Just turn on the news and you are likely to hear a story concerning victims of financial fraud. Identity theft, phishing, and other financial crimes against seniors are on the rise, but there are some things that seniors and people of all ages can do to protect yourself.
Keep Account and Social Security Numbers Private
Fraudsters with access to your account and Social Security numbers can cause significant damage so it’s absolutely essential that you keep that information private. If you receive phone calls or emails requesting your account numbers, passwords, or your Social Security number, there’s a chance that the email or call is fake and the originator is looking to obtain valid numbers for fraudulent purposes. Make sure that you know exactly whom you are giving your information to.
Deal Only with Known Entities
Unfortunately, senior citizens are frequent targets of people looking to commit fraud. If someone calls you on the telephone, or rings your doorbell, do not supply that person with your private information, such as account numbers, account balances, passwords, or your Social Security number. Instead, if you are looking to open any new financial accounts, go into an office or call them yourself. That way, you can know who you are dealing with is legitimate. Ask friends and relatives for recommendations of companies that they have had good experiences with, and remember that the best companies don’t need to solicit business door to door or through telemarketing.
Shred Confidential Documents Before Disposal, and Guard Your Passwords and Pin Numbers
Identity theft often occurs when your account information gets into the wrong hands. Shredding confidential documents before throwing them away, or anything with your account information or Social Security number on it, can help reduce your risk of identity fraud. If you carry an ATM card, make sure that you’ve memorized the PIN number and are not carrying the number around in your wallet.
At HomeTown Bank, we often recommend e-statements as another way to reduce your risk of fraud. When you access your statements online, you are less susceptible to mail fraud and having a printed paper end up in the wrong hands.
Monitor Your Credit
All Americans are entitled to a free annual credit report from each of the three credit reporting bureaus. To order your free credit report, you can utilize the special Web site (AnnualCreditReport.com) or call 877-322-8228. This is the only official website, so make sure you do not use any other web address. Take advantage of this opportunity to order your credit reports and review them for any suspicious activity. Reviewing your credit reports is the best way to determine if your identity has been stolen, as identity thieves generally start opening accounts right away.