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Protecting yourself from identity theft is not just about protecting your credit – it’s also vital for keeping your retirement benefits on track. If any of your personal information, such as your name, Social Security Number, Medicare account or credit card numbers ends up in the wrong hands, you could be at risk for identity theft. Criminals may use this information to collect your Social Security checks and derail your other retirement plans and savings.
It is critical that people of all ages protect their Social Security Numbers and be wary about falling victim to in-person, online or phone scams. If a thief gets access to this number, they can begin filing fraudulent tax returns, open loans or credit card accounts, obtain government benefits and receive medical care – all on your dime, according to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance contributor on Tulsa World.
How can you protect your retirement future?
Medicare.gov advises that the first step for protecting yourself is to keep your personal information safe. Only share your personal data with certified insurers, health care providers, physicians, Medicare officials and trusted people who assist you with your Medicare plan or Social Security. While this list is long, trust your instincts and ask any of these people why the information is needed before handing it over.
Additionally, the Kiplinger’s Personal Finance contributor noted that you should never carry your Social Security card in your wallet or purse where it can be accidently lost by leaving it at a store or restaurant. Criminals could then easily steal your information and begin wreaking havoc on your retirement account. Furthermore, don’t leave any paperwork or identification cards that would contain any sensitive information in your car or laying in plain sight around your home. Your home may be your castle but keep your documents in a secured place for added privacy.
Many criminals who want to steal your identity will email or call you, claiming to be representatives from your doctor’s office or the IRS in an effort to collect your personal information or demand a payment. For future reference, the IRS never starts contact about a bill over the phone or by email, nor do many other agencies. Essentially, if you are unsure about the legitimacy of the person’s claims, you will want to refrain from handing out your information.
If you believe a thief already has access to your Social Security Number, in an effort to keep them from filing a fraudulent tax return and collecting your refund, you will want to submit your return as early as possible.
Common identity theft scams for Medicare recipients
Unfortunately, identity theft happens every day, especially for vulnerable populations such as children or the elderly. If you or someone you know is a Medicare recipient, there are a few common scams you may encounter, as highlighted by the Department of Health & Human Services. Here are a few examples where you need to be wary if a health care provider, physician or supplier:
- Asks for your Medicare number for free services or “record keeping purposes.”
- Advertises “free” consultations to those with Medicare.
- Calls or visits you, saying they represent the federal government.
- Pressures you to buy expensive services or diagnostic tests.
Start protecting your retirement early
Protecting yourself and your retirement from identity theft begins with being proactive about the safety of your personal information. Knowing which signs to look for can greatly reduce the likelihood you’ll be a victim of a scam, but all it takes is one scam to compromise your identity. For all of the threats you can’t see, view the plan that is right for you at Identity Guard. With credit and bank monitoring, a proprietary risk assessment, internet and black market monitoring, and more, Identity Guard can help you protect what’s yours.