Feature Article
Mark Pribish
Preventing Senior ID Theft and Financial Fraud
By Mark Pribish
Vice President and ID Theft Practice Leader

The senior population in the United States is a growing segment in our society which is living longer and as a result is at risk of Senior ID Theft and Financial Fraud.

According to the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) February 2010 Consumer Sentinel Fraud and ID Theft Report (please see FTC link http://www.ftc.gov/sentinel/reports/sentinel-annual-reports/sentinel-cy2009.pdf), national ID Theft and Fraud complaints by consumers for ages 50 years and older were listed in the following order:

Consumer ID Theft Victims for 50 years of age and older:

  • 50-59 years old - 15 Percent
  • 60-69 years old - 8 Percent
  • 70 years and older - 5 Percent

Consumer Fraud Victims for 50 years of age and older:

  • 50-59 years old - 25 Percent
  • 60-69 years old - 5 Percent
  • 70 years and older - 5 Percent

In addition, most consumers think identity theft is related to email solicitations, checks/credit cards and computer hacking - but very few people relate a family death (e.g. a senior or a young child) to ID Theft.

In fact, the death of individuals has become a targeted prospect list for many ID Theft thieves where ID theft and fraud involving a deceased relative is an emerging trend by criminals who have known for years that assuming the identity of a deceased person can be a profitable venture.

Examples of ID Theft and Fraud through a deceased relative can be identified through a collection notice, a credit card bill, a notification from law enforcement, or a credit report (whether the deceased was a senior or a child under age 19 as the above referenced FTC report also found that seven percent of children age 19 and under became ID Theft victims in 2009).

So what can be done? First, the Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains a Death Master File, and all three major credit bureaus and most financial institutions subscribe to monthly updates. However, it can take up to 60 days for a name to make it onto the list.

Ideally, relatives and funeral directors notify the states of deaths and the states then communicate said death to the SSA. When the SSA receives a death notice, they will then flag the person's social security number as "inactive."

There is a great list of detailed preventive measures you can take from the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) found here: http://www.idtheftcenter.org/artman2/publish/c_guide/Solution_16.shtml.

In addition, the ITRC recommends that you avoid disclosing the person's date of birth or mother's maiden name in obituaries and funeral notices, which are often scanned by identity thieves.

To learn more about these threats and how to protect yourself and your family from Identity Theft, you can read my past newsletters at the Merchants Identity Theft Educational Website at www.idtheftedu.com.


Scam Central

Wireless Network Security Alert

Wireless computing has become the standard to which many households have become accustomed. No wires, portability/mobility, and being able to seamlessly connect multiple devices to your network, including gaming systems and cell phones, have clearly proven that wireless networks are a function that many of us cannot live without. The problem is many of you don't fully understand how to secure your home wireless networks and thus leave yourself open to identity theft.

How It Works:

With factory default settings, your wireless router may not be providing a secure transmission of data throughout your home and surrounding area. A clever hacker can easily cruise the neighborhood with a laptop and pick out which homes have secure and non-secure networks. Once they locate an unsecure network, they connect in hopes of attaining as much data as they can. Hackers look to decipher usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, PIN numbers, and any other personal identifiable information available. Once the hacker has the information, they either use it themselves, or sell it to the highest bidder - or both.

Your Defense:

There are a number of things that can be done to secure your home wireless network.

  1. First and foremost, change the default password to access your wireless router and change the router name. By default, most router passwords are "admin", or "password", and the names are usually the manufacturer name of the router. By changing the password, you protect the router itself from a hacker who can easily identify the brand of your router and thus disable your security settings. By changing the name of the router, the hacker is less likely to be able to determine what brand it is in the first place.
  2. Enable wireless encryption and be sure to use a long and complex password with a variety of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols.
  3. Restrict wireless access by MAC address. The Media Access Control (MAC) address is a unique 12-digit string of characters which identifies an individual network device. Every computer device accessing a network has a unique MAC Address. By restricting access to the wireless network by the MAC address, you ensure that only your home network devices (i.e. laptop, game console, printer etc.) will be able to access your home network. Finding the MAC address of a specific device might be a bit cumbersome, but well worth the security effort.
  4. Disable your router's SSID broadcast. This will make your router less visible when someone is searching for routers and networks (refer to your owner's manual for instructions). In fact, it will make it invisible.

You don't have to be a computer expert to be able to secure your home wireless network. If you do need help be sure to consult a legitimate website, such as the device manufacturer's website for details. Don't let your home wireless network put you at risk; a little effort goes a long way to protect your identity.

If you believe your identity has been stolen, call 866.SMART68 today.