SCAMS & IDENTITY THEFT: How To Protect Yourself
As technology becomes more advanced, so do the scams and the theft of our identities. Seniors tend to be preyed upon more as they are less apt to report an incident and/or there may be changes in the brain as they age making them more trusting, in part due to a decline in the ability to read social cues. After recently watching a webinar sponsored by the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys on this topic, I felt the need to provide you with some of the highlights from that presentation in the hope you may avoid becoming a victim:
- Grandchild Scam: Scammers will pick up names of grandchildren from published obituaries and photos social media. Once they have the name of a grandchild, a call is placed to the grandparent allegedly from the grandchild. The scammer will say that the reason why his or her voice is unrecognizable is due to an accident and will ask for an amount of money to keep the grandchild out of jail.
- Lottery Scams: This was reported as one of the largest scams. Remember that it is impossible to win a lottery if you never entered it. Also, it is illegal to play a lottery in another country so a call from a foreign country telling you that you won should raise a red flag. Additionally, if someone calls trying to collect taxes from your lottery winnings be aware that taxes are generally deducted from your winnings.
- Scammers may call asking to verify your Social Security number for the purpose of your cost of living increase.
- Identity theft is reported to affect more people than all other property crimes. One type of identity theft is medical identity theft which is where your medical insurance information gets sold on the “dark” web which is part of the World Wide Web where you need special software to access it. The buyer of that information can “corrupt” your medical file, including but not limited to changing the blood type or allergies to medications. It can be difficult to correct this type of theft due to HIPPA laws. It is important to always review your EOB’s (Explanation of Benefits from Medicare) to make sure that the information included is correct.
- Post-Mortem Identity Theft: The executor of the estate should notify the 3 credit bureaus upon the death of the decedent by sending copies of the appointment paper and death certificate.
- Freeze your credit reports. As of September 2018, there is no charge to freeze or unfreeze a credit report. It was recommended that you not use the “fraud alert” option as there is no penalty if the credit bureau ignores the alert. By freezing your credit report, you prevent others from taking out credit in your name.
- It is important that each of us set up our account on “My Social Security” (https://ssa.gov/myaccount). If a scammer sets up the account in your name before you do you will not be able to access your account. This should be set up even if you are not yet receiving Social Security benefits.
- Before you donate to a charity, you can check www.charitynavigator.org to see if this is a legitimate charity.
- Tips on security questions: While we know our mother’s maiden name, scammers can find this information relatively easily. It turns out that we do not need to use the actual name, but can answer whatever is easy for us to remember, such as a favorite fruit, vegetable, animal or different name.
- File your income tax return as quickly as possible limiting the window a would-be thief has to impersonate you and re-direct refunds.
Currently, it is impossible to protect yourself 100% from being scammed or having your identity stolen, but it is possible to be cautious and to take steps to try and make it more difficult for scammers.
For a list of important web sites to help you from being scammed or having your identity stolen, CLICK HERE.