Protect Your Identity in Retirement from the Low-Life Identity Thieves. I have seen the damage they can do and I hate identity thieves. Obviously Identity Theft isn’t limited to retirees but elderly identity theft is what I am writing about. That is because as we age we seem to let our guard down and allow the filth of humanity to gain access to our identity and sometimes our bank or even worse our retirement accounts.
That said, any tips I have here aren’t elderly identify theft specific and are good for anyone to consider to protect their identity and hard-earned savings. Even by doing all we can there will always be the never-ending system hacks where our information is stored for who knows what reason. It’s up to us to do what we can do and fight back when some piece of a $#!+ either tries to or successfully gets a hold of our identity to do their worst.
My Recent Experience with an Identity Thief
I have an old-school landline telephone at home. It is hooked to another antiquated piece of equipment called an answering machine. We love it because it allows us to hear any messages and screen our calls if we don’t recognize the incoming telephone number that is displayed.
One day we I received a call from the IRS. Someone calling herself Agent Laura Cruz left a message with a barely understandable Latin accent explaining that my Tax Forms have been flagged because I was being investigated for tax fraud. I must immediately call her back with my name, social security number, and the case number of which she left me in the message. I was subject to immediate arrest and property seizure if she did not hear from me within the next 24 hours.
The number was area code 202 so I looked it up and it was Washington DC. I listened to the message a couple of times and I knew this was a scam. First off my name was never mentioned. Second, if I called back, why wouldn’t the case number be enough? Why would I need to give my full name and Social Security number if they were the IRS with my files? So I made the call.
I called my local police to report it if they are doing any kind of investigation. They thanked me for reporting it and acknowledged they have received several calls about the same scam. I asked if they mind if I call the number and mess with them and he said you usually go to a voice mail but have at it. I decided to just let it drop. The number was 202-506-9166.
What Could Have Happened
If I had fallen for this they would have had the holy grail of U.S. citizen elderly identity theft. My full name and social security number. Intimidate or convince me to handover my birthday and address and bingo, they have an easy path to:
- Open bank accounts and credit cards in my name writing bad checks and making bad charges all over the planet.
- Taken out large loans in my name using my awesome credit.
- Use my name as an alias when committing other crimes and even if arrested using my name with the authorities.
- They can use my name at a hospital or anywhere to gain medical treatment and running up large bills.
- Use and/or sell my information to give illegal immigrants documentation to falsely gain jobs in the country and really cause me IRS issues.
Protect Your Identity in Retirement by Knowing How they operate.
Identity thieves are the scum of the earth and use various tactics to get what they want.
As with feeble IRS attempt against me, they will pretend to be a bank, law enforcement, or other government agency asking for your identifying information. This can be obviously by phone call but also through your email or as internet pop-up messages. They can sound and look convincing and there will also be an element of intimidation and threats.
Skimmers are a special device that someone can swipe your credit or debit card through and steal your card number. Sometimes the skimmer is glued in front of the legitimate interface you run your card through like on an ATM or at the gas pump.
Many times a rotten waiter/waitress will have a pocket version and when they take you card to run it to pay your bill will first take a quick swipe to record all they need to charge away or empty your checking account with the debit card details.
There can even be low-tech dirt-bags that simply step into a secluded spot before going to the cash register where they just write down your Credit/Debit Card number, expiration date, and 3 digit security code on a piece of paper and then have internet shopping to do all night long on your card.
They steal from you by targeting purses, wallets, and your mail. They have many places to do it too. From your house, your car, your gym locker, your purse sitting in a shopping cart, your very own pocket and where you work or sip coffee and leave anything unattended.
Trash Swimming Dumpster diving.
They go through people’s trash looking for anything that they can use. This includes your bills, bank statements, medical billing, or other papers that may contain your personal information.
Hackers are the craze these days. They can hack into our email or online accounts to get to our personal stored data. They can leave computer malware, spyware, and viruses to gain access to our passwords and account information. Recent hacks were against retailers and a Health Insurer where they got our Credit/Debit Card details in bulk.
Fight Back- What to do to Protect Your Identity in Retirement
1- Always be skeptical.
Don’t believe anyone who claims they need your Social Security Number or Credit Card information when they contacted you through phone, in person, email, and even the mail.
2- Carefully inspect any credit card interface you are using for attached skimmers.
When at restaurants or merchants, especially when traveling and things look a little sketchy or you are uncomfortable with things, try to use cash when your card may be taken out of your sight for payment or insist on walking up to the register yourself.
3- Never carry your Social Security Card
Never have your Social Card with you, in your car or leave it in any unsecured area.
4- Make sure your home Wi-Fi network is secure with good password protection.
When on public Wi-Fi remember they are not secure and never log into your personal secured sites because even going to an encrypted web site they can see the messaging between you and that site on the unsecure network leg and get your user id, passwords and account info.
When on a secure private network and entering credit card or personal information make sure the site’s URL address starts with HTTPS. The “S” means secure site.
5- Replace any weak passwords you may have.
Never use your birth date or home address because that makes your password easier to hack. Strong passwords are longer and use upper and lower case letters along with special characters and numbers.
6- Shred all your bills and other personal paperwork.
Don’t just toss it in the trash.
7- Don’t click any web links without first thinking if it is trusted or ever from unsolicited emails.
If you did and you get hit with malware it will most likely say you have been infected, please enter your credit card number to repair your PC. Don’t do it. Turn your PC off with the power button and take it to trusted PC repair shop. Be sure to up to date virus and spyware protection.
8- Check all of your bank statements and bills as soon as they come in.
If something is abnormal report it immediately.
9- Take advantage of any offered free credit reporting.
If a Retailer you use is hacked or you are part of something like the recent Health Insurance Company that was hacked and their customer identity details and/or Credit/Debit Cards are compromised, always sign up for any Free Credit Monitoring that is offered and diligently check your bills and credit reports.
10- Pull your Credit Report regularly to help recognize if you are a victim of Identity Theft.
You can get your free credit reports from all three reporting companies at the same time or do as I do and stagger them. I pull from one of them every 4 months to have the best chance of catching something sooner than later. Use the AnnualCreditReport.com site.
Credit Reporting Agencies- Separately
It is very important to Protect Your Identity in Retirement. If you find that your identity has been stolen or otherwise compromised or for even more tips including how to get your credit report please visit the official Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft site, https://www.identitytheft.gov/.