Identity theft, also known as identity fraud, against the elderly happens when an identity thief fraudulently gets the private information of an elderly or senior individual. Miscellaneous financial offenses are then perpetrated using the elderly individual’s social security number or credit details.
Such offenses can include making illicit purchases, getting unauthorized loans, or stealing the individual’s assets and property. Often, the thief can be a relative or a business that the elderly individual has placed their faith and trust in.
The elderly are typical prey for identity theft for several reasons. First, many have built up large amounts of funds and assets throughout their lives. Also, many elderly individuals have diseases such as dementia which render them unfit to make proper financial conclusions. Finally, many elderly citizens are unfamiliar with the complexities of modern credit accounts. Many grew up in a distinguishable cultural environment that observed word-of-mouth transactions.
Identity theft is only one instance of fraud against the elderly. Other related financial crimes against the elderly include predatory lending and phishing scams.
What Are Some Common Ways in Which Identity Fraud is Committed?
Personal identifying records may be stolen. When someone has your driver’s license or passport, they can attempt to carry out various actions in your name, such as opening a bank account, taking out a mortgage or other loan, or claiming benefits. These documents may be stolen, or they may be falsified.
The thief can use the stolen information to apply for new documentation such as a driver’s license or fill out an immigration document.
There is no limitation to the kinds of activities within identity fraud. It includes almost anything that can be done with a person’s personally-identifying information. Someone perpetrating identity fraud could use stolen info to pay medical statements, create accounts and records in a fraudulent name, file insurance claims, or open a savings account.
Is Stealing Someone’s Credit Card Number Considered Identity Fraud?
Stealing someone’s credit card number is deemed a consumer fraud rather than identity fraud. Credit card numbers may be captured over the internet when someone makes a purchase. Sometimes, instruments are placed in card readers so that when someone makes a purchase, a scan of their card number is taken so that a crook can use it. The stealer then uses the card number to make purchases.
Can I Commit Identity Fraud If I Did Not Use the Information for Personal Gain?
Identity fraud can be perpetrated without any personal gain accruing to the individual who executes it. All required is that the person who perpetrates the offense acquire, possess, or use someone else’s stolen identifying info to perpetrate the crime. Whether they obtain any gain due to the crime, it has still been perpetrated.
What Are the Penalties I Face If I am Convicted of Identity Fraud?
States differ in their criminal penalties for identity fraud. There are different identity fraud regulations at the federal level, which have a particular set of penalties. In general, though, if you are convicted of identity fraud, you could face:
- Jail Time: A misdemeanor sentence carries a softer penalty than a felony conviction, resulting in many years in prison. Whether the crime perpetrated is a misdemeanor or a felony depends on its severity and on the jurisdiction in which it was committed.
- Probation: When someone is on probation, they must obey a court’s order to appear/check-in at specific times and other conditions the court sees fit to place on them. Probation is occasionally given instead of jail time and is sometimes given after serving a sentence.
- Restitution: The defendant may have to pay back what they took from the victim of their crime.
- Fines: Courts may impose penalties on the individual who perpetrated identity fraud. This may be in place of or in addition to incarceration.
Depending on the case, the defendant may have their initial sentence increased through specific identity theft penalty enhancements.
How Is Elderly Identity Theft Accomplished?
There are two major avenues by which identity thieves can get an elderly individual’s information. The first is indirectly by hacking into personal accounts such as credit lines, bank accounts, medical records, or care home records. Often, the thief will get a password or other details that will give them access to such records. Since many retired individuals do not use internet technologies, physical mail is often used.
The second avenue is a direct meeting with the elderly individual, generally via theft by deception. The thief may visit the individual at their retirement home and have them sign a loan document such as a mortgage statement. They can then use the details provided for miscellaneous other criminal purposes. This is common in cases where the elderly individual’s mental judgment is no longer sound.
Thus, you can help safeguard your loved ones by being involved if they are approached and asked for their personal details or bank account statements.
What Is Predatory Lending?
Predatory lending is a phrase that covers a variety of techniques on the part of lenders who victimize borrowers to get funds to which they would not have access through genuine means.
Predatory lenders will typically grant loans to any potential borrower, even if that borrower cannot repay them. Or, they might loan money to eligible borrowers and then engage in efforts to get more cash out of buyers than they are authorized to.
Most predatory lending practices happen in connection with mortgage loans.
How Can Identity Theft Against the Elderly Be Prevented?
Maybe the soundest way to stop elderly identity theft is to employ an accountant to manage your loved one’s assets. Or, you can have a younger relative volunteer their services to assist with finances and management. In any case, be sure that the financial advisor is someone you can trust.
Other steps you can take to stop elderly identity theft include:
- Do not give out ID numbers or financial details over the phone or mail
- Shred or destroy all correspondence and records that include details that could lead to identity theft
- Be mindful of the due dates for bills and statements. If a bill is late in the mail or never arrives, it could be a sign that the mail has been stolen
- Occasionally order and inspect credit reports for any significant signs of tampering
- Do not place your Social Security Number or SSN card in your wallet
- Store unused checks in a secure place, and cancel/report any lost or void banking checks
What If a Loved One or I Have Been a Victim of Elderly Identity Theft?
You should report your case immediately to the police and the related credit agencies. Be sure to keep any necessary documents that might be used in an upcoming investigation.
You may desire to write a report of the events leading to identity theft. For instance, if you recently welcomed a visit from a questionable individual, write down a report of the incident, including dates, times, and a description of the questionable visitor. Also, include a statement of your losses.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Identity Theft Against the Elderly?
Identity theft is a serious crime punishable by steep fines and possible jail or prison time. If you suspect that you or a loved one have stolen your identity, you should contact the police immediately. Also, you should get an identity theft lawyer for guidance and representation. An attorney can help you sort out your claim to obtain the appropriate relief according to the laws of your state.