This Mother's Day is a Good Time to Remember Seniors too; Ten Tips to Avoid Senior Identity Theft

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We love our parents and grandparents and even our elderly neighbors, and so do identity thieves.  This Mother's Day, show your love by protecting the seniors in your life from fraudulent telephone solicitors, Internet scams, and unsolicited mail.

ID thieves target seniors because they are less likely to check their credit reports, less likely to purchase big ticket items, and rarely detect the red flags that could indicate an identity theft has occurred.  

The FBI lists several reasons why the elderly are often targeted by perpetrators of a fraud:

•    Older American citizens are most likely to have a "nest egg" or savings, they often own their homes and/or have excellent credit and little debt.

•    Individuals who grew up in the 1930s, 40s and 50s were generally raised to be polite and trusting. This trust is exploited by criminals.

•    Older Americans are less likely to report a fraud because they don't know who to report it to, are too ashamed at having been scammed, or do not know they have been victimized.

•    When an elderly victim does report the crime, they often make poor witnesses. The targets' realization that they have been victimized may take weeks or more likely months after contact with the con man. This extended time frame will test the memory of almost anyone--especially a senior citizen--and the scammers know it.

•    Lastly, when it comes to products that promise increased cognitive function, virility, physical conditioning, anti-cancer properties and so on, older Americans are the segment of the population most concerned about these issues.

Seniors typically are less informed about the latest scams, especially the technological tools used to defraud them or trick them into divulging personal information. Seniors are much less skeptical than those of us who are familiar with the latest scams and hoaxes.

According to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission), identity theft targeting individuals over age 60 jumped from 1800 cases in the year 2000 to almost 6000 cases the following year, with most instances involving the use of social security numbers.  These can be daunting figures considering seniors are venturing out on to the Internet more now than ever -often without the necessary awareness needed to avoid being hooked by a scam.

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10 Quick Tips for seniors to avoid identity theft

•    Pay particular attention to all charges to your credit cards and then shred statements and expired cards prior to throwing them in the trash.

•    Keep your Social Security card in a safe place and never give the number out to strangers who ask for it whether they contact you by phone, mail or online. You can no longer trust that your caller ID is accurate because thieves now use technology to "spoof" the caller ID into showing a trusted name and/or number.
•    Know the date your credit card, utility and bank statements arrive in the mail. If they are not on time, contact the company and find out why.

•    Thieves look for mail in outdoor mailboxes, so don't leave outgoing mail in your mailbox with a flag up.  This tells a thief there is something in there that they can get their hands on.  If you are planning on being away contact your local post office to hold your mail until you return. Don't let your mail build up, and promptly remove mail from your box after it has been delivered.

•    Use strong passwords for your debit card and online accounts. Never use information that a thief could easily crack.  Avoid using easily available information like your mother's name, your birth date, the last four digits of your social security number, your phone number or an easy series of numbers such as 1234.  A good hint; use the last 4 digits of a friend's phone number or their address that you can easily remember -but a thief wouldn't know.

•    Don't carry multiple credit cards (or any at all unless you plan to use them).

•    Review your credit reports. Obtain your free credit reports from the legitimate place: or 877-322-8228.  Take the time to resolve any issues that may show up there.

•    If you use a computer, update your virus protection software regularly and run virus and spyware scans often.

•    Don't download files from strangers or click on embedded links in e-mails from people you don't know. Delete personal information stored on your computer before you dispose of or donate your computer.

•    Consider engaging a service like LifeLock that takes proactive measures to safeguard your identity--and recover it and any losses up to one million dollars if your identity is stolen. For a mere $88.00 a year, you have an array of services and experts working proactively to reduce your risk (and impact) of fraud -and there to help restore it, should a fraud occur.

As the recession pushes more people to crime, the elderly become a favorite prey to criminals looking to exploit their trust and vulnerability.

Take some time today to print out and share these tips with your Mom -young or old. And as you celebrate Mothers Day with the Mom's in your life, it's a good time to think about the seniors you know and love. Help save a senior the embarrassment, frustration, and expense of an identity theft

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