In this digital age we currently live in, we face unique risks to our personal and financial safety — with 6.64% of people becoming victims of identity fraud in 2017 alone. Identity theft is a very real and growing problem, with cybercriminals taking advantage of sophisticated techniques and methods to steal your financial data.
So how can you protect yourself against your identity falling into the wrong hands? The first step is to educate yourself about the most common identity theft scams and how to avoid them.
Voice phishing, colloquially known as “vishing” is a scam in which criminals try to convince the public to give them personal information through trickery. Often posing as a legitimate professional, identity thieves call victims via the telephone and use stolen account information to engage them in a conversation about their personal data.
Some vishing schemes play on people’s fear of having their identity stolen by telling the victim; their personal data has already been compromised. They will often ask the victim to confirm their personal data as a means of farming it for their own use. You are at risk of vishing if you engage in unverified customer service calls, so it’s important not to give your personal information over the telephone.
Unfortunately, senior citizens are often the main target group of unscrupulous identity thieves. Often going after their savings and retirement accounts, identity thieves will try to ingratiate themselves with seniors in an attempt to steal their personal and financial data.
Such identity theft schemes cost the economy over $36 billion every year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice — this equates to an American senior becoming a victim of identity theft every four minutes.
Criminals often resort to mail fraud in an attempt to steal your ID — and it’s more easily done than you might imagine, with over 200 billion items traveling through the mail each month.
For example, some criminals choose to re-route their victim’s mail by filing a Change of Address Form with the Post Office. This can be quickly done by finding discarded mail in your trash can and filling out a form that has your future mail sent to a location of their choice. This is particularly effective when attempting to steal benefit checks and tax refunds.
To protect yourself from this type of fraud, it’s important to shred mail with personal information before you discard it, and also not to leave your mail in an accessible mailbox overnight.
Pharming is a method of online fraud in which scammers use computer code to redirect web traffic to malicious sites. Often the fake website is used as a tool to steal your personal data. If you don’t have a firewall on your computer device, you may be vulnerable to pharming. Similarly, connecting to unsecured wireless networks can also put you at risk of pharming.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, each year, around 9 million Americans have their identities stolen. Although this is an alarming statistic, you can protect yourself by staying vigilant online and not giving any personal data out over the phone. If you aren’t sure whether someone is who they claim they are, end the phone call immediately and do not respond to emails requesting information. It would be best if you also protected all of your computer devices by installing antivirus software; fortunately, many antivirus providers offer free trials of their product, so you can try before you buy.
https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/senior-scams-heres-how-to-protect-yourself-and-your-loved-ones/, https://www.justice.gov/usao/video/senior-identity-theft-public-service-announcement, https://www.thebalance.com/your-risky-mailbox-identity-theft-101-1947529, https://www.crimemuseum.org/crime-library/silent-crimes/identity-theft/