You’ve worked hard your whole life. You own your own house. You have savings in the bank. They are safer there than under the mattress right?
Wrong. Your savings are not as safe as you think. No, I’m not saying you should start stashing them under your mattress. That would not be a good idea. However, identity thieves are aware that people over the age of 55 are more likely to be financially solvent. This means that older generations are seen by these criminals as a cash cow. Certainly, more so than younger generations, who are increasingly debt-ridden and therefore not only have less available funds but also a worse credit score. This, among other reasons, can make seniors more of a target for identity thieves.
Thankfully, there are some steps you need to take to ensure that you and your savings don’t become an easy target for identity thieves.
- Keep a close eye on your statements and other correspondence. If a statement or statements don’t arrive at all this is a warning sign. Similarly, if there are transactions you don’t recognize or any changes you are not sure you have made this is a red flag.
- Educate yourself on the methods that identity thieves and other cybercriminals use to steal your personal information, your money, and your identity.
- Keep your private data private. Don’t share your social security number, account details, email addresses, date and place of birth without very good reason. These can be used by identity thieves to access your accounts or open new ones in your name. If someone is asking for any of these details you should double-check they are legitimate. Why do they want them? What business or institution are they from? Check their credentials but not by using the contact details they give you. Use what you already have from other correspondence or looking in up by other means.
- Ensure that all your devices have relevant, up-to-date firewalls, anti-virus, and anti-spam software installed and that you update it as soon as you are prompted to do so.
- Be password savvy. Don’t use easy to guess passwords and certainly don’t use any that are among the 10 most hacked passwords such as “123456”, “qwerty” and “password”. Steer away from names, birthdays, and sports teams as these can be easily guessed especially if you put this same information on your social media accounts. If you struggle to remember your passwords consider a password manager
- Be aware of what you share on Social Media. Check your privacy settings regularly and don’t ‘friend’ people you don’t know.
- Consider putting a credit freeze on your name and accounts with the consumer credit bureaus. This way identity thieves will not be able to open new accounts under your name.
- Invest in a shredder so you can destroy any paperwork with your name, address, account numbers, social security number, DOB, etc. Don’t give identity thieves easy access to your personal information via your trash. Consider spending the extra cash to get a shredder which can also shred cards.
- Shop Safely – when shopping online make sure you use reputable sites, don’t follow links to offers which seem too good to be true (they probably are!), look for the padlock symbol, and only use sites which begin with “https” rather than “http” (the S stands for secure).
- Do regular checks on your credit score to ensure that there is nothing amiss.
- If you do notice anything unusual or suspect you may have been a victim of identity theft make sure you report it straight away. Even if you are unsure it is better to be safe than sorry. It is easier, less time consuming, and less costly to remedy cases of identity theft sooner rather than later.