6/24/2013 – In the wild, predators seek the most vulnerable prey—victims that may be too sick, too young or too old to effectively repel the attack. Identity thieves function much like these predators, looking for groups that are easy to take advantage of. Seniors are often targeted by identity thieves who think they don’t have the savvy or know-how to protect themselves.
The number of complaints filed by the elderly about identity theft is increasing faster than for any other group, according to Google’s Public Policy blog—complaints by those over age 70 grew a whopping 70 percent just over the past two years. Protect yourself from these thieves with the following tips:
Seniors often have retirement funds or nest eggs that thieves desire, LifeLock reports. These older people are typically more trusting of strangers and less aware of modern scam methods.
Seniors are less apt to fully comprehend the concept of identity theft, as the crime is a relatively new one. This makes it easier for thieves to get personal information out of them. Seniors think they are helping the needy or getting a good deal over the phone, when in fact they are turning over their information to thieves.
In addition, when senior identity theft occurs, it often goes unnoticed for some time. This is the perfect situation for would-be thieves. The longer they can use the information, the better.
Veteran seniors are one group that is especially vulnerable. Veterans are unique because their personal information is available in multiple systems, both the civil and the military. Data breaches at large organizations and government facilities are some of the largest risk factors for identity theft, according to IdentityTheft.info.
The Veterans Affairs Department reached a $20 million settlement with veterans a few years ago after a laptop computer was stolen from an employee’s home. The laptop contained the personal information of 26.5 million military members, both active duty and veterans, according to the New York Times. Social Security numbers, addresses, birth dates—all were on the laptop. Veterans who can demonstrate harm from the data theft will receive awards ranging from $75 to $1,500, but the theft demonstrates how easily a veteran’s personal information is compromised.
Fraudulent telemarketing schemes target seniors more than other age groups as well, the National Crime Council found. Telemarketing scammers seek out the elderly on 80 percent of their calls. Older people are known to be generous to charities and important causes, and these scam artists know this.
Prevention and Awareness
Education is an important step to prevent identity theft of senior citizens. By understanding what identity theft is and how it occurs, seniors aid in its prevention. They should know how their information can be manipulated and how to protect it:
- Never give out any personal information to unknown parties
- Regularly monitor your financial accounts and credit reports
- Consider signing up with an identity theft protection service to do all this for you
Everyone is vulnerable to identity theft, but thieves know that some targets are more susceptible than others. Education is key to protecting seniors from unscrupulous thieves, and should be a priority for both seniors and their family members.