Because seniors often experience social isolation, loss of a spouse or reduced cognitive functions, identity thieves think they’re easy targets.
Help protect Mom from becoming a victim of identity theft with these tips:
1. Buy a shredder.
Thieves can rummage through Mom’s garbage to find bank statements, credit card solicitations or other documents with personal information. Instead of throwing these papers away, have Mom buy a shredder so she can destroy any documents with identifiable numbers.
2. Vet her caregiver.
Unfortunately, like a lot of financial crimes against the elderly, identity theft be committed by people close to the victim. If you hire a caregiver for Mom, do a background check before he or she starts. Make sure her personal documents are put away in a lock box or at the bank where a caregiver can’t reach them.
3. Watch for fake charities.
“Fake charities” is on the list of the IRS’ 2017 Dirty Dozen, which compiles the most common scams each year. Identity thieves posing as charities target seniors because the elderly are trusting and generous. Tell Mom to research any charities before she donates to them and to discuss the requests she receives with you or another trusted person.
4. Help monitor her accounts.
Mom may not be as tech-savvy as you. If she is amenable to the idea, monitor her accounts from your computer. Keeping an eye on her accounts will allow you to spot a potential financial crime and stop it before it gets out of hand.
5. Sign up for protection.
There are many identity theft protection agencies that Mom could sign up for. These agencies monitor the Internet for her personal information. They can scan the Internet black market, public records and every other website to make sure her information isn’t being used or sold online.
6. Educate her.
It’s important to educate Mom about being skeptical of scams and identity theft. Discuss the forms that identity theft can take. Talk to her about the appropriate times and places to give out personal information, and ask her not to act on a request before discussing the details with you.
7. Beware of new friends.
Beware of the friends Mom talks about who seem interested in her finances. Often, scammers will get close to seniors and try to capture their personal information through their friendship. This is especially true for seniors who live alone, as they can get lonely and welcome companionship.
8. Get a durable power of attorney.
If Mom was just diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or is experiencing a cognitive decline, it may be a good idea to get a durable power of attorney. This will give you the authority to make financial decisions on her behalf, so she won’t have the option to give someone money without your approval.
Seniors who live alone may be susceptible to identity theft, but in a senior living setting, Mom can discuss the calls and mail offers she receives before acting on them. Talk to Life Care Services to get more information about this and other benefits of living in a senior community.