After a long, productive career, many older adults look forward to celebrating the active lifestyle afforded by retirement. They may intend to travel the world, master new hobbies, or spend time with family. Remember, though: just one instance of identity theft can ruin these well-earned plans.
Adults aged 60 and older are extremely vulnerable to identity theft.
In 2013, the Federal Trade Commission reported there were 52,610 identity theft reports filed by consumers aged 60 and above, accounting for 19% of all complaints.
Many identity thieves and cybercriminals target retired adults who have spent an entire career building up their savings. Retirees generally carry less credit card debt and fewer loans. Their medical insurance, Medicare, and tax information is also highly desirable to cyberthieves.
Older adults can also be more susceptible to scams because they are more trusting and likely to become confused. For these reasons, it is important to be aware of the dangers associated with identity theft, so you can guard yourself and your loved ones against attacks.
Important documents, like Medicare or Social Security cards, may be lost or comprised.
Leave important documents at home. The best place for your Medicare and Social Security card is at home in a safe, with your other personal documents.
Older adults are often targeted with scams that promise free medical care, money, or offers that sound "too good to be true."
These are false claims. A reputable company will never ask you to provide your personal data over the phone or through email. If a caller requests money or personal information, hang up. This is a scam. Older adults are also encouraged to sign up for the National "Do Not Call" Registry.
Criminals may fraudulently use your Medicare information to gain medical treatment or file false claims for themselves.
Ask a doctor for a copy of your medical records. Review your medical history carefully, keeping a watchful eye out for inaccuracies. If errors are found, report the fraud immediately. Incorrect information can affect insurance and threaten your health during future treatment.
Stamp And Seal
Mail, containing important personal and account information, may be stolen directly from your mailbox.
Monitor your mail. Open and read all mailed medical bills, and insurance and bank statements. Keep a watchful eye out for unexplained charges or purchases, or missing mail.
Older adults often become less mindful of their credit scores.
Older adults need to remain vigilant over their credit reports. Errors and fraudulent activity usually first appear on credit reports. You can request one free credit report from each of the three CRAs. If you have no plans to request credit in the near future, consider placing a freeze on the account.
Cybercriminals deliberately target nest eggs and savings accounts.
Keep a close eye on your 401(k) and your savings accounts, and work with a trusted financial advisor. You may also consider changing your 401(k) into an IRA upon retirement, to avoid your account being frozen in the event of an account breach.
Retirees are more vulnerable to identity theft while traveling.
When traveling, avoid using public Wi-Fi spots and making online transactions over an unsecured network. Ask the post office to place a hold on your mail while you're away, and check your bank statements daily.
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.