How to Protect Elderly Parents from Identity Theft


Your Mom lives alone. She has friends, but gets lonely sometimes. She likes to talk on the phone. Dad is a widower, and seems lost since your mother passed away. He is a little confused, but can take care of himself with a little help at home from a health care agency. What do they have in common? Both are exactly the kind of victim identity thieves prey upon.

Identity thieves love aging parents because they think they are so vulnerable. Social isolation, loss of a spouse, early dementia, general memory loss or confusion make our elders and aging parents an easy mark. Add to that that seniors tend to be friendly and trusting, and you have a combination that can make your aging parent a sitting duck.

How can we help them protect themselves? About 19 people become victims of identity theft every minute, according to a 2014 report by the Federal Trade Commission.

We need to educate our aging parents that trusting strangers on the phone is very dangerous. We need to warn our aging parents that even their own children can rip them off if they are desperate. Drug and alcohol abuse, serious financial trouble and mental illness can lead an adult child to steal account numbers when visiting and later raid his own parents' bank account and steal from the ones most likely to trust him or her. Our elders must be educated to be alert to dangers in their own families. If you have a "black sheep" in the family who has serious money or substance abuse problems, consider it a risk to your parents.

Can we thwart the attempts at stealing our aging parents' identities? We can at least take protective measures. Some of the simplest protections are the best.

  1. First, buy a cross-cut shredder.
    Shred or have your aging parents shred sensitive mail, credit card solicitations, and outdated personal documents such as bank statements, rather than throwing them in the trash. Thieves go through the trash looking for anything they can use to steal.
  2. Guard credit cards.
    Watch sales people, wait staff in restaurants, and anyone who asks for your credit card. Thieves use tiny scanning devices called skimmers to steal the numbers and then use the cards. Get rid of any rarely used or unused cards. The fewer your parent has, the better. Don't give out the numbers unless you absolutely must.
  3. Mail letters at a mail box or the post office.
    Avoid leaving outgoing mail in the mail box in front of the home. Thieves steal checks and payments slips, taking the information and using it to attempt to steal the entire identity. They take out new credit cards in the victim's name and rob them of everything they can.
  4. Never give out personal information over the phone.
    Telephone solicitors offer prizes and rewards to trick the person into telling the solicitor his bank account number, social security number, and mother's maiden name. With that, the thief can wipe out a bank account in minutes.
  5. Don't let anyone copy your parents' driver's license.
    Anyone doing this can get access to bank accounts, personal data, and anything else you would want to protect. Getting the license number to verify a check is one thing. Letting someone take the entire license and have the other information on it is never necessary.
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Sadly, this article misses a very big issue with identity theft and that is the fact that checks are the worst form of payment out there. Once you write a check anyone can get the address, routing number and account.

It is far better to pay ones bills online than via the mail. Most identity theft occurs from people stealing in the trash.

When you shred your papers with a shredder do not throw them out, clean out the refrigerator and make the papers nasty. The nastier the better.

Also credit cards need to be signed and not say SEE ID. Here is the reason SEE ID means shows a drivers license and a fake drivers license is the easiest thing to come up with, think about it most teenagers get one so they can drink.

Credit card fraud is a misdemeanor where as if the card is signed, then not only did they commit credit fraud they created forgery which is a felony. Forgery comes with jail time.

I am not sure how Agingcare decides who writes what articles, but more research needs to be put into these articles. If you want good information on identity theft get an individual from a privacy company or a fraud investigator from the credit card companies.

The tips I shared are information I got from these two types of individuals. I also worked for a company where someone got a check and tried to write checks on the company.

And sorry when it comes to credit card fraud I listen to the experts from the credit card companies because they are the ones who have to investigate the issues and not attorneys.
In addition to this information, the AARP magazine advised to put a 'freeze' on their credit by contacting the 3 Credit agencies. If your parents or elderly and are not going to be using any more credit...(my parents won't). so I'm think of doing this and then no one can access their accounts and open up any new accounts.
What about Dr's office's that demand your ID/Driver's License to copy just to get in to see the doctor. What can you do about that?