Take the Time to Protect Your Family
If you're taking care of an elderly family member or friend there are many easy ways you can help reduce their vulnerability to identity theft:
The best thing you can do is to be around and in touch. Scammers are less likely to focus on an elderly victim if they know a family member is close by and vigilant.
If you know and trust their neighbors, ask them to get more involved and keep an eye open.
If the individual is in a nursing home or retirement community, do your homework on the community, talk to the operators or managers about security, and encourage the individual to keep as little personal or financial information with them as possible.
If the individual is in a nursing home, suggest that all mail be forwarded to you.
Talk to them about the risks, give them a simple checklist of warning signs to watch out for, and encourage them to always call you before they buy something new, sign any legal or loan documents, or are pressured or harassed by any stranger.
Conduct a regular home audit, making sure that all financial documentation is safely locked away, and that any computers have adequate security in place and working.
If home help or caregivers are involved, let them know that you're watching out for that individual and will encourage the prosecution of any crime. If you can, do a criminal background check on any caregivers, home help, or anyone else that might have regular access to the home. Do not allow hired care providers, chore workers etc. to open mail or handle any financial transactions.
If appropriate, offer to handle all financial transactions and account management for the individual, and have them refer any financial enquiries, proposals, or problems directly to you.
Work with their financial institution and credit card providers so that they are also alert to any unusual activities or transactions on their accounts.
Offer to check their incoming mail for suspicious offers, and to check their monthly bank and credit card statements to ensure there are no fraudulent charges or suspicious payments.
Regularly check that the individual is receiving any Social Security benefits, pension payments, and health care they're entitled to, and that these entitlements or payments are not being diverted or misused.
Offer to remove them from direct mailing lists to reduce the amount of junk mail they receive.
Help them make regular payments for things like utility bills so that checks are not stolen in the mail.
Consider placing a credit freeze on their credit reports to prevent any unauthorized credit. This freeze can easily be lifted if the individual wants to take out new credit.
Check for any financial or utility accounts that are no longer used or needed and close them if possible.
Help them to regularly check their credit reports and if possible set them up with a credit monitoring service with alerts sent directly to you.
— Courtesy of Neal O'Farrell, Executive Director, Identity Theft Council