While anyone can be a victim of identity theft, seniors may be at even more of a risk then the general population.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the number of elderly victims of identity theft increased from 2.1 million in 2012 to 2.6 million in 2014. This increase is likely due to the fact that seniors often live alone and crave companionship, and also have fading memories, which makes them easy prey for identity thieves who take advantage of their loneliness and vulnerability.
Whatâ€™s more is that identity theft in seniors can be truly tragic as bank accounts are drained and retirement funds vanish, leaving these seniors without any resources in their golden years.Â Protecting our aging parents can be simple if you know where to start. Here are four ways to keep them, and their nest eggs, safe.
- Give the gift of a shredder. It may not be much of a sentimental gesture, but a small cross-cut shredder can really go a long way to protect your aging parents. With thieves dumpster-diving for personal information, shredders can be used to destroy unneeded personal documents, receipts, pre-approved credit offers, unused or old checks, and any other items that include personal information about your parent(s) or their accounts.
- Protect their mail. Leaving outgoing mail in the mailbox for the postman is never a good idea. Thieves can quite easily snatch mail waiting to be picked up, including letters that include checks or other personal information â€“ and since your parent is expecting them to disappear, theyâ€™ll never be the wiser. Encourage your parents to take their outgoing letters to the post office and to purchase a mailbox with a lock for added protection.
- Monitor their accounts. Your parents are likely not as computer-savvy as you are. Help them to monitor accounts, as well as their credit information online. You can even set up credit monitoring and bank alerts to make this a seamless process for you both. Products such as Experian CreditWorks is a great option for people looking for comprehensive credit monitoring.
- Educate them about identity thieves. Remind your parents that thieves take many forms, and how detrimental losing their personal information can be. They should never give out personally identifiable information like a Social Security number or bank account number over the phone. And remind them a legitimate business would never ask for this type of information.
To learn more about identity theft and how identity protection services can help your parents, visit www.Experian.com
Sandra Bernardo, who wrote this article, is the consumer education manager for Experian, a credit rating and fraud prevention company.