By Tod Steward

If you are a senior or if you have a loved one that is, whether living independently or in senior care, these tips should minimize if not avoid altogether criminals that steal identities for a living:

Identity theft tips*:

  • Phone scams – Seniors are frequently targeted by phone scammers looking to extract their personal information. Don’t respond to calls asking for your social security, Medicare, credit card numbers, general information or any other type of personal questions that will compromise your identity.
  • Carrying a wallet – Make a copy of your Medicare card and block out the last four digits of your Social Security number. If your wallet is lost or stolen, no one can get your full Social Security number.
  • Shred it – If you don’t have a shredder, purchase one. Shred everything you don’t want to keep, such as documents that have account information, Social Security numbers, PINS, or sensitive information including credit card statements or receipts, unused checks, canceled checks, bills, and credit reports
  • Protect your computer – Protecting your computer and Internet activity is vital to avoid cyber thieves. Make sure you have a reliable and strong firewall and antivirus software to prevent cyber-programs from stealing your personal information.
  • Check credit – Check your credit score on a regular basis. You can request a free credit report by visiting annualcreditreport.com from each of the credit bureaus or utilize a credit monitoring service that will do this for you to ensure no suspicious activity occurs.

If your identity is stolen, I would recommend filling out FTC’s ID Theft Affidavit that most credit card companies and three credit bureaus accept to report the theft. You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

*General guidelines from the Federal Trade Commission