Identity theft is most common to occur to children and the elderly. Both derive from the same reason, unused accounts, and easy access. If you have parents you are trying to protect as they become more hands-off with their financials and accounts, it is time to think about their risk of identity and financial theft.
Identity theft can happen to anyone; keep your parents protected by being proactive and being the watchful eye they need as they get older.
Yes, and Here is How
You can protect your parent’s identity and financials as you would with a child. In the case of a parent, you want to keep a watchful eye for fraud attempts like people writing checks or using their credit cards, identity theft such as someone stealing your parent’s name to open a loan, or embezzlement, where someone trusted with money uses it for their own gain. You can help monitor their accounts and find anything suspicious, look for sketchy withdrawals, or watch for phishing emails. As their child, you can also gain access to their credit card reports from Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax once a year to check for unwarranted changes as well.
If you spot fraud, you can act on behalf of your senior parent and help report, freeze accounts, and get their identity back as you would yourself if you were in this situation.
Take an Extra Step and Become Their Power of Attorney
If your parent is in the place to hand off financial responsibility to you, ask to be assigned as their power of attorney. As a power of attorney, you can do things such as manage their investments, handle all their bank accounts, keep an eye on insurance policies, and oversee pensions, medicare, and government benefits.
Becoming a power of attorney can give you quick access to paperwork if identity theft is committed. It can also make reporting identity theft easier if necessary.
Report It as You Would if It Was You
The reporting process does not change whether you are reporting identity theft for yourself or your parent. If you spot suspicious activity on their bank accounts, get calls from debt collectors on debt they don’t owe, or get billed for loans they didn’t request, it is time to collect all the evidence you can and file an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission.
You will need to gather proof of your parent’s name, address, and other identifying factors, and from there, you can move to report the crime to the police. You will also need to prove that you are their child, meaning you must send in a driver’s license, social security card, or birth certificate along with their information. To report identity theft on their behalf, you must be their power of attorney, or you must have a court order. In either case, one of those must be sent in with the FTC and police report.
Educate Them No Matter What
No matter the level of hands-off that your parents want to be, education is priceless. They will still be using their phone, computer, and other devices, and in this day and age, those contribute to the millions of identity theft reports that the FTC sees each year.
Start by showing them how to save common phone numbers into their phone and avoid answering the phone from someone they do not know. Thankfully, phones will show if it is a “scam” call at the top, but teach them not to answer it either way. This can be your chance to teach them about online scams and how things can be “too good to be true.” You ultimately want to teach them not to be too trusting while using the internet. This way, while you monitor their bank accounts and credit reports, they continue to be safe on their end.
Consider an Account Freeze
If your parents do not use certain accounts or it is very rare, putting a freeze or a fraud alert on certain accounts could be beneficial. This will ensure that if any activity is reported on the account, the account holder is called before it is accepted. It will stop theft in its tracks and give you an immediate answer to whether someone has your parent’s information or not. Freezes and alerts can both be established and stopped at any point and don’t affect your parent’s accounts or credit.
Thankfully, you can keep your parents safe by acting on their behalf during times of identity theft and fraud. If you have questions or if identity theft has occurred and nothing has been done, contact the team at Stecklein & Rapp.