Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the nation due to the ease of stealing someone’s information. It carries less personal risk to a thief to steal a person’s social security number and open credit cards in their name than to rob a bank or invade a home. People can can be targeted in identity theft scams at any age.
Elderly people are especially prone to falling victims to identity theft. They come from a different generation where it was safer to trust family, friends, neighbors, coworkers and even strangers. Often, the people who are not as savvy with modern technology are targets. They do not recognize spam emails that can be used to aid identity theft. They are not aware of the need to protect their computer with a firewall to safely keep information from being stolen from their private files.
Identity thieves make a point of preying on the elderly to obtain the information they need to commit their crimes. They use common scamming tricks like phishing in new digital age packaging.
Phishing scams are one of the most dangerous forms of identity theft targeted to seniors. It starts with an official looking message — usually sent through email — that claims to be from a person’s bank, credit card company or some other financial institution.
Phishing emails carry a number of common characteristics, according to Finra.org. These emails will attempt to mimic logos, email addresses and web pages as well as reference the names of real people within the company.
A typical phishing email will include a warning message that the recipient needs to update or verify their account information. The reason given can include changes to certain laws, to prevent their account from being shut down or because a third party accessed their account.
Don’t Click It
The phishing scam target is directed to click a link in the email. The link takes them to a web page where they are directed to enter an account number, password, social security number and other sensitive personal information. If these instructions are followed, this information goes to the scam artist who uses it to steal their identity.
The simplest way to avoiding getting caught in a phishing scam is to simply not reply to a suspicious email, according to TrustyGuides.com. If a person is concerned there is a problem with the account in question, they can contact the financial institution through its website or call its offices directly.
Identity theft scams can prove profitable if the scam artist can keep it up without getting caught for an extended period. Federal agents recently broke up an identity theft ring in New Jersey that stole more than $200 million in a six-year period while operating scams in at least 28 states, reported NBC News. More than 13 individuals have been arrested so far.
Educate Yourself and Your Elders
There are many places on the Internet with tips and resources for protection against scam artists. The Lifelock Facebook page offers up-to-date scam information so you can help your elderly parents protect themselves. You can read about and learn from other people’s experiences in dealing with identity theft on the fbi.gov website.
It is impossible to put a price on the headaches and heartache caused by identity theft. The best advice for people of any age is to be cautious. Avoid opening suspicious emails or visiting suspicious websites. An ounce of prevention can go a long way to inoculating your loved ones from becoming a victim of identity theft.