We’ve all heard stories about seniors who’ve fallen victim to identity theft. Seniors are most at risk for identity theft because they are often trustworthy, they have more savings, and they don’t always monitor their credit and financial accounts. The Federal Trade Commission reports that seniors lose nearly $3 billion each year from identity theft.
There are the most common identity theft schemes that prey on seniors and here’s how to protect yourself from identity theft protection.
Most Common Identity Theft Scams
There are several identity theft scams that target seniors and these are the most common.
Medical-Related Identity Theft
This type of theft happens when someone steals your Social Security or Medicare information and they use it to submit a false medical claim without your knowledge. The claims are usually submitted directly to your insurance company or Medicare. Because of the high price of health care, medical-related identity theft is usually extremely costly. In addition to wrecking your finances, it’s really hard to detect because most federal and state agencies don’t have the necessary security measures in place to prevent it from happening.
Estate Identity Theft
It’s not just those living who fall victim to identity theft, the deceased are also at risk. AARP reports that the personal information of 2.5 million deceased Americans each year is used to apply for loans, cell phone plans, and open credit card accounts. To find Social Security numbers of those who have passed, criminals use a system known as “ghosting.”
Unfortunately, these crimes are often committed by family members of the deceased and it can cause a financial and emotional toll on relatives and friends who are already dealing with the loss of the loved one. These types of theft are hard to detect because it takes a long time for state and federal agencies to match death records with financial records. The process can take anywhere from six months to a couple of years.
Although tax fraud can occur in any age group, seniors are more likely to pick up on it later. Tax fraud happens when someone steals your Social Security number and uses it to file a fraudulent tax return or collect your income tax refund. It’s also possible for the criminal to gather your personal information through a lost purse or wallet. They can update your mailing address and change it to their own so they receive your refund check.
You’re probably most familiar with phone scams where a telemarketer contacts the victim with the goal of getting their personal financial information. Since there is no-face-to-face communication or paper trail, this type of fraud is really difficult to trace.
There are many examples of a phone scam and the most common ones include, the victim being asked to send money to a family member who’s in need, the criminal will tell the victim they’ve found a lot of money and that they will split the money with them, or the scammer telling the victim they’ve won free prizes.
Wire Transfer Fraud
Wire transfer frauds use the victim’s personal information to electronically transfer money from the victim’s financial accounts to the criminal’s account. Usually, this type of fraud goes unnoticed by the victim until they receive their next bank statement, 30 days later.
Best Identity Theft Protection Services
Even though there are many identity theft scams targeted at seniors, there are also many identity theft protection and monitoring services available. These are the most popular credit monitoring services.
This service works with Norton anti-malware and anti-virus software to provide comprehensive identity theft plans. There are several different levels of protection at different price points that you can sign up for which are based on your specific needs.
LifeLock Standard protects credit fraud alerts, the use of your Social Security number, and attempts to change your address. Other services it protects include lost wallets and dark web scanning. The services will help you monitor your credit ratings and in cases where you have to cancel or replace licenses or credit cards.
LifeLock Advantage has all the services included in the Standard with the addition of fictitious identity monitoring, data breach alerts, bank and credit card activity alerts, and crimes in your name.
LifeLock Ultimate Plus includes free credit scores from all three credit bureaus, file sharing service monitoring, new account alerts, sex offender registry reports, and investment activity alerts.
The fees for the first year start at $9.99 per month for the Standard service, $19.99 per month for the Advantage service, and $29.99 per month for the Ultimate Plus service. After the first year, the prices increase.
Some advantages of LifeLock include that you’re covered for losses ranging from $25,000 to $1 million, depending on your plan, and customer service is always available. But, there’s no free trial available and not all business transactions are monitored.
Identity Gaurd uses IBM’s Watson artificial inelegance to look for suspicious or unusual activity related to identity theft. Upon signing up for the service, you set up a watch list to tell it what to keep an eye out for. Like LifeLock, Identity Gaurd has different levels of services.
Identity Gaurd Value watches the dark web for your information and it alerts you for payday loan applications, utility, and cell service applications, tax refunds, wire transfers, and account takeovers.
Identity Guard Total has the addition of new account requests, bank account takeovers, and credit file changes. You’ll also receive a monthly credit score.
Identity Gaurd Premium includes social insight reports and credit reports from the three bureaus.
The services start at $8.99 per month for the Identity Gaurd Value, the Identity Guard Total costs $19.99 per month, and the Identity Gaurd Premier costs $24.99 per month.
With Identity Gaurd, you’ll have alerts via your mobile phone app or email and you’ll be assigned a case manager to help you with your recovery process. In addition, losses up to $1 million are covered. But, there’s no free trial and no 24/7 customer service.
PrivacyGaurd’s credit and identity fraud services identify any problems with your ID. There are two packages you can choose from which include the PrivacyGaurd ID Protection and the PrivacyGaurd Credit Protection, or you can get the PrivacyGaurd Total Protection which combines both.
The PrivacyGaurd ID Protection monitors your online directories, Social Security number, ID verification requests, and public records. It costs $9.99 per month.
For $19.99 per month, the PrivacyGaurd Credit Protection offers 24/7 credit monitoring and it gives you your credit score from the three bureaus. If you want the PrivacyGaurd Total Protection it will cost you $24.99 per month.
Some advantages of this service include you’ll get text messages and email alerts and if you need recovery services you’ll be provided a case manager. But, there’s no free trial available and there’s no mobile app.