How common is identity theft? According to a recent article on the website Huffington Post, each year about 17 million Americans fall victim to this frustrating, insidious crime. Because senior adults are often more trusting and less tech-savvy, they seem particularly prone to identity theft, resulting not only in financial loss but also in embarrassment and an increased sense of vulnerability. The more we put our financial and personal lives online, it seems, the greater the exposure to identity theft. The problem appears to be reaching epidemic proportions.
So we were particularly interested in this article on the Huffington Post called “10 Ways Seniors Can Avoid Identity Theft.” Most of these tips aren’t new, but we urge you to read this article for yourself or someone you love and take steps now to avoid the painful experience of losing your identity to a thief. Once these reprobates get hold of your Social Security number, bank account number or credit card number, they can drain your bank account and run up charges in a flash. It’s generally up to you to make sure that doesn’t happen. This article describes how. Here are a few of these ten important tips.
The first one is basic: guard your personal information. You should never give out account numbers over the phone unless it’s with a trusted merchant on a call you originated. Also, says the Huffington Post article, don’t carry your Social Security card with you – or your Medicare card unless you’re heading for a medical appointment. Keep those account numbers safe.
The second suggestion is to get off all those mailing lists. That’s because those pre-approved credit card offers in your mailbox are “a gold mine for ID thieves.” The article includes websites you can visit and toll free numbers you can call to help you stop the flood of unwanted mail. Along with that, the Huffington Post piece also reminds you to secure your mail at home, either with a post office box or lockable home mailbox. Don’t leave mail unattended – either incoming or outgoing – for any longer than necessary, and if you’re away from home for a time, stop the mail or have a neighbor pick it up.
Huffington Post suggests a few tips for staying safe online: use more complex passwords and beware of unknown emails. We’ve heard it said that the most common password in use today is – you guessed it – “PASSWORD.” It may be a nuisance, but using a complicated password and changing it often will help safeguard your information. As for the emails, a good rule of thumb is, if you don’t recognize it, delete it. You will never receive an unsolicited email from your bank or from the government asking for personal information! Those are scams, pure and simple.
Here’s one more suggestion from the Huffington Post: buy a good cross-cut shredder and get rid of those old bank and credit card statements and receipts regularly. The longer they lie around the more prone you are to having someone get their hands on those account numbers, with dire results. Buying and using a good-quality shredder is money well spent. We suggest an office supply store, Costco or Amazon.
There’s more to the Huffington Post article, including advice about credit freezes and safer credit cards, and we strongly recommend you follow these ten important steps in order to minimize your chances of falling victim to identity theft. Once your identity has been stolen it can take months, even years, to get your accounts back to normal! This is one of those instances where the best offense is definitely a good defense.
When it comes to retirement planning, there are also important steps you should follow. Here at AgingOptions, we offer a full range of retirement planning services, helping thousands of clients protect their assets and maximize their quality of life. You, too, can look forward to a fruitful retirement, without fear of becoming a burden to your loved ones, and without the unpleasant prospect of facing unplanned institutional care. All it takes is a good, strong plan – a LifePlan, one that takes into account all the vital facets of retirement: your legal affairs, your healthcare needs, your financial protection, your housing choices and the communication with your loved ones.
If you want to find out more, why not take a few hours and attend a free LifePlanning Seminar? These information-packed sessions offer the perfect environment for you to see what this groundbreaking process we call LifePlanning is all about. There’s no obligation whatsoever. Click on the Upcoming Events tab on our website for dates, times and online registration, or call our office and we’d be glad to assist you. It will be a pleasure working with you as you plan for the retirement future you’ve always hoped to enjoy.
(originally reported at www.huffingtonpost.com)