There are plenty of opportunists (read: criminals) looking for ways to obtain the sensitive, personal information of seniors. From digging through trash, to stealing from mailboxes, identity theft is alive and well in 2015. Many criminals specifically seek out the information of California seniors, who may be more vulnerable to having their identity stolen.
While there is no foolproof way to guarantee that your private information (date of birth, bank account numbers, social security number, etc.) won’t fall into the hands of someone with bad intentions, there are things you can do to reduce the likelihood that you or an elder you love will fall prey to identity theft.
- Shred Everything
All homes should have a paper shredder. Any documents with identifying information should be shredded after they are no longer needed. This includes bank statements, loan statements, mortgage statements, credit card bills, health/medical records, and any other documents which provide personal identifiers.
- Consider Renting A Post Office Box Unsecured mail is targeted by identity thieves frequently. Mailboxes which are unattended and unlocked can provide a treasure trove of identifying information for thieves. Similarly, outgoing mail should never sit in an unsecured mailbox. If you or a loved elder has an unsecured mailbox, it is worth considering renting a Post Office box, and sending all mail out from the post office.
- Request To Pick Up New Checks At The Bank New sets of checks are easily identifiable, and thieves would love to get their hands on them. If you do not have a secured mailed box or post office box, check with your bank about picking up your checks directly from the bank, rather than leaving them to chance in your mailbox.
In California, financial elder abuse is defined in Welfare and Institutions Code §15610.30. The code states: “Financial abuse of an elder or dependent adult occurs when a person or entity… takes, secrets, appropriates, obtains, or retains [or assists in doing any of these] real or personal property of an elder or dependent adult for a wrongful purpose or with intent to defraud or both.”
Far too many elders in California become the victims of financial abuse each year. In order to prevent your loved elder from facing a headache of credit and legal problems, do your best to ensure that all of their identifying paperwork is secure in the mail, and that all documents with sensitive information are promptly shredded.
If you suspect, or confirm, that your loved elder is the victim of financial abuse in California there are certain steps you can take. You may report any suspicion of abuse to the National Elder Abuse Hotline at 1-800-677-1116. In California, reports can also be made to the local county Adult Protective Services Agency or to local law enforcement.
Christopher C. Walton is an award winning San Diego, California based attorney whose practice is dedicated to issues involving elder abuse including nursing home abuse, financial abuse and neglect. If you believe somebody you know has been the victim of elder abuse please call (866) 338-7079 for a free and confidential consultation.