How to Protect Your Parent from Identity Theft
Identity thieves tend to target the most vulnerable people, which oftentimes means children and the elderly. If you’re helping take care of a parent, you need to explain the common scams and problems that can lead to identity theft. Here are a few simple tips to start:
Phone and Email Scams
There are tons of scams you and your parent should be on the lookout for. The easiest rule to follow is that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Warn your parent not to give out any personal information over the phone or via email unless they started the interaction. This includes their birthday, maiden name, social security number and credit card information.
One common phone scam includes fake calls from the IRS telling listeners there was a problem with their tax return. Some others might be about refinancing a credit card or calls from fake travel companies or stores offering a promotion. Many thieves are now smart enough to make it look like calls are coming from your area code, but tell your parents not to fall for the trap and give out any personal information.
Many older people have a difficult time remembering all of their passwords. While this is understandable, you need to explain the risk of using the same password for every site or using easy-to-remember passwords. If a hacker or identity thief obtains one of their passwords or a piece of their personal information, they may gain access to all of their accounts, such as bank and credit card statements, email and health portals.
Set your parent up with a password manager so they don’t have to remember all of their passwords. If they are savvy enough to use a smartphone, download a password manager app, otherwise you can use a desktop software program. These programs typically create randomized passwords that would be nearly impossible for a hacker to guess. Show your parent how to use the manager so they feel confident finding any of their passwords when they need them.
Internet Browsing Best Practices
You don’t want your parent to be afraid to use the internet, but they should know some best practices. The recent WannaCry hack shows the importance of keeping your phone and computer software up to date. Hackers were able to access a problem in an old version of Microsoft software and demand ransom for people’s information. Explain what happened to your parent and help them update all of their software programs, including their smartphone and computer operating system, app updates and any other subscription upgrades.
Your parent should also know about common virus and malware scams, such as bad links in emails or on websites. Tell them to visit sites they trust and to not click on links that seem too good to be true or fishy in any way. Many common scams on sites include offers for free vacations, free promotions or refinancing.
Help your parent understand the current technology as well as the risks associated with it. The more they know, the more likely they’ll be to avoid identity theft scams. Be available to answer any questions and help them sort through the sites, social media and software they frequently use. If they aren’t very tech-savvy, help them monitor and use technology when necessary.
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