Identity theft is a growing concern in today's digital and physical world. Unfortunately, seniors are often some of those most targeted by scammers. Elder fraud, as it is commonly known, poses a significant threat to the financial security and well-being of older adults. According to the annual Elder Fraud Report from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), there were 92,371 elder fraud victims in 2021. Reported losses from elder fraud more than doubled from 2019 to 2021, reaching a staggering $1.7 billion.
Why Are Seniors Often Targeted for Identity Theft?
Seniors are targets for identity theft due to several factors. Many older adults have accumulated significant assets and wealth throughout their lives, such as properties, savings accounts, and retirement accounts, making them appealing targets for scammers seeking financial gain.
Additionally, aging and health issues can make seniors more vulnerable and easier to manipulate. Those who live alone may be more trusting of strangers due to feelings of loneliness. Seniors may also hesitate to report fraud due to embarrassment or fear of being perceived as incapable of managing their finances. These factors combined make seniors ideal targets for identity theft, prompting the need to promote education about the most common types of scams and provide recommendations that can help seniors protect themselves from malicious individuals.
Common Scams Targeting Seniors with Physical Documents
Numerous scams specifically target seniors, and these often involve physical documents. According to the annual Elder Fraud Report, the most prevalent ones include:
- Confidence fraud and romance scams: In romance scams, criminals create fake identities to establish close relationships with their victims, manipulating them emotionally to extort money. Another form of confidence fraud is the grandparent scam, where criminals impersonate distressed relatives and request money from vulnerable seniors.
- Investment fraud: This type of fraud involves the illegal sale or promotion of financial instruments, including pyramid schemes and Ponzi schemes. Scammers often promise high returns with minimal risk.
- Tech support: Scammers impersonate customer support representatives, targeting seniors and deceiving them into revealing personal information or sending money. In 2021, there were 13,900 victims of tech support scams, surpassing other types of elder fraud.
- Lottery/sweepstakes/inheritance fraud: Scammers contact victims through phone calls, emails, mail or social media, claiming the victim has won a lottery, sweepstakes, or inheritance. To receive the prize or inheritance, the victim is required to pay upfront taxes and fees.
Recommendations for Protecting Information from Identity Theft
Seniors can take proactive measures to protect their personal information from identity theft. Here are three recommendations:
- Safeguard personal documents: Store documents containing personal information in a safe or locked cupboard to prevent unauthorized access.
- Shred documents: Dispose of documents that contain personal information by shredding them. Avoid throwing them in the garbage or recycling bin, as scammers can retrieve sensitive information. Sensitive documents also include junk mail. Secure document destruction services, like Shred-it®, offer fast and convenient residential shredding options such as:
- Residential and one-time pick-up service: Shred-it® offers a convenient one-time pick-up service, where a company representative can come directly to seniors' homes and collect bags and boxes of confidential material. These documents are then securely shredded at dedicated facilities. Seniors receive Proof of Service, which indicates the collection of their personal information for destruction.
- Secure drop-off shredding service: This option allows older adults to conveniently bring their confidential documents to a nearby office. This option is ideal for those with smaller paper volumes.
- Community shredding events: Another option for seniors is community shredding events. These events raise awareness about identity theft and fraud prevention strategies, as well as offer secure paper shredding for residents. Shred-it® frequently organizes shredding community events throughout North America, providing a safe and accessible way for seniors to dispose of their confidential documents.
Seniors should remain vigilant and implement preventive measures to help safeguard their personal information. Utilizing services like Shred-it® can help safeguard against identity theft.
Learn more about how Shred-it® can help protect seniors from identity theft with secure document destruction services.