It’s an unfortunate fact of life now that, even though they’ve retired from working full-time and should be allowed to live out their golden years in relaxation, seniors are some of the most at-risk for identity theft. There are a number of reasons why our elders find themselves more vulnerable to identity thieves and hackers than most other demographics, and many of them revolve around the generation gap. For one, while many seniors may not be completely computer illiterate, they may also not be up-to-date on the latest phishing scams or malware protections they should have installed — many might not even know what phishing or malware is! This creates a gap in awareness that identity thieves are all too eager to exploit.
But, as the Huffington Post notes, another consequence of this generation gap is that many seniors were raised “in a time when people were more open and trusting of another.” So when they receive emails or phone calls that might appear obviously fraudulent to millennials, they may be less cynical of the sender and, as a result, unsuspectingly click on a fake message or hand over their credit card information to a phony caller.
“It may also be a matter of how the brain changes as people age,” the source writes. “A study conducted by a UCLA psychologist in 2012 discovered older adults might have less activity in the areas of their brains which helps process risk and subtle danger. Seniors tend to be more positive about life and trusting of others, which can be a nice trait but also leaves them vulnerable to exploitation of that trust.”
In other instances, it may be a case of a senior citizen simply being too proud or private for their own good. They may resent being as seen as helpless or needing assistance from family members or caretakers to get by. As a result, they may be reluctant to openly talk about other things in their lives that are bothering them, things that could potentially be red flags for ID theft .
Whatever the reason, though, the fact remains that seniors are particularly vulnerable to identity theft and fraud. To help combat this, legislators have twice now introduced a bill in Congress that could lend some much needed support for senior identity protection.
Introduced in 2013 and then again this year, the Seniors Fraud Prevention Act seeks to create a specific office within the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection that would be designated with addressing senior citizen identity theft. This new branch of the CPB would monitor “mail, television, Internet and telemarketing fraud that specifically targets seniors and [inform] both seniors and their caregivers of any possible threats.” In addition, the advisory office would establish a website with easily accessible resources and tips on spotting some of the telltale signs of senior-targeted ID fraud. Unfortunately, the bill continues to languish in Congress and thus far seems unlikely to be passed into law anytime soon.
Instead of relying on the government to eventually get its act together and take the necessary measures for protecting our elderly, you can take steps of your own by signing up your older loved ones with a credit monitoring services. This handy resource can issue alerts should certain activity that may be evidence of identity theft appear on their credit files.