6 Tips For Seniors to Protect Themselves From ID Theft

id theft identityBy Mark Pribish

It seems like seniors have a target on their foreheads and ID theft criminals  are taking aim to steal their information and money. Worse yet is that all too often seniors are id theft victims at the hands of friends and relatives. Take note and take action now!

Senior identity theft is on the rise as 39% of all identity theft victims were 50 years of age or older, according to the 2015 FTC Consumer Sentinel Network Report.

And while physical abuse and neglect of seniors have been and continue to be problems in the United States, senior identity theft and fraud leading to financial exploitation is another and emerging form of abuse.

The Identity Theft Resource Center, a non-profit San Diego based organization – whose mission is to educate consumers, corporations, government agencies, and other organizations on best practices for fraud and identity theft detection – has a great link (please see here that talks about the financial exploitation of the elderly.

“Both criminals and the ‘insider threat’ including relatives, friends and caretakers are examples of unscrupulous individuals targeting seniors,” according to Eva Casey-Velasquez, the President/Ceo of the Identity Theft Resource Center.

Criminals target older adults for identity theft and fraud because they believe seniors are less educated on the crime of identity theft and the current fraud scams, said Casey-Velasquez.

“But it’s not just criminals,” stated Casey-Velasquez, “as relatives, friends and caretakers have exploited the trust of seniors when stealing savings and assets while damaging good credit that have taken years to accumulate and establish.”

Older adults living in residential facilities – or under the care of someone – are at greater risk because the caretakers have access to the senior’s personal records. This creates a situation which allows unscrupulous individuals to exploit those in their care.

I have listed below five Identity Theft Resource Center examples of financial exploitation:

  • establishing credit using the victims personal information
  • cashing an elderly person’s check without permission
  • forging the victim’s signature
  • misusing or stealing a person’s money or possessions
  • deceiving a victim into signing a contract, will, Power of Attorney, or other document

“In the end, identity theft criminals can drain bank accounts, open new accounts, rack up huge credit card bills, obtain loans, apply for jobs, refinance the victim’s home, obtain medical care and even commit crimes with the victim’s identity, ”said Casey-Velasquez.

So what can seniors do to protect themselves?

  1. Caregiver backgrounds – know your caregiver and look for suspicious activity and behavior. Conduct a background check even on a friend or family member, as greed and poor financials have motivated many good people to do bad things.
  1. Secure sensitive documents – secure any document containing personal and financial information including your social security number, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, driver’s license number, and birth certificate.
  1. Phone and email scams – never provide personal and financial information to incoming phone calls or in response to an email. Your bank and any other legitimate business including the IRS, will never call or email you asking for personal and financial information.
  1. Do not carry your Medicare or Social Security card in your wallet or purse – make copies of your Social Security and Medicare cards and block out the last four digits of your Social Security number. This will prevent someone from knowing your full Social Security number if your wallet is lost or stolen.
  1. Shred it – shred anything you don’t need to keep, such as documents that contain account information, Social Security numbers, PINs, or sensitive information — including credit card statements, bills, credit card receipts, unused checks, canceled checks, and credit reports.
  1. Check your credit and consider a credit freeze – request a free credit report from and check your credit three times annually. Consider freezing access to your credit report, which in turn makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name.

Mark’s most important:  Seniors and those proven trustworthy who care for seniors must pay attention to the risk of senior identity theft and look for suspicious activity from both criminals and insiders.

Mark Pribish is vice president and ID-theft practice leader at Merchants Information Solutions Inc., an ID theft-background screening company based in Phoenix. Contact him at [email protected]

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5 years ago

Stealing money from a caregiver isn’t as pathetic and pernicious as physically kicking, punching, slapping, spitting on a vulnerable client, but, insanely, our current laws put more time on those who stole money than to those who kicked, pumched, threatened, pushed, eye poked, hair pulled elderly people. Yep, apparently it’s worse to steal a bank account than kill an elderly person ..Jesus C…how fkd up is the justice system

Judy J.
6 years ago

I keep hearing a lot about this thing called “Life Lock” allegedly for computers and such. Would that be worth looking into; haven’t
heard a bad word about it. Interestingly enough, your “list” of items includes “missing/stealing a person’s money or possessions,”
deceiving signing a will or Power of Attorney, 6 B&E’s of my house with half of them being done at night while I was there, the
others while I was conveniently out of the way in the hospital & when I got home I discovered furniture & numerous items missing
and one box of Saltine crackers in the cupboard…the rest of the cupboards were EMPTY as was the refrigerator & freezer. Nothing
was adjudicated regarding this as our local prosecutor’s office won’t take a case unless it’s a “win win” for them. Oh & I also had
$1200 lifted out of my checkbook via my debit card when I sent this former Marine to the store for me upon getting home & he
was staying in my house for nothing. Needless to say, learned a lot, & also learned a lot more from your article of which I thank you!
Respectfully submitted, J.J. of Michigan (alter ego e-mail handle *FormerLadyLaw* uh huh:) Saddest part of the whole story is I got
no help whatsoever after serving for 30-years. :( I also had to send my four rescued/adopted former Greyhound track dogs to KY
for safe keeping as threat #1 was to have Animal Control come pick them up & have them destroyed as “abandoned.” Didn’t happen. :)

6 years ago

Do you have a supplemental insurance plan? They will use their number for you. Do you have a regular provider (doctor and medical facility?
They will give you a “medical record number, or MRN for short. Mine is a 7 digit number and as easy to remember as a telephone number after a while. You could maybe ask about these sorts of things when you have medical tests done. I haven’t had to tell anyone my SSN at my healthcare facility in a long time. No chance of any “prying ears”. By the way, I have “Humana” for my supplement and Never have to use my Medicare card. I hope this may help you and give you peace of mind. I will keep up with the AMAC site to hear back from you if you wish.

Elaine R.
6 years ago
Reply to  Bill

Thanks, Bill. I will check this out.

Cheri Cuta
6 years ago

Sometimes those who steal or

attempt to steal our ID, are our fellow-seniors, sometimes even our “friends”!
That’s really pathetic.

linda miller
6 years ago

Foolishly I bought something online and paid with my debit card. A week later I found that the seller took almost $200 more out of my checking account without permission. I canceled that debit card and got a new one. I have been trying to get that money back but to no avail. I learned my lesson! Beware!

6 years ago
Reply to  linda miller

You are protected from such dastardly deeds with most credit cards (read the fine print), but not with debit cards, although I think with some banks if you act quickly in good faith to notify them, you are limited to the first $50 – but again read that fine print either online or in those little booklets they mail to you periodically. Good luck with that – I do not have a debit card for that reason.

6 years ago

So many papers come with SS number, the first seven numbers are x followed by the last four numbers. Wouldn’t that be better then blocking out the last four numbers.

6 years ago
Reply to  Mary

Mary, that makes sense. But what would make more sense would be for any organizations to NOT use SSNs. My healthcare company gave me a special number as did my providers. Each set of numbers in a social security card represents something.
The first is the State, the second is a sort of code I do not remember and the third is your number in conjunction with the first two sets. If someone has the last set of four numbers and know the state of your birth, it would be a lot easier for them to figure out your whole SSN. I am telling you this from what I remember on reading about this some time ago.

Also, you should look in your files (tax, medical and others) for forms with pertinent information on them. I did recently and was surprised by all the information I found.

Elaine R.
6 years ago
Reply to  Bill

The problem with blocking our numbers on my Medicare card, is that very often I’m require to show my insurance cards when I have lab tests of any kind, and at doctors’ offices when checking in. Do you have a solution to this?

6 years ago
Reply to  Elaine R.

Elaine, I thought I was replying to you directly. It seems I posted in the general comments. Please look for my post above.

Mike Brown
6 years ago

Just took my Medicare card out of my wallet. Will make a copy.
Thanks for the tip!

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