Arm Yourself Against Fraud
Your best weapon against fraud, scams, and identity theft is knowing what to look out for. So, let’s lay down some fraud self-defense knowledge.
Fraud Aimed at Seniors
Seniors are targeted by scammers for many reasons: they have more assets to steal than younger adults, they are less Internet savvy and less likely to research claims made by scammers, and they are sometimes isolated from family who could offer a second opinion on fraudster’s claims. If you have seniors in your family, make sure they know about these common scams:
The best defense against scams like these is to hang up the phone.
There are dozens of telephone scams that pretend to be from your bank, credit union, or other lender; a credit card company; a car dealership; a travel company; a branch of the government; or Publisher’s Clearing House or other sweepstakes company. The call may come from a live person or a recording. In both cases, the message is the same: respond immediately and act fast to avoid fees or a lawsuit, or to take advantage of an offer or claim your million-dollar prize. It’s this pressure to act fast without thorough research and thought that should set off alarm bells.
If you’re in doubt about the legitimacy of the caller, hang up and find the phone number for the business, organization, or government branch on an official website or from some other official correspondence and call them to ask if the call really came from them.
With all of the ways criminals and hackers can attempt to steal your personal information, there are things you can do—for free!—to prevent their success.
Shred any document that has account numbers, your name and date of birth, or tax identification numbers. Credit unions and libraries often have paper shredders to use for free.
Monitor your credit report and credit card statements regularly. Look at each charge on your monthly credit card and checking account statements. Identity thieves will make small “test” charges of a dollar or less to see if you’ll notice. If you don’t, they’ll start making larger charges or withdrawals.
Be familiar with your credit card and other financial statement cycles. If a bill is late, it could have been stolen from your mailbox and your information compromised. Avoid this by going paperless with all of your statements.
Social engineering is when a stranger manipulates someone into giving away personal or confidential information that can then be used for identity fraud. Don’t list your full birthday, phone number, or address on any social networking website, and don’t give this information away to “friends” you meet online.
Lastly, if it’s within your budget, you can pay for credit monitoring services. Companies like Identity Guard, TruCredit, and LifeLock will alert you when a third party requests your credit report, if any significant changes happen on your report, if changes are made to your information, and if new accounts are opened. Some offer ID theft insurance.