Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that those seeking your personal information so they can commit fraud are going to go away anytime soon. Also unfortunate is that they are growing more cunning and devious as to how they gather your information.
They especially target seniors who may not realize they are giving away important information. If your loved one is still in control of their finances, make sure they understand the importance of protecting their identity and financial information.
Identity theft and fraud is on the rise and the variety of ways thieves can gather information is increasing due to available technical and electronic options. They can gain information over the telephone, voice mail, email, or text messages with little hassle.
There are a number of things you can do to help your loved one, and yourself, from becoming victims to identity theft.
Limit the number of credit cards you have and cancel any cards that you are no longer using. Keep an eye on your checking and credit card statements and reconcile them as soon as possible after receiving them in the mail. That way you can identify any purchases you did not make.
If you receive pre-approved credit cards in the mail, make sure you cut them up before throwing them away. Thieves go through trash in order to gain those cards and activate them for their own use. They can also use them to open up more credit or debit cards or bank accounts.
They can also get personal information from social websites such as Facebook, especially if people have provided their personal information and left comments about their travel arrangements, allowing thieves to know when they can break into someone’s home.
Many times the messages you receive look and sound authentic as would be thieves try to make you think the message is from your bank or credit union. Never give out your personal information over the phone unless you know for sure you are speaking to someone from your bank.
If you get an urgent call, message or email from someone asking for personal information, you should consider them fraudulent if they ask for your complete credit or debit card number. Your bank or credit union already has your information, there is no reason for them to call and ask you any questions.
Your PIN number is known only to you, not to anyone at your bank. Beware of anyone pretending to from a bank or credit union who asks for your PIN number. They have no need for it, but thieves can use it to gain access to your account.
Security thieves can also steal your information by asking for:
- A security word or the three digit number on the back of your credit or debit card
- Your full social security number – the bank will only ask for the last four digits
- Your user name and/or password
- Security questions and answers such as your mother’s maiden name, the name of your first pet, etc.
What to do if it’s too late
If you or your loved one inadvertently provides information before you realize you are being tricked, notify your financial institution as soon as possible. Don’t be surprised if they want you to close your account and open a new one.
Also, when you make the call to report any discrepancies are sure to use the telephone number from a recent statement, a telephone book, or the back of a credit or debit card. Don’t accidently hit redial and end up with the wrong party.
Identity thieves are cunning and can take advantage of anyone who is not paying attention or is unaware of the trickery of a random phone call. Seniors are especially vulnerable, and we need to keep on top of their finances and remind them often to beware of phone calls asking for personal information.
If you have any questions or want further information on how to prevent identity theft or fraud, call your local financial institution. They will be glad to help you out.