Senior identity theft
Types of senior identity theft
- Tech scams: You receive a phone call warning that there is a virus on your computer or that your software is out of date and needs to be replaced. The caller may ask for credit card numbers or for email addresses and passwords in order to "fix" the problem. Learn more
- Medicare fraud or other medical identity theft: Someone claiming to be a representative with Medicare or your health care provider requests sensitive personal information that's "missing" from the medical records. Learn more
- IRS scams: Bogus IRS calls typically start to come in around tax time. The caller threatens you with arrest or foreclosure due to back taxes you supposedly haven't paid and demands payment immediately. Learn more
- Estate identity theft or funeral scams: Fraudsters follow obituaries to steal sensitive information from the deceased, using personally identifiable information (PII) such as birth dates, hometowns, and any other information they can cull. Scammers may turn up at funerals to take advantage of grieving family members or rob the home while the family is attending services.
- Military identity theft: The scammer uses PII to take claim of your military benefits, or they contact you claiming to represent the Veteran's Administration and request personal information. Learn more
- Phone scams and robocalls: These callers may want you to claim a free vacation, donate to charity or get some other special offer, all with the goal of getting your credit card number and other pieces of personal information. Get the caller's information and ask for a customer service number to call back and verify the offer. Learn more
- Grandparent / relative scam: You get a frantic phone call from your "grandchild" or "relative", who needs you to bail them out of jail in a foreign country or give them money after they were mugged. Of course, your grandchild is at home, perfectly safe, but if you're not careful, your money could be on its way to a fraudster. Learn more
- Romance scams: Someone reaches out to you on a dating site and starts chatting. You two hit it off, and soon, the person is asking for intimate details about you. Suddenly a financial crisis comes up and the person needs to you send money or offer your credit card number. This scammer then disappears with your money and your information. Learn more
How to prevent senior identity theft
Phone & Computer:
- Add contact information of family members, close friends, health providers, or anyone who might call regularly. This will help you know if the call is legitimate.
- If you don't recognize a phone number, let it go to voicemail. Scammers rarely leave messages.
- Don't be afraid to hang up. If you do answer the phone, it's OK to hang up if a stranger asks for personal or financial information.
- Remember that government agencies send letters about important information. They don't call or send emails.
- Don't wire money because of an email request, even if it appears to be from a family member. Take time to contact the family member or another loved one to see if the request is legitimate.
- Don't click on links in emails unless you are confident the link is safe. If it's unsolicited it always pays to be skeptical: call that friend who "sent you the shared document" and double-check it really was from him. Or call your bank to verify that they really do need to verify your records are up-to-date.
- Before they enter personal or financial information on any website, always check for the little padlock symbol next to the address or that the address begins with "https" instead of just "http." If these things aren't present, the site definitely is not secure.
- Be skeptical when people ask for insurance information. Verify offers that they receive over the phone or by mail by checking with the Better Business Bureau to see if the company is legitimate.
Statements & Important Documents:
- Check your financial records, credit card statements, and bank accounts regularly to make sure everything is in order.
- Don't carry your Social Security card. Only carry your Medicare card and other PII when you need it.
- Have checks direct-deposited into your bank account. This reduces the risk of the check (and all the valuable information on it) getting into the hands of a thief.
- Ask for help. If you aren't sure about something, get another opinion from a trusted friend or family member or do some research.
- If it sounds too good to be true, it is probably a scam. If the contact is threatening, it is probably a scam.
- Recognize the value of an insurance card. Keep it and anything with insurance information on it locked up and secure.
- Always review their insurance Explanation of Benefits (EOB) statements and bills for fraudulent charges or services.
- Shred paperwork that includes sensitive information when they no longer need it. This includes getting rid of labels from prescriptions.