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Senior citizens major targets for identity thieves

Oct 31, 2013 Dave King

Identity theft is a damaging crime that can tarnish people's finances in numerous ways, including reducing consumer credit scores. Everyone is susceptible, but senior citizens are often targeted most.

Short term lenders and other financial institutions need to be one of the first lines of defense with strong ID verification procedures. Additionally, employees should make older clients aware of what they can do to reduce the risk of identity theft, including:

- Leave Medicare cards at home: When consumers reach the age of 65, they are able to rely on Medicare for certain health care needs. After enrolling, people are sent a card that many carry in their wallets. While this may seem harmless, this card includes Social Security numbers, so Daily Finance recommends leaving it at home. Instead, seniors are instructed to make a copy and black out party of the Social Security number, so they don't have to fear identity theft if the card is lost or stolen.

- Don't provide personal information by phone: Identity thieves often target senior citizens by phone, so older consumers need to be wary about providing personal information when someone calls. It is recommended to be skeptical about any incoming calls from creditors and organizations. Before providing any account numbers, seniors should hang up and check the legitimacy of the phone number. If it is legit, people can simply return the call.

- Buy a shredder: Simply throwing away documents with account numbers isn't enough. Senior citizens - and anyone else for that matter - should get in the habit of shredding old bills and account statements, according to Market Watch. This will make it much more difficult for an identity thief to rummage through the trash and steal personal information. People who don't have a shredder should do their best to rip up documents before throwing them away.

- Mail sensitive letters at post offices: In certain situations, criminals will go through mailboxes to get their hands on personal information that can be used to steal an identity. For this reason, it is recommended that people mail any letters that have account or Social Security numbers at the post office. These collection boxes are much more difficult to access than personal mailboxes.