Impacting over five percent of all seniors, financial fraud and exploitation rank as the most prevalent forms of elder abuse and neglect, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Unfortunately, for each reported instance of elder financial exploitation, experts estimate an alarming 44 cases go unreported. One common avenue for senior financial exploitation involves identity theft, a tactic that disproportionately affects older individuals. In an endeavor to combat elder financial exploitation, the Indianapolis attorneys at Frank & Kraft provide a seniors guide to preventing identity theft.
Identity Theft and Seniors: What Makes Seniors Such Appealing Victims?
Identity theft poses a significant and escalating threat across all age demographics, with older Americans making especially appealing victims for several reasons. To begin with, 21st-century identity thieves employ advanced computer hacking methods, card skimmers, and electronic means to pilfer identities. Seniors, who may still be grappling with the intricacies of smartphones, computers, and electronic payment systems, make easier targets simply because they are much less likely to understand the technology used by scammers. Add to that the fact that seniors often possess more financial resources, and it becomes clear why they make attractive targets for identity thieves. Finally, seniors tend to be more trusting, making them less likely to question assertions, such as calls claiming to be from the IRS, compared to their younger counterparts.
How Can Seniors Prevent Identity Theft?
Whether you are a senior yourself or concerned about an elderly loved one, the following tips can help prevent identity theft:
- Educate Yourself or Your Loved One: Take the time to familiarize yourself or your loved one with the common schemes used in identity theft. An excellent resource is the National Council on Aging website where you can find a detailed explanation of current scams targeting seniors.
- Avoid Sharing Identifying Information: Refrain from sharing personal information over the phone or online unless absolutely certain of the recipient’s identity and the need to share such information. Verify calls from government agencies, banks, credit card companies, and anyone else asking for personal information by independently looking up the correct phone number and calling them back directly before providing requested information.
- Limit Public Wi-Fi Usage: Minimize connecting to public Wi-Fi, as it provides identity thieves with easier access. Prefer secure, password-protected Wi-Fi connections at home or when away. To ensure that your phone does not automatically connect to public Wi-Fi you will need to check your settings and configure your phone accordingly.
- Ignore Unsolicited Requests or Advertisements: Disregard unsolicited communication, such as texts, calls, or emails because these often serve as phishing scams aimed at gaining access to devices. If you do not recognize the sender, move the email to trash or delete a text message.
- Use Strong Passwords: Develop a system for creating and remembering strong passwords, enhancing protection against cybercriminals attempting to breach your accounts. Typically this means not using your name, birthdate, or other common information. At a bare minimum, pick passwords with upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and special characters. Also, change your passwords on a regular basis,
- Maintain Social Media Privacy: If using social media, adjust settings to the highest privacy levels. Keep accounts private to limit public exposure. Do not accept “friend” or “follow” requests from people you do not personally know.
- Regularly Check Credit Records: Monitor your credit report routinely. Utilize the annual free credit reports from major bureaus and review them on sites like annualcreditreport.com.
By adhering to these preventive measures, seniors can fortify their defenses against identity theft and reduce the risk of falling victim to financial exploitation.
Do You Have Questions about Preventing Identity Theft for Seniors?
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have concerns about identity theft or other elder law issues, contact the experienced Indianapolis elder law attorneys at Frank & Kraft by calling (317) 684-1100 to schedule an appointment.