Seniors Are Easy Targets for ID Thieves
Understand and minimize the risks
ID Theft Precautions
It is impossible to completely prevent identity theft, but important precautions can be taken to guard against it.
First and foremost, be proactive and aware:
- Do not give out personal information over the phone unless you initiate the call.
- Research the authenticity of charities and other organizations before you donate money.
- Sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry.
- Keep sensitive documents at home in a locked file cabinet.
- Use a diamond-cutting shredder to destroy sensitive mail and other documents before throwing them away.
- Opt out of receiving prescreened offers based on your credit data.
- Regularly review your financial and credit records for signs of fraud.
The problem with Medicare cards
Do not carry your Social Security card or Medicare card in your wallet.
It sounds so simple. That way, if your wallet is stolen, the thief won't be able to set up accounts in your name. But, as we know, retirees with Medicare cards need to carry the cards with them in case of medical emergencies, and those cards contain Social Security numbers. This is a common concern among seniors.
Sally Hurme, consumer advocate at AARP, advises not to carry your Medicare card around with you. Bring it along if you know you are going to the doctor; otherwise, leave it home. As for emergencies, emergency rooms do not discriminate based on ability to pay. Hurme says, "You may have to produce your Medicare card before you get out of the hospital, but you don't need the card to get in."
For those concerned about this issue, contact your congressional representatives to encourage the federal government to stop using Social Security numbers on Medicare cards.
Published August 15, 2009