Serious risks for retirees often overlooked.
Retirees have become the latest targets for identity thieves. The reputable Experian Credit Bureau Company, recently conducted a survey which showed that 11% of people over the age of 65 reported that they have had their financial information stolen. And according to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft among senior citizens has almost tripled over the past few years.
Seniors are highly exposed to fraud, and the major reason is that Medicare, the primary form of health insurance among the elderly, uses Social Security Numbers to identify its beneficiaries. These SSN are relatively easy to get hold of, especially with the assistance of unscrupulous caregivers and staff members in retirement homes, many of whom have access to personal information.
Another problem is the fact that elderly folk are often unable to monitor their accounts correctly, and irregular transactions can remain undiscovered for quite some time. Scammers are also of the opinion that pensioners have more cash reserves than others, and that many are not digitally savvy, so will easily fall for an online scam.
The con-artists proceed to bombard retirees with online offers that look too good to ignore, and there are frequent requests which purport to come from the banks, to update personal details, or run the risk of their accounts being frozen.
Unfortunately, many take the bait and the scammers make a killing!
The kind of risks retirees face.
Elderly folk face a number of risks which need to be efficiently managed. Longevity also plays a part, and those with investments and other cash resources, need efficient financial planning, and sound financial management. Sometimes in the hype of taxes, inflation, and stock market returns, identity theft is often overlooked. This can lead to devastating financial disaster, and damage to your reputation in your twilight years.
It is sad to note that there is this growing trend for criminal identity theft in retirement homes, the very place where the elderly should feel safe.
Here are some examples which have been provided by the Fraud Resolution Agents, who have made it their business to assist and guide retiree victims through the resolution process.
- Staff members with easy access to resident records are enriching themselves by selling SSN and other personal information to criminals.
- Medical information and life insurance details are also big sellers.
- Their report included details of an elderly woman who was taken advantage of in a Care Home, and lost $16,000 which was never recovered.
- Another story is that of a registered nurse in a nursing home who stole more than $5000 from a patient who trusted her, and used it to purchase both goods and services.
- Fraudulent e mails requesting details to upgrade bank and card records.
- Con-artists who have obtained personal details often call seniors pretending to be long-lost relatives with a sob story, who say they are in desperate need of money.
These are just some of the ways seniors are scammed. Because older folk are more vulnerable than they were I the past, traumatic events like identity theft and theft, can have a negative impact on their health and well-being.
More often than not, victims have to undergo trauma counselling to regain both confidence and peace of mind.
How you, as a retiree, can protect yourself.
The following steps can help you protect yourself from fraud and identity theft.
- Shred anything with personal data that you no longer need.
- Don’t keep your social security card, pin numbers, or passwords in your wallet.
- Do not respond to e mails that seem to come from the bank or card companies. It is just a fraudulent way to get your personal details.
- Ignore SMS or phone calls that advise you that you have unclaimed lotto, or other winnings. If you have not bought a ticket, you cannot be winner!
- Keep copies of your credit cards, SS card etc in a safe place at home. You will have quick access to details if anything is stolen.
- Keep a close eye on your bank statements. Immediately query any suspicious charges, or even more serious, withdrawals you have not authorised.
- If you do not have any long-lost relatives that you don’t know about, don’t dish out any cash to someone who claims to be a relative, no matter how desperate they sound.
The most important thing to do to protect yourself, is to stay vigilant, and to query anything and everything you are not sure about. If you lose you life’s saving, there is almost no chance that you will ever get it back.
What you can do to help protect elderly parents from identity theft.
As your parents age, they will become more vulnerable to outside influences, especially the attempts of criminal scammers. They may still be in their own homes and mostly self- reliant, or they could be in a retirement home, but no matter where they are, still seriously be in need of your assistance to protect their life savings
Here are some useful tips you can share with them.
- It is important to educate them about the real dangers of identity theft, and some of the tricks the criminals employ, like fraudulent e mails, phone calls, and SMS.
- Offer to assist with the regular monitoring of their bank and card statements to make sure that there is not anything fishy going on.
- Encourage them to keep personal documents, credit and social security cards, locked away in a secure safe.
- Explain the benefits of a good credit report company which will help to prevent identity theft by alerting them to any key changes to their reports, even as far as a change in name or address.
- Help them to select a good, reputable company, and assist through the sign up process.
- Most of all, let your elderly parents know that you are always on hand to help with any uncertainties which may arise.
According to the US Department of Justice, identity theft is now the number one crime in America, surpassing even the scourge of drug trafficking.
Criminal attacks on retirees is included in this number, and it is critical that Care, Nursing, and Retirement Homes do more to ensure the safety of personal information of the residents in their establishments.