Identity theft affects millions of Americans each year, and the elderly population makes up a sizable portion of those impacted by the crime. Recent data reveals roughly 20 percent of identity theft victims, 7.3 million Americans, are over age 65 and have been financially exploited by fraud, according to a 2010 Investor Protection Trust survey. The high incidence of this crime committed against seniors may occur for a number of reasons.
Rely on Others to Handle Finances
A large number of elderly Americans, especially those living alone or in assisted-living communities, rely on family members, advisors or consultants, to manage their finances. With more individuals accessing their private information, there is a greater risk for identity theft.
More Trusting of Technology
Elderly adults are more likely to fall victim to Internet-based scams, such as phishing, because they are unfamiliar with how phishing tactics work and the signs to watch out for, according to the United Nation’s Global Action on Aging. Phishing is a form of identity theft, where a fraudster poses as legitimate organization that people are familiar with, such as a large retailer.
Confusion or Shame at Reporting Their Abuser
The National Crime Prevention Council reports that 43 percent of elderly victims think they know who stole their financial information. Many seniors, however, are apprehensive to report the crime if it was committed by someone close to them. As a result, the number of identity theft cases committed against the elderly is largely under-reported.
Seniors can lower their risk by safeguarding their personal information in the following ways: - Keep financial statements, healthcare information, Social Security card and related documents in a locked box at home. - Shred all documents including bank statements, credit card offers or old checks, before disposing of them in the garbage. - Maintain computer security and antivirus systems and avoid clicking unknown links. - Never give out personal information to a stranger who contacts you by phone or email. - Check your credit report regularly to look for suspicious or inaccurate information.
The thought of becoming an identity theft victim can create anxiety in any person, but implementing a few small safety measures and staying diligent can make a world of difference when it comes to safeguarding an individual's personal information.