Don Pline, of Pocatello, has no idea how his mother lost her identity.
For the past several months, the 85-year-old Boise resident has complained that her social security checks have not been showing up in her bank account.
“We’ve had them direct deposited for a number years,” Pline says, “so when she said something about it, I began to look at her finances.”
Every year, identity thieves target thousands of senior citizens’ identities. The elderly are easy targets because they are more established in their habits, have accumulated possessions, credit and wealth, and many times fail to review bank accounts and credit reports for errors or indications that fraud is taking place.
“I started checking her Medicare and Medicaid, and noticed that it hadn’t been getting into her checking account,” Pline says.
Upon closer inspection, numerous calls to federal offices, it was determined that her check had been transferred to a banking account in West Valley City, Utah, and was available to be drawn on a reloadable prepaid card.
This is the new money moving method for scammers, he was told by a social security official. The money is moved from an account to a “card” and can be done from anywhere in the U.S. with a bank account number. He learned the cards were being drawn in Florida. The cards are normally used to make same-day payments or make wire transfers or replenish PayPal accounts.
“We were able to get the check transferred back to her account,” he says of the latest payment in the account, saving his mother nearly $1200.
The 66-year-old Pline says he doesn’t blame his mother, but rather the scammers that took advantage of her. Together, they reviewed any conversation where she might have given out the information, but couldn’t come up with a positive answer.
“Be involved with it,” he says of the elderly’s finances. “Be involved with them.”
Unfortunately, this relative wealth combined with a trusting nature and, perhaps, a naiveté about current types of fraud, leaves many senior citizens frighteningly vulnerable to identity fraud.
BBB suggests these tips:
• Register phone numbers with the National Do Not Call Registry at 1-888-382-1222 or www.donotcall.gov.
• Don't do business with someone who just shows up at your door.
• Don't give personal or financial information to an unknown caller, and don't provide such information for unsolicited e-mail or Internet messages.
• Check with the BBB before dealing with any company or charity one is not familiar with. Also check with family members, neighbors or friends.
• Keep careful records of bank transactions and credit card statements. Check them for accuracy and shred documents thoroughly before throwing them away. Thieves can steal a person's identity from their trash.
• Have Social Security or pension benefit checks direct deposited to reduce the possibility of identity theft. Be careful not to leave outgoing bill payments in an unsecured mailbox. Take them to the post office.
If seniors feel they have become victims of fraud, the BBB suggests they immediately call their banking institutions and credit card companies to report the suspicious activity. Place a "fraud alert" on credit reports, and review the reports carefully. Report any deceptive services to the BBB, local law enforcement and the state attorney general.
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