Identity theft is a scary reality for people of all ages, and both young people and elderly adults alike are especially vulnerable. In fact, it surprises many people to learn that children have a 35 percent higher risk of experiencing identity theft than adults do. Some victims of identity theft are even as young as five years old!
Moreover, in some cases, identity theft where children are the victims go unnoticed until the time comes when the child reaches 18 years of age. At that time, when the child prepares to take out a student loan, open a credit card account, or lease an apartment for the first time, the identity theft finally comes to light. Elderly individuals are also common victims of identity theft—especially those who are vulnerable and who do not have family members or friends who are looking out for them.
Fortunately, there are certain steps that people can take to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft. Moreover, individuals who find out that they are the victims of identity theft should take prompt action, which may include filing a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and speaking with an experienced lawyer. An identity theft attorney in your area can take steps to try and rectify the identity theft that you or your loved one experienced, allowing your personal and financial life to get back to normal.
Ways of Preventing Identity Theft Involving Children
Children are oftentimes the unfortunate victims of identity theft. However, there are certain steps that you can take as a parent to help prevent your child from falling victim to identity theft.
Those steps include the following:
- Obtaining fraud protection on behalf of your children – One of the first steps that you can take to prevent your child from becoming a victim of identity theft includes obtaining insurance coverage. This type of insurance coverage will include services whose job it is to notify you if something is wrong. These services will also take steps to help you resolve an issue involving a child’s stolen identity. You can use this type of insurance coverage for several family members.
- Be on the lookout for early warning signs of identity theft – One of the most important steps that you can take to prevent child identity theft is to be on the lookout for warning signs. This may allow you to prevent identity theft before it ever occurs. According to recommendations from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), certain warning signs indicate that your child may be an identity theft victim. Those warning signs include an unpaid tax notice from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or a notice from a collection agency, that is directed to your child and that complains about bills that are unpaid, including medical bills. If you receive any of these kinds of notifications directed to your child, the first thing that you should do is to obtain a copy of your child’s credit report. If you ask to be sent a copy of your child’s credit report, one of the three major credit reporting bureaus, including Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, must provide you with a free copy.
- Be wary online – In today’s technological world, online transactions are a daily occurrence. People regularly use credit cards to make purchases, and when they do so, they must enter certain personal information. This opens up the possibility of identity theft. One of the best ways to protect against identity theft online is to install anti-phishing, anti-virus, and anti-spyware software on any computer that your child uses. In addition, you should discourage your child from using public Wi-Fi connections, as transactions that you complete through those connections typically carry a much higher risk of identity theft.
- Freeze credit accounts that are in your child’s name – Another way of preventing child identity theft is to freeze all credit accounts that are in your child’s name. You create a freeze on a credit account by contacting each of the credit bureaus. However, if your child wishes to apply for credit in the near future, such as to purchase a motor vehicle, then you will need to remove the credit freeze before doing so.
- Safeguard personal identifying information – Another key step to minimizing child identity theft is to protect all of your child’s personal identifying information. You should keep all personal records, including a copy of your child’s social security card, in a safety deposit box at a bank or at some other safe location. Moreover, if you have mail or other communications that contain your child’s Social Security number or other personal identifying information, you should be sure to shred those documents, as opposed to simply throwing them in the trash.
- Take action right away – If you have reason to believe that your child is the victim of identity theft, take action right away. The first thing that you should do is to file an online report with the Federal Trade Commission. You should also request information about how to correct the situation and prevent further damage to your child’s credit. Finally, you should reach out to any businesses where an identity thief may have used your child’s identifying information. You should then request that the business close any accounts that an identity theft scammer may have fraudulently created.
Ways of Preventing Identity Theft Involving Older Adults
In addition to young children, older adults are very oftentimes the victims of identity theft. According to statistics provided by the U.S. Senate’s Special Committee on Aging, senior citizens typically lose an average of $3 billion per year as a result of financial scams through the telephone and the internet. Some of this lost money results from identity theft fraud.
Senior citizens are particularly vulnerable to identity theft scams. One reason for this is because, by the time many Americans reach a certain age, they have considerable retirement funds, both in savings, as well as in retirement/investment accounts. Moreover, many senior citizens suffer from memory deficiencies related to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, which impacts their ability to react rationally to certain situations. They may also be more trusting and dependent on others simply because of their age.
Finally, some senior citizens are isolated socially and do not have family members and friends around who can counsel them on how to react to certain situations. For example, a scammer may claim that the senior citizen is subject to arrest because of an unpaid tax bill, and consequently, the senior citizen reacts quickly out of fear and frustration.
There are several types of identity theft scams in particular that fraudsters use to target individuals who are over 60 years of age. Those scams include:
- IRS scams – In an IRS scam, someone typically calls the senior citizen during the time of year when taxes are about to become due. The individual who calls may threaten the person with foreclosure on a property or arrest if he or she does not pay the “owed” taxes immediately.
- Tech scams – Tech scams are also particularly prevalent among elderly people. In these types of instances, the scammer will call elderly people and warn them that their computers are infected with a virus. The caller will then indicate that the computer software must be replaced immediately and may ask for an immediate payment to correct the issue.
- Funeral scams – In some cases, scammers will look at the obituaries in the newspaper to obtain personal identifying information for individuals who passed away recently. They will then use this information to call and take advantage of family members who are grieving, or they may rob a person’s house while family members are attending the loved one’s funeral.
- Medicare fraud – Another common identity theft scam that fraudsters commonly use against elderly people is to call the victim, claiming that they represent a health care provider or Medicare. They will then ask the senior to provide personal identifying information that is allegedly absent from his or her medical records.
- Robocalls – Scammers and fraudsters also use robocalls to target elderly individuals. The robocaller may ask the elderly person to donate money to a specific charity or to claim a prize. The purpose of this is to try and obtain the elderly person’s identifying information, such as a social security number or credit card number.
- Romance scams – Another way that fraudsters go after elderly individuals is by using romance scams. For example, the person may begin speaking with the victim on a dating site and ask for intimate and personal details. After gaining the scammer’s trust, the victim may then reveal a credit card number or send cash, once the scammer claims that some personal emergency has arisen and he or she needs money right away.
- Grandparent scams – In a grandparent scam, a fraudster will call an elderly individual claiming that his or her grandchild is in a bind and requires money right away. The fraudster then convinces the elderly person to disclose pertinent identifying information or a credit card number and then disappears.
There are also certain important steps that elderly individuals can take to help prevent identity theft. First of all, if you receive a phone call from a number that you do not recognize, you should not answer the phone. Instead, you should let the call go to voicemail. If a caller really needs to reach you, he or she will leave you a voicemail message. Moreover, if you believe that the phone call is suspicious, or if the caller relays information that sounds too good to be true, it is okay to hang up the phone and end the call.
Keep in mind how government agencies work. Specifically, these agencies do not send emails or call about important information. Instead, the law requires that they send written letters. Consequently, if a caller claims that he or she represents a government entity, then the call is most likely a scam. In that case, you should end the call immediately.
Finally, check your credit card statements, financial accounts, banking accounts, and credit reports on a regular basis. If you come across one or more suspicious transactions or accounts, you should file a report immediately.
Steps to Take if You Believe That You or a Loved One is the Victim of Identity Theft
If you believe that you or a person you love is the victim of identity theft, there are certain steps that you should take immediately. Generally speaking, the sooner you take action in your identity theft case, the more successful you will be in recovering your identity and shutting down any credit accounts that the scammer opened fraudulently.
If you believe that you or a loved one is a victim of identity theft, the first thing that you should do is contact the Federal Trade Commission and file a report online. They can open a case file for identity theft on your behalf. Once a case is opened, the FTC will provide you with an affidavit. Once you receive the affidavit, you will provide it to your local law enforcement. Then, you will file a police report. In addition, you should contact the Internal Revenue Service and Medicare offices, if applicable, along with other state and federal government agencies, to let them know of your suspicions.
Lastly, check your credit statements and credit reports on a regular basis, to look for suspicious transactions and other types of potentially fraudulent activity. You should also make the three credit reporting agencies aware of the fact that you are a victim of identity theft.
Even though you may have already been a victim of identity theft, taking these actions quickly and efficiently will help to lessen the severity of any consequences resulting from your identity theft.
Brauns Law, P.C.
3175 Satellite Boulevard, Bldg 600
Duluth, GA 30096