If you’ve ever received an e-mail of dubious origin asking you to follow a link to sign in, you’ve probably been the victim of an attempted identity theft. There are a multitude of scams in existence designed to pull your personal information, and while most people manage to avoid them, some don’t. This is especially true of seniors, who are disproportionately affected by identity thefts.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC (News - Alert)), an independent agency of the U.S. government in charge of consumer protection, has received a 70-percent increase in complaints about identity theft from those over 70 years old from 2010 to 2012. This comes in contrast to the 53-percent increase seen by those aged 60 to 70, and the numbers for younger Americans are even lower. The good news, however, is that there are strategies that seniors can take to avoid being victims of these scams.
The majority of identity thefts occur over the Internet or through telemarketing scams. By being cautious about opening and responding to e-mails, a significant amount of attempted identity thefts can be avoided. Even when an e-mail comes from someone trusted, like a family member or friend, the e-mail can contain risky material. For example, if a friend’s e-mail account is compromised by a scammer, the scammer can send an e-mail that looks like it’s really coming from your friend.
Seniors are also at an additional risk because of the prevalence of Medicare and Medicaid scams. These generally take the form of telemarketing scams where the person on the other end of the line claims to need a social security number or Medicare information in order to provide free medical services. Although there are many services available under Medicaid and Medicare, any unsolicited call offering things for free should be treated with caution.
In the end, if the risk of identity theft proves too large, there are services available that monitor credit activity and work to prevent identity thefts from occurring. However, these do cost money and are generally unnecessary. By being on the lookout for suspicious e-mails and calls, most should be able to avoid any close calls with scammers.