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Protecting Senior Citizens from Identity Thieves
While they may not know it, senior citizens are prime targets for identity theft among identity thieves that can steal account info, assume their identity to open new accounts, or file taxes in their name. Because many elderly have retirement savings, social security benefits, and are often unprepared for identity thieves, they often become easy prey, and can end up losing their life savings in a matter of minutes. Because of this, it is important to teach your loved ones about identity theft protection for seniors, and keep them, and their money, safe.
How to Protect your Accounts from Identity Theft
While it’s nearly impossible to completely prevent identity theft, there are several things that seniors can do to avoid being an easy target. Seniors should avoid carrying Medicare, Social Security Cards, personal checks, or any other documents that contain their Social Security Number or bank account information in their wallets. If your wallet gets lost, cancelling credit cards is quick and easy, but a lost Social Security Number can make an identity thief’s day. Protecting computer information is something else that’s often overlooked by the elderly. Because they may not be up to date on the latest technology, seniors often don’t password protect their computers or use complex passwords for online accounts, leaving accounts vulnerable to hackers. Shredding important documents is also important to maintain a secure identity. Any documents with your Social Security Number, bank account information, or medical account information should be shredded prior to throwing anything in the trash.
What to do if Your Identity Has Been Stolen
If you’ve already been the victim of identity theft, there are still some things that you can do to mitigate the damages. If you think you have been victimized by identity theft, the first thing you should do is contact the credit bureaus and have a fraud alert statement attached to your credit report. They can also provide a credit report that will show you if any new accounts have been opened or if any fraudulent activity has occurred. Once you’ve contacted the credit bureaus and confirmed that your identity has been stolen, you should immediately call the police. You can file a police report detailing the extent of the damages, and listing all fraudulent activity. Finally, you can fill out an identity theft affidavit with the FTC to ensure that you are not responsible for fraudulent charges. Once you have finished reporting your identity theft and filled out the necessary forms, it is also a good idea to contact any financial institutions that you do business to let them know about the fraudulent activity.
How to Recover from Identity Theft
Once you have been the victim of identity theft, it is important to recover quickly, and seniors are no exception. Once they have been victimized, seniors can be targeted again by savvy identity thieves. Continuing to monitor bank accounts and credit reports for unusual activity is the best way to protect yourself or a loved one from becoming a repeat victim. Changing bank account information, credit cards, and other important account numbers may be necessary if the identity thief had access to your accounts. By working with your financial institution, you can get a new credit card number, while maintaining your existing credit history, so you won’t lose points for cancelling a long standing line of credit.
By learning what to do to prevent identity thieves, what to do if their identity is stolen, and how to recover from identity theft, the elderly can ensure that their identity and hard-earned money will be protected.