Identity theft is a significant problem for everyone, but seniors are a particularly vulnerable target. According to FBI reports, identity theft is the third most common scam, following telemarketing schemes and emails from Nigeria.
Identity theft occurs when an individual takes on your identity to execute fraud or a criminal act. The scammers access the information they need by stealing a wallet, ransacking trash or illegally using your bank account or credit information. The criminals may approach you through face-to-face interaction, over the telephone or on the Internet. They may request your personal information – or simply steal it.
The Social Security Administration recently issued an alert about an email scam designed to look like it came from Social Security. The bogus email listed information about the annual cost-of-living-adjustment and directed the email recipients to a website designed to look exactly like the Social Security’s site. While on the site, readers updated valuable data – unwittingly giving their identity to criminals.
Social Security officials offered a warning to combat scams: “Social Security will not send you an email asking you to give us your personal information, such as your Social Security number, date of birth or other private information. If someone saying they are from Social Security does email you requesting information, don’t respond to the message. Instead, contact your local Social Security office or call us at (800) 772-1213 to see whether we need any information from you.”
PREVENTING IDENTITY THEFT
To combat the prospect of a thief stealing your identity, do not carry the following items in your purse or wallet unless you need them that day.
• Social Security card
• Birth certificate
• Bank account and routing numbers
• Account passwords
• Medicare card (it has your Social Security number on it)
FBI officials offered the following strategies to minimize identity loss.
• Always shred ATM receipts, credit card statements, credit cards and bank statements.
• Don’t give your credit card number over the telephone unless you made the call.
• Check your bank account statement every month, and immediately notify the bank of inconsistencies.
• Keep a list of phone numbers to call to report the loss or theft of your wallet or credit cards.
• Report unlawful financial transactions to your bank, credit card company and the police as soon as you detect them.
• Review your credit report at least once each year. Notify the credit bureau in writing of any questionable entries and follow through until they explain or remove them.
• If someone assumes your identity, ask the credit bureau to print a statement to that effect on your credit report.