Have you ever gotten a call from your senior citizen mother or father and had them tell you how someone just tried to get them to send money for some absurd reason. It’s all to common in today’s world of scammers, and protecting seniors from identify theft is becoming more difficult as these scams become more complex and technical in nature.
The good news is that more seniors are embracing the tech world now than ever, but that inevitably leads to a large number of losers who have figured out many different to scam all people, but especially seniors out of their cash, and possibly even their identity.
Example of Identity Theft
There are so many schemes hackers have devised to target seniors it’s hard to keep track, but here’s an example of how they can use today’s technologies to try and access sensitive information. Hackers can now find vulnerable computers and push messages to those PC’s making it look like there is a virus or some other issue with the computer. The very professional looking error message might come with a phone number for the “identity protection” company that can help fix your the problem.
Problem is this phone number is not to a security company at all, but a instead it is a sophisticated hacking scheme looking to get money, or to get access to your PC. Many times if the number is called, the fake agent will ask you to allow them to remotely gain access to your computer, at which point they can do pretty much anything they want in terms of copying your personal data.
With the vast number of data thefts that have occurred over the last few years, lists of names and demographic data are also easily available, so these hackers can target those they believe to be most vulnerable. Because seniors are often less familiar with some of these technical hacks, they are more susceptible to making the phone call, and having their identity stolen, or other information such as credit cards accessed.
How to protect yourself
Keep and eye on your credit – There are a number of ways to get your credit score, and typically you can get a one-time snapshot for free if you don’t want to pay for on-going service. Monitoring your credit score in retirement is essential for many reason, but it definitely can give you a peace of mind that your identity has not been stolen. Chances are that if a hacker has gone to the trouble of stealing your identity, they are going to use that in some way to get money via loans or credit cards that will show up on your credit report.
Don’t give out your Social Security Number – While it may be necessary to give your SSN occasionally, such as for a medical visit or credit application, it should never be given to anyone by phone, e-mail, or text.
Passwords and Firewall protection – make sure you PC’s are protected with virus software and other firewalls that come standard by your PC maker. This will make it harder for hackers to get into your PC and find sensitive data. Beyond that, it is important to keep all sensitive data protected with passwords, and to update those passwords on a regular basis. Unfortunately hackers have been able to gain access to many major company databases in recent years, meaning old passwords might be vulnerable.
Don’t give someone access to your computer – As should be clear from our example above, you should not allow someone access to your computer unless you are 100% certain of there intentions. There are programs out there today that will allow people to remotely access your computer, which in many cases are legitimate service professionals trying to help you solve a problem. It is however becoming more common to see identity thieves use this method to dupe unsuspecting victims.
Monitor accounts – Beyond monitoring your credit score, which is a reactive measure, try to more proactively monitor your credit and bank accounts to ensure there isn’t anything suspicious happening. This is typically the first place you can see something out of the ordinary, and if you get in the habit of checking transactions every couple days, you can spot something before much damage has been done.
Lock down your devices – In today’s world there is the constant risk of someone stealing your cell phone or other mobile device while you are out and about. We all know the amount of sensitive information that is now saved on these little devices that rule our world. To be clear, you should do your best to never have any sensitive data stored on your mobile devices, but if you do and it gets stolen, at least be sure to have those devices appropriately password protected so no one can gain access.
Don’t email or text sensitive information – If you haven’t been paying attention to politics lately, just google “Hillary Clintion Email” and you’ll need look no further for why this information should not be passed via email or any other electronic means. It doesn’t matter how protected a service says they keep your information, because there will always be a hacker out there waiting to get around those protections. The only true way to keep this data protected is by not sharing it over these forms of communication which will always have some vulnerability.
Pay for identity protection – If you don’t feel that you have the time, or just are simply too worried about your identity protection, there are many paid services out there these days that can help. These companies will keep an eye on your credit, and other factors that give you a quick heads up that someone may have stolen your identity. In addition to monitoring, most also come with added benefits of identify restoration services, and ID insurance in the event you are monetarily affected by the issue of having your identity stolen.
It’s not something that happens everyday, but identity theft does occur. Often times it’s of minimal impact to someones daily life, such as when a credit card is stolen, and a simple replacement card needs to be ordered. Other times it can cause larger issues, and because seniors can be targeted at a higher rate, learning simple ways to protect their identity can be a smart proactive step.
Please leave a comment if you have any other good suggestions on protecting your identity, especially when it comes to that of our senior citizens.