Fraud is a looming and growing concern for many consumers, with nearly $6 billion in consumer fraud reported in 2021. Identity theft, too, is a growing concern. As more of our financial lives and identifying information is disseminated online, the risks increase. Aging people are often a prime target for these sorts of scams, as they are less likely to be aware of warning signs. Here are a few tips to help make sure that you are protected.
Protect Digital Information (Including Passwords!)
With so many passwords to juggle, it can be tempting to use the same password for everything, but this leaves all your data exposed if one source has a leak. It can also be tempting to write down your passwords or make them as simple as possible. However, this puts you at risk in different ways (and simple passwords are much harder to create now that there are more rules). If you insist on keeping paper copies of your passwords, make sure they are all in one place, that any old passwords are removed and shredded, and that you keep them safely locked away rather than out in the open.
In addition, make sure to update passwords routinely; this will help ensure that your accounts are secure and that you aren’t wondering when you last updated your passwords.
Shred Paper Bills & Credit Card Offers
Don’t simply toss bills and credit card information in the trash or recycling. If the document includes any information other than your name and address, shred it before discarding. This makes it much more difficult for someone with access to your trash or recycling to find identifying information and open up or access an account in your name.
Routinely Check Your Credit
Don’t wait until you need your credit checked for a big purchase to find out that there’s a problem! Checking your credit regularly can make you aware of errors on your credit report, possible identity theft, and any problems with your accounts that you might otherwise miss. Most banks now have basic credit reporting for free.
You also can (and should!) access your full credit reports from all three reporting bureaus for free once a year at annualcreditreport.com—by getting reports from all three bureaus, you can make sure to catch any potential issues that might only be reported by one bureau.
Consider an Identity Theft Protection Service
To make sure you are protected, you may want to consider an identity theft protection service. These services charge a fee to manage your information on your behalf and let you know immediately if there are any signs of concern. This can be especially useful for an adult child of aging parents, to help parents maintain independence without worrying about being scammed without their knowledge. Caring.com has put together a list of the 9 best identity theft protection services that they recommend.
Fraud and identity theft are big worries that can consume us as we age, particularly for people who may be thinking about future planning and the financial needs of aging. Taking the time to make sure you are protected and have a plan in place can help ease the weight of this worry.