How to Protect Your Parents & In-Laws from ID Theft They’re sweet, trusting, but most of all, they’re vulnerable. Don’t let ID theft compromise them or anything that may be passed down to you or your spouse. BY JOHN SILEO
Often the most seemingly innocent situations turn out to be the most dangerous ones.
You or your spouse’s parents are more vulnerable to identity theft because they are more trusting and less aware of the increasing variety of scams. Although they may have no interests in the complexities of smartphones, computers, the internet and online banking, the many whom give it a try leave themselves defenseless against thieves.
The elderly—particularly those who need your assistance in living—can be easily targeted online or through the mail in old-fashioned schemes to steal their identity and ultimately their money. They are more likely to tell a stranger stories of their past that include simple password reminders (birth date, city, childhood pet, etc). They are less likely to suspect that an interested individual is a con artist and not just a new friend. They can also be conned through the phone or in person by thieves impersonating a representative from a charity or a well-known company.
Although it is impossible to be fully protected from identity theft, here are a few ways you and your spouse can keep them protected.
Encourage them to continue to bank in person rather than online and have the bank inform you of any purchase over a certain dollar amount. Also, install security software on any computer they use and keep it up to date. If they do click on a link including a virus, their computer and information will be more protected.
Freeze Their Credit
A credit freeze is the fastest and easiest way to protect anyone from identity theft. A credit freeze is simply an agreement you make with the three main credit reporting bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion). They won’t allow new accounts (credit card, banking, brokerage, loans, rental agreements, etc.) to be attached to your name/social security number unless you contact the credit bureau, give them a password and allow them to unfreeze or thaw your account for a short period of time. Yes, freezing their credit takes a bit of time (maybe an hour of work), can be a little inconvenient if they want to set up a new account and it can cost a few dollars (generally about $10 to unfreeze, which is a small price compared to the recovery costs of identity theft), but it is worth it!
Credit Check and Monitoring Service
If you are not going to do a credit freeze, then frequently check their credit report with them to make sure they understand if any new accounts have been opened. You can even use an Identity Theft Monitoring Service for as little as $10 a month to help you keep an eye out for suspicious activity.
Have them opt out of junk mail that comes from financial institutions. They can do this by going to www.OptOutPreScreen.com or by calling, 888-567-8688. This should significantly reduce any pre-approved credit cards or junk mail that may get thrown in the trash and swooped by a dumpster diver.
Buy Them a Shredder
By shredding anything that has their name, address, birthday, social security number or account numbers they will be less likely to have their identity stolen through the trash. Teach them what to shred and make it convenient. If it’s not as close as the trash can, they won’t use it.
Keep Them Informed
By staying current on the newest scams and social engineering techniques you and your spouse can not only protect yourself, but you can protect others. Whenever you hear of a new scam, tell them about it. You can stay current and informed by using Google Alerts or subscribing to my newsletter.
John Sileo is the award-winning author of "Stolen Lives, Privacy Means Profit" (Wiley, August 2010) and the "Facebook Safety Survival Guide," a professional financial speaker and America’s leading identity theft expert. His clients include the Department of Defense, FTC, FDIC and Pfizer; his recent media appearances include 60 Minutes. Learn more about him at www.Sileo.com and www.ThinkLikeaSpy.com.