Fraud and scams are now more prevalent than ever, and they are causing billions of dollars to be stolen from people who are unaware each year. Fraudsters and scammers often target retirees who have accumulated savings and assets over their lifetime, as they become attractive to criminals seeking financial gain.
Retirees may be more trusting or less familiar with the latest scams, making them more susceptible to deception. Protecting their financial accounts, monitoring credit reports, and securing personal information can help retirees safeguard their hard-earned savings and maintain their financial stability during retirement.
Here are several effective measures everyone can take to safeguard themselves. Stay informed about the latest schemes and follow the advice outlined below:
#1 Secure your mailbox:
Utilize Informed Delivery, a free service provided by the U.S. Postal Service. Sign up at InformedDelivery.usps.com to receive email notifications and photos of your mail, ensuring nothing is stolen from your mailbox. Additionally, promptly collect your mail and take outgoing mail directly to the post office to prevent thieves from stealing checks and compromising your bank accounts.
#2 Enhance home security:
Consider installing an affordable video camera for added protection. When encountering an unfamiliar visitor, refrain from answering the door. Prepare a refusal script stating that you don’t conduct business at your door and ask them to leave information for review. Avoid allowing unannounced utility workers into your home without an appointment.
#3 Safeguard against garbage theft:
Before disposing of papers containing sensitive information like financial statements and receipts, shred them to prevent identity theft. If you don’t own a shredder, take advantage of community shredding events or permanent drop-off sites. Make it a habit to drop off accumulated documents every few months.
#4 Stay vigilant against credit card skimming:
Before making payments at gas stations or other point-of-sale locations, be sure to inspect the card readers for any signs of tampering or damage. If you suspect something is amiss, notify the cashier and consider using an alternative payment method to protect yourself from skimmers.
#5 Monitor your credit report:
Regularly review your credit report for any suspicious activities. Many credit card companies offer free access to credit reports, or you can visit AnnualCreditReport.com or call 1-877-322-8228. If you observe any suspicious activity, please inform the appropriate financial institution promptly. Additionally, freezing your credit report can prevent scammers from opening new accounts in your name. Visit IdentityTheft.gov for more information on how to freeze and unfreeze your credit.
#6 Secure your wallet:
Avoid carrying unnecessary cards or documents such as Social Security or Medicare cards. Make copies of the essential cards and store them safely. Regularly audit the contents of your wallet or purse, removing items that could compromise your personal information if lost.
#7 Protect your financial accounts:
Create separate online accounts for each financial institution you use and employ unique passwords for added security. Make it a habit to review your transaction lists on a weekly or biweekly basis, ensuring that every transaction is accounted for. Promptly report any irregularities to the respective institution.
#8 Safeguard your smartphone:
Enable biometric identification, such as fingerprint or facial recognition, on newer phone models to prevent unauthorized access. Send calls from unknown numbers directly to voicemail, ensuring your voicemail is set up and not full to receive legitimate messages. Be cautious of responding to unsolicited business texts and verify their validity by contacting the organization directly.
#9 Secure your computer:
Activate two-factor authentication for all secure websites you frequently visit, particularly financial institutions and utility companies. Check each site’s online security center for instructions. Consider subscribing to an antivirus software service for additional protection against malware. Some browsers and device manufacturers offer built-in malware protection, like Microsoft Defender on Windows 10 and 11 machines. Paid subscriptions may also provide features such as ad tracker blocking, cloud backups, and identity theft monitoring.
#10 Protect your email accounts:
Mark unsolicited and unwanted emails as spam to prevent future messages from reaching your inbox. Avoid opening file attachments in emails from untrusted sources, as they can often contain malware.
Related article: The Top Two Scams Every Retiree Needs To Be Aware Of
#11 Set limits on social media:
Adjust your privacy settings on platforms like Facebook so only your friends can view your profile. To access your Facebook privacy settings, click the downward arrow button located in the upper-right corner of your page. Then, select “Privacy Checkup .”Reject friend requests from unfamiliar individuals and avoid responding to random messages from strangers. Be aware that imposter scams, where someone pretends to be a friend, are common on social media.
#12 Verify online stores:
Exercise caution while shopping online to avoid falling victim to scams. Double-check the URL for accuracy, as scammers often create websites with similar addresses in hopes of deceiving users. Remove your credit card information from restaurant delivery and retail store sites and opt for e-payment services with secure payment processing.
#13 It’s time to shift your perspective:
You are not obligated to engage with calls, emails, or texts from strangers, particularly when so many of them are fraudulent. Learn to say no and end conversations with suspicious callers firmly and without remorse. Trust your instincts, and when in doubt, seek the opinion of someone you trust and take additional time to consider the situation.
Related article: Eight Red-Hot Scams To Watch Out For This Season
To avoid fraud and safeguard against financial losses and identity theft, take the following precautions.