Senior Identity Theft Statistics and Tips for Protecting Yourself
Adults 65 years old and better can be particularly vulnerable to identity theft and fraud by scammers who want to take advantage of retirement savings.
Senior identity theft statistics help us see how common and serious scams against adults are. At first, statistics are encouraging. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), mature adults are less likely to lose money to scams than younger individuals. People aged 20 to 59 lose money most often. However, mature adults may lose more money to scams. Let’s take a look at some of the top statistics.
Senior Identity Theft & Scam Statistics
According to reported identity theft and scam statistics from the FTC and other identity theft experts like Experian:
- Mature adults are five times more likely to lose money to tech support scams than younger adults
- Mature adults are over three times more likely to report losses to impostor fraud where someone was impersonating a friend or family member
- Adults 80 and older reported losing the most money to scams, with a median loss of $1,700, a 55 percent increase over the prior year
Fortunately, there are ways you can protect yourself and your private data from scammers. We’ll go over some of the more common scams used against people 60 and older, then some of the ways you can avoid becoming a statistic.
Common Senior Identity Theft Scams
These are by no means the only schemes people use to try and trick adults out of their hard-earned money, but they are among the most common. According to the FTC, there are seven major identity theft schemes:
- Medical identity theft occurs when someone’s personally identifiable information (PII) is stolen and used to bill either Medicaid or another insurance provider for healthcare services the victim didn’t receive. Because of the high cost of healthcare, this is a particularly expensive and financially damaging scam.
- Estate identity theft is when a criminal uses PII from someone recently deceased to collect benefits such as social security checks and tax returns. Sometimes the perpetrator is a member of the deceased person’s family. A common misconception about this kind of identity theft is that it’s a victimless crime, but it can take an emotional toll on the surviving family and have financial consequences like incurring debt in the deceased’s name that their family has to deal with. Legalities also make it very hard for estate executors to sort out this crime once it’s discovered.
- Tax fraud occurs when a criminal uses stolen PII from someone to collect tax returns in their name. Tax fraud is perpetrated across age lines, but research shows mature individuals might be slower to identify the issue and report this type of crime, often because the scammer makes them think they have a personal relationship with one another.
- Phone scams and telemarketing fraud are something more people are becoming aware of, but those over 65 are often targeted. The caller usually uses the pretense of selling them medical services, a product or a prize of some kind to get their PII and financial information like credit card numbers.
- Military identity theft is when a criminal uses someone’s personal information to claim military benefits in a manner similar to medical identity theft or Medicare fraud. Often, the scammer will call up older veterans to “confirm” their disability status, requesting PII they use to steal their benefits.
- Wire transfer fraud happens when criminals use a victim’s PII to electronically transfer money from their bank accounts. Wire fraud often goes unreported for a month or more, until the victim sees the discrepancy in their bank statement.
- Familiar fraud is when any of the types of fraud or identity theft listed above get carried out by a relative or close friend of the victim. These crimes go unreported for long stretches of time because the victim cannot believe or doesn’t suspect that they’re being scammed by someone they know.
Many of us believe we’d never fall for someone trying to scam us, but criminals can be very smart in the ways they go about getting your personal information. If something someone says to you over the phone or in an online conversation sounds suspicious, trust your gut. Take a step back and assess the situation. Legitimate government agencies or groups that would need your personally identifiable information will always support your decision to verify their authenticity.
How to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft
There are some simple ways to protect your personal information, making it less likely that you’ll fall for identity theft scams or other types of fraud. And doing so is worth it: according to LifeLock, criminals take more than $36 billion from older Americans every year. Here’s how you can avoid being included in that statistic:
- Don’t be afraid to hang up the phone. If someone calls asking for personal information claiming to be from a government agency, hang up. Especially if they start to get pushy. Legitimate entities, government or otherwise, never ask for personal data over the phone.
- Type website URLs into the browser yourself. Never click on links embedded in emails or open strange-looking email attachments. Be especially wary of emails from people you don’t know, but do this even for emails that look like they’re from your bank. It could be an imitation looking to direct you to a fake page that harvests data.
- Use direct deposit for benefits like social security checks to avoid having them stolen in the mail.
- Make sure anyone, including family, that you trust to handle your accounts is trustworthy.
- Regularly review your bank and credit card statements, checking your balance online often. If you can, check it every day. If you see anything that doesn’t look correct, call the bank.
- Shred old documents. Make sure you shred bank statements, healthcare documents and any other documents that might include personal data before you throw them away. Scammers have been known to go through people’s trash to try and find discarded PII they can use to perpetrate fraud.
Improve Your Safety with a Secure Place to Live
We hope you can arm yourself with this knowledge going forward and be better prepared to fight fraud. In addition to the tips above, you can reduce your risk of being scammed by simplifying your finances and living in a safe, secure community. Aspire at Carriage Hill is a luxury independent living community that encourages you to take control of your life and well-being, including your digital security, and provides a fantastic environment in which to do so.
Our independent living pricing is all-inclusive, so you simplify the bills you have to pay every month and who you have to pay them to, making it less likely that a scammer can confuse you into giving them money for a bill you’ve already paid. You also get more for that money, including amenities and services that allow you to be more active and get more enjoyment out of your retirement.
Contact us today for more details on Aspire at Carriage Hill, our programs and the amenities that could enhance your life.