The United States is home to 47.8 million citizens over the age of 65. By the year 2030, all of the Baby Boomers in the U.S. will be over the age of 65, with a population projection of 78 million by 2035. Considering the sheer volume of financial, government, medical, and even personal data stored on Internet-connected devices and online accounts, the Baby Boomer generation is especially susceptible to cybercrime like identity theft.
From physical theft to a digital breach of information, criminals looking to obtain personally identifiable information use an arsenal of tactics that, once understood, can be avoided or addressed accordingly.
Simple Steps to Ensure Your Information Remains Safe and Secure
Secure, shred, and permanently delete old or unused documents
All sensitive documents, both physical and digital, should be safely stored behind a lock; this includes your Social Security, medical, insurance, tax, and financial records. In fact, even letting mail collect in the home or mailbox can be a dangerous practice, as it’s possible that this information could be stolen or accessed by a mail thief or dumpster diver. When disposing of your old mail, bills, medical information, or personal documents, use a file shredder for added protection and always secure private documents within a locked safe. The whereabouts of the combination or key to the safe should be disclosed only to your most trustworthy family member or caregiver.
Regularly update devices and passwords
The overall security of your device depends on the software installed to defend it. Security updates not only fix potential bugs that slow software, but they can also address critical faults that could make the information stored on a device vulnerable to attack. Enabling automatic updates is the best way to guarantee that a device is uncompromised.
The same goes for passwords: you should frequently change previously used passwords for entirely new, unique ones. Password managers can help you to keep track of multiple, highly secure passwords, and rely less on your memory or physical notes. Two-factor password authentication is an easily enabled security measure that requires a second form of identification at login.
Identify and avoid phishing emails
If you’re not paying attention or downloading from an untrusted source, phishing emails, malware, and other cyber-scams can be difficult to identify. You should always check unknown emails for poor grammar and punctuation, a misspelled email address, or a link to a fake or unsecured website before responding.
Monitor accounts and statements to identify potential issues
Seniors work their entire lives to establish financial portfolios, savings accounts, credit lines, and well-maintained credit profiles: all things that are especially attractive to cybercriminals. Frequently checking your financial records, billing statements, and collection notices for possible that criminal activity and fraudulent charges that would otherwise go unnoticed. Significant transactions or outstanding balance notifications may not show up on credit reports right away and, if you borrow regularly, there's a chance the creditors may not deem the transactions as fraudulent. Therefore, monitoring your accounts and physical billing statements is the best way to guarantee near immediate response and recovery.
Helpful Tools for Staying Safe At Home
Identity Theft Protection
Combating identity theft doesn’t have to be a scary uphill battle. Beyond watching out for phone, mail, and online identity thieves, it’s important you know what to do if someone asks for personal information or financial data. For an added layer of protection, you can enroll in a senior identity theft protection and monitoring plan. As anybody who has faced ID theft in the past will tell you, you’re more likely to have your information stolen again if it has been compromised in the past. LifeLock offers a number of specialized services including one designed specifically for seniors and it allows family members to monitor an individual’s activity, receive alert notifications, freeze accounts, or immediately report issues.
Identity theft is a stressful experience for those who fall victim to it, and stress can have a negative impact on health, especially as we age. In addition to taking online precautions to safeguard your assets, it’s important to also take care of your health. A medical alert device company, like Medical Guardian, can provide you with additional a direct line to help should you ever need it. Medical alert systems can be used in a variety of situations, from medical emergencies to fires or break-ins, to non-emergencies, such as needing help getting in touch with a neighbor or child. Since it is not always possible to be provided with round-the-clock care, a medical alert system is an excellent—and cost-effective—alternative.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are 3.8 billion prescriptions written for Americans each year. Of those, approximately 1 in 5 is never filled and 50 percent of the ones that are filled are taken incorrectly. Medication mismanagement can be especially dangerous for seniors, so it’s important to not only know which medications you are taking, but also the proper dosage and side effects for each. A MedMinder medication organizer can help you with medication adherence so you can take your medication as directed.
Keeping Seniors Safe on the Internet and Beyond
When it comes to senior safety, both online and out in the world, education is the first step to staying protected. Starting the conversation is a great first step, but your safety education doesn’t end there. People with bad intentions have found ways to scam seniors on dating websites, over the phone and even through the mail.
Being aware of the various types of scams that target seniors can help, but scammers are always coming up with new ways to con those who are the most vulnerable among us. Part of why many scammers target seniors in the first place is due to the fact that they are less likely to report the fraud out of embarrassment and shame. But there are a variety of institutions that can help and won’t pass judgment.
If you believe that you have fallen victim to a scam you can contact the following organizations to report it: