Identity Theft: New Victims; Elderly Parents; a Hidden Yet Common Crime
October 13, 2011
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Rock Island, Ill. -- Identity theft is now recognized as a multi-billion dollar international problem. However, a new group is being targeted more and more for the crime, senior citizens; this according to Security Firm, ID Analytics. While reviewing billions of credit applications, the firm's chief researcher, Stephen Coggeshall, found that children and the elderly are often victims of identity theft. The study found that, while only roughly 500,000 children in the United States under 15 share their Social Security Number and last names with adults, more than 2 million elderly adults are sharing their SSN with their adult children.
The study further found that while many people worry about strangers, the real people to worry about may be family members; especially those in economic trouble with the economic downturn coupled with high unemployment of the last several years. Elderly people can often be vulnerable and dependent on caretakers who are sometimes their own children. Elderly often live in nursing homes or assisted care facilities where mail, SSN's, and other personal financial documents are often carelessly handled or mishandled. What parents call "garbage" often contains personal information that should not be left out or left open to prying eyes of both family and non-family members.
How can you proactively protect yourself and your loved ones? One approach is to not only check your own credit report periodically, but check your parent's credit report with their consent. Also check to see if credit has been taken out in any of your children's names. This can be especially important when there is a very contentious divorce involving children. It is not unheard of for a spiteful spouse to take out thousands of dollars of credit in the name of one of their own children. Next, make sure that mail and other important personal information is not mishandled at home, a nursing care facility, or assisted living facility. Consider a post office box if you cannot change the policies of the facility. Finally, consider a small portable shredder for use in home, office, nursing care, or assisted living facility. While these steps cannot guarantee that members of your family will not be the victims of identity theft, it can help insure peace of mind if used on a regular basis.