Identity theft is the unlawful use of an individual’s personal identification information such as your name, social security number, driver’s license information, or bank and credit card accounts. Identity thieves use the information to establish credit, make purchases, apply for loans or even seek employment.
The FTC estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. The crime takes many forms. Identity thieves may rent an apartment, obtain a credit card, or establish a telephone account in your name. You may not find out about the theft until you review your credit report or a credit card statement and notice charges you didn’t make—or until you’re contacted by a debt collector. (Source: Federal Trade Commission, NYS Attorney General’s Office)
Identity Theft and Older Adults
While older adults are not the exclusive targets of identity theft, they can be especially susceptible to victimization. The impact of ID theft can be devastating for older adult victims who are unable to restore stolen funds through employment. Older adults are targeted by identity theft criminals. As with any crime, criminals look for opportunity and access. And simply put, older adults tend to have more assets and readily available cash than others.
The reality is that a greater number of people have access to the personal information of vulnerable older adults --home health care workers, nurses, family members. Older adults also visit physician offices, live in assisted facilities, or have other service providers who may possess personal information that can be used for fraudulent purposes.
Steps to Take to Minimize Easy Access:
- Do not carry your Social Security card in your wallet.
- If your Medicare card still has your Social Security number listed on it, make a photocopy of your Medicare card and use a permanent marker to black out the first five digits of the number on the photocopy of the card. Carry the photocopy of the card and keep your Medicare card in a secure place.
- Do not carry your checkbook with you. Only carry the number of checks you will need and keep your checkbook in a secure place.
- Keep all of your sensitive personal documents, including financial documents in a safe, secure, locked place.
- Shred personal and financial records with a crosscut shredder before throwing them away.
- Be mindful while using the Internet. Install virus-protection on your computer. Only visit trusted websites and do not respond to unsolicited requests for information.
- Register for the National Do Not Call List to prevent telemarketers from calling your home with unsolicited offers. Visit www.donotcall.gov to register or call 1-888-382-1222.
- To stop unsolicited credit or insurance offers, contact 1-888-567-8688 or visit: www.optoutprescreen.com.
- Monitor and review your credit report annually. If you believe you have been a victim place a fraud alert or credit freeze on your credit report.
- Contact the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) for more information.
What To Do If You Have Been Victimized
If you are a victim of identity theft, take the following four steps as soon as possible, and keep a record with the details of your conversations and copies of all correspondence.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit reports, and review your credit reports.
- Close the accounts that you know, or believe, have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
- File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place.
Help in New York State
South Brooklyn Legal Services/NYC ID Theft Coalition (Serving NYC)
105 Court Street, 4th Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201
Finger Lakes ID Theft Coalition/Lifespan of Greater Rochester
1900 S. Clinton Ave., Rochester, NY 14618
(serving Cayuga, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Wayne and Yates counties.)