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Seniors need to be protected from identity theft

Oct 02, 2013 Dave King

Identity theft is a financially damaging crime, as it can hurt a person's consumer credit score. As consumers get older, they are often targeted more by criminals as people become more vulnerable.

For this reason, short term lenders and other financial institutions need to step up ID verification procedures to be sure applicants who are looking to get credit or a loan aren't using false identities. It may also be a good idea to provide seniors with certain tips they can utilize to avoid identity theft.

Here is some advice short term lenders can provide to customers:

- Leave Medicare cards at home: When people reach the age of 65, they are eligible for Medicare. After signing up, a card is provided that has personal information, including the Social Security number. For this reason, Daily Finance recommends keeping this document out of wallets and purses, as criminals could steal identities if they get their hands on it. People who prefer to carry the card would be wise to make a copy and black out part of their Social Security number, which reduces the risk of identity theft is a wallet or purse is lost or stolen.

- Don't give information out over the phone: Scam artists often target seniors via phones posing as creditors and other organizations. When prompted for personal information, older consumers should be extremely wary about who they give it out to over the phone. In fact, it is recommended to never tell Social Security or account numbers to incoming callers. People who feel that they are being contacted by a legitimate company should hang up and check if the phone number is legitimate before calling back.

- Shred old documents: More than likely, people will have to throw away documents that have personal information included on them - i.e. credit card and bank statements. When disposing of these, it is important that they are shredded first, as criminals may sift through trash to see if anyone forgot to properly throw them away. Additionally, it is recommended that people never leave receipts at bank machines or gas pumps, as this can potentially lead to identity theft as well.

- Be wary of unexpected checks: Criminals have all sorts of scams targeting senior citizens, one being false checks. According to the Florida Times-Union, people who receive a check in the mail that they weren't expecting should be very wary about endorsing and depositing them. Oftentimes, these can include a disclaimer that says completing this process means monthly fees will be transferred from their bank account.

Short term lenders need to be a first line of defense
With the frequency of identity theft increasing nearly ever year, financial institutions need to be one of the major lines of defense against this crime. All employees should be fully trained on ID verification procedures, so they know what potential identity theft signs to look for.