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Tips for Preventing Identity Theft and Fraud
Senior citizens are a prime target for identity theft and fraud. Physical and mental infirmities make them highly vulnerable to victimization and exploitation and many live alone, making them easy marks for unscrupulous salesmen and con artists.
 
To make matters worse, seniors are the least able to deal with the financial and emotional consequences of identity theft or fraud. Worst of all, there are no quick fixes.
 
Many excellent brochures are available from federal agencies, financial institutions and non-profit organizations. Society of Certified Senior Advisors has tips to avoid financial fraud on its website, and each Certified Senior Advisor has access to free information on how protect seniors. Websites such as www.privacyrights.org are also good sources of information. Police departments and the Better Business Bureau may offer seminars as well.

Here are some suggestions on ways to prevent being victimized. Recommend that your clients:

  • Pay cash wherever possible.
  • Destroy old credit cards and rip up carbons.
  • Use a paper shredder to get rid of receipts, bills and financial information.
  • Purchase a locked mail box. Mail all mail at a postal facility, not a home mail box and retrieve mail from the box promptly.
  • Never respond to any unsolicited e-mails, including those that appear to be from banks or financial institutions.
  • Never give out SSN, credit card number or other personal information over the phone, by mail or on the internet unless you have a trusted business relationship with the company and have initiated the call.
  • Get registered on the national Do Not Call Registry.
  • Never carry extra credit cards or social security information in their wallets and keep wallets in a secure place at home.
  • Reduce the amount of junk mail by sending their name and address to the Mail Preference Service.
  • Remove their name and address from the phone book and reverse directories.
  • Pick checkbook orders up at the bank, rather than through the mail.
  • Keep a list or photocopy all credit cards, bank accounts and investments including account numbers, expiration dates and telephone numbers of the customer service and fraud departments.
  • Order a credit report once a year.
  • Review their credit card, phone and cell phone and bank statements every month for unauthorized use.
  • Check with Better Business Bureaus and state agencies to see if the business has claims against it.
  • Never sign a contract without having a trusted friend or attorney review the document.
  • Ask for and check references.
  • Do business with reputable local firms rather than out-of-state businesses.
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