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Protecting Your Social Security Number

Many people wonder if it is safe in certain situations to give out their Social Security number. We sure are asked for it a lot, but do you have to give it? When is it necessary? Here is some perspective:

One of the best rules you can live by is this: just because a person asks for your Social Security number, it doesn’t mean you have to give it. But also remember there are situations where you will not be provided various services unless you get it out.

You might feel that you have to, though, and freely give it. This could be a huge mistake, though. There are many times when you want to, though, and you should, but you have to do it with discretion.

Here’s the thing. Some of the people and organizations that ask for your Social Security number really have no business asking. Even when they ask for the last four digits of your SSN, don’t give that out, either, unless you know that the company already has it on file.

Really, when the IRS is involved, or other government agencies, or it is something financial that’s credit driven, such as getting a loan, you likely need to give out your Social Security number. In other cases, like applying for a job, you can tell a business you are not comfortable giving your number unless you are hired, and then they would need it for tax purposes.

I give out my Social Security number when required, with a little scrutiny, but in the end, I’m not worried about identity theft due to the fact that I have ID theft protection and a credit freeze which in most cases makes my Social Security number useless to a thief.

Tips to Protect Your Social Security Number

Here are some tips you can use to protect your Social Security number:

  • Don’t put your SSN on any written application or document. If your application is denied because of this, ask them if it’s really necessary, otherwise, give them your SSN.
  • Ask your bank if they absolutely require your SSN to verify your identity. There are other options they can use. But the Patriot Act might require it.
  • Consider extending your ID theft protection to include your children’s SSNs. Teach them to never give it out.
  • If you are at the doctor’s office, find out if you can use another number, such as the account number for your insurance.
  • Don’t send your SSN via email. If someone wants it, call them and give it to them verbally. Even then, don’t give the number out unless you know without a doubt that it’s legitimate.
  • You should get a statement from the Social Security Administration concerning your account each year. If your income is too high, someone else is probably using your number.
  • Don’t keep your Social Security card in your wallet. Instead, memorize the number and keep the card at home.
  • Don’t ever use your SSN as a password for anything.
  • If, for any reason, your SSN is in your PC, make sure the document is encrypted or password-protected.
  • Before you throw away any paperwork that has your SSN on it, black it out, and then shred the documents.

Really, all you have to do is have some common sense when it comes to your Social Security number. For instance, if you are applying for credit, it makes sense that they would need this. If you are getting a gym membership, unless they are granting a credit, they don’t need it.

Written by Robert Siciliano, CEO of Credit Parent, Head of Training & Security Awareness Expert at Protect Now, #1 Best Selling Amazon author, Media Personality & Architect of CSI Protection Certification.

Protecting Your Parents from ID Theft

When we look at statistics,most of the people who are victims of ID theft are 50 years old or older. Unfortunately, cyber criminals have no issue taking advantage of older adults and seniors, including your parents.

old parentsThese crooks violate their trust and take advantage of their ignorance of the online world. People over 50 also tend to have more money and savings including retirement funds.

Here are some scams that are commonly pulled on older adults and seniors…like your parents.

Common Scams Targeting Your Parents

  • They get an email that seems like it is coming from their bank, the FBI, IRS, etc. The email claims that there is an issue that needs to be taken care of ASAP. Typically, it’s financial, so the scammer asks for their bank account information, or it’s for information, and they ask for a Social Security number.
  • They get a call with a sad story…their kid/grandkid needs help, and they need money wired immediately.
  • They might also get a call, email, or letter concerning their mortgage. If a scammer can get access to information like your parents’ bank information, Social Security number, or even the deed to their home, they can refinance your parents’ mortgage and keep the equity they get back.
  • There are also retirement home scams. In these scams, scammers get a job at a retirement home, and then manipulate the residents to tell them personal information.

How to Prevent These Scams

Here are some ways that you can prevent scams like these:

  • Make yourself a guardian over the personal information of your parents. When they get some type of contact that seems suspicious, you should instruct them to get in touch with you. Any information, even your mother’s maiden name, can be used in an identity theft attempt. Tell your parents to never give their personal info to anyone over the phone or via email.
  • Make sure they know to never share any personal information on social media accounts.
  • Tell your parents to check their bank accounts and credit accounts regularly. You should work with them to sign up for alerts for suspicious transactions.
  • Give them a shredder so that they can get rid of things like bank statements safely. Anything with account information, a Social Security number, or other personal info should be shredded.
  • If your parent is using a Wi-Fi hotspot, you should install a VPN for them.
  • If your parent has recently passed away, make sure you don’t put too much unnecessary information in their obituary. These are hot zones for ID theft, so leave out any info an identity thief could use.
  • Show your parents that they should only put information into a website that starts with https://, NOT http://.
  • Also, talk to your parents about emailing safely. Phishing scams are very good, so tell them not to click on any link in an email.
  • Sign your parents up for the website OptOutPrescreen.com. This helps to cut out any unnecessary offers they might receive.

Keep an Eye Out for Scammers

Don’t let your parents become a victim. You can easily prevent it, and more importantly, your parents won’t have to go through the process of rebuilding their credit and recovering their identity. Taking action now is the best way to protect against ID theft. Knowing if your parents are doing something that is risky could definitely be in your favor, as you can help them figure out what is going on and stop it.

Protecting Their Identity

We are all pretty vulnerable when it comes to ID theft, but older people are much more vulnerable. You can’t totally protect yourself and your parents, but you can make it much less likely that something will happen if you take the advice above. It’s always also worth it to invest in ID theft protection for both you and your parents, and you also might even consider a credit freeze.

Written by Robert Siciliano, CEO of Credit Parent, Head of Training & Security Awareness Expert at Protect Now, #1 Best Selling Amazon author, Media Personality & Architect of CSI Protection Certification.

Is Freezing Your Credit Enough?

You might think that freezing your credit is enough to keep you safe. In fact, freezing your credit was actually a smart thing to do in order to prevent fraud and stop yourself from becoming a victim of ID theft. It is free to freeze your credit whether or not you are a victim of ID theft, and the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) recommends that people do this in order to protect themselves. But what if it doesn’t work?

credit freezeLet’s talk about Chuck. Chuck is a guy who contacted the Consumerist with a story about his mother. She was a victim of ID theft and froze her credit because that’s what the FTC suggested. However, one of the three major credit bureaus, TransUnion, allowed the hack who had stolen his mother’s ID in the first place, actually lift the freeze! How could something like this happen? Well, it’s much easier than you might think.

These credit bureaus give people a PIN when they freeze their credit. So, to life the freeze, the person must provide the PIN again. However, a PIN is pretty easy to forget, so the companies have created other ways to lift the freeze. For instance, with TransUnion, you must answer a series of personal questions such as “Which of the following phone numbers have ever belonged to you?” or “Which of the following streets have you lived on.” The problem is, this information is extremely easy for a scammer to access.

Of course, this isn’t extremely common, but it can happen, and Chuck’s mother is a good example of it.

TransUnion says that there is an extra layer of protection that it offers to people who cannot remember the PIN they were given. The company sends a written confirmation. This means that they would expect to hear from the consumer if they did not need a new PIN or ask for the account to be unfrozen.

On the surface, this sounds pretty safe, but not everyone constantly checks their email, and many people only check a few times a week. On top of that, it could be a few days before a person knows that their account has been compromised. If this happens, the damage has likely been done.

When you look at security, you should see that it is built up of several layers of protection. This means that if one layer fails, another comes in to bring security. The more layers that are there, the more secure your account information is. This is why experts like me recommend a combination of a credit freeze, ID theft protection, and credit report monitoring. Though nothing can offer a 100% fool-proof method, all of this can greatly increase your chances of not becoming a victim.

ROBERT SICILIANO CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of CreditParent.com, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity and Personal Protection security awareness training program.

Freeze Your Credit Now, Before it is Too Late!

Do you know what a credit freeze is? It is an action that you can take to lock your credit report down. A lender will be unable to see your credit score, which means that your credit rating and Social Security number will be useless. In other words, they can’t tell if you are a lending risk.

When an ID thief can get access to your Social Security number, they can also apply for credit in your name. However, if the credit file is frozen, the bad guys cannot access it. When you freeze your credit, the file is not accessible.

To gain access to your frozen credit, such as when you want to apply for a line of credit, you have to unfreeze it by using a PIN number given to you by the credit bureau. That’s it. Keep in mind that freezing a credit report does not affect any lines of credit that you have open, and the process is free for those who have become victims of ID theft. However, you can pay a small fee to TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax, the three main credit reporting bureaus, and you can freeze your credit.

What Specifically does a Freeze do?

A credit freeze protect you from new account fraud. It prevents criminals from opening up new lines of credit, new accounts that require a credit check.

When is it a Good Idea to Get a Credit Freeze? 

If you are someone who has had their identity stolen, you should consider freezing your credit. If you have a Social Security number, you are considered a target, so you can make it useless to thieves, even if they get it, they cannot use it to open a new account under your name.

What to Know Before You Freeze Your Credit

Before doing a credit freeze, you don’t have to know too much. Just do it. Your credit will be frozen from any and all credit application. This means that lenders, banks, and retailers have spent millions to stop it. Why? Because they cannot instantly approve a line of credit.

How Much Does a Credit Freeze Cost?

A credit freeze is free. There used to be a charge, but a law was passed in

September 2018 making it free for everybody to freeze it and unfreeze it. So just do it

Is it an Inconvenience to Freeze Your Credit?

Freezing your credit is not inconvenient. It only takes a few minutes to freeze and unfreeze your credit file. Of course, you must unfreeze it before you can apply for credit. This means that you have to take a little time to let the thaw pass, but usually that takes only a couple of minutes. This makes the credit freeze more secure and helps to keep you safe.

Does a Credit Freeze Harm Your Credit?

A credit freeze does not hurt your credit in any way. Plus, if you have an existing creditor, they can still do “soft” checks on your credit report.

Does a Fraud Alert Do the Same as a Freeze?

No. A fraud alert only lasts for 1 year, and scammer can still access your credit file and they can still apply for new credit, even if an alert is in place. The creditor might know that you had your ID stolen, but they can still issue credit. A fraud alert will notify lenders that something might be amiss with your credit, but that’s it.

What does a Freeze not do?

A freeze does not protect you from credit card fraud, bank account take-over, if you lose your wallet a freeze won’t help you, it doesn’t protect you from tax related identity theft, criminal related identified, social Security fraud, and many other forms of account take over. Again, specifically it prevents “new account fraud”

If I have a Freeze do I need Identity Theft Protection?

Security is all about “layers of protection” and a freeze only protects you from certain things, whereas identity theft protection will mitigate lots of other forms of fraud. While identity theft protection services don’t protect you from things like tax related identity theft or even medical related fraud, the identity theft protection “fraud resolution experts” and the insurance that comes along with identity theft protection services will generally set a victim straight and fix those forms of fraud.

You can Freeze Your Credit, Here:

Freeze Credit with Equifax.

Freeze Credit with Experian.

Freeze Credit with TransUnion.

ROBERT SICILIANO CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of CreditParent.com, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity and Personal Protection security awareness training program.

How to Protect Your Parents from ID Theft

According to research, people who are older than 50 years old, usually in the 65 to 85-year old range, are common targets of ID thieves. These criminals have no issue taking advantage of these people. They know that they are trustworthy, that they don’t know much about the internet, and that they are not savvy about scams. The bad guys also know that these people have more savings and retirement cash than others, and they are ready to take it. Here are some ways that these criminals scam your parents:

old parents

  • They often send emails to older people saying they are from their bank, the IRS, the FBI, or the CIA. The email claims that there is an issue that requires their attention. Then, they ask for information like their Social Security number or even their bank account numbers.
  • Another common scam is to toy with their emotions. In this case, the criminal calls the older person and says that they are someone the person knows, such as a grandchild, and claim that there is an emergency and they need money.
  • These scammers also try to take advantage of older people by using information about their homes. For instance, they can access a deed, and then use their Social Security numbers and bank account information to refinance, and then take the money.
  • The bad guys also take advantage of people who are in retirement homes. They start working there, and then manipulate the people living there to offer up personal info.
  • These criminals also seek out lonely people. If your parent is single, for instance, they can be a target because they are lonely and crave attention, resulting in a bank account draining romance scam.

How to Prevent Scams Against Older People

It is likely that you want to do all you can to prevent this from happening to your loved ones. Here are some tips:

  • Become the main caretaker for your parents’ personal info and financial accounts. This way, if your parents are contacted by someone suspicious, they have to go through you to get information. Even info like your mom’s maiden name can be used to commit some type of scam in the future. Make sure your parents are aware that they should not ever share any personal info, and that any request for money should go through you.
  • Do not share any personal information on any social media site. Criminals look for this, and they can target your parents by doing things like posing as their grandchildren online.
  • Make sure your parents check bank accounts and credit cards with regularity. Also, set up on your email and phone push email and text alerts about their account activity.
  • Buy them a shredder to get rid of things like bank statements. Criminals love to go through the trash to look for old financial statements.
  • If they use Wi-Fi, set up a VPN for them. Hotspots are public, and criminals can use them to get information.
  • If your parent passes away, don’t include any personal information about them in their obituary. Crooks use this information in malicious ways.
  • Talk to them about being safe with email. A common scam is phishing, and even if an email looks legitimate and safe, no one should click any links in them.
  • Help them understand the difference between http and https. Make sure they know that only https sites are secure.
  • Also, help them opt out of offers that are unnecessary. You can sign them up at com.
  • Talk to your parents about freezing their credit.

Stay Away from Scams

Do your best to not allow your parents to be the next victim of a scammer. It is easy to prevent this, and your parents will not have to go through the stress associated with identity theft.

Protect Their Identity

Any of us can become victims of ID theft, and we cannot protect ourselves every minute of the day. However, by taking these tips to heart and signing your parents up for ID theft protection and doing a credit freeze, you can keep them safe.

ROBERT SICILIANO CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of CreditParent.com, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity and Personal Protection security awareness training program.

Is Identity Theft Protection Really Necessary or is it a Waste?

I am constantly seeing articles and blogs that ID protection is not a necessity. These might be called “The Poor Man’s Guide to Identity Theft Protection,” or “Identity Theft Protection Doesn’t Work.”  Though some of the things mentioned in these articles are true, overall, they are totally missing the point.

Identity TheftHere is the situation. You cannot possibly protect yourself from every type of identity theft out there, and when you can, it really requires a lot of work. No matter what, it’s going to be time-consuming, can cost you money, and even make you pretty anxious.

For those who have chosen not to make an investment into identity theft protection say that they don’t have to because they can do it themselves. Here is what they do:

Shred Your Mail, and Be Safe

One of the things that people do to make sure their identity is safe is to always shred their mail. This is especially important when the mail contains account info. However, this step isn’t enough. Yes, you might be doing your part, but how can you be sure that your mortgage company, bank, or even water company is not simply throwing paperwork with your account information in a dumpster. Once it’s there, anyone can take it.

Opt Out of Junk Mail and Pre-Approved Credit Card Offers

Opting out of pre-approved credit card offers and other junk mail is pretty easy to do. You can do it right online at OptOutPrescreen.com. Just keep in mind that some of them will still get through and end up in your mailbox and maybe get stolen.

Pay for a P.O. Box

I’m not totally sure why people believe that it is safer to use a P.O. box, but they do. Technically, your mail is more secure at the Post Office than in your mail box, but it really doesn’t help too much. Otherwise get a locking mailbox.

Check Credit Reports

You should always be checking your credit report, but those who think they can stop ID theft by checking their credit report are not quite correct. Once you see a problem on your credit report, the damage has already been done. Ideally, you should check your report more than once a year, but you can get a free credit report online at AnnualCreditReport.com.

Set Up a Fraud Alert

Another thing that people do because they think it protects them from ID theft is set up fraud alerts. Fraud alerts are good, but they are only valid for 1 year, and most people forget to renew them. On top of this, they are simply guidelines for creditors, and they don’t even have to contact you if they see a fraud alert.

Credit Freezes

People also believe that they are totally safe if they freeze their credit. This is a good thing, and I do think everyone should look into it, but it doesn’t protect you from all types of ID theft. This includes account takeovers, tax-related ID theft, and medical ID theft.

Though all of these things can help, and in some cases, can greatly help, they are no replacement for professional identity theft service. Instead, they can put you in a tough position.

ROBERT SICILIANO CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of CreditParent.com, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity and Personal Protection security awareness training program.

Tips for Preventing Embezzlement and Employee Theft

If you are a business owner, you might be concerned about employee theft. If you aren’t concerned, perhaps you should be.

There are a number of ways that an employee can steal:

  • Embezzlement money, inventory or materials
  • Skimming – Diverting funds
  • Stealing business opportunities, data or trade secrets
  • Fraudulent disbursements like check tampering or billing schemes
  • Larceny – absolute theft

It might surprise you to find out that employees who steal are not usually new employees. Instead, they are those who have worked for a business for a number of years. (Three years is the average.) So, what can you do to protect your company from employee theft? Here are some ideas:

Watch Your Staff

You should be aware of the signs of theft. These include:

  • A sudden devotion to their work and/or the company
  • Working late
  • Living above their salary
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Evidence of gambling, bad check writing, or persistently asking to borrow money
  • A second job with materials available at your business
  • Strong objections to changes in inventory, financial, or supply procedures

Small businesses should always do background checks on any potential hire. Checking references is one thing, but to really understand who you are hiring, a full background check is best.

Supervise Employee Behavior

Research shows that employees are more likely to commit acts of fraud and theft when they don’t have a lot of supervision. You don’t have to supervise them constantly, but you should check on them often. It also is a good idea to have more than one person in charge of company finances.

Control All Business Receipts

Use pre-numbered sales slips and audit them frequently. This is especially the case with cash. You should not rely on a sales clerk to count and audit these receipts. Have another person do it.

Use Random Auditing

Start doing unannounced audits internally, and hire an outside company to do a yearly audit.

Use Purchase Orders

You should also use purchase orders and make sure that these are not handled by the same people over and over. It’s best to use pre-numbered purchase orders, and then always verify any orders coming in.

Keep Track of Business Checks

Use checks that are pre-numbered and make sure the amounts and recipient name is typed or in permanent ink. It’s best to produce checks from software, such as QuickBooks. If you have bank checks, make sure they are locked up.

Install Security Software on Computers

Start using security software on your computers that monitors employee activity, and restrict access to company records. You should also frequently change passwords and ensure that all of your security features are working.

Be Responsible with Accounts Receivable

Ensure that you are recording all of your incoming payments. Make sure incoming checks are marked as “deposit only.” Hire a forensics accountant at least bi-annually. Having a professional come in looking for discrepancies, or “cooked books” is worth every penny.

Use Security Systems with Inventory Management

Keep shipping and receiving as separate functions. Consider using security devices to monitor all inventory and merchandise that is coming in.

Install Security Cameras

Frankly, “trust” is overrated. It’s natural and normal to trust by default. As an “interdependent” species, humans can’t function without inherently trusting one another. But while most people can be trusted, the few that can’t need security cameras pointed at them all day.

Help Employees Report Theft by Their Co-Workers

You should make it as easy as possible for your staff to report theft or fraud by their co-workers. You want to make sure that you are doing this discretely, and you want to make sure that you don’t make it look like you don’t trust your staff.

What to Do if You Suspect Theft

If you have an employee who you think is stealing form you, here’s what you should do:

  • Use extreme caution when conducting your investigations and when making an accusation. If this turns out to be false, it could mean a lawsuit for you.
  • If you have a suspicion, investigate. If you can correctly identify the employee who is responsible, you should terminate their position immediately, revoke all network and building access and then consider contacting the authorities.
  • If theft is a complex or a large issue involving more than one employee, you should talk to a legal professional. They can help find experts who can help.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

Fake IDs are everywhere

Okay, so you’re 18 or 19 and in college, and are stressed because you have to be 21 in order to gain entry to a night club or bar where you’d like to drink up a storm and mingle with a “more mature” crowd. Or really, you just want to meet someone.

8DLife sure is tough, isn’t it? You have to wait till you’re 21, but by then…you may be graduated from college (and a lot more mature, and thus, getting plastered would no longer have appeal). What a bummer, dude! The time to have fun is when you’re young and irresponsible!

Many U.S. college kids circumvent this age restriction with the fake ID. And over the years, it’s gotten easier to get the fake ID, thanks to the Internet. In fact, the Internet is replete with sellers of fake IDs to anonymous customers.

An article at businessinsider.com describes how the “subreddit” vendor site even provides threads where visitors could get information on how to use this site, which is encrypted (not surprising).

Nevertheless, college kids can still get fake IDs the old-fashioned way: by asking around. It won’t be long before they have contact information and simple instructions regarding payment and sending the supplier a photo.

Beware of the Consequences of Getting Caught with a Fake ID

  • Come on, is it really worth it? Do you know any grad students who go through their days haunted with agony because they never had a fake ID as undergrads?
  • Depending on what state you’re residing in if you get busted, you can get put in jail.
  • Some states yield only the misdemeanor charge, while other states will get you a felony charge.
  • Using an older person’s ID (e.g., Big Sis who looks like you) will not only mean trouble for you, but for Big Sis, too.
  • Don’t think for a second that getting caught means a little time facing a crabby judge and then going home like nothing ever happened.
  • Sending all your data to a criminal who makes fake IDs can facilitate your own identity stolen. There is no honor among thieves.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to BestIDTheftCompanys.com discussing identity theft prevention.

Everything you need to know about a Credit Freeze

A credit freeze locks down your credit report so lenders can’t see your scores, making your credit/SSN useless to them because they don’t know their risk level.

1SIf thieves get ahold of your ID, they can’t get credit in your name as long as your credit is frozen. Freezing your credit will seal your credit reports. You’ll need a PIN to access your credit to allow valid services to check your credit when needed. Freezing won’t affect existing credit lines and are free to victims of ID theft. Since 2008, the three big credit bureaus have allowed non-victims to freeze their credit for a small charge.

When is a credit freeze a good idea?

For anyone 18 and over who has a credit report and those under 18 whose identity is stolen and for whom a report is then generated by default.

What should I consider before ordering a credit freeze?

Nothing. Just do it. Credit should be frozen across the board, but banks/retailers/lenders have spent millions lobbying to prevent that, as it would eliminate instant credit, and these institutions say that it would “gum up” the system of lending.

What are the costs?

Free to $15.00 per credit bureau for life, depending on the deal your state attorney general made with the bureau back in 2008. Then free to $5.00 to thaw it each time you apply for new lines of credit.

Inconvenience: It requires planning large financial decisions and being responsible. So horrible. Otherwise it takes five minutes per bureau to temporarily thaw your credit prior to financing a new line of credit at an auto dealer, mobile phone provider, etc.

Can a credit freeze hurt your credit score?

NO.

How does a credit freeze differ from a fraud alert?

Fraud alerts are only 90 days, and they don’t freeze your credit; they only alert a lender that you may have had your identity stolen, but don’t stop the lender from issuing credit in any way.

Fraud alerts at best are “notifications” that something may have gone wrong with your identity, but only suggest the lender takes additional steps to contact you before establishing credit in your name. It’s a false sense of security.

Where to Freeze:

Equifax

https://www.freeze.equifax.com/Freeze/jsp/SFF_PersonalIDInfo.jsp

Experian

https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html

Transunion

http://www.transunion.com/personal-credit/credit-disputes/credit-freezes.page

Just do it. NOW.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to BestIDTheftCompanys.com discussing  identity theft prevention. For Roberts FREE ebook text- SECURE Your@emailaddress -to 411247. Disclosures.

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