While anyone can be a victim of identity theft, seniors may be at even more of a risk then the general population. According to the Department of Justice, the number of elderly victims of identity theft increased from 2.1 million in 2012 to 2.6 million in 2014. This increase is likely due to the fact that seniors often live alone and crave companionship, and may have fading memories, which makes them easy prey for identity thieves who take advantage of their loneliness and vulnerability.
Identity theft can be truly tragic as bank accounts are drained and retirement funds vanish, leaving victims without any resources in their golden years. Protecting yourself or your aging parents can be simple if you know where to start.
Give the gift of a shredder – A small cross-cut shredder can really go a long way to protect your aging parents. With thieves dumpster-diving for personal information, shredders can be used to destroy unneeded personal documents, receipts, pre-approved credit offers, unused or old checks and any other items that include personal information about your parent(s) or their accounts.
Protect their mail – Leaving outgoing mail in the mailbox for the postman is never a good idea. Thieves can quite easily snatch mail waiting to be picked up, including letters that include checks or other personal information – and since your parent is expecting them to disappear, they’ll never be the wiser. Encourage your parents to take their outgoing letters to the post office, and to purchase a mailbox with a lock for added protection.
Monitor their accounts – Your parents may not be as computer savvy as you are. Help them to monitor accounts as well as their credit information online. You can even set up credit monitoring and bank alerts to make this a seamless process for you both.
Educate them about identity thieves – Remind your parents that thieves take many forms, and how detrimental losing their personal information can be. They should never give out personally identifiable information like a social security number or bank account number over the phone, and remind them a legitimate business would never ask for this type of information.
To learn more about identity theft and how identity protection services can help your parents, visit Experian.com.
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