As parents age, adult children often find themselves taking a more active role in their financial lives – helping with record-keeping or simply keeping an eye on things. But even if Mom and Dad don’t bank online, use credit cards, or own a computer, don’t assume they’re safe from identity theft. People they come in contact with every day can clean out their accounts the old-fashioned way – with a combination of pilfered information and your parents’ goodwill.
Security experts urge you to watch for:
- New “friends.” If an acquaintance, gardener, handyman, or housekeeper takes an unusual interest in your parents – sharing meals, running errands, bringing in mail, or socializing beyond normal pleasantries – make sure friendship is his or her only goal. Anyone who has access to your parents’ home also can find account numbers, Social Security numbers, and more. That’s enough to prey on their good credit record, racking up fraudulent accounts in their name or cleaning out their accounts and tapping their home equity.
- Relatives with substance abuse issues. When it comes to family, people often overlook troublesome behavior. If your sibling or cousin is “borrowing” money from Mom and Dad, keeping the rest of the family away, or adjusting a parent’s medication, it’s time for a closer look.
- Charity pleas, “you’re a winner,” and calls from the bank. Make sure Mom and Dad maintain an unlisted telephone number and have joined the
Do Not Call Registry. If your parents receive an unusual number of junk calls or letters, ask about them in a non-confrontational way, particularly if callers imply your parents have won something and need to cover costs like shipping to claim their prize. And if your parents mention the “bank” called, find out if the caller asked for any information. No financial institution will ever call a customer asking to verify an account number or PIN. When in doubt, advise your parents to hang up and call the bank back using the main phone number listed in the phone book.
Encourage your parents to move their accounts to a local bank where tellers get to know them. A watchful teller can be on guard for suspicious activity when you’re not around.
- TMI in the glove compartment. A car’s glove compartment often contains documents showing names, addresses, dates of birth, and account numbers. If the glove compartment can’t be secured when the car is out of sight, put those documents in a clear zippered bag and remove them before you turn over the keys. The zippered bag also helps ensure the documents won’t get scattered and lost before you have a chance to put them back.
- Salesmen who show up at the door. “We’re blacktopping a driveway down the street, and we’ll do yours for half price today.” No matter how tempting, urge Mom or Dad to resist any act-today sales pitch. Encourage them to post a “no soliciting” sign near the door and remind them never to share information with anyone who appears on their doorstep uninvited.
ID Smart for more identity-theft prevention tips and to learn more about PEMCO ID Smart™, a free service that gives all PEMCO policyholders unlimited one-on-one access to an experienced specialist who can help shut down an identity thief and guide them step-by-step in cleaning up any mess left behind.
PEMCO ID Smart™ is powered by Identity Theft 911®, the nation’s leader in identity management and fraud education.