Sept. 11 was National Grandparents Day. OK, I’m sure that you’re tired of all of these holidays for everything and everyone under the sun, but really, can you deny your grandparents their own day? Really?
There were many ways in which people celebrated it, but I’m I proposed a good way to make the most of the day — sit down with them and have a chat.
There are many things that I’m sure that you need to catch up on with your grandparents, but I’d recommend that you spend a little time discussing with them the danger of identity theft.
I’m not a grandparent yet, and unfortunately, my beloved grandparents are long gone from this earth, but I know a thing or two about identity theft. You see, I was a victim of it last year, and I’ve seen how arduous the task is to regain your identity after it happens.
A recent book by financial planner Robert Ryerson (who is also a Certified Identity Theft Risk Management Specialist) called “What’s the Deal with Identity Theft?”, addresses the reality that victims of identity theft fight an uphill battle to correct the wrongs created by identity thieves. Although the book provides some great tips on how to prevent it, the book also shows how identity theft doesn’t discriminate as children and the elderly have become easy targets for these criminals.
When you’re having that discussion with your grandparents, you want to remind them that according to the Department of Justice, the number of elderly victims of identity theft increased from 2.1 million in 2012 to 2.6 million in 2014. There can be numerous reasons for this, including the fact that many seniors often live alone and crave companionship (another good reason to sit down and spend some time with them), and also have fading memories, which makes them easy pray for identity thieves who take advantage of their loneliness and vulnerability.
The concern about their cognitive abilities has been documented including studies by Professor Michael Finke and the Center for Retirement Research at Boston University, which found that older people gradually but steadily lose their ability to make sound financial decisions as they age. According to the research, the ability to understand financial concepts and apply them properly peaks in the mid-50s and declines by 1% per year after age 60. Ironically, the study found that confidence in financial decision making and investing ability remained constant or actually increased.
Declining aptitude and overconfidence is a bad combination and could spell trouble if seniors and their family members don’t take precautionary measures, such as financial and estate planning, to avoid vulnerabilities. Another precautionary measure is to have that chat with your grandparents and remind them of these dangers.
Experian, which works with businesses to manage credit risk, prevent fraud and also help people to check their credit report and credit score, and protect against identity theft, lists the following items as topics that should be discussed when sitting down with your grandparents (they’re also helpful for people of all ages):
Give the gift of a shredder
Shredders can be used to destroy unneeded personal documents, receipts, pre-approved credit offers, unused or old checks and any other items that include personal information about your parent(s) or their accounts.
Protect their mail
Remind them not to leave outgoing mail in the mailbox and encourage your parents to take their outgoing letters to the post office, and to purchase a mailbox with a lock for added protection.
Monitor their accounts: If you’re more computer savvy than your grandparents, help them to monitor accounts as well as their credit information online, or even set up credit monitoring and bank alerts to make this a seamless process for you both.
Educate them about identity thieves
Remind your parents that thieves take many forms, and how detrimental losing their personal information can be. They should never give out personally identifiable information like a social security number or bank account number over the phone, and remind them a legitimate business would never ask for this type of information.
Sitting down and chatting with your grandparents will be the best present that you can give them on their day. Reminding them about precautions to take to fight identity theft is the icing on the cake, and you know how everyone loves icing.
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