Part One of Two on the growing issue of senior citizens as targets
Although identity thieves readily use many of the same schemes on victims of all ages, particular methods against senior citizens make this type of fraud even easier.
Perhaps the easiest targets are elderly men and women who live in retirement homes, nursing homes, and assisted living centers. Many centers are unfortunately lax in inventorying and safeguarding belongings when a new resident arrives, and her personal information is often available and unprotected. Seniors’ wallets hold not only credit cards, but also Medicare cards, which display the owner’s SSN. Unscrupulous people who have access to these seniors know that any accusation of a stolen wallet from an overly trusting elder, or from one suffering from dementia, is tough to prove. The son of an elderly Arizona man, for example, worked tirelessly to help catch the person who stole his father’s credit cards – only to find that the thief was actually a caregiver in his father’s assisted living center.
Another type of identity theft that shows surprisingly large numbers (more than two million affected, according to the security firm ID Analytics) is happening in the elder’s actual family. The fraud commonly reveals itself when there are two people using the same Social Security Number with the same last name, but different first names. Other, less “documented” theft ranges from manipulating an elderly parent or grandparent into giving his or her password for bank or investment accounts, to obtaining their signature as a co-signer for a loan or cash advance, or filling out and returning a credit card application received in the mail. Many times, victims will never report this silent act of betrayal, choosing instead to endure collections calls and tarnished credit reports, or even relenting to pay the bills themselves.
Since these innocent victims are often unable to report the crime, or are too embarrassed to, how can we help? We’ll have answers in Part Two next week.