According to the 2019 Identity Fraud Study, conducted and released by Javelin Strategy & Research, there were 14.4 million cases of identity theft in the United States in 2018. While this number is down from 2017’s record-high 16.7 million victims, the out-of-pocket financial burden suffered by victims of identity theft in 2018 was $1.7 billion, more than double that of previous years.
Most at risk for identity theft are seniors and children, with seniors accounting for well over a quarter of all fraud complaints and nearly 20% of identity theft complaints. The FTC suggests that 25% of children will face some sort of identity theft prior to their 18th birthdays. Approximately 17% of all fraud cases reported each year involve child identity theft.
Why Senior Citizens are a Prime Target for Identity Theft
The prime goal of identity theft is to get full information, such as the name, address, date of birth, driver’s license, and Social Security number of the victim. This enables identity thieves to assume the identity of the victim, opening up new accounts or using existing accounts until the theft is noticed and access is stopped.
All of this happens very swiftly, though thieves are not always successful. Only about 21% of the victims of identity theft lose money.
How Are Seniors Contacted?
The most common way for identity thieves to obtain information is through data breaches. Phishing scams, unsafe internet connections, and mail theft are common as well. Most seniors are victimized through telephone and internet scams.
Common methods used to obtain information from senior citizens include:
Phishing scams attempt to trick a victim into voluntarily providing his or her personal information. This can occur over the phone or online and can be pulled off so effectively that identifying fraud becomes extremely difficult. Protecting your information is the best way to prevent this type of identity theft from occurring.
Protecting Seniors Against Identity Theft
The best way to protect yourself against identity theft is to refrain from giving personal information over the phone or online unless you are certain it is to a trusted and/or encrypted source.
You can help protect yourself against identity theft by knowing what not to do:
- Do not answer calls from phone numbers you do not know. If it is important, the caller will leave a message.
- Do not respond to suspicious phone messages, texts, or emails. If you do not know or are not certain if something is legitimate, talk to a family member.
- Do not click on links in emails, even if you know the sender. Unless you know the link goes to the intended page, type the URL into your browser.
- Do not carry your Social Security card. These can easily be lost or stolen.
- Do not leave your mail in an unsecured box. Check your mail often to avoid mail theft.
You can further protect yourself by knowing what to do:
- Check your statements monthly. Report any suspicious activity right away.
- Type internet URLs directly into the address bar. Phishing scams use URLs that look legitimate but redirect you to scam sites.
- Use direct deposits. Check your bank statements monthly to make sure deposits are being made correctly.
- Shred documents with tax information, medical records, and anything else with personal information before you throw them away.
Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a scam. Be wary, be attentive, and report activity as soon as it occurs to help protect your financial and personal security.
Do You Need Help?
Call Leventhal Lewis at 719-694-3000 to schedule a consultation today. Located in Colorado Springs and Denver, we help seniors with their estate planning and elder law living in Castle Rock, Pueblo, and all surrounding areas of Colorado.