Criminals never seem to sleep or take time off, especially those who target our senior citizens.
This year, the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office Investigation Division has seen a rise in the number cases involving fraud or financial deception against senior adults. In fact, there has been a nationwide increase in these types of crimes against the senior adult community. Protecting senior citizen’s finances and helping them to avoid becoming a victim of a financial crime is important to me because of the devastation that I have seen it cause. Often, the effects last for many years.
To better protect yourself from being the next victim, I have some tips or guidelines for you to follow:
— Never give out any personal information over the telephone unless you initiate the call.
Identity thieves may call posing as officials from government agencies, banks, or even credit card companies. Thieves will have all kinds of reasons to ask you for personal information, such as account numbers, PIN numbers or even your Social Security number. If you should receive such a call, hang up and call the institution yourself.
— Identity thieves also use the Internet to steal a person’s identity.
The thieves will try to reach you through an email, hoping you will open it and respond to it. Again, make sure not to give out personal information, especially account numbers. My best advice is not to open the email unless it is coming from someone you know or you are familiar with, and even then only if you were expecting it (many scammers will send emails designed to look familiar).
Another means of protection is to keep the anti-virus software on your personal computer current. If and when you dispose of an old computer, remember to use a “wipe” software program to overwrite the entire hard drive. This eliminates any personal information that a potential thief would otherwise be able to retrieve and use against you.
— Another avenue that thieves use to steal your identity is obtaining or accessing information from your debit or credit cards.
Thieves will stand around in shopping areas or close by at ATM machines looking for an opportunity to get your PIN number or, better yet, cause a distraction and steal your debit or credit cards. Remember to carry only essential documents or a limited number of credit cards with you when out and about. Be aware of your surroundings and be wary of anyone close by. Do not carry your Social Security card or birth certificate outside of your home.
One additional circumstance that I have seen many senior adults fall victim to is when their child, or other person trusted to oversee their money, steals from them.
It is so sad to see such a despicable thing happening to a senior citizen. If you have an elderly parent and you are not their caretaker, try to stay in touch with the person who oversees their finances. Ask your parent(s) tough questions about their finances. Monitor their credit report every month.
If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office at 431-3259.
Sheriff Kevin Sproul is a longtime resident of Dougherty County. He is a graduate of Albany High School, Darton College and LaGrange College of Albany. Sproul has been employed with the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office since 1982 and can be reached at (229) 430-6508.