Identity theft scams that prey on the elderly are just inherently more heinous since they often times target folks who are lonely and therefore more likely to trust people they shouldn’t.
Suzanne Ford, the lead restoration specialist for LibertyID, has seen some terribly sad elderly identity theft cases over the years but there’s one incident that stands out in her mind. A conniving woman and her adult daughter befriended an elderly gentleman at church. The man, a Navy vet, was also a widower. Eventually, the women ended up moving into his house and stealing everything they could get their hands on, including his identity. “They opened 40 accounts in his name, emptied his bank account and retirement account, and wrote three books of bad checks,” Ford said. “They would withhold his medicine and walk him into the bank to withdraw the money. They hawked his belongings, including his dead wife’s jewelry. His one and only child lived in the state but he was so humiliated, he didn’t want to tell her what was happening.”
Aside from recovering the funds taken out of the bank account, Ford was able to get the other charges reversed and accounts deleted and closed down and fix the man’s identity within 90 days. The women were arrested and Ford even reported them for elder abuse at the federal level.
Criminals target older folks for a variety of reasons — they’re vulnerable because they’re more likely to be lonely, could be naive about technology and might not know about the latest scams criminals are using. Statistics show the number of elderly victims of identity theft is on the rise — from 2.1 million in 2012 to 2.6 million in 2014 — according to the most recent Bureau of Justice Statistics available.
In light of this, here are seven ways you can protect your elderly loved ones from identity theft.
- Sign up for a LibertyID Family Plan. Millions of Americans experience identity fraud every year, but insurance companies don’t cover it. We do, and our team of experts has a 100 percent success rate in reversing the damage. Get covered today and when identity theft happens to you or your immediate family member, LibertyID will work tirelessly to get everything back. We will restore your credit score, resolve IRS fraud on your behalf, replace all lost identification and restore your identity to pre-event status. Even better, there’s no limit to the time or money we’ll spend to make sure your identity is restored. Subscribe to the LibertyID Family Plan and rest easy knowing your children, your spouse or partner, and your parents are covered by the plan.
- Keep an eye on their bank account statements for them. Some elderly people might not be interested or able to watch their finances closely. With all the data breaches happening each week, it’s important to be sure all the charges hitting your bank account are legit and that your card hasn’t been compromised. While some folks might be too proud to ask for help, you could consider offering to sit down with them each month and spend a few minutes going through their bank or credit card statements to make sure everything is in order.
- Check in, in person and on the phone, as much as possible. Older people who live alone often times battle loneliness so on top of possibly preventing a scam artist from targeting your family member, keeping in regular contact would also likely help bolster their spirits.
- Download the latest updates for their phone/computer/tablets. It’s awesome that Grandma now has a computer and is even on Facebook but when was the last time she did the required updates? Does she know how? There’s a fairly good chance your loved one might not even realize this is something they ought to keep track of. Do them a favor and offer to make sure their devices are functioning properly for them and have the latest updates installed. This would be a good time to offer to install a good anti-spyware/malware/virus program for them, too.
- Add their phone numbers to the FTC’s National Do Not Call Registry. You can register their home and mobile phone numbers for free at this website. This should at least cut down on the number of telemarketing calls they receive. Encourage them not to answer calls from numbers they don’t recognize. Keep up to date yourself on the latest scams so you can discuss them together. Chatting about this subject matter can help to keep them safe.
- Make sure your loved ones have a secured mail box (locked). This would mean the outgoing mail would have to be deposited elsewhere, into another secured outgoing box such as a U.S. Postal “blue box” or directly at the Post Office. You could offer to mail their letters for them each week.
- Consider placing a credit freeze on their accounts. LibertyID’s lead restoration specialist Suzanne Ford has been helping identity theft victims for nearly 35 years. She goes so far as to advocate that even everyday people who haven’t yet been victimized consider keeping a credit freeze in place to prevent identity theft/fraud. Our blogpost explains how to initiate the freeze, including some truly golden intel: the direct line you can call to speak with an associate, which will hopefully save you time (and exposure to canned hold music).
Are you covered for identity theft?