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Identity Theft Against Seniors

·     Fraud and Scams

·      Common Scams

·      How Identity Theft Occurs

·      If You Are a Victim

·      Background Check

·      Check Your Credit

·      Identity Theft Report

·      Credit Counseling Scams

·      Craigslist Scams


Identity theft and scams against seniors are much more common than against younger Americans.

According to a recent survey by the Investor Protection Trust one out of every 5 Americans over the age of 65 has been the victim of a financial scam. If it sounds to good to be true it probably is. Do your research.

Everybody knows that protecting their credit from identify theft has become an important part of life. According to a recent study by the Federal Reserve, almost 80 percent of seniors have credit scores of 701 or better, and another 10 percent have scores of 660 to 700. These high scores should qualify most seniors for the lowest interest rates. If you can qualify for a lower interest rate that you are currently getting, by all means do so. Of course, credit thieves target seniors as they know their credit is usually excellent.

You must also protect yourself against people stealing your identity and against fraud.

Stealing the identity of a dead person or "ghosting"
This a form of identity theft in which someone steals the identity of a dead person.  Usually, the person who steals this identity is roughly the same age as the deceased would have been if still alive, so that any documents citing the birth date of the deceased will not be conspicuously incorrect.   The purpose of ghosting is to enable the identity thief to claim for her/his own use an existing identity and if possible to steal assets or charge against the deceased person's credit including stetting up new channels of credit in the diseased person's name. Sometimes an identity thief can even obtain a passport or Social Security benefits in the name of a dead person.

Never give personal information to someone you don’t know and trust.

This is especially true of your Social Security number, date of birth, bank account number, credit card numbers, and home address.

Do not keep your Social Security number in your purse or wallet and carry as little identifying information as possible. 

Do not sign the back of your credit cards
. Instead, put "PHOTO ID REQUIRED".

One of the most common scams is for a bogus credit card company to ask you to pay upfront to get approved for their credit card. Legitimate credit card companies don’t require upfront payment. Also remember that if a deal sounds too good to be true, it usually is. You can verify the legitimacy of offers you receive with your local Better Business Bureau at

What you should not carry in your purse or wallet
1. No identification that includes your Social Security number, any PIN numbers or passwords
2. No blank checks
3. No spare keys for your house or car
4. Medicare card (carry a photocopy with the last 4 digits cut out)

Make a photo copy of both sides of everything in your wallet including credit cards and identification cards (driver's license, insurance cards, etc..) If traveling overseas make a copy of your passport.

If your wallet or purse is stolen immediately call all your credit card companies to request an account number change. Tell them you want a new number issued. That way nothing will show up on your credit report noted as cancelled by consumer which would be hurtful to your credit. Keep the toll free numbers of each credit card handy for such a call.

Change all your passwords to make sure your accounts can't be opened by the thief. The best passwords are a combination of numbers and letters--not your birth date, mother's maiden name or pet's name which can easily be found online.

File a police report and get copies as you will need them for insurance purposes and possibly in dealings with credit card companies.

Request a fraud alert be placed on your credit accounts that the 3 main credit bureaus maintain. Experian 888-397-3742, Equifax 800-525-6285 and TransUnion 800-680-7289 If you contact any of these three they will contact the other two.

Call the Social Security Administration (fraud line) and place an alert 800-269-0271

Ask your local Department of Motor Vehicles to put a flag on your driver's license so the thief will have difficulty applying for a new copy of your license to use for identification purposes.

Notify your bank you want a new ATM card and tell them if you checkbook was stolen.   Wait a couple of weeks and check your credit by going to  or by calling 1-877-322-8228 and check again after a couple of months.

Additional tips to help prevent identity theft.
1. Place a credit freeze on your account with the 3 credit bureaus if you are not planning to open new charge accounts.
    Equifax: 1-800-525-6285;
    Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742);
    TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289;
2. Get a mail box that locks.
3. Do not leave personal information in your car.
4. Make sure your smart phone, laptop, iPad, etc. have pass codes to prevent unauthorized use.
5. Close any old, unused credit card accounts you do not use
6. Set up online access to your banking accounts so you can easily check unlawful use and stop mailed statements.
7. Do not throw away documents that contain personal information like credit card statements and medical bills. Shred them first.

Electronic Pickpocketing
If you are interested in purchasing sleeves to protect your credit cards, passport, driver’s license or badge holders for a proximity access card email John at (Leather men’s and women’s RFID protective wallets are also available individually and in quantity.)

Electronic Pickpocket

Visa / MasterCard Scam
Note, the callers do not ask for your card number; they already have it so many are convinced this is a legitimate call..

The scam works like this:
Person calling says - 'This is (name) and I'm calling from the Security and Fraud Department at VISA. My Badge number is 12460, your card has been flagged for an unusual purchase pattern, and I'm calling to verify. This would be on your VISA card which was issued by (name of bank). Did you purchase an Anti-Telemarketing Device for $497.99 from a marketing company based in Arizona ?' When you say 'No', the caller continues with, 'Then we will be issuing a credit to your account. This is a company we have been watching, and the charges range from $297 to $497, just under the $500 purchase pattern that flags most cards. Before your next statement, the credit will be sent to (gives you your address). Is that correct?' You say 'yes'.

The caller continues - 'I will be starting a Fraud Investigation. If you have any questions, you should call the 1- 800 number listed on the back of your card (1-800-VISA) and ask for Security. You will need to refer to this Control Number. The caller then gives you a 6 digit number. 'Do you need me to read it again?'

Here's the IMPORTANT part on how the scam works - The caller then says, 'I need to verify you are in possession of your card'. He'll ask you to 'turn your card over and look for some numbers'. There are 7 numbers; the first 4 are part of your card number, the last 3 are the Security Numbers that verify you are the possessor of the card. These are the numbers you sometimes use to make Internet purchases to prove you have the card. The caller will ask you to read the last 3 numbers to him. After you tell the caller the 3 numbers, he'll say, 'That is correct, I just needed to verify that the card has not been lost or stolen, and that you still have your card. Do you have any other questions?'

After you say no, the caller then thanks you and states, 'Don't hesitate to call back if you do', and hangs up. You actually say very little, and they never ask for or tell you the card number. But after we were called on Wednesday, we called back within 20 minutes to ask a question. We were glad we did! The REAL VISA Security Department told us it was a scam and in the last 15 minutes a new purchase of $497.99 was charged to our card. We made a real fraud report and closed the VISA account. VISA is reissuing us a new number. What the Scammer wants is the 3-digit PIN number on the back of the card. Don't give it to them. Instead, tell them you'll call VISA or Master Card directly for verification of their conversation.

The real VISA told us that they will never ask for anything on the card, as they already know the information, since they issued the card! If you give the Scammer your 3 Digit PIN Number, you think you're receiving a credit. However, by the time you get your statement you'll see charges for purchases you didn't make, and by then it's almost too late and/or more difficult to actually file a fraud report.

Internet Scams

Identity Theft and Scams Target Boomers and Seniors

Verify your bank account
This is the most common email scam today. It is designed to lure you into divulging your password information. These email and Web pages closely resemble legitimate credit authorities like Citibank, Bank of America, eBay, or PayPal. They entice you into visiting a phony web page and entering your ID and password. Often the guise is an urgent need to "confirm your identity" or tell you your account has been compromised or hacked and you must change your password.

Tip: the beginning of legitimate link address should have https://. These fakes will just have http:// (no “s”). If you question the legitimacy of the email call your financial institution to verify if the email is genuine.

The Nigerian scam
You receive an email from a supposed member of a wealthy Nigerian family interested in getting money out of Nigeria. The scam involves paying you a great deal of money for your help.

Advanced fees paid for a guaranteed loan or credit card
You receive information concerning a “pre-approved” loan or a credit card that charges an up-front fee.

Overpayment scam for item you are selling
This scam involves an item you might have listed for sale such as a car, or some other expensive item. The scammer finds your ad and sends you an email offering to pay much more than your asking price. The reason for overpayment is supposedly related to the international fees to ship the car or item overseas. In return, you are to send the car and the cash for the difference between what you listed your item for and what the scammer has agreed to pay you.

The scamper pays by money order and the money order you receive looks real so you deposit it into your account. In a couple of days (or the time it takes to clear) your bank informs you the money order was fake. In the mean time you have sent the item you were selling as well as the difference you were to pay over your asking price.

Lottery scam
You receive an email from saying that you won a huge amount of money.
The catch is that prior to collecting your “winnings”, you must pay the “processing” fee of several thousands of dollars.

Employment search scam
After posting a resume on an employment site you receive a job offer to become a "financial representative" of an overseas company. They state the reason they want to hire you is that this company has problems accepting money from US customers and they need you to handle those payments. You will be paid 5 to 15 percent commission per transaction.

In your application process, which they demand you do to get the job, you provide the scammer with your personal data, such as bank account information, so you can “get paid” and other personal information. As a result you are subject to identity theft as well as open to have money stolen from any account you list..

Disaster relief scam
You receive a request for donation via email to donate to a major disaster relieve fund or to volunteer.

Sometimes the name of the charity or organization sounds like a legitimate organization, but the Website they link you to is bogus. Always contact the recognized charitable organization directly by phone or their Website and donate or volunteer this way

Travel scams
You receive an email with the offer to get a low fares to some exotic destination but you must book on line through the provided Website immediately as the offer expires that evening. If you call, to check this out you are likely to find out the travel is at a lower price but the hotel rates are jacked up to cover the travel savings.

Credit Counseling Scams
Many companies advertise telling you they will solve your debt problems, reduce your payments and even cancel part of what you owe. Most of these credit services are for profit companies and take a good part of your payments for themselves. You can end up far worse off than before you contacted them.

A rule of thumb that will help is to do business with non-for-profit entities like Cambridge Credit 800-235-1407 This is a nationally certified credit and housing counselor.

As a general rule, if the URL ends in .org as opposed to .com you will be dealing with a legitimate non-profit organization. A few others include:

Consolidated Credit Counselors National Foundation for Credit Counseling CredAbility Green Path debt solutions

Phone Scams
Many people have found charges on their phone bill for third party services they did not order. It is sometimes difficult if not impossible to get these charges removed as the phone company usually refers you to the third party that instituted the charges and they are not only difficult to reach but often refuse to cancel the bogus charges.

The only way to make sure this does not happen is to prevent unauthorized third-party charges on your phone bill. Ask your carrier to block them all. Call AT&T 800-288-2747, Comcast 800-266-2278, Quest 800-491-0118, Verizon 800-337-4966

Phone call back scam: If your phone rings and the caller or recorded voice tells you to call a number concerning an undeliverable package or a message from an unknown caller is left on your voice mail, do not call the number if the area code is 284, 649, 809, 876, 473, 664, or 784 as these are bogus Caribbean area codes. This scam is likely to cost you $50 or more and will appear on your phone bill with no recourse to get the charge removed if you actually make the call.

Do not dial 90# on your telephone. If you receive a telephone call from an individual identifying himself as an AT&T Service Technician (could also be Telus, GTE or Verizon) who says he is conducting a test on the telephone lines and states that to complete the test you should touch nine (9), zero (0), the pound sign (#), and then hang up—do not do so..

According to all phone companies if you push 90#, you give the requesting individual full access to your telephone line, which enables them to place long distance calls billed to your home phone number.DO NOT press 90# for ANYONE...

Protect yourself from investment fraud
Check to make sure your investment professional is licensed. Go to broker check

This is a free tool to help investors research the professional backgrounds of current and former FINRA-registered brokerage firms and brokers. It should be the first resource investors turn to when choosing whether to do business or continue to do business with a particular broker or brokerage firm.

Beware of friendly “professionals” you meet in social situations. Some are, of course, legitimate but an impressive business card or fancy title does not mean anything.

Watch out for those invitations that invite you to a free informative luncheon or seminar often at a fancy restaurant. Be skeptical and ask plenty of questions. Before going check to make sure the presenter or company he/she represents is legitimate. One of the ways you can do so is through

Any legitimate investment opportunity should come with a written prospectus which addresses the risks and returns of said investment.

Don't be pressured by any urgency that you must sign up immediately to receive a special price, a prize or a lower commission. In most cases this is a signal this is not a legitimate investment.

Lottery Scam
If you receive a check with a letter saying it is partial payment of a lottery win and you are asked to deposit the check and wire some portion of the money to the prize authority as insurance or some kind of a fee in order to get the full amount or jackpot throw the check away. You never have to pay to collect a lottery prize.

Travel Fraud is on the Rise
The amount of money lost to travel cheats increased by 425% percent so it is more important than ever to carefully check to make sure you are dealing with legitimate entities when booking your travel.
Though most fraud is related to the sale of airline tickets, there has also been an increase in the number of owner accounts being hacked into on popular home-sharing websites.

Most common types of travel fraud
Fraudsters conned vacationers by setting up fake websites, hacking into legitimate accounts, and posting fake advertisements on websites and in social media. It is highly recommended that travelers work only with reputable websites and that prior to payment check the Better Business Bureau, Google the name of the company you are dealing with and if possible check with others that have used this service in the past.

Airline tickets. Customers believed they were booking flights on legitimate websites and received fake tickets or they paid for a ticket that never arrived.  Book directly with the airlines to ensure authenticity and to help with re-booking in case of bad weather or mechanical difficulties. Since outside agencies no longer get a commission from the airlines there is no reason not to book this portion of your travel directly.

Sports and religious trips. Be particularly wary of booking sporting events in foreign countries as the tickets to the events are often fake and the reservations often paid for in advance can be with bogus hotels and other accommodation.

Timeshares and holiday clubs. This area of fraud is particularly expensive for victims and it is often difficult to verify the veracity or legitimacy of the offering entity.
Consider investing in a shredder. They are not expensive, and if you shred all documents that have your personal information on them as well as all credit card and other mailings that solicit you for new cards, you will keep credit thieves from obtaining this information from your trash. Shredders can be purchased at office supply stores as well as at Costco, Wal-Mart, Target, and other superstores.

Copyright 2016 by Retired Brains