7 Identity Theft Prevention Tips for Seniors

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Mature older couple using a laptop computer, worrying about their bills and debts
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While identity theft is a large and growing problem for all demographics in society (even children), seniors tend to be victims of the types of identity theft that experts at the Experian credit bureau say are rising fastest: cases involving tax returns and medical care.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, in 2012 the highest percentage of consumer complaints (18 percent) were about identity theft. Consumers age 60 and older filed 52,610 complaints with the FTC about identity theft in 2012. That's 19 percent of all complaints the agency received on the subject. That number is up from 32,907 two years earlier, when this age group accounted for 13 percent of all ID theft complaints.

Why Are Seniors So Vulnerable?

There are several reasons seniors are at a higher risk of identity theft than their younger counterparts, says Ken Chaplin, Senior Vice President of Marketing for Experian's ProtectMyID.

"Thieves realize seniors are more likely to have paid off loans and are probably carrying less credit card debt than other age groups, which makes them a low risk for creditors," Chaplin says. That means that a criminal applying for credit using an older victim's information is more likely to be approved.

Chaplin says that seniors also don't typically check their credit reports as often as younger age groups, who are more likely to be monitoring their credit in preparation for buying a home, car, or applying for a store or bank credit card. "That means they likely won't see when someone is using their identity to take out a loan or apply for other forms of credit, making seniors an easier target for identity thieves."

Chaplin offers the following tips for seniors to help them avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.


Michele Lerner is a Motley Fool contributing writer.

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