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The number of identity theft victims in the U.S. increases every year. Unfortunately, a large percentage of victims are elderly. In this article, we examine why the elderly are vulnerable to identity theft, common identity theft scams perpetrated against the elderly, and ways to prevent identity theft. 

Reasons Identity Thieves Target the Elderly 

There are several reasons that identity thieves target the elderly. For example, in a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, elderly participants were found to be more trustworthy than other age groups. This trustworthiness can make the elderly more vulnerable than others to becoming victims of identity theft. Also, in a study at the University of California, Los Angeles, older adults were found to have diminished “gut responses” to cues of untrustworthiness. 

Common Identity Theft Scams That Target the Elderly

Common identity theft scams that target the elderly include:

Telephone scams: Identity thieves often target the elderly over the telephone, attempting to gain their trust and obtain personal and financial data from them that can be used to commit fraud. To obtain such information, thieves may pretend to be a person in authority, and they may employ a sense of urgency that prompts the victim to move quickly without taking time to contemplate the consequences.

Internet scams: Online identity thieves often use phishing techniques to obtain personal data via email. With these scams, thieves send seemingly legitimate requests for personal information to victims. Often, when committing these scams, thieves claim to be associated with legitimate financial institutions. 

Tips to Prevent Identity Theft

Seniors must always remain vigilant when it comes to identity theft. Below are some helpful identity theft prevention tips: 

Just hang up: If someone calls and requests personal or financial information, it’s perfectly acceptable to just hang up. If the person claims to be a bank or credit card representative, hang up and call back using the organization’s listed phone number.

Don’t click on links: Rather than clicking on links received in emails, type in web addresses manually. Often, such links lead to phishing sites that illegally collect personal information.  

Use direct deposit: One downside to paper checks is that they can easily be stolen and used in the commission of identity theft. Therefore, if the option is available, it is advisable to opt for direct deposit over paper checks. 

Review all statements: Finally, it pays to regularly review all credit card, bank, and other financial statements. When doing so, be on the lookout for unfamiliar transactions. If anything looks unfamiliar, immediately contact the applicable institution to investigate

Contact a Consumer Class Action Lawyer 

Often, identity theft is the result of the negligence of a financial institution or other entity. When an entity releases people’s private information without their permission, whether purposely or due to negligence, it should be forced to compensate the victims for any resulting losses. If you are a victim of identity theft, experienced attorney Seth Lehrman is here to help you seek financial compensation for your losses. Please contact us today to schedule an initial consultation with our talented class action lawyer.