Protecting your nest egg from virtual crows
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[March 23, 2012]
One out of every five people
older than 65 -- 7.3 million Americans -- has been the victim of a
financial swindle, according to a survey sponsored by the Investor
Protection Trust. Identity theft statistics are also alarming: In
2010, more than 1 million people older than 65 were targeted by
identity thieves, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Factor in everyone older than 50, and that number soars to more than
"Unfortunately, it's not enough to have saved wisely for
retirement," says Ken Chaplin, senior vice president of marketing
for Experian's ProtectMyID. "Statistics show that seniors are
favorite targets for identity thieves, con artists and scammers.
Protecting your nest egg from being raided by crooks is every bit as
important as ensuring your investments continue to pay off."
According to the FBI, seniors may be
They are less
likely to be technically savvy about online predators.
They tend to be
more polite and trusting, and may be less likely to recognize a
They may be
unaware who to report a crime to if they've been defrauded.
They often have large nest eggs to
Fortunately, you can take steps to protect your nest egg.
Avoiding phone scams
First, always know who you're giving your money to. Never invest
with someone who "cold calls" you on the phone claiming to have a
great investment opportunity. Be especially wary of "companies" that
have no physical address and operate out of a P.O. box or website.
And remember, be suspicious if an investment promises amazing
returns. If something sounds too good to be true, it often isn't
true at all.
Never give your bank account, Social Security Number or credit
card number to someone who calls claiming to be a bill collector.
The law requires bill collectors to provide you with documentation
of a debt. Request documentation and thoroughly check out any claims
that you owe money.
If you have any doubts about a phone call you've received, talk
to friends or family members who know something about investing.
Never trust a stranger you've just met on the phone more than the
people in your life whom you know care about you.
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Guarding against identity theft
In addition to being aware of investment scams, you also need to
take steps to prevent identity theft.
"Seniors tend to use credit less, have more available credit and
are less likely to check their credit report online," Chaplin says.
"All those factors make them an appealing target for identity
The Federal Trade Commission recommends that everyone monitor
their credit report regularly to detect signs of identity theft
quickly. Services like ProtectyMyID monitor your credit report on a
daily basis to help you detect, protect against and resolve
instances of identity theft.
In addition to monitoring your credit, you can help protect your
identity with these measures:
Social Security and Medicare cards. Never carry your Social
Security card with you. Store it in a safe, locked location. Be
wary of who you give the number to. If a merchant or health care
provider wants it, ask why they need it and if they will accept
an alternate form of identification.
out-going mail in your mailbox. If you can't get to the post
office to mail it, leave a note asking your postal carrier if he
or she would be able to come to your door to pick-up your
If you use paper
checks, never have new checks delivered by mail to your home.
Instead, have them sent to your bank, where you can pick them
up. And never have your checks imprinted with your home phone
number, Social Security number, driver's license number or birth
Arrange to have all income checks --
Social Security, interest dividends, pension payments, 401k
withdrawals, etc. -- deposited directly into your bank account.
Never have a check mailed to your home, where it could be stolen
from your mailbox.
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