Protecting Your Identity and Personal Information

A senior woman works on her laptop

Many scammers look for easy targets when attempting to steal personal or financial information online. From stolen credit card information to tax fraud, seniors must be on their guard against these tactics.  

Why are seniors particularly at risk for identity theft? Many older adults have accumulated significant savings or retirement funds, making them attractive targets for identity thieves looking to access their financial accounts. You may also be less digitally savvy than younger generations, making you more vulnerable to phishing scams. 

Thankfully, learning about identity theft and knowing the tactics scammers use can help protect you and your assets. Here’s what seniors need to know about identity theft protection and how to report suspected fraud. 

What is Identity Theft?

According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft is “when someone uses your personal or financial information without permission.” Commonly stolen information includes credit card numbers, name and address, Social Security numbers and medical insurance account numbers. 

Scammers try to obtain this information and use it for their own gain. 

Tips for Identity Theft Protection

Be Cautious with Personal Information: To protect your identity, avoid sharing personal information, such as Social Security numbers, bank account details or passwords unless absolutely necessary. 

Shred Sensitive Documents: Shred documents containing personal information before disposing of them, including bank statements, credit card offers and medical records. 

Use Strong Passwords: Create strong, unique passwords for online accounts. Use a combination of letters, numbers and symbols, and avoid using easily guessable information like birthdays or names. 

Be Wary of Unsolicited Communications: Be cautious about unsolicited emails, phone calls or messages asking for personal information. Verify the legitimacy of the request before providing any details. 

Monitor Financial Statements: Regularly review bank statements, credit card statements and other financial documents for any unauthorized transactions. 

Limit Sharing on Social Media: Be cautious about sharing personal details on social media platforms. Adjust privacy settings to control who can see your information. 

Be Skeptical of Free Offers: Be wary of free offers or prizes that require personal information to claim. These could be scams designed to steal your identity. 

Secure Physical Documents: Store documents containing sensitive information, such as Social Security cards and passports, in a secure and locked location.  

Be Careful with Public Computers and Wi-Fi: Avoid accessing sensitive accounts, such as online banking, from public computers or on public Wi-Fi networks, which may not be secure. 

Take Protective Measures: Many banks, credit unions and credit card providers provide credit and identity monitoring services. These can help you catch suspicious activity early. 

Reporting Suspected Identity Theft

In many cases, the victim of identity theft is not aware of the issue until significant damage has been done. That’s why it’s important to report suspected fraud, such as unusual or unfamiliar activity on your financial accounts, right away. 

According to the U.S. Government, you should take the following steps if you believe you are a victim of identity theft: 

  • Report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission by calling 1-877-438-4338 or going to  www.IdentityTheft.gov 
  • Ask your credit card company to place a fraud alert, or a complete credit freeze, on your account. 
  • Contact the fraud department at your credit union, bank or other financial institution. 

While identity theft can be scary, trusting your gut and taking quick action can help prevent further damage. 

Frequently Asked Questions – Identity Theft Protection

What are some common signs of identity theft? Common signs of identity theft include unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts, unfamiliar charges on credit card statements, receiving bills or collection notices for accounts you didn’t open and being denied credit or loans for no apparent reason. 

How can seniors stay informed about identity theft and scams? Seniors can stay informed about identity theft and scams by regularly checking the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)’s website for updates and resources, signing up for scam alerts from the FTC and attending seminars or workshops on identity theft and fraud prevention. 

What resources are available to seniors who are victims of identity theft? Seniors who are victims of identity theft can access resources such as the FTC’s IdentityTheft.gov website, which provides step-by-step guidance on reporting and recovering from identity theft. 

More Resources for Seniors 

At Advent Christian Village, a faith-based retirement community, we provide resources to help our members live their senior years to the fullest. Our senior blog, Village Streams, addresses many of these topics with free articles on budgeting and planning, healthy living, healthcare, assisted living, spiritual life and more.  

Click here to read more Village Streams articles.  

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