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Identity theft is the misappropriation of another individual’s personal information (name, social security number, date of birth, etc.). This is often used to aid identity thieves in applying for credit cards, making fraudulent purchases, or some other type of financial gain. There are several methods identity thieves use to obtain personal information. These include:

  • Skimming devices (devices that capture information from the magnetic stripe of a credit or debit card). They are often illegally installed on ATMs, gas pump card readers, and point of sale machines at retail stores
  • Phishing schemes: Emails or text messages pretending to be from a bank/ credit card or commercial business/vendor requesting personal information. There are a few ways to identify phishing schemes;
    • Spelling or grammar errors
    • Banks/credit card companies do not ask for you to confirm personal information over email or via text
    • Calling the vendor to verify the email or text
  • Mail theft (breaking into mailboxes to steal checks, personal information, etc.)

Senior citizens tend to be more frequent targets of identity thieves and are therefore more susceptible to different types of identity theft scams. For seniors and their friends and family members, it is vital to be aware of common types of scams targeting seniors, which include;

  • Reverse mortgage scams
  • Health insurance scams
  • Computer tech support scam
  • Fake charity scam
  • Telephone scams
    • Relative/grandchild in jail or needs money
    • “IRS” asking for money
    • Person says you’ve won the lottery
    • Persons posing as attorneys who can recover money owed to you

The best way to avoid identity theft scams is to not give money to people you don’t know or haven’t verified to be legitimate. Remember to exercise extreme caution when sharing your personal information.

Additional Tips on Protecting Yourself:

  • Trust no one… & call back through legitimate published contacted methods
  • Use credit instead of debit (much easier to report fraudulent charges on a credit card and reverse charges than trying to recover stolen money from your debit account)
  • Shred documents with a crosscut shredder
  • Avoid sharing your personal information as much as possible
  • Pay attention to your credit report, monitor it annually (Get a free copy annually from https://www.freecreditreport.com/)
  • Only under the most certain of circumstances should you provide your social security number to anyone.

Steps to take if you are a victim of identity theft:

  1. File a police report
  2. Report the theft to your bank
  3. Cancel your credit cards and close compromised accounts
  4. Freeze your credit with credit bureaus
  5. Report the incident to IC3.gov, an Internet Crime Complaint Center run by the FBI
  6. Check your credit report regularly