While perusing various articles about identity theft and other consumer issues this weekend, it became clear that age, whether young or old, does not protect consumers from being the victims of identity theft. One article I read was about how more than 1 million children had their identity stolen in 2017. ONE MILLION CHILDREN in just one year. Let that sink in for a minute.
Then another article I read was about how the oldest World War II veteran had his identity stolen recently. Richard Overton is a 112 year old veteran living in Austin, Texas. He requires around the clock medical care and, obviously, is not out making a lot of charges. But scammers stole his identity and his banking information, allowing them to make multiple withdrawals from his banking account.
Thus, consumers do not just need to protect their own identities and financial information. They also need to help protect the identities of their children and elderly parents/grandparents. How do you do this? Well, you can’t go checking your family members’ credit reports looking for fraud, since to access someone else’s credit report without their permission violates the Fair Credit Reporting Act, among other laws. But you can help your elderly parents and your minor children request and check their own credit reports. Help your elderly family members balance their bank statements and thereby watch for fraud.
Teach both your children and your parents NOT to give out their personal information to anyone that calls them and be hesitant to even give it out to people they call of not absolutely necessary for whatever they are trying to do. Scammers are notorious for pretending to be Medicare employees and tricking older Americans into giving out their Social Security Number and banking information. Minors often do not realize the potential consequences of sharing too much information, particularly online. So teach your children and parents not to give out their information!
Make sure your parents understand and know how to spot the basic internet scams, like phishing e-mails. Teach them that just because an e-mail looks like it comes from a trusted source, be careful if it asks them to log in or give out financial information. Let them know that anything originating from Nigeria is likely a scam and that no complete stranger died and left them millions.
Identity theft affects all ages. So we must do our best to educate and protect the most vulnerable amongst us. The identity thieves will not let their vulnerability stop them from becoming their next victims. So protect your kids and your parents from identity theft.