Identity theft scams are a dime a dozen. The scariest part of identity theft is that it can take some time after the crime has begun to find out that you are a victim. Older persons are ideal targets for identity thieves because they are vulnerable. The scams can be tricky.

A primary target for identity thieves is a senior’s mail. They may steal mail directly from the mailbox or may go in the garbage bins to find documents that have not been shredded. They even send mail that looks official, hoping the elder will fill in personal information and return it to the sender.

To protect your loved one, have financial statements, insurance documents, and bills sent to a family member. Always make sure that the mailbox is a locking mailbox. Provide the elder with a crosscut paper shredder and discuss immediately shredding documents. If they are able, purchase a document scanner for them so that they can scan documents that need to be saved then shred them right away.

Identity thieves love to call seniors to ask them for personal information via the telephone. They tell a good story. It might be a request for a donation to a charity, a call to “help” with their computer, a call that some payment isn’t working and they need to get the payment information, and various other stories to trick the victim.

Email scams that purport to be the bank or other financial institution ask recipients to log into their account and update their personal information. The link to this site is a fake link and is capturing the victim’s personal information.

Card skimmers are devices that are used to steal credit card information and even personal identification numbers. The way they work is anyone who has access to your credit card can swipe your card into a small skimmer that copies your information. Some thieves even put these skimmers on ATMs. Then, each person who swipes their card are then subject to having their identity stolen. Small pinhole cameras are put in place by the thieves and they record the PINs entered.

One way to protect yourself from credit card based identity theft is to purchase a MasterCard/VISA or AMEX gift card at the store and load it with a small amount of money. Use this card for your public purchases or use cash. At the ATM, look for any unusual devices and even give the card slot a pull to see if it appears to have something over the top of the legitimate card scanner. Once you put your card in the slot, completely cover your hand while entering the PIN, trying to make sure nobody could tell by how you move your fingers.

Being conscious that unscrupulous individuals are trying to steal your private information should guide your actions. If you feel uncomfortable about a situation, listen to your gut. Report concerns to your bank or management of the establishment.