According to ID theft and consumer services experts, seniors are at higher risk regarding identity theft for a few reasons.
For one, seniors don’t typically check their credit reports as much as younger age groups who may be buying houses or cars or similar “big ticket’ items,” says Ken Chaplin with Experian’s ProtectMyID program. “That means they likely won’t see when someone is using their identity to take out a loan or apply for other forms of credit, making seniors an easier target for identity thieves,” he says.
Also, seniors may have high cash reserves or a large retirement account, and coming from a more crime-free era, can be more trusting than younger people. Here are some ways seniors can protect themselves.
Protect Medicare card
Don’t carry your Medicare card in your wallet Instead, make a copy of it and block out the last four digits of your Social Security number so if lost or stolen the full SS# is not revealed.
Be Wary of Phoned Requests
Seniors are often the target of phone scams. If a creditor or organization calls with a legitimate need for personal information (account numbers, Social Security number or credit card information), hang up and verify the phone number and the caller’s legitimacy before calling back.
Secure mobile devices
When traveling, consider purchasing a portable router to create your own Wi-Fi hotspot when using your laptop, tablet or smart phone on the road. You’ll need a local SIM data card, which is available at electronic stores and, sometimes, airport kiosks. This will help you avoid using public Wi-Fi spots.
Secure your information
Leave Social Security numbers, checks, credit cards, Medicare cards and financial statements in a locked security box at home or other secure location. If you are ever admitted into the hospital or other care facility, credit cards and personal documents should be locked up or in the hands of someone you trust.
If not necessary to hold onto, shred documents (credit card statements, bills, credit card receipts, tax returns, unused checks, canceled checks and credit reports) that contain account information, Social Security numbers, PINs or sensitive information. Also destroy expired credit cards and driver’s licenses. Never leave receipts at bank machines, bank counters, trash receptacles or unattended gas pumps.
Protect your computer
Consult with a network professional to ensure your computer system is secure. Install antivirus software, anti-spyware and firewall software to prevent cyber-programs that steal personal information. Use unique passwords for your computer and online accounts and change them on a regular basis.
Check your credit regularly
At least once a quarter is recommended to make sure no suspicious activity has occurred.