Elders & Identity Theft: Ways to Protect Yourself or Your Loved Ones

Identity theft continues to arise as a harsh reality for millions of Americans each year. In fact, according to the Justice Department, more than 11 million Americans fall victim to some form of identity theft/fraud each year. That accounts for more than $20 billion in lost money, with the average injury to victims at more than $4,000.

Elders may be at an increased risk of becoming victims of identity theft because according to information provided by the FTC, “Senior citizens are particularly vulnerable to this crime because their personal information may be easily accessible by numerous individuals.”

Unfortunately for elders, particularly those in nursing homes, this does ring true. Personal and sensitive information may be attained by those with bad intentions. Therefore, it is important that elders and their loved ones keep a close eye on personal information, including social security numbers, driver’s licenses and credit cards. These identifying numbers and accounts can be accessed easily, and drain an elder of savings in some cases. In others debt in an elder’s name may be accrued.

In order to protect yourself or an elderly person you love from becoming a victim of identity theft, keep these tips in mind:
• Collect mail quickly, so that it cannot be stolen from a mailbox.
• Shred all documentation with personal identifying information including credit card account numbers, bank account numbers, documents which list a social security number, documents which list a driver’s license number.
• Refuse to give out your social security number to anyone you are unfamiliar with. Never give your social security number to any telemarketer.
• Do not give account numbers (bank, credit card, etc.) to anyone over the phone unless you have initiated the phone call.

If you believe that you or a loved one has been a victim of identity theft while in the care of a California nursing home, please be sure to reach out to the authorities and Adult Protective Services. You might also consider contacting an attorney who specializes in elder abuse cases.

Financial abuse of elders occurs in many forms. It is a civil and often criminal offense. Christopher C. Walton is a San Diego, California based elder abuse attorney whose practice is dedicated to issues involving elder abuse & neglect. If you believe you or somebody you know has been a victim of elder abuse, please call (866) 338-7079 for a free and confidential consultation with an elder abuse attorney.