A new study found that while consumers over the age of 65 are the least vulnerable demographic for identity fraud, it may also be under-reported.
The study, conducted by Javelin Strategy and Research and co-sponsored by the Identity Theft Assistance Center, said that seniors may be willingly giving their personal information to people they know under false pretenses, which would account for the lack of reporting on the crimes.
"We see heart-wrenching cases where older people are victimized by a con artist or a family member or friend and the anguish that follows," said ITAC president Anne Wallace. "Financial services employees are often the first to spot fraud and identity theft and alert the authorities. We want to share our experience with the families and caregivers of seniors so they, too, can be on the lookout for fraud."
A report intended to be a companion piece to the study shares several ways to identify and respond to identity fraud that specifically targets the elderly. The report highlights a number of red flags.
If, for example, the person has received bills for new ATM or credit cards, then that should raise some alarms, as should a sudden rush of bounced checks and overdraft fees. In addition, a number of purchases on credit and debit cards that is inconsistent with the senior's past spending habits could be another warning sign.
Another potential red flag is a number of checks for small amounts of money on one account, which could be indicative of charity or telemarketing scams. The senior might also remember giving account or personal information to a solicitor over the phone, which could indicate he or she has been scammed.
Another red flag is charges at times and locations not consistent with the person's habits. For instance, if the senior doesn't drive, withdrawals from ATMs or purchases on cards at locations far from their home could be a warning sign.
According to an article in the Terre Haute Tribune-Star, senior citizens have become a more frequent target for fraudsters recently. In it, Indiana Deputy Attorney General Abigail Kuzma warns that many scams that target seniors offer promises that are "too good to be true."
Melanie Woods, who works at the Indiana Secretary of State's office told the paper that senior citizens are a major target for fake loan brokers and investment agents because "in theory, they have the most money saved up."