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By Sheila Burba, Medicare Assistance Program Counselor, Life Senior Services

A common scam targeting seniors is identity theft. Identity theft occurs when without your consent, someone uses your personal information (Social Security, credit card, or driver’s license number) to access your accounts, open up new accounts, or apply for loans or mortgages.

Medical identity theft is also on the rise and entails someone using your personal and health insurance information to get medical treatment, prescription drugs, or surgery.

Three common methods used to steal identity are:

  1. “Shoulder surfing” – Someone looks over your shoulder as you fill out forms or use your PIN at an ATM, or listens to you give your credit card number over the phone.
  2. “Dumpster diving” – Someone goes through the garbage for copies of your checks, credit cards, bank statements, or pre-approved credit card mailing in order to activate the cards.
  3. “Phishing scams” – Emails that appear to be from a legitimate company or institution (like the IRS or FBI, asking you to “update” or “verify” your personal information.

Here are a few tips to safeguard against identity theft:

  • Invest in and use a paper shredder.
  • Monitor your bank and credit card statements.
  • Do not fall for phishing scams. When in doubt, call the institution the email claims to come from or research the potential scam online.
  • Be careful with your mail. Don’t let incoming mail sit in your mailbox for a long time. When sending sensitive mail, consider dropping it off at a secure collection box or at the post office.
  • Beware of telephone scams. Never give out personal information over the phone to someone who initiates the contact with you.

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