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Seniors Are Easy Targets for ID Thieves

Understand and minimize the risks

By Ora DeMorrow
Ora DeMorrow, ID Security Solutions
Courtesy of Ora DeMorrow

Financial identity theft is the most common form of identity theft.
According to a recent survey by Experian, 11% of people over 65
reported that they have had their financial information stolen.

Seniors are at greater risk for identity theft than most people because they (1) often have higher cash reserves and home equity than others, (2) are typically less technologically savvy and do not research scams online, and (3) do not monitor their credit and financial accounts very closely. Additionally, retirement home staff and other assistants may have access to seniors' personal records, a situation that allows unscrupulous individuals to exploit those in their care.

Those closest to you are just as likely to commit identity theft as strangers are. A Boulder, Colorado, nursing home resident was recently taken advantage of by her son and granddaughter as they stole over $16,000 dollars from her through the abuse of a power of attorney. The granddaughter was arrested for 92 counts of identity theft and forgery.

As noted, identity thieves have easy access through nursing homes and other care facilities. Jacqueline Anne Lumpkin, a CNA (certified nursing assistant) took personal information from a nursing home patient in Birmingham, Alabama, and rang up more than $5,000 in goods and services. She was charged with elder abuse, neglect, and identity theft.

In Anchorage, Alaska, a 57-year-old man pleaded not guilty to 17 counts of identity theft, fraud, and criminal impersonation. He used the identity of an 82-year-old man to get seven credit cards on which he charged $34,000 in merchandise.

Seniors are no different from anyone else in how they experience identity theft; however, they are more vulnerable to several potential identity theft breaches in addition to those noted above. These include loans, Social Security numbers, insurance, and medical records.

Here are the most common ways that identity thieves obtain personal data:

  • Dumpster diving: Scammers dig for personal information in the trash of homes and businesses.
  • Phone scams: Thieves pose as insurance companies, charities, or other businesses in order to gather personal data over the phone.
  • Personal theft: Personal information is stolen by an employee, nurse, relative, or friend.
  • Wallet or purse theft: Seniors are more likely to carry their Social Security card or Medicare card with them, making them prime targets.
  • Record theft: Medical records, Social Security records, and other forms of personal documents are a gold mine for thieves.
  • Online fraud: Fake emails and Web sites with false fronts are set up as data traps for unsuspecting consumers.

Identity thieves drain bank accounts, open new accounts, rack up credit card charges, obtain loans, apply for jobs, refinance victims’ homes, obtain medical care, and even commit crimes using stolen personal data. The more serious the crime, the more difficult it is to recover from identity theft.

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