3 Ways to Protect Seniors from Identify Theft
Today’s seniors are online now more than ever before. According to data from the Pew Research Center, the use of smartphones, tablets, and other personal devices among older generations has increased significantly over the past two decades. However, a greater online presence can expose seniors to greater risks, such as identity theft. As more and more information is shared with third parties online, any data that is not properly protected can be accessed by cybercriminals and identity thieves. More specifically, senior identity theft is on the rise, with 2.6 million victims reported in 2014.
Here are three tips for caregivers and seniors to help keep their digital information safe.
1) Keep your device’s security up-to-date.Easy access to technology can certainly be helpful to seniors; it allows them to interact with family and friends, despite distance or other limitations. That said, these channels are still relatively new to seniors, so many of them may be unfamiliar with the best practices associated with device and internet usage.
Device and software security updates ensure that your machine is running properly and is protected against the latest cyber threats. Many devices also come with advanced security features, such as fingerprint scanners, facial recognition, or apps that allow users to remotely wipe sensitive information from their device if it is lost or stolen.
2) Be wary of scams.
There are many ways that cybercriminals attempt to steal personal information: phishing emails, fake websites, computer viruses malware, and more. It’s important not to open emails or click on links from senders you don’t know, and if you’re unsure if a link is safe, type it directly into the browser rather than clicking on it in an email. Sometimes those emails can appear as if they’re coming from trustworthy sources, such as your bank, but it’s important to always proceed with caution. When you’re browsing the internet, be careful to avoid suspicious links, advertisements, or pop-ups, as they may contain malicious programs that collect personal data from your device.
Of course, not all senior identity theft or financial fraud occurs online. Seniors can also be targeted with more traditional scams, such as those that happen over the telephone. Information can even be stolen from documents that were misplaced or thrown away. Social Security checks, healthcare bills, and other documents that may contain personal information, should be handled with care. It may be beneficial to adopt direct deposit or get in the habit of shredding any sensitive documents. Educating seniors on the warning signs of telephone scams or how they should handle personal information is important to preventing identity theft.
3) Protect your medical information.
Cyber criminals often target medical information, since many hospitals and health centers use Social Security numbers to identify patients. SSNs are especially valuable to identity thieves, since they are tied to government, health, financial records or benefits, and several other aspects of personal identity. Although digital record-keeping and data storage are convenient, especially for the health industry, the information can be vulnerable to a cyber-attack if not properly secured.
Identity theft through medical records can affect both finances and treatment in an emergency. If a cybercriminal’s medical information is mixed in with your records, you may not receive the proper care.
Medical identity theft may be difficult to catch, but there are warning signs to be aware of:
- Receiving bills for services or medications you didn’t receive
- Unexpectedly reaching your insurance benefit limit
- Being denied coverage for unfamiliar conditions