For many seniors, having a nest egg provides peace of mind. Unfortunately, healthy savings accounts often make seniors the targets of identity thieves.
Scammers also may consider seniors as easy marks because they can be more trusting than younger people, they may live alone and they often have favorable credit scores. If you’re a victim, you may not realize your identity has been stolen until you notice mysterious charges on your credit card or your bank account is suddenly cleaned out.
Consider taking the following steps to protect yourself and your savings.
Report Suspicious Activity
If you feel that you or your parent are a victim of identity theft, report the crime to your local police department and to the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC will send you an identity theft affidavit. Along with a police report, the document will help you work with your bank, credit card companies and other financial institutions to restore your identity.
Guard Your Personal Information
You can take evasive actions to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft. Be cautious about any information you or your parent give out. Never share important details like your date of birth or Social Security number unless you contacted the party to whom you’re providing the information.
In addition, leave important personal documents — including your Social Security and insurance cards — at home rather than carrying them in your wallet or purse. If your wallet is stolen, a thief will have everything he needs to open accounts in your name. And make sure to shred any documents that include personal information before putting them out with your trash.
Use Caution Online
Don’t open email messages from senders you don’t recognize and don’t click on links within emails. An email can look as if it’s coming from your bank when it’s actually trying to lure you into turning over personal details or installing malicious software.
Instead of clicking links, go directly to the website for the institution within your web browser. If you have questions about an email, call your bank.
Keep an Eye on Your Credit
Be sure to monitor your credit, or that of your parent, on a regular basis. Consider investing in a credit monitoring service that will alert you to any unusual activity — such as large expenditures on credit cards or withdrawals from your bank — or other potential signs of identity theft.
Close Affected Accounts
If you do find that you’ve been a victim of identity theft, it’s wise to close any bank, credit card or other accounts that are affected. Your credit card company can simply cancel your old card and provide you with a new one with a different number.
Some cases of identity theft are more complicated and difficult to correct, however. If a thief has taken out credit in your name or the name of your parent, you’ll have to prove that the accounts were opened fraudulently by reporting the incident and providing the creditor with the police report.
The best course of action is preventing identity theft before it happens — by monitoring your credit, protecting your personal information and clicking carefully online.