Tips for seniors on how to avoid ID theft

Identity theft is America’s fastest growing crime, and more than 70 million people will be victims this year alone. Those receiving government benefits, on fixed incomes, cashing out retirement accounts and entering into retirement funds may find themselves at an increased risk for becoming victims of identity theft. A recent breach of a retirement fund in California has compromised the personal financial information of more than 38,000 people.

Here are tips from IdentityTruth to help consumers be more aware of their ID theft risk:

Paperwork: Retiring generates a LOT of paperwork. It is imperative that you remain vigilant about where all of this paperwork is going. Don’t hesitate to ask that the preparer file them in safe and secure place and ensure that discarded papers are shredded. Shred any documents that you do not need yourself before throwing them away.

Using the Internet: As you visit different sites on the web, you’re often prompted to provide your email address. What you may not know is that your address can be legally sold to companies that perpetrate phishing scams, by which identity thieves contact you with requests for money, or with links to websites that enable them to fraudulently access all files on your computer.

Email/Phone Calls: Be wary of any and all emails, text messages or phone calls coming from companies you have contacted -if they ask you for any personal information (social security number, date of birth, address etc.) do not give it to them – give your personal information only during in-person transactions so you know exactly who you’re speaking with.

Shred, Shred, Shred: Seniors may receive credit card applications on a daily or weekly basis. Many throw out card applications without destroying them – be sure to destroy yours. Those applications usually include sensitive personal information, and make it easier for “dumpster diving” identity thieves to access the data necessary to perpetrate their crime.

Downsizing your home: Organization is definitely key. Keep everything that lists any financial information – your files, tax archives, bills, bank statements, check books, credit cards etc. – in a “lock box” on move day. Know the location of that box at all times to ensure the safety of your sensitive personal information.

If a loved one passes: Although it may seem unthinkable, statistics show that identity thieves prey on the sick or deceased (known as “ghosting”) due to an increased likelihood that the theft will go undetected. Notify the Social Security Administration of the death at 800-722-1213. The SSA maintains a master file that is used by all the CRAs before issuing credit. Make sure that a trusted family member knows how to access your email and online accounts so that they can be accessed or terminated should you get ill or die.

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