With identity theft such a widespread and growing problem in the U.S., one of the most common targets for the crime are retired senior citizens.
Seniors are viewed by identity thieves as easy prey because they receive government benefits or are on fixed incomes. When seniors make a large financial transaction like closing out an IRA, downsizing their home or applying for social security, there is an increased risk of identity theft, according to a report from identity monitoring service IdentityTruth.
"In recent years, there has been a trend of identity thieves targeting seniors via phone or email - our goal is to increase awareness of the tricks identity thieves use to help protect seniors from becoming victims," said company CEO Steven Domenikos.
The company says that retiring generates a lot of paperwork, which means seniors must be conscious of where it all goes, where it's stored, and what happens to discarded paper. Everything should be put in a safe place, and any excess documents should be shredded before being thrown away.
Further, retirees should be careful about how they use the internet, the company warned. Giving out information as simple and seemingly innocuous as an email address can make them targets of phishing scams that will try to wrangle more important personal information like Social Security, credit card or bank account numbers. Any email, or phone call or even letter, from a company asking for information like an address, birthdate or financial details should be ignored and reported to appropriate authorities.
Seniors should also be aware that, if they move out of their longtime home, they could leave behind or lose important documents like bank statements, bills, checkbooks or credit cards. IdentityTruth says that these items should be rounded up and stored in a "lock box" prior to a move, and retirees should keep track of that box on moving day.
Finally, retirees should be aware that thieves often try to assume the identities of sick or recently deceased people to commit their crimes because it is less likely to be detected as fraud. All seniors who lose a loved one should alert the Social Security Administration of the death as soon as possible.
A recent report in the Marietta (Ohio) Times said that senior citizens were the target of a phone and mail scam designed to bilk them out of Medicare rebate checks.