Illustration depicting a phone with a scam call concept.

Last week, in Caregivers Cheat Sheet: Seniors and Identity Theft, Part I, we identified the seven main types of identity theft that plague seniors. This week, in Part II, we talk about the best ways seniors, loved ones and caregivers can keep personal information and identities safe.

The site Top Ten Reviews offers these great tips for preventing senior identity theft:

  • Leave Home Without It!: Don’t carry your important documents around with you, because theft or loss gives the keys to your identity to someone else. Your social security card, Medicare card and other personal documents belong in a safety deposit box or home safe – not in your wallet.
  • Use A Safe or Safety Deposit Box, or Both: Put your personal documents and valuables in one or both of these secure locations, and keep mum about them. Some fraud is committed by family members or trusted friends, so give access to just one or two others you can really trust.
  • Don’t Neglect Your Software Updates: Your computer is connected to every part of the world, and every criminal in it. If you have anti-virus, anti-malware, and internet security software, you’re in good shape. But having them installed isn’t enough – you need to install the updates and run the scans at least weekly. Premium versions of most programs allow you to set a regular update and san schedule, but the free versions require manual database update and scans, so make a weekly date. A simple virus or worm can easily lead to theft of personal data and identity theft.
  • Travel Smart: Before you leave town, stop your mail, so your bills and other information aren’t easy pickings for thieves. Beware of public Wi-Fi networks when traveling, whether on your phone or laptop, and be sure that your public network settings are in place.
  • Keep An Eye On Your Credit: Consider a security freeze on your credit report, which will prevent third parties from accessing your credit information and will reduce your risk of identity theft. You should monitor your credit report regularly, or enroll in a credit-monitoring service from household names like Lifelock, AARP, or Costco.
  • Shred It, Don’t Shed It!: Any mail with personal information, but especially pre-screened credit offers, should be shredded before discarding. Never throw a personal document away in a public place, and consider investing in a personal shredder. If you don’t have your own shredder, don’t rely on ripping documents into ‘little’ pieces – no pieces are small enough for determined thieves. Banks and schools often hold public ‘shred’ drives that anyone can participate in.
  • Don’t Call Me, I’ll Call You: No reputable business will call you to ask for your personal information, Social Security card number, credit card number, or bank account number. For example, the IRS will never call you, especially to ask you wire them money. If you do receive a phone call or email requesting your personal information, insist on hanging up and calling the main number back, directly. If you didn’t initiate the call, assume it’s a scam.
  • Don’t Leave Your Mail Lying Around: If you can’t get to your mailbox every day, don’t let it collect in a curbside mailbox for thieves to pick through. Ask someone you trust to get your mail for you, or consider opening a post office box or postal store mailbox.

Taking these simple steps will allow caregivers and homecare companions to preserve their loved ones’ emotional, physical and financial health.