After decades of hard work and saving responsibly, many older adults have grand plans for their golden years. Retirement, and the adventures that follow, should be celebrated. However, identity thieves can destroy this well-earned lifestyle. Older adults are heavily targeted with identity theft schemes because of their 401Ks and savings.
The same fervor used to build your nest egg should be dedicated to preserving it during retirement. To keep your nest egg safe from greedy thieves, please consider the following habits:
Keep pro-active practices in place.
Invest in a cross-cut shredder and destroy any documents that contain personally identifying information (PII) once they are out-of-date. Identity thieves are not above diving through your trash to extract precious information for malicious purposes.
Keep your Social Security card, health insurance information, passport, and other private documents in a safe within your home. Never carry these important documents on your person.
Continue to actively monitor your credit report and account statements. Remain vigilant over your accounts throughout your life. Evidence of identity theft is most likely to appear on your credit report. If you find errors, take immediate action to report the fraud.
Carefully research the online fraud policies and recommended practices of your financial institutions. Read all of the small print!
Consider turning your 401(k) into an IRA as soon as you enter retirement. This will help you avoid a frozen account in the event of an account breach.
Check your account balances frequently. This habit will help detect fraudulent charges early. If errors are found or money is removed without consent, take action immediately.
If you begin receiving government funds, such as Social Security checks, sign up to have them directly deposited in your account. If you need to mail checks or bills containing PII, be sure to deposit the mail in a locked postal service mailbox or directly at the post office. Identity thieves are known to watch older adults' mailboxes.
Keep tabs on your previous employer and plan administrator. There have been reports of 401(k) theft when a company is in a financial crisis. Watch for account changes that are not related to the stock market's performance.
Be aware and wary.
Be cautious of cold callers offering an unbelievable investment opportunity, free discounts or giveaways. If their offers seem "too good to be true," it's probably because they are! These false promises are all in the service of just one goal: scamming you out of your hard-earned money. To avoid these calls, older adults are encouraged to sign up for the National "Do Not Call" Registry.
Be wary of bill collectors and people claiming that you owe them money. Never agree to make payments over the phone; ask for the bill to be mailed to you. You can also seek advice from a family member or trusted friend to help prove the validity of such a claim.
Although it is an uncomfortable topic, older adults need to be aware that many incidents of identity theft involve family, friends, and caregivers. The people closest to you often have the most access to your private information. Vet new people carefully, and always remain vigilant over your accounts.
Practicing these habits is the best way to help protect your precious nest egg.
Funded by a partnership with the Texas Legislature, and powered by the Center for Identity, IDWise is a resource center for the public on identity theft, fraud, and privacy.