Do you know the biggest targets of identity theft? The answer may surprise you – while everyone should be aware of identity theft, children and the elderly are at an especially high risk of becoming victims. Despite a child's finances being largely tied to his or her parents' finances, minors are still susceptible to identity theft and the consequences can be both troublesome and financially damaging.
The elderly are particularly susceptible to identity theft, especially if they are not monitoring their finances. In fact, the number of elderly victims of identity theft increased from 2.1 million in 2012 to 2.6 million in 2014. Recognizing the warning signs, knowing how to take the necessary precautions and understanding steps to take if you or a family member falls victim to the crime are vital to protecting one's identity and financial well-being.
Here are some tips for helping monitor a child or elderly person's financial security:
Recognize the warning signs.
If your loved one begins receiving collection calls, bills for services he didn't use or Internal Revenue Service (IRS) correspondence explaining that a relative's Social Security Number has been misused, these can be key signs of fraud. Remember, the elderly may be particularly susceptible to phishing scams both online and over the phone. Keeping watch for the signs of identity theft will help you recognize if your relative becomes a target or a victim.
Check your credit report.
A credit history is established when a credit account is first opened, and minors may request a copy of their report after the age of 14. You are entitled to a free credit report once every 12 months from the three major credit bureaus. Keep track of your family member's credit and inspect it for any unusual changes to notice signs of identity theft as soon as possible.
Be careful with information.
Never give someone your own or a family member's Social Security Number (SSN) unless it's absolutely necessary – you need to confirm that if you do give out this information, it's to a reputable institution for a valid reason. Remind older relatives to never divulge their SSN over the phone or by mail, as the elderly are targets for identity theft scams.
Monitor online activity.
Teach your child to be cautious online, and make sure your parents are aware of online security basics. Make sure they know to delete “phishing” emails, are aware of what information they post online, and only make purchases from secure websites. If your children are young, you may want to consider monitoring their online activity closely until they demonstrate that they can use the internet responsibly. This is especially important if a family member is new to using the internet – it can take some time to learn what's safe online.
Find a safe location for important documents.
Designate areas to contain all paper and electronic records, including personal and financial details. Securing the mailbox and emptying it frequently can help protect important data. If a document is no longer necessary, be sure to shred it prior to throwing it away.