4 Tips to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft in 2018
In 2017, 1 in 15 people had their identity stolen, equalling 16.7 million victims. Once identity thieves have your personal information, they can access your bank account, make unauthorized charges to your credit cards, open new utility accounts, or get medical treatment on your health insurance. An identity thief can even file a tax refund in your name and get your refund. Identity theft can happen to anyone but seniors are especially likely to be victims. There are a couple reasons why seniors are often targeted:
- Seniors usually have more money in their savings than the younger generations.
- Depending on their living situations, seniors personal information travels through many different people and groups on a regular basis.
- Identity thieves take advantage of seniors’ trusting attitudes. Seniors are less likely to be suspicious of unusual emails, calls, or requests and therefore are often not expecting to be taken advantage of.
- Lastly, when identity theft has happened, seniors are less likely to report it and discuss it with their family. Often, many fear that reporting identity theft to their family will indicate they are unable to handle their finances on their own.
Here are four simple steps seniors can take to minimize the risk of identity theft and make yourself more aware of potential threats:
1. Understand the Threats
Identity theft is much more than spam emails. It can take the form of tax fraud to medical billing to phone scams. In all cases, they seek to obtain your personal information—which many include your SSN, your credit card numbers, or your billing information. Here is a great resource to learn more more about your top identity theft threats.
2. Guard your personal numbers
Studies show 88% of older Americans are more likely to share personal information online than their children or grandchildren. It is important that you never provide personal information, such as your Social Security number, credit card number, date of birth, checking or savings account numbers over unsecured outlets, including email, social media and phone calls you did not initiate.
3. Secure your paperwork
Many times, easily accessible mail and confidential documents landing in the wrong hands is a large issue for seniors. Having a locked mailbox is a first step to eliminating this issue. Once you have received and finished with the documents, you do not want to just throw them into the trash. Purchasing a small paper shredder to destroy the paperwork is a quick and easy way to reduce the risk of it getting into the wrong hands.
4. Review your statements.
Regularly checking your bank, credit card, and other statements helps to identify suspicious transactions or differences. If something looks unfamiliar, take action immediately with your bank or organization.
All in all, identity theft is a serious crime and can be very damaging for all affected by it, especially seniors. Following these simple steps stated above will help reduce your risk at becoming a victim. If you believe that you are a victim of identity theft, this page from the AARP website will help you navigate who to call and what to report. This page from the online guide to the US government also lists instructions on actions to take should you need to report identity theft.
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