Aging Matters: Don’t let criminals steal your identity


Identity theft is a significant issue for everyone, but seniors, in particular, are a target for crimes like stealing your unique identification information. The FBI reports that identity theft is one of the popular scams and rates it number three, following telemarketing and the Nigerian letter.

What is identity theft? It happens when an individual takes on your identity to execute fraud or a criminal act. The scammers take the information they need by stealing a wallet, ransacking your trash, or illegally using your bank account or credit information. The criminals approach you through face-to-face interaction, the telephone, or on the Internet. They may ask for the information or just take it.

Recently, Social Security put out an alert on an email scam designed to look like it came from Social Security. It listed information about the annual cost-of-living-adjustment and directed the email readers to a website that’s designed to look exactly like the Social Security’s site. While there, the readers updated valuable data giving their identity to criminals.

Social Security issues this warning to combat scams:

“Social Security will not send you an email asking you to give us your personal information, such as your Social Security number, date of birth, or other private information. If someone saying they are from Social Security does email you requesting information, don’t respond to the message. Instead, contact your local Social Security office or call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) to see whether we need any information from you.”

5 Things NOT to Carry in Your Wallet (unless you need it that day)

—Social Security Card

—Birth certificate

— Account and Routing Numbers

—Password Cheat Sheets

—Medicare card (it has your Social Security number on it)

Here are tips from the FBI that minimize identity loss.

—Always shred ATM receipts, credit statements, credit cards, or bank statements.

—Don’t give someone your credit card number over the telephone unless you made the call.

—Check your bank account every month, and immediately notify the bank of inconsistencies.

—Keep a list of phone numbers to call to report the loss or theft of your wallet or credit cards.

—Report unlawful financial transactions to your bank, credit card company, and the police as soon as you detect them.

—Review your credit report at least once each year. Notify the credit bureau in writing of any questionable entries and follow through until they explain or remove.

—If someone assumes your identity, ask the credit bureau to print a statement to that effect on your credit report.

For more information on Scams and Safety, visit the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s website at

By Carol Marak

Carol Marak helped her parents with long-term care concerns and was the creator of the Aging Matters column. If you have a question or need help, Carol invites you to visit and complete the contact form on the site. The address is or

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