Most seniors do not realize how vulnerable they are when it comes to identity theft. Recently, an older adult received a text message that his bank account had been frozen. The text message appeared to be from his bank, and he was asked to call a number to fix the issue. He called and was asked to verify his account information. A few days after providing this information, he discovered someone had gained access to his bank account, withdrawing thousands of dollars.
The Senate Special Committee on Aging reports that one in ten elderly Americans living at home will become a victim of some form of identity theft. Senator Susan Collins considers this type of financial fraud an epidemic with more than $35 billion taken from seniors yearly. Understanding how to protect your identity can save you from the loss of income and sensitive information.
According to the Senate Special Committee on Aging, seniors become victims is through IRS scams and robocalls, which are unwanted telemarketing calls where individuals pretend to be from banks or other financial institutions. In the IRS scam, the older person is threatened with jail or foreclosure on a home if certain information is not provided to the caller. Another robocall is when seniors are told they have won a lottery but must pay a fee to receive the winnings. Sharing sensitive medical information with someone posing as a representative from an insurance company is another potential scam. Hanging up the phone on someone asking for personal information is okay until proper verification can be done.
There are other examples, too. A senior may receive a call asking for support for a charity or other organization by using a credit card. Instead of providing this sensitive information, they can ask the organization to send an envelope and information to review. There is also a risk for identity theft when opening email links or attachments. This can lead to identity theft by giving a thief a way to access personal information by computer.
Most seniors are victims because they have savings and retirement accounts, proving to be good targets for identity thieves. They are also more trusting and not likely to suspect someone of deceiving them. Also, if an older individual has dementia, this disease makes it difficult to understand the threat to their funds or property.
A senior can keep information safe by never providing a social security number, bank account numbers, credit card information or other identifying information over the phone, online or to someone they are unsure of who claims to be from an agency, business or government office. The elderly must guard against identity theft by asking for proof of any need for personal information. They might also ask for a call back number to check on the credibility of the caller.
Avoiding providing personal information until the identity of someone can be verified is the start of the best defense against the high cost of identity theft.
Contact Bratton Law today for a consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney.