Preventing Identity Theft


Michael Gill

Identity theft is one of the bigger threats to seniors living in Austin senior living communities. Because these seniors don’t get out too much, and don’t own their own home, this is one of their most vulnerable remaining points. Below we enumerate several warning signs of which seniors need to be cognizant in order to protect themselves from this clever and insidious threat.
I would like to thank my friend Amy Praskac of On the Record Advanced Planning for providing this handy check list. Check out her highly useful services and blog at, or call her at 512-371-3624.

Watch your paper trail:
• Empty your mailbox promptly if you do not have a locked mailbox
• Post mail only in post office collection boxes or at local post office
• Disable pre-approved credit card offers
• Pick up check orders at the bank rather than have mailed to your home
• Take your credit card receipts at supermarkets, gasoline pumps, ATMs, etc.
• Shred all personal information before putting in the trash

Monitor your financial information:
• Wherever possible, cancel paper bills and statements and monitor accounts online
• Verify charges promptly, preferably weekly
• Request your credit report on a regular basis. There are three methods to obtain your free annual report from one or all the national consumer reporting companies.

Visit Call toll-free 877-322-8228 FREE.
Print Annual Credit Report Request Form at and mail to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

Keep your electronic information secure:
• Use security software; e.g. anti-virus software, anti-spyware, and a firewall
• Avoid phishing emails. Do not open files, click on links, or download programs sent from people you do not know
• Be careful about using Wi-Fi to send sensitive information
• Avoid keeping financial information on your laptop or other portable devices, do not use an automatic login feature to save your user name and password, and always log off when you are finished
• Use unique passwords

• Keep records secure in your home, preferably in a locked cabinet
• Keep a secure a list of toll-free phone numbers and your credit card numbers to cancel quickly
• Limit the number of credit cards and financial accounts you own
• Ask for any legitimate-sounding telephone inquiries to mail you written information before providing information or sending money, and even then, check it out with friends and family first
• Carry your Social Security Card or written PINs with you
• Leave your PINs in the open next to your computer
• Give sensitive information over the phone
• Respond to e-mails that ask you to verify information your creditor already has
• Let someone pressure you into making a decision or acting quickly

Spotting Identity Theft
• Failing to receive bills or mail (a thief may have changed the address)
• Receiving credit cards for which you did not apply
• Denial of credit
• Calls from debt collectors regarding goods or services you did not buy
If Identity Theft Happens
• Call one of the consumer reporting companies to put a fraud alert on your credit reports
o Equifax: 800-525-6285 FREE
o Experian: 888-397-3742 FREE
o TransUnion: 800-680-7289 FREE
• Close financial accounts that you know have been compromised
• File a report with the police in the community where the identity theft took place
• File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at 877-438-4338 FREE or

Seniors are more vulnerable to identity theft because it is constantly evolving and computer based, an area of expertise seniors typically lack. They need support from the entire community.
If we can help support you or a loved one with a transition to an Austin retirement community, please contact us for a free consultation regarding all of your senior living options.

Related Links:
Federal Trade Commission
Identity Theft Resource Center
On The Record Advanced Planning
IRS Identity Theft Information
Austin Assisted Living

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