April 18, 2017

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Avoiding Senior Scams: Protecting Your Parent’s Identity and Your Peace of Mind

Being the adult child of an aging parent can be challenging. You might worry about your parent’s health, finances, and mental state, but there’s also the added challenge of trying to protect them from identity thieves and senior scams—all while still acknowledging that they’re independent, intelligent people.

One in every 16 U.S. adults were victims of identity theft in 2016, and the elderly are easy targets. According to the Federal Trade Commission, 55% of the fraud complaints it received in 2016 were for consumers age 50 and older; those in the 60-69 age group were the largest percentage.

As scammers try more sophisticated methods for swindling the senior population, it’s impossible to guarantee the safety of your mom or dad’s identity. You can, however, be proactive by giving your parents some tips and teaching them to spot red flags and warning signs.

  • Only carry what you need: Seniors can be prime targets for having their wallets or purses stolen. Help your parents go through theirs and make sure they are only carrying around only what is absolutely necessary. They make like to always be prepared, but if they’re the type to tote around their Social Security card, extra keys, or a piece of paper with passwords or PINs, tell them those need to stay at home.
  • Talk openly about scams: You don’t want to lecture your parents about senior scams, but it’s also essential that they are aware of the lengths that thieves will go these days. Find a recent news story about a phone or email scam that’s currently circulating, and print it out to show your parents. Use that news story to open up a discussion about all of the different scams you’ve heard about and how they like to target older people. Don’t tell your parents what to do—just have an honest conversation so they’re aware.
  • Offer to shred documents: Do your parents have piles of sensitive documents scattered throughout their house? Do they just throw everything in the trash—even if it contains personal information? Tell them you’d be happy to take any papers off their hands to shred for them. If that works out, consider buying them a shredder as a gift.
  • Secure their computers: Your mom loves the desktop computer you and your siblings got her for Christmas, but are you sure she’s browsing the web safely? Take some time to make sure her computer software is updated, security software is installed, and routine backups are scheduled.
  • Never send money: Scams come in all shapes and sizes, but there’s one big red flag to tell your parents about—when a caller asks for money in some form. It could be a wire transfer that they swear will be refunded, a “relative” in distress asking for bail money, or a lottery that needs a bank account to deposit your winnings. Usually, none of these calls or emails are actually legitimate. Tell your parents that if anyone asks for money, bank accounts, or card numbers, to take their name and number and tell them they’ll call them back. This will give them a chance to check the name and number, and talk to you or someone else for advice.

Your parents have been there to take care of you throughout your whole life, and now is your chance to repay the favor. Educate them about different forms of identity theft and senior scams—without being preachy or condescending—and hopefully, you’ll be able to keep them safe for years to come.

IdentityForce can help you protect your parents from identity thieves. Give them the gift of identity theft protection, and we’ll keep an eye on them 24/7. And, if something does happen, we’ll alert your parents immediately and handle the entire restoration process.

Heidi Daitch

Chief Strategy Officer at IdentityForce
Heidi is a busy working mom who juggles many of the same responsibilities and challenges at home and at work - a long list of things to do and not enough time to do everything. With so little time, Heidi tries hard to find simple, but effective strategies to save time for what’s really important – spending time with her family.