Identity theft impacts millions of people every year, and older Americans are targeted at higher rates than the rest of the population.
People age 65 and older lose a whopping $36.5 billion to elder financial abuse every year, and almost $3 billion of that money is stolen via identity fraud, according to a study conducted by financial services firm TrueLink. The average amount of money an older adult loses to identity theft over a five year period is $7,633.
“It’s a big problem,” says Elizabeth Loewy, co-founder of EverSafe, a Fintech company that monitors and alerts for fraud. “It’s under-reported. It’s a common problem, along with other kinds of exploitation.”
The most frequent kinds of identity fraud aimed at older adults are opening and closing bank accounts and credit cards in the victim’s name, as well as taking out payday loans or car and home equity loans, the study reported. Credit card data obtained in data breaches like the 2017 Equifax hack is also used in identity theft.
Identity theft is hard to identify initially and then resolve once it is pinpointed. It usually takes people about three months to realize their identity has been stolen, says Loewy.
There are all kinds of identify theft, ranging from tax ID schemes to Medicare theft and mortgage fraud. Driver’s license theft is one of the most common forms of identity theft, according to credit bureau Experian, which recommends setting up an additional security alert on your credit report if your license has been stolen. Scammers can use driver’s licenses to obtain additional forms of identification. Also, licenses contain your date of birth and address, which are two valuable pieces of information required to open a credit card (the other is your Social Security number).
How To Protect Yourself From Identity Fraud
One of the most important aspects of protecting your financial assets is monitoring your depository accounts, such as your checking and savings accounts at your bank, your investment accounts, and your retirement accounts, Loewy says.
Many older Americans believe they are safe from identity theft because they don’t use online banking or share personal information on the Internet, but that is a false sense of security. While it may sound counterintuitive, setting up online access to your accounts is actually a form of protection everyone should take, according to EverSafe.
“People get complacent thinking that if they’re not online then they’re not subject to being taken advantage of,” says Howard Tischler, co-founder, and CEO of EverSafe. “If you take as an example the Equifax breach, it had nothing to do with people being online. Almost everybody has a credit report whether they go online or not.”
You need to set up online access to your accounts so that no one else fraudulently sets one up for you, Tischler says. When that happens, it is referred to as an “account take-over:” someone else gains access to your accounts and sets up the passwords and other information themselves, so you are unable to log into your own account — but the criminal can simply use the new password to log in and take your funds.
Here are the do’s and don’t’s of protecting yourself against identity theft:
If you believe you are a victim of identity theft you can call 877-438-4338 or report it to the Federal Trade Commission here.
- Pay attention to your bills – look for bills for items you did not buy, which could indicate someone has gotten access to your credit card information.
- Look out for debt collection calls for accounts you did not open or a loan you never applied for.
- Create strong passwords by making them complex and not using personal information like your birthday or your pet’s name. Change your passwords frequently and do not use the same one twice.
- Review your bank and credit card statements to make sure everything is accurate.
- Review your credit report at least once a year (your credit report is different from your credit score, which you should also check regularly).
- Freeze your credit report.
- Install anti-virus and firewall software on your computer.
- Shred any physical receipts and financial statements.
- Consider going paperless so you don’t receive sensitive financial documents in the mail. Collect your mail every day and place it on hold if you are traveling.
- Do not give out your personal information (online, in person, or over the phone) just because someone asks for it. Government agencies like the IRS and the Social Security Administration will almost never call you, and even if they do they never ask for money or sensitive information over the phone. If you get a call purporting to be from the government, hang up, find the office’s number on your own and call back to verify whether the call is legitimate.
- Do not use public Wi-Fi networks to check your email, social media or bank account, as they are often insufficiently secured.
- Do not leave any personal information in your car, even if it’s locked.
- Do not carry your Social Security card with you, only carry documents that list it when absolutely necessary, and never give it out unless you are certain of who you are talking to and why they need it.
Source: Money Finance Yahoo
How to Avoid Identity Theft Online
The majority of us spend at least a couple of hours each day online. Because we spend so much time using the internet each day, it is important that all internet users have a proper understanding of how to keep their personal information safe whilst they are online.
Online identity theft can have serious consequences for victims, so avoiding becoming a victim is a must. Online identity theft can lead to bank fraud and ongoing problems with obtaining credit (including mortgages, loans, new credit cards and even a new contract for your mobile phone. The following tips will help you to stay safe online.
Learn to spot spam emails
One of the major dangers to personal information that internet users face on a day-to-day basis is phishing emails. These are emails which are designed to look as though they come from a legitimate source, such as your bank, building a society or Paypal account. They will often talk about a security breach or a transaction which you do not know about, and they may give you a link to log in with so that you can verify the transaction or confirm your details. Clicking on one of these links is likely to take you to a website that looks just like the site that you are expecting to visit, but it is one which is designed to harvest your account information.
Look carefully at all emails before clicking on links enclosed within them. Poor spelling and grammar, and an unfamiliar writing style are all tell-tale signs of a phishing email, however more sophisticated scams look near perfect. Other tell-tale signs include an unfamiliar email address or site URL. You should be particularly vigilant about domain suffixes (.com, .co.uk, .net etc). Although most of the URL may look the same as the site that you are expecting, it may be a fake site if the suffix is different.
It is always best to log into your accounts by opening a new tab and going to the legitimate site through a search engine.
If you have a large number of online accounts, do not choose the same password for every account. This could mean that if a hacker finds your log-in details for a minor account (such as a chat forum), they may then be able to use exactly the same password to log in to some of your more important accounts.
In addition to using different passwords, you should also make sure that you are using a strong password. A strong password includes uppercase and lowercase letters, as well as numbers. Make sure that your password is not on any list of common passwords (these include “password” and “qwerty”), and do not use a word which can be guessed easily by someone who knows about your life, such as the name of your cat or the name of your favorite football team. If your account provider allows it, you can also strengthen your password by adding a symbol, such as a #.
Safety from Spyware and Hackers
Make sure that all of your internet devices have up-to-date security software, and that you are using it as directed. Whilst you may have security software that detects invasive programmes such as Spyware, this software will be useless if you do not run it regularly to check for updates and possible problems.
Make sure that your wi-fi password is also secure, and that it cannot be easily guessed. Unauthorised parties gaining access to your wi-fi can seriously compromise your online security. If you notice that your download rates are far higher than you were expecting or if you find that your download speeds are much slower than advertised, then there is the chance that someone else could be piggybacking on your wireless network. Contact your provider if you have concerns.
It is very important that you stay vigilant when you are using all social media sites, because social media can offer easy pickings for people who are after your details. For example, getting your date of birth off of your profile can allow fraudsters to gain access to some of your other accounts, because the date of birth is often used as a security question.
Never post personal information such as your address or phone number, and be careful about photos that you are taking which could be used to gain personal information about you. For example, if you are heading off on holiday, never take a photo of the personal information page from your password, because this contains lots of vital information which criminals could use to steal your identity.
You are probably at your most vulnerable when you are making an online purchase. Any time that you are about to make a new purchase you should check that the URL starts with HTTPS (rather than just http), as this shows that your information is being sent across a secure channel.
If you are planning on making a transaction with a company that you have never purchased from before, you can check online to see whether anyone else has had a good or bad experience with them. In many cases, whether or not you proceed with the transaction has to be a judgment call based on your other knowledge about staying safe online.
If you do think that you made a purchase from an online retailer which may be unsafe, you should get in contact with your bank’s (or your credit card’s) fraud prevention department to see whether it is still possible to prevent your payment from going through. In most cases, they will be able to put a stop on a transaction which you think may be a fraudulent one, so it is best to contact them as soon as possible.
Source: Identity Theft Org UK
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