Jan 19, 2017

How to Protect Seniors from Fraud and Identity Theft

Protecting seniors from fraud and identity theft is a serious concern for loved ones and caregivers. The older we get the more we are vulnerable to thieves and scammers. Elderly individuals are also less likely to be aware of the latest technology and how it is used to commit fraud.

Here are the most typical circumstances that lead to the victimisation of seniors and a few tips to preventing them being used against a senior in your life.

  • 1. Stealing Mail – Stealing mail is a common practice for scammers. Mail is removed to steal financial information and in the worst cases, steal checks or cards. Mailboxes are far too accessible and should be near the front door or not used at all. Post office boxes are affordable and safe.
  • 2. Sending Mail– Scams are often hidden in ordinary mail, offering special sales, retirement offers and the most common, claiming to have knowledge of the individual’s finances and asking them to take action to prevent a problem. There is usually a request for the senior to call or send a bogus payment. Best to try and agree that you open mail together and dispose of fraudulent letters.
  • 3. Phone Calls – Phone scammers essentially try the same things over the phone as in the mail. This usually involves asking for private information or credit card numbers for some type of fictitious payment. A great solution is not leaving credit cards alone with the loved one or just leaving one debit card with a low balance.
  • 4. Swiping Credit Cards – Nowadays there is even technology for stealing credit information without it being given willingly. Keep an eye on credit card balances and talk to the company about an extra security level on the account to alert you of any unusual activity.

Knowing the dangers is certainly the first step in protecting yourself. Take a look and familiarise yourself with additional things you can do.

  • Make sure caregivers are trustworthy.This is sometimes easier said than done. It takes more than calling references. Keep a close eye on new hires. Ask around and trust your gut.
  • Talk to them and warn them about scams. No matter how alert you think your senior may or not be, it can never hurt to remind them regularly about common scams, being wary of new people and communicating everything about their day to you.
  • Lock up mail/personal documents. With caregivers and delivers coming and going, it’s important not to leave purses and wallets or bills and other documents lying around. Even a simple receipt from the drug store can give too much away. Skilled scammers don’t need much to steal someone’s identity.
  • Be aware of their personal finances. If your senior loved one is writing checks or losing money, make sure you notice quickly by keeping an eye on bank statements and balances.
  • Do not allow people to take the card/license details. Whether over the phone or in person, never give out license or credit card numbers. Legitimate businesses have the swiping option which is safest. Don’t allow caregivers to take the credit card for groceries or running errands.
  • Shred banking/credit card statements. This is a wise practice at any age. Shredding private financial documents is an important part of protecting anyone. In today’s digital age keeping a lot of records around just isn’t necessary.

You can never be too safe or careful when it comes to protecting your senior. It can be hard to imagine your loved one as someone likely to be tricked or irresponsible, but today’s predators are hardly petty thieves. Identity theft and fraud is a full-time industry worth millions. Take a few precautions to make sure none of those dollars are yours.

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