Elder Law attorneys have taken a disturbing new development in recent years. Identity theft is a growing problem in our society, especially among older people. It can lead to ruined credit record and even loss of life savings.
Many people think it is a problem that could not happen then. But in testimony before the US Senate Special Committee on aging, it was reported that 10 percent of consumers who call the office to report that they are victims of identity theft are age 60 and older.
Even if you are careful to store personal papers securely, there are many ways an identity thief can get information. Some ways this happens is to make a change of address to import your mail or rummaging through trash.
With the data in hand, the thief is then free to change the mailing address, the card account and run up charges; open a new credit card account in your name and not pay the bills, or even open a bank account and write checks. Here are some of the precautions that can prevent this happening
1. Use secure passwords on credit card, bank and phone accounts. Do not use information such as the maiden name of your mother, your birth date, the last four digits of your social security number or phone number, or a series of sequence numbers.
2. Be careful to ensure the personal information in your home.
3. Order a credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus once a year. This can help you achieve your mistakes and fraud before they wreak havoc on your personal finances.
4. Do not give out personal information over the phone, by mail or over the Internet unless you’ve initiated contact or are sure who you are dealing with.
5. If you’re planning to be away from home, ask the Post Office for a vacation hold.
6. Tear up or shred your charge receipts, credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, checks and bank statements, expired credit cards and credit offers before throwing them in the trash.
7. Be suspicious of letters from your bank or the IRS. In one scam, promoters sent out fictitious bank bonds and phony IRS forms in an attempt to trick recipients into personal and banking data. Thieves use the information to simulate the recipients and gain access to their finances. “Genuine IRS forms do not ask for sensitive personal and financial data, except in very special circumstances,” the IRS notes.
8. photocopy of both the contents of your wallet. This gives you a list of everything that could be stolen, and the account number and the number to call so you can stop.