Identity theft surrounds us and threatens our senior population. As we head into the holiday season and think about wrapping up the year-end, I want to draw attention to the segment of our society—which is more financially exploited— during a time that should be filled with sharing and giving. The financial “abuse” of seniors is not widely publicized, for myriad reasons, but one rarely addressed is how seniors are robbed not only as their means of subsistence but the self-esteem and trust that are eroded when a relative, friend, caretaker or scam artist manages to drain away savings, credit status and assets it took them years to establish.
Seniors are highly susceptible to criminals, who believe this population has higher cash reserves, but are also far less likely to check their financial statements carefully, or with any frequency. This diminished level of detection increases the target risk; thieves believing seniors are less aware of identity theft and current scams – making it easy for unscrupulous people to exploit them.
- Use their personal information to establish credit.
- Have access to checks and credit cards and using them without permission…
- to drain bank accounts,
- rack up credit card debt,
- secure loans,
- obtain medical care, or
- commit other crimes with the victim’s identity.
- Deceive seniors to sign contractual obligations such as a Will or Power of Attorney.
You can counsel them to be aware of the ways identity thieves work to obtain their personal data; seniors tend to…
- More frequently have their wallets, purses or other vital documents stolen. Social Security and Medicare cards make them prime targets for caretakers, relatives, friends, and devious thieves.
- Not “shred” documents containing their personal information, leaving them more vulnerable to dumpster divers.
- Be more trusting and/or feel threatened by thieves in guise as insurance companies, financial services, charities and governmental agencies, and too quickly share vital information over the phone.
Phone scams, online fraud, mail theft… each begins with the elderly person placing confidence and trust in someone. Have the difficult conversations to keep them aware, and work with them frequently enough they are not so vulnerable and at risk.
Our seniors are reluctant to report financial abuse or identity theft; their level of incapacity may be why… or they may just suffer the stigma attached to becoming a victim. Many are afraid if they report the incident they may lose their independence or be found to be incapable of managing their affairs; others feel embarrassed and responsible for even falling victim. Identity thieves count on this reality… and plan to take advantage of the opportunities it creates. Communicating with your loved ones increases their ability to be a less attractive target—at so many levels, and small changes will help protect their identities and prevent any kind of financial abuse/identity theft.
If you suspect that you or a senior you know may be a victim of financial exploitation, please use the resources below for assistance.
- Free annual credit report, call toll free 1-877-322-8228 or go to www.annualcreditreport.com.
- Department of Justice – Elder Justice Initiative: https://www.justice.gov/elderjustice/find-support-elder-abuse
- Department of Health & Human Services Administration on Aging abuse hotline toll-free 1-800-677-1116.
- Arizona residents: https://www.justice.gov/elderjustice/support/resources/az?state=AZ
The information in this article should not be used in lieu of legal advice, and I encourage you to consider an identity theft insurance product through my website: https://www.legalshield.com/hub/janvitale or call me at 480 720 3600
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Arizona Independent Insurance Agent
Proudly serving her clients and her industry for 30+ years
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