ID theft remains the fastest growing crime in the US.
There’s a difference between having your identity compromised (one in seven adult Americans in the last year) and having your identity stolen (an estimated 12 million last year).The first means that your information is potentially in bad hands. The second means those bad hands have used that information to cause you financial harm. The most “at risk” group is seniors, although no one is immune.
Elderly people are especially vulnerable to ID theft because medical issues often get in the way of staying up on the latest scams (bad eyes? hearing loss? impaired mobility?).
They also tend to trust more easily, ignore signs of compromise for emotional reasons (“why, little Johnny would never do such a thing!”), and fail to act on suspicions because it’s just too unpleasant.
Finally, they have more money saved and are therefore more attractive prey.
Stop Junk Mail — A phone call to 888-567-8688 has a similar effect on junk mail as does placing a phone number on the DO NOT CALL list.
If a senior spends time on a computer (and some surely do), make sure that she/he is familiar with online security. Grandma needs to understand we no longer trust strangers who write things like “you’ve won” or “your bank account has been compromised and please click here so we can help you,” or the word “free,” no matter what words follow it.
Teach her, too, that SPAM is not only that icky stuff that comes in cans. Make her understand it’s still icky stuff today and needs to be connected to her DELETE key.
And Grandpa, while watching Grandma pound the delete key, needs to learn what fun it is to feed his pet SHREDDER (hopefully never to be confused with a PET shredder) any throw-away items that have his/her names on them.
Grandson Johnny — if you’re out there, please take the time to make sure your gray-haired relatives have the latest and greatest security software to prevent hackers from grabbing their information.
While you’re at it, make sure they understand how to establish a safe password. Instead of “Johnny,” make them understand “Jo?nny” or “Johnny!!” will do a better job of protecting them.
Help the elderly learn hiding money or valuables in a sock is no longer adequate protection. They grew up in a world of unlocked doors, so the adaptation to safes or safety-deposit boxes is difficult.
Above all, make sure they feel secure enough to TELL YOU about any out-of-the-ordinary daily activities or experiences.
So many seniors are afraid to divulge having been compromised because they are so terrified of losing their financial independence to a conservator or their ability to live on their own taken away and replaced with a nursing home that they never report being scammed.
Education is the key to limiting fraud — no matter what the age. As parents taught children, so must children now teach parents.
Drop by the Pahrump Valley Times offices, 2160 E. Calvada Blvd., for a copy of Leslie Kim’s latest book “123 Main Street … the Scamming of America.” Only $19.95 while supplies last.