6 Steps for Protecting Seniors from Identity Theft

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Written by: Guest | Best Company Editorial Team

Last Updated: February 24th, 2020

Old Women

Guest Post by Kayla Matthews

Identity theft happens when someone gets ahold of your private and personal information, such as your Social Security number or bank account information. With access to this data, criminals can make purchases and commit fraud. The elderly are often targets for such scams. They have more money, are less suspicious, and are not always entirely aware of new technology. While this is a concerning topic, here are six ways that seniors can keep themselves safe:

1. Adopt safe online behaviors

Identity thieves do most of their work on the internet, so it's important to operate securely online. Always log out of bank and government websites that hold sensitive details. Never post your birthday or location on social media if you can help it. Criminals often grab this information and forge birth certificates and passports with it. Avoid fishy websites — look for a lock symbol in the address bar. Never work on anything confidential on public Wi-Fi.

2. Don't fall for email tricks

If you receive an email telling you that you've won a trip to the Bahamas, or that a foreign prince wants to send you $1 million, report it as spam and delete it. Criminals love to send fake rewards or deals, called phishing scams, to victims in hopes that they'll click on it. A good rule of thumb is to never respond to a sender that's offering you money or asking for personal information. Any legitimate organization or company will never ask you do divulge your data like this.

3. Beware of phone calls

Have you ever gotten a call from someone claiming to be the IRS? This is a common scam that many Americans fall for. The IRS, along with most government institutions, will probably never contact you by phone. If they need to get in touch, they'll send a letter in the mail. The same goes for calls exclaiming that you've won the lottery. If you answer a call like this, hang up and block the number from your phone.

4. Limit access to your money

There are plenty of older adults who allow their family members to help manage their funds. As you age and begin to plan your retirement more thoroughly, you'll want to make sure your money is secure.

Consider hiring a designated financial advisor to help you navigate your earnings and use them accordingly. If you prefer to have someone you know to assist you with this, make sure they're trustworthy.

5. Keep physical copies locked away

Private documents, like your Social Security card and passport, should remain in a secure place at all times. Choose a designated area that only you and a handful of trusted individuals know. If you ever move, you'll be able to grab your files and ensure no one else has access to them. Caregivers can help protect seniors by overseeing who has access to this information.

6. Consult someone you trust

Should you ever be in doubt about how to protect your identity, talk to a family member or friend that you trust. They can help you conduct further research on how to keep your data safe. If you answer an odd phone call or come across suspicious activity in your bank account, contact one of these people. Having trusted confidants in your arsenal is always a great idea.

Become informed and prepared today

By taking these steps, you can keep yourself safe from criminals. Make sure to operate securely on the internet, be on the lookout for suspicious phone calls, and keep your physical documents guarded. If you're concerned that you've been a victim of identity theft, a host of resources are available to help you.

Kayla Matthews, a tech and security journalist, has written articles for sites including WIRED, Information Age, Security Boulevard, and the National Cyber Security Alliance. To see more of her work, follow her on Twitter @KaylaEMatthews or check out her tech blog, Productivity Bytes.

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