Identity theft is a serious crime that affects people of all ages, including seniors. In fact, statistics from the Justice Department show that identity theft among seniors is on the rise, from 2.1 million incidents in 2012 to 2.6 million in 2014.
Identity theft occurs when a thief uses your name, Social Security number, financial information, and even your medical insurance information to commit fraud. The thief will use your personal information to fraudulently apply for credit, open new financial accounts, or receive medical services.
According to the federal government, seniors are vulnerable to identity theft because they more frequently interact with individuals, such as medical providers or caregivers and staff at long-term care facilities, who have access to this personal information.
Dedicated to Your Safety: At MBK Senior Living, the safety of our residents is a top priority. We also believe that prevention, education, and awareness are the best protection against identity theft and other crimes. That’s why we work hard to safeguard our residents. For example, we ask them to put their valuables in a locked box or safe upon move-in. Potential new employees must pass an integrity test and background check to ensure all staff is trustworthy and reliable.
If we learn of a phone scam targeting seniors, we’ll notify residents, and explain how the scam works and how to protect themselves. In addition, we abide by all HIPAA regulations, which limits the amount of people who have access to personal information. And we’re proud to welcome local law enforcement officers who visit our communities and share ways to stay safe.
Stay Safe at Home, Online, and On the Go: In addition to our community efforts, residents can take simple steps to protect their identities. For example, local police recently shared tips and information about identity theft with MBK’s Mountlake Terrace Plaza community:
- Beware of phone, text, or email scams. For example, a thief may call pretending to be a relative in financial trouble and ask you to send money to them. In an email, you may be directed to a fake site that looks real and that has been created to steal your personal information. To avoid these scams, the Better Business Bureau recommends that you delete text and email messages that ask you to confirm or provide personal information. Also, never reply and don’t click on links or call phone numbers provided in the message.
- Watch out for mail scams, too. Similar to a phone call, you may receive a letter saying you’ve won a lot of money (or a car or a trip). Remember, if it sounds too good to be true…it is!
- Be alert to your surroundings. Take a buddy to go walking, remember to sign out of the community, and alert the reception desk if you see someone who you feel does not belong.
The Elder Protection Center also provides tips that are important for us all to keep in mind:
- Destroy all forms of personal information. This includes shredding all paper documents with any personal or financial information. And if you’re disposing of a computer system, hard drive, or other digital device containing personal information, be sure all data is completely destroyed and irretrievable.
- Diligently check bank and credit card statements. If a statement fails to arrive on time, that may mean it was stolen. Also review your statements to ensure all charges, purchases, and other items are legitimate.
- Protect your Social Security number. Never use it as any part of a username or password, and never give it to a stranger on the phone.
- Be safe online. Don’t do business online with unfamiliar companies, and make sure any purchases are made on a secure or encrypted website.
The secret to keeping your identity safe is to stay alert and be proactive—wherever you live. If you’re considering a change of address, visit one of our 22 communities for a personal tour.