My job as a security analyst is to educate people on the prevalence of ID theft, and this especially includes those over 45, and I also must point out that scams involving Medicare are on the rise.
According to Reuters, Identity theft led the list of top consumer complaints once again in 2013, with U.S. consumers reporting that they lost over $1.6 billion to various types of fraud. Of the 2 million consumer complaints that the commission received last year, 290,056, or about 14 percent, were related to identity theft, the FTC said.
People over 45 attract identity thieves because often the 45-plus crowd is more trusting, and have more wealth and disposable income built up. They’re not too eager to report identity theft for fear their families will think they’ve lost control. Crooks know all this. Learn how people over 45 can protect against identity theft and Medicare scams.
Identity Theft Prevention for the 45-Plus Crowd
- Know that those closest to you (family members, caregivers) can be a thief waiting for a prime opportunity. Be leery of anyone asking for even a small loan or giving a sob story.
- ID information and other personal data and documents should be locked up in a safe.
- Get a PO box for your mail—to receive and to take outgoing to.
- Shred personal documents you no longer need.
- Thieves like to rummage through trash for discarded direct mail and credit card offers. Call the FTC OPTOUT at 1-888-567-8688 to stop these offerings.
- Memorize your SSN so you don’t have to bring it in public.
- Thin out your wallet.
- Cancel unused cards.
- Never have any personal information printed on your checks except your PO box address. Have only your first and middle initial with your last name printed on checks.
- Have your bank issue an ATM-only card rather than an ATM debit card.
- Don’t wait till you’re a victim of crime to have a handy list of all your financially related contact information already composed.
- Update your devices operating systems
- Update your devices antivirus, antispyware, antiphishing and firewall.
- Lock up your devices with a password.
- Use strong passwords including upper/lower case and numbers.
- Use a passwords manager. Never use the same passwords twice.
Credit Card Scams
- Don’t be phishing bait. An e-mail comes to you claiming you must make a payment and includes a link where to do this. These scam e-mails make gullible people think they’re from banks, retailers, even what seems like the IRS. The link to a phony website entices victims into typing in their bank account or credit card numbers: a done deal for the thieves.
- Review bank and credit card statements promptly. Reporting something suspicious within two days means minimal liability with bank accounts. Wait too long and you may never recover your loss.
- Never lose sight of your debit card. Always watch clerks swipe it. Don’t hand it to anyone else at the store.
- Consider ditching the debit/credit card. Use an ATM card and a separate credit card rather than the combo.
- Never give your card to anyone. This means a caregiver, nanny, dog sitter, relative—you never know what they may do.
- Never give your card or account information to someone who phones you.
- See more “credit card security tips HERE”
Social Media Scams
- Friend only those who you actually know, like and trust.
- Remember the Internet is forever—Even if you have the highest privacy settings, it’s good practice to consider anything you do on the Internet as public knowledge, so be careful what you share online or via your mobile device.
- Don’t reveal personal information—Seriously consider why it’s needed before you post your address, phone number, Social Security number, or other personal information online.
- Put a PIN on it—Make sure you have your smartphone and tablet set to auto-lock after a certain time of unused and make sure it requires a PIN or passcode to unlock it. This is especially helpful to protect any information you do not want seen should your device be lost or stolen.
- Manage your privacy settings—At most, only friends you know in real life should be able to see details of your profile.
- Change your passwords frequently—In addition to choosing passwords that are difficult to guess (try to make them at least eight characters long and a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols), remember to regularly change your passwords.
Medicare Card Scams
- The weak link in Medicare is that the SSN can be used as the identifying information on the insurance cards.
- After the first visit to a doctor, copy your Medicare card, ink out every thing but the last four numbers of the SSN, then use the copy for subsequent visits.
- A Medicare representative will never call you to verify information so that medical bills can be paid. A call like this is a scam.
- If somebody other than your physician asks for Medicare information, call 1-800-MEDICARE to report this. Only when you’re in your doctor’s office should your doctor request such information. If in doubt, never give your Medicare number out.
If You Are a Victim
What should people over age 45 do if they suspect identity theft?
- Call one of these three credit reporting agencies to put a fraud alert out on your credit report:
- Experian: 888-397-3742; Equifax: 800-525-6285; TransUnion: 800-680-7289
- Contact only one company because they’re legally required to contact the other two.
- Contact local law enforcement, banks and credit card companies if you suspect ID theft.
- Call the FTC ID theft hotline: 877-438-4338; or online at www.consumer.gov/idtheft
Identity theft protection:
- Does Identity Theft Protection Really Work? YES.
- How effective are their scanning/monitoring methods? It all depends on the service. Check out BestIDTheftCompanys.com ratings.
- Can they truly protect consumers? The answers may vary. Identity theft protection is designed to protect you from new lines of credit being opened in your name—and along with the recovery/restoration component; it’s designed to clean up the mess.
Read our blog post on "Identity theft protection HERE"