Welcoming a new year brings hope and promises for the future. It is also a time of year when adult children often help a senior loved one with their taxes. Protecting them from fraud is an important part of providing that support.
Tax season is an opportunity for scammers to prey on seniors. According to the Federal Trade Commission, 36% of adults 50 years of age and older fall victim to identity theft every year. Many of these cases relate to taxpayer ID theft and fraud.
While it’s true that scammers prey on seniors, your loved one does not need to be a target. There are important and simple steps you can take to protect the older adults in your family from becoming a victim of identity theft.
Remove your aging loved one’s Medicare card from their wallet
Misplacing your wallet is a frightening experience. The possibility of doing so is increased when a senior lives with memory loss. As an adult child, it’s important to help your senior loved one protect their valuable assets. There may be confidential information stored inside an older adult’s wallet that can and should be removed and safely stored.
Remove the following items from their wallet and store them in a safe location:
- Social security card and any document that contains their social security number
- Medicare identification card
- Insurance card for healthcare and automobile
Increase vigilance if you’re providing dementia care
If you’re a caregiver for an older adult with dementia, you understand the added risks associated with identity theft. Seniors are already targets for scammers, and someone with memory loss has an even greater risk of falling for their schemes.
Consider transferring your aging loved one’s accounts over to the power of attorney and have that person manage bill payments and other financial matters. It might also be a good idea to transfer your loved one’s telephone line over to the primary caregiver’s cell phone to monitor phone calls and prevent scams.
Stay prepared with identity theft protection
Plan the worst to happen. Caregivers can make sure their senior loved ones are ready for identity theft before it happens by purchasing added protection. Consumers Advocate suggests options including:
- Identity Guard
- Identity Force
- Protect my ID.com
- Metlife Defender
Ask the senior’s bank for a free annual credit report
Another way to prevent identity theft is by monitoring credit reports at least once a year. Thanks to new regulations, banks are required to distribute annual credit reports to all customers.
Ask your aging loved one if they’ve checked their credit report this year and if you can help them review the document. Looking over the report is one of the best methods for tracking down fraudulent activity.
If you find an error, use an identity theft protection service, such as the ones listed above, to dispute the account and clear up any dings on their report.
Know where to find identity theft risks
Unfortunately, fraud risks are everywhere. It’s important that caregivers know what to look for. Aside from monitoring your loved one’s financially-related accounts, check the following options for scam-related crime traps.
- Junk mail
- Phishing emails
- Phone messages
- Suspicious phone activity
A big red flag during tax season is a call from the IRS.
The government does not make private phone calls and only uses mail correspondence if an action needs to be taken. If your senior loved one did share personal information with someone over the phone, make sure to contact an identity theft protection agency as soon as possible to resolve any damages.
Whether it’s tax season or not, caregivers should keep an eye on their aging loved ones’ accounts at all times. And most importantly, remind the senior never to share personal information with anyone unless they initiate the conversation.