separate credit card rather than the combo.
  • Never give your card to anyone. This means a caregiver, nanny, dog sitter, relative—you never know what they may do.
  • Never give your card or account information to someone who phones you.
  • See more “credit card security tips HERE

Social Media Scams

  • Friend only those who you actually know, like and trust.
  • Remember the Internet is forever—Even if you have the highest privacy settings, it’s good practice to consider anything you do on the Internet as public knowledge, so be careful what you share online or via your mobile device.
  • Don’t reveal personal information—Seriously consider why it’s needed before you post your address, phone number, Social Security number, or other personal information online.
  • Put a PIN on it—Make sure you have your smartphone and tablet set to auto-lock after a certain time of unused and make sure it requires a PIN or passcode to unlock it. This is especially helpful to protect any information you do not want seen should your device be lost or stolen.
  • Manage your privacy settings—At most, only friends you know in real life should be able to see details of your profile.
  • Change your passwords frequently—In addition to choosing passwords that are difficult to guess (try to make them at least eight characters long and a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols), remember to regularly change your passwords.

Medicare Card Scams

  • The weak link in Medicare is that the SSN can be used as the identifying information on the insurance cards.
  • After the first visit to a doctor, copy your Medicare card, ink out every thing but the last four numbers of the SSN, then use the copy for subsequent visits.
  • A Medicare representative will never call you to verify information so that medical bills can be paid. A call like this is a scam.
  • If somebody other than your physician asks for Medicare information, call 1-800-MEDICARE to report this. Only when you’re in your doctor’s office should your doctor request such information. If in doubt, never give your Medicare number out.

If You Are a Victim

What should people over age 45 do if they suspect identity theft?

  • Call one of these three credit reporting agencies to put a fraud alert out on your credit report:
  • Experian: 888-397-3742; Equifax: 800-525-6285; TransUnion: 800-680-7289
  • Contact only one company because they’re legally required to contact the other two.
  • Contact local law enforcement, banks and credit card companies if you suspect ID theft.
  • Call the FTC ID theft hotline: 877-438-4338; or online at www.consumer.gov/idtheft

Identity theft protection:

  • Does Identity Theft Protection Really Work? YES.
  • How effective are their scanning/monitoring methods? It all depends on the service. Check out BestIDTheftCompanys.com ratings.
  • Can they truly protect consumers? The answers may vary. Identity theft protection is designed to protect you from new lines of credit being opened in your name—and along with the recovery/restoration component; it’s designed to clean up the mess.

Read our blog post on “Identity theft protection HERE

Identity Theft – Common Consumer Errors

The major problem that consumers face today is a fundamental lack of understanding of what identity theft actually is. Most people think of identity theft as when someone uses your credit card without your permission. Fraudulent credit card use is certainly a multibillion dollar problem, but it’s only one small part of the identity theft threat. A comprehensive understanding of what identity theft and what it is not empowers citizens to make informed decisions about how they should protect themselves.

People who have been victimized by identity theft often have a difficult time functioning as a result of their circumstance. Some deal with minor administrative annoyances whiles others suffer financial devastation and legal nightmares.

No one is immune to identity theft:

A woman contacted me who was previously a very successful real estate agent and the president of her local real estate group. She had climbed the ranks from sales to broker/owner and oversaw dozens of employees. A former boyfriend stole her Social Security number and his new girlfriend used it to assume her identity. Over the course of five years the ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend traveled the world on stolen credit and destroyed the real estate agent’s ability to buy and sell property. Her real estate license was suspended and her life was turned upside down.

Awareness is key:

Do you carry your Social Security number or a Social Security card in your wallet? Do you provide this number to anyone who asks for it? The most commonly dispensed advice in response to these questions is: don’t carry the card and don’t give out the number. But in reality, there are many times when you have to use your Social Security number. Because this number is our primary identifier, we have to put it at risk constantly. Refusing to disclose your Social Security number under any circumstances is like refusing to eat because the food might be bad for you. There are always risks. The key is managing those risks and making smarter decisions.

Do you know what ATM skimming is? Have you seen a skimmer? Have you been phished? Would you know what a fraudulent auction looks like? Do you put your name on a “stop delivery list” when you travel? Do you know how to update the critical security patches in your computer’s operating system? Do you know if the doctor’s office your child just went to has done background checks on all the employees who handled your and your child’s Social Security number? Most people struggle to answer questions like these.

We live in a technologically dependant time and we rely on all these tools and modes of communication, and most people do not understand the risks. The good news is, I do. And McAfee does. And what we do is keep you informed of your options, so that you know how to protect yourself and your family.

The most important thing you can do right now is not worry about this stuff. But you do need to take some time to educate yourself.

Download McAfee’s eGuide,“What You Need to Know to Avoid Identity Theft.”

Take five minutes to assess your risk of identity theft. Fill out the Identity Theft Risk Assessment Tool to get your “risk profile.”