Elder Identity Theft
Elder financial abuse is at an all time high. In the age of digital living, there are traps and pitfalls designed to defraud you of your hard earned wealth. Phelps LaClair serves clients in the Chandler, Mesa, Phoenix and Scottsdale communities who are among the most tech savvy of seniors. Yet even here in the Phoenix Valley, elder financial abuse through identity theft is a real concern. As a second generation estate planning law firm, we make it a priority to ensure that your assets are well-protected. The following are some of the major ways that abusers will seek to separate you from your wealth.
Identity theft happens when someone uses your personal information for fraudulent purposes. This can occur when someone uses your name, Social Security number, credit card, etc., to make purchases or to secure loans that you have not approved. The identity thief can be a complete stranger, or someone closer to home. Identity theft is not uncommon even with trusted caregivers or family members.
Close to Home
Fifty percent of the known causes of identity theft are from lost or stolen wallets and purses. While most pickpockets are after cash, your credit cards and driver’s licenses also have value to them. They can use the cards for untraceable purchases and use your license as a fake ID. You may not learn of their use until you get a call from your card company or a court summons for a traffic violation you didn’t commit. These crimes can end up on your record, and it can be very difficult to clear your name and re-establish credit.
To protect yourself from this type of identity theft, don’t carry cash or sensitive documents with you. In the age of ATMs, a simple credit card will do. Don’t carry a debit card! A credit card company will usually absorb a loss of more than $50. But a stolen debit card could potentially wipe out your bank accounts.
Unless you are travelling overseas, leave your passport at home. The same applies to your checkbook: use your credit card. Likewise, internet passwords and bank PINs should not be written down and carried with you.
Computer hackers using malicious software are another common source of identity theft. Data leaks from major credit card companies and financial ratings companies have recently occured. Digital information is easily stolen and easily sold by people with access to the servers where the information is stored. When someone has your personal identification, they can obtain a driver’s license, a passport for an illegal immigrant, medical insurance or even medical care, all under your name. Even with the significant financial damage that occurs, perhaps the greatest danger in these situations is that oftentimes your home address and phone number are included in the stolen information, leaving you vulnerable to home invasion, stalking or physical attack.
Keep your computer virus protection up-to-date and become aware of the various email scams and fake websites that are making the rounds. Senior citizens are targeted in particular with these online predators. Whatever they say or threaten you with, DON’T give out any personal information. No bank account numbers, no address, no social security numbers. And unless you initiate the contact, don’t give any website your credit card information.
Scams and Robocalls
Scammers don’t pay any attention to the National Do Not Call Registry! If you don’t recognize the name or number that is calling you, let the call go to voicemail. You can choose to respond later if you feel the call is legitimate. Even then, be careful. A few years ago, seniors were getting calls from someone posing as a “grandchild” that turned out to be a scammer. This thief had obtained the name of a relative from public information of the target victim and was using it to get a wire transfer of money. You really can’t be too careful!
One of the most pernicious callers is a robotic dialer that has a pre-recorded message. These calls are usually from an area code that has two identical numbers, such as 677 or 855. Remember, all they want to is steal your identity and your money. You can report these numbers, but realistically, it won’t make much difference. The best strategy is not to answer. But if you do, hang up immediately. Some scammers are calling from outside the US and you can be charged for the call.
As with fake websites, never give any personal information over the phone unless you either recognize the number or you have initiated the call. Scammers are clever, but you can protect yourself from them.
Protect Your Assets with Phelps LaClair
Phelps LaClair is in the business of protecting your assets. For 40 years, we have been designing bulletproof estate plans for our clients. Our passion is to protect your wealth so you can pass it on to the next generation. If you want to discuss your options, call us for a free, no obligation consultation. Elder financial abuse can be prevented—let our experience and expertise help you protect your assets!