At some time in their life, seniors and their family members will be faced with the challenge of sorting through their belongings and then making decisions on whether to save, sell, donate or discard a lifelong accumulation of personal and household items. Oftentimes this situation occurs when a family member needs to relocate to a smaller living space such as an apartment, assisted living facility or a nursing home. There may be a limited amount of time when this transition must take place along with the added stresses of coping with the emotions experienced when there is a need to give up a home or special possessions. These can be distractions that may cause an opportunity for identity theft to occur.
Identity theft is defined as being the crime of obtaining the personal or financial information of another person for the purpose of assuming that person's name to make purchases, open credit accounts and bank accounts or obtain loans in your name. Identity theft has become an increasingly popular crime in the United States and in other areas of the world.
Back to the simple disposing of your items, if a decision is made to use a "public" method, such as a rummage sale, a donation to an organization or second-hand store or just discarding items in a Dumpster, it is very important to examine items for any type of personal information that may be inadvertently left in the items. How many times have we received a credit card receipt or a bank deposit slip and absentmindedly stuffed it into a bag or a pocket and then forgot about it? Be sure to check store bags, purses or any pockets in clothing items for receipts or other items that may have important information on them. Another common occurrence is using a receipt or a piece of paper with personal information as a bookmark and then leaving it in a book.
Checking carefully for these items takes extra time, but if you can avoid a case of identity theft, it is definitely well worth the time and the effort. Invest in a paper shredder for this project. Shredding receipts and other documents that have basic personal information such as name and Social Security numbers along with addresses, dates of birth, mother's maiden name, a driver's license number, credit card and bank account numbers, and telephone calling cards, is the best way to prevent identity thieves from preying on you or your loved ones.
Another tip to prevent identity theft is to cancel credit cards that not being used, and always cut them up or shred them before throwing them in the garbage. Avoid keeping a written record of all of your important passwords, such as your bank PIN number. This way you will not have to worry about anyone finding them and being able to steal your identity.
Please realize that identity theft is a very important issue, one that is more serious than you probably realize. Thousands of people have already had their identity stolen and this crime is becoming more common as time goes by.
Merry Green is a senior health insurance counselor volunteer and an educator for Minot Commission on Aging.