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Prevent Identity Theft

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Identity theft is a crime that can affect anyone from young children to seniors and is becoming one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States. Most people don’t even realize that they are victims of an identity theft until it is too late and their credit is ruined or they find that their bank accounts have been wiped clean.

Senior citizens are especially vulnerable to these crimes for a number of reasons. Senior citizens are often targeted because the identity thieves believe that they have a huge cash reserve, unlike younger people who are just starting to save their money. They may also target seniors because the criminals assume that their targets are less aware and more vulnerable to their scams, such as “phishing” through emails, or posing as representatives from legitimate companies, such as eBay or Red Cross. Scammers and identity thieves also like to target seniors who are living alone, because there is not always someone around to stop these crimes from occurring. However, with awareness and knowledge about these scams, you can prevent yourself from becoming a victim to identity theft.


Here are some tips that can help protect you and your assets from these criminals.

1. Do not give out personal information, such as Social Security number, credit card information, or bank information to any unconfirmed sources whether it is on the phone, online or in person.

Many scammers will pretend to be a representative of a charity, well-known company or financial institution, such as your bank to get your personal information out of you. Most banks, legitimate companies or charities will not ask you to reveal your credit card or Social Security information. If you are still unsure, you should ask questions to verify their association with the companies they claim to be from and contact the customer service line provided from a different source to see if that phone call or solicitation is a legitimate claim.  Never provide personal information to someone you don’t know, only provide it when you are in control of the conversation, such as when you initiate the phone call. You can have your number placed on the National Do Not Call Registry to prevent telemarketers from calling you.

2. Keep all sensitive information in a locked and secure location.

Keep all sensitive information, such as financial statements, passports, and others in a fireproof safe. This will prevent from unwanted eyes from peeking at your personal information and from being stolen. This is also important to have in case of damages to the home, such as a fire, so that all important tax, financial and identifications will be protected.

3. Shred sensitive documents.

Invest in a paper shredder to destroy all sensitive documents that may contain your Social Security number, birthday, address or any other information that thieves can use to steal your identity. Simply throwing it away will not do as your information is sometimes clearly stated on the documents. Shredding it makes it harder for them to see your information.

4. Be wary of email scams.

As more and more people are using the Internet for financial transactions due to its convenience, it is important to be careful of the information that you provide online. Some scammers will send an email indicating that you are receiving an inheritance from a long-lost family member, appeal for donations for natural disasters, or even pose as family or friends to get your bank information. “Phishing” scams are emails that appear to be from legitimate companies, such as your bank, and it will ask you to update personal or financial information from their site. If you did not request for an email like this, DO NOT click on the link. Instead, go to the legitimate website or contact a customer service representative to verify if they sent an email to your account.

5. Use strong passwords for online accounts.

Many Internet users rely on using passwords that are easy for them to remember, such as their birthdays and other identifying information or even using “password” or “123456” as passwords. Unfortunately, those passwords are often easily cracked by hackers. Use symbols, caps, numbers and letters to help prevent any unwanted access into your accounts. Also, use different passwords for all your accounts. If a hacker can gain access to one of your accounts, then they may be able to access your other accounts, so make sure your Facebook password is not the same as your bank account password. You may need to keep a list of passwords for all your different accounts, but make sure that is protected as well.

The key thing is to always be aware of who you are communicating with. You can protect yourself from identity thieves as long as you are diligent, and you keep an eye on your credit report and bank account for early fraud detection.

Read Related Articles:

How to Spot Reverse Mortgage Scams


About the Author:

I have been working in the reverse mortgage industry for 20-plus years. My goal is to provide consumers the most up-to-date and relevant information about the reverse mortgage industry and how it can affect them.

Thanks for reading!

-Alan F.

Image courtesy of [chanpipat] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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