Identity Theft and Scams: Know the Facts So You Don't Get Scammed

Identity Theft and Scams: Know the Facts So You Don’t Get Scammed

Con artists use a wide variety of tricks to steal and scam money from hard-working Americans every day. In fact, “every two seconds, a con artist steals someone’s identity. In the last year alone, Americans lost $16 billion of their hard-earned dollars to fraud, identity theft, and scams” (AARP).

While anyone can be a target for these criminal activities, seniors are at a higher risk than other age groups. Why? Typically, seniors have good credit standing, have specific health needs that can be exploited, and grew up in a more trusting era. Thieves prey on these characteristics and create a sense of urgency. This heightens emotions which makes it challenging to make rational decisions. In the end, unsuspecting citizens are taken advantage of and victimized. The best way to reduce your chances of being a victim is to educate yourself and take preventative measures.

Casa De Merced, a supportive Mercy Housing property for seniors in Phoenix, AZ, is raising awareness about these types of scams and will be offering monthly scam prevention classes for residents. Nydia, Community Outreach Coordinator at Foundation for Senior Living (FSL), presents information and uses AARP’s Fraud Watch Network as a basis for the conversation. Residents will have an opportunity to learn how to identify fraudulent activity and best practices to be an advocate for themselves.

Below are AARP’s top ways to prevent scams and help keep your identity and money safe.

AARP Fraud Watch Network: Top 6 Ways to Prevent Scams

  1. Protect Your Social Security Number
  • Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet or purse.
  • Shred sensitive information.
  • Don’t print your SSN on checks or driver’s license.
  1. Monitor Your Bills & Financial Accounts
  • Review your monthly statements carefully.
  • Don’t make investments in something you’re not absolutely sure about.
  1. Watch Your Credit Reports
  • Request a free annual credit report from annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228.
  1. Protect Your Personal Identification Number (PIN)
  • Don’t carry your Personal Identification Number (PIN) in your wallet.
  • Choose a different PIN for each account.
  1. Protect Your Information Online
  • Avoid using shared or public computers to conduct personal/financial business.
  • Get the latest anti-virus software for home computers.
  • Be suspicious of emails that claim to be a bank and want you to confirm your personal or account information.
  1. Be Cautious of Scams & Fraud
  • Never give out personal information to telemarketers who call you on the phone.
  • Double-check references for door-to-door salespeople and verify businesses before giving out personal information.

Following these simple steps can help reduce the likelihood of identity theft and other scams. Participants from previous classes have certainly appreciated all the tips, and according to Nydia, “the response is overwhelmingly positive,” with a large majority of participants expressing they’ve learned something new. She also offers her own top three tips for scams, “protect your identity, check your emotional state, and ask more questions than you answer.”

Nydia concludes, “I think it’s important to stress the focus on prevention because the remedy is so much harder.”

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