Identity theft affects approximately 9 million Americans each year.
It can affect your finances, credit history, and even your reputation. Senior citizens are particularly vulnerable to identity theft because predators might assume they have a nest egg, they don’t review their credit reports regularly, are very trusting, and are not computer/internet savvy.
The Federal Trade Commission recommends the following actions be taken to protect yourself:
- Read your credit report. You are entitled to a free credit report every year from each of the three nationwide credit-reporting companies. Order all three reports at once, or order one report every four months. To order, go to annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228.
- Read your bank, credit card, and account statements, and explanation of the medical benefits included in your health plan. If a statement has mistakes or doesn’t come on time, contact the business.
- Shred all documents that show personal, financial, and medical information before you throw them away.
- Don’t respond to email, text, and phone messages that ask for personal information. Legitimate companies don’t ask for information this way. Delete the message.
- Create passwords that mix letters, numbers, and special characters. Don’t use the same password for more than one account.
- If you shop or bank online, use websites that protect your financial information with encryption. An encryption site has “https” at the beginning of the web address; “s” is for secure.
- If you use a public wireless network, don’t send information to any website that isn’t fully encrypted.
- Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a firewall on your computer.
- Set your computer’s operating system, web browser, and security system to update automatically.
If you fell victim to identity theft contact the FTC. They are seeking information from the public on how identity theft impacts seniors and ways to stop it.