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15 Ways To Prevent Identity Theft

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

February 15, 2023 — In 2021 the Federal Trade Commission received 1.5 million reports of identity theft. And guess who is usually the #1 target for scammers – right, retired people. A combination of carelessness, trust, declining faculties, and increasing deviousness from criminals is raising this crime to new levels. Becoming a victim goes beyond embarrassment, it can be painful and the loss of all your hard earned money. Scammers can use your data to start new credit cards, drain your accounts, and take out loans in your name. So take these steps to minimize the risk that you fall prey to an increasing number of scam artists. Some of these tips you might have heard about, some others might be new.

Don’t lose your identity

Use a locked mailbox of PO Box. Criminals can cash your checks, or use personal data to impersonate you.

Buy a shredder. Documents with account numbers and personal information need to be shredded rather than go in the trash or recycling.

Never share personal data to someone who calls you. No matter how convincing they are, don’t give out your SS, birthday, credit card number, etc. Be careful about the numbers you call too – scam artists reserve phone numbers that are mis-dials of legitimate companies. When you accidentally dial a wrong number, they are only too eager to help you out of your money.

Memorize your passwords or use a password manager. Writing down your passwords is a gold mine for anyone who finds them. And for heaven’s sake, don’t use the same ones over and over.

If the IRS, Social Security, or Medicare calls – hang up. They will always contact you by mail.

Beware popup charities. Criminals love a new earthquake or natural disaster as a way to fleece good-hearted citizens. Go to and check them out before you give.

If a friend asks for money online, delete. If you think they are sincere, call them up.

Don’t reply to, use links, or call phone numbers from emails. Look up the company online if you think they might be legitimate. The same goes for attachments; never open one up unless you are completely sure you trust where it is coming from.

Don’t allow websites to remember your credit card number. Far too many organizations get hacked everyday, so don’t take a chance.

In a restaurant, take your credit card to the front desk or use it at the table. Crooked employees might enjoy selling your credit card number and CVV code for a few dollars.

This booklet from Positive Promotions is helpful

Check your account activity regularly for unfamiliar charges. Report immediately if you see something strange, or are notified that doesn’t look right. Sign up for activity alerts by text.

Never send a gift card to anyone who asks for one. Chances are, they are up to no good. And why would anyone legitimate prefer a gift card over a check or cash?

Don’t fall in love with a stranger online. That person who is so fascinating online, but who you have never seen in person, and who asks for money, is dangerous and probably not real. It happens more than you would think, the practice is called catfishing.

Minimize the risk when you travel. Use a money belt or theft resistant clothes. Carry as little cash and few cards and identification you can – and forget your checkbook. Beware bogus food flyers delivered to your hotel room or on the street.

Beware skimmers and shoulder surfers. Be wary of ATMs not at a bank, or anyone who crowds in as you enter your PIN. Criminals can install skimmers on ATMs that steal your data.

Bottom Line – Be Cautious – and Report Suspected Fraud immediately!

Be cautious and try to avoid problems. If you think it has happened, call the business where you think fraud has occured. Alert your bank or credit card company. File a complaint with the FTC – – 1 877 438-4338

Call one of the credit score companies to request a credit freeze. – 1 888 766 -0008 – 1 888 397-3742 – 1 800 680-7289

Comments? Have you ever had your identity stolen? Or, do you have other tips that we should be following so we don’t lose our identity or get scammed? Please share your experiences in the Comments section below.

Posted by Admin on February 15th, 2023


  1. Why call only one credit score company? They each have their own freeze.process,

    by Lanell — February 16, 2023

  2. Using 2 factor authentication on your accounts adds another layer of protection. Even if your login information is compromised without the second form of identification your account is safe.

    by Mike — March 6, 2023

  3. Can’t believe they left these out, especially the first one:

    1. Most important of all, NEVER, EVER, EVER answer phone calls from unknown numbers or places you don’t expect to call you. If you use a landline, let it go to voice mail or an answering machine.

    Scammers are masters of catching people off guard, spinning tales and sucking people in. That’s their job and they do it well. They’re often personable, charming, patient and chatty, particularly when they sense someone is lonely. They’re pros at the quick con as well as the drip-drip-drip slow bleed of their targets.

    Don’t give them the opportunity.

    If a message on your voicemail sounds legitimate and is someone you need to talk to, double-check the phone number to be sure it’s the correct one for that entity.

    2. A password manager protection rarely touted but so very helpful: Unlike humans, password managers won’t unintentionally misread incorrectly typed website addresses, but humans do.

    When misspelling a website a spoof site may pop up. It looks like the company you want to reach so you duly type in your name and password. A plausible error like “systems down, please try again in an hour” page appears. You go about your business and try again later. During that hour, the spoof site has accessed your information on the real site, and started ripping you off.

    Password managers don’t/can’t misread URLs, and therefore won’t/can’t fill in log-ins and PWs on spoofed sites. PWs not recognizing a site is a big tip-off that something is wrong.

    3. When you get past 70 – earlier if you find yourself becoming forgetful or a little fuzzy on details – ask someone you trust completely (a child or sibling?) to periodically check your banking and investment accounts to make sure everything looks right.

    Older people (which most on this site are, myself included) are low hanging fruit to scammers and thieves because we A) have assets and B) can be more easily taken in by stories we would have laughed off as ridiculous in younger years.

    If stripped of all or most of our assets, few have the time or opportunity to replenish them.
    Stay skeptical and vigilant, my friends.

    by JCarol — March 7, 2023

  4. Great tips JCarol! Here’s one more. Set up alerts on your checking accounts and credit cards. You can set them to be notified about transactions over certain amounts.

    by John Brady — March 7, 2023

  5. Ask your bank of the debit portion of your ATM/debit card can be disabled. After a skimmer got my information when making an ATM withdrawal my bank set the limit for debit use at $0, the card is only usable for ATM transactions. I never used it as a debit card anyway since debit cards have less protection then credit cards do when used fraudulently.

    Big fan of account alerts, if any transaction happens on my bank account or credit card I am notified. I knew immediately that my debit card had unauthorized usage due to the alerts.

    by Mikme — March 7, 2023

  6. Thank you for those tips, Mikme. I also never use my ATM/debit card for anything but ID at the bank and an occasional cash withdrawal at a bank ATM.

    Next time I go to the bank I’ll request the debit limit to be set to $0. Had no idea that could be done.

    by JCarol — March 8, 2023

  7. Adding another deceptive layer and urgency to the “grandparent phone scam” impersonating a loved one in trouble begging for money, scammers now use AI voice cloning with as little as 3 seconds of audio from the loved one’s social media accounts (one used a YouTube video the child had posted online) to replicate the child’s voice so closely recipients are thrown into panic not questioning the authenticity. And of course they spoof the phone number making it all appear legit.

    by Daryl — March 8, 2023

  8. And I’m changing my ways after using just a passcode on my iPhone instead of FaceID or TouchID after reading about scammers watching (recording) people entering passcodes then stealing the phone locking the user out of their Apple account before they have a chance to track the phone or do damage control.

    by Daryl — March 8, 2023

  9. My credit union allows us to set our own limits on credit/debit cards. I have mine set so I get a text each time there is a transaction over whatever amt. I admit I use my debit card for most things & this is a great feature. I can change the amt anytime I wish & if I didn’t make the purchase a simple call to my credit union & it is taken care of & my debit card is cancelled. Yes I have to get a new card but small inconvenience for not losing my money.

    by VTRetiree — March 9, 2023

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