Signing up for MySSA and using it regularly can now help reduce identity theft risks that have plagued senior citizens for years.
Metlife Mature Market Institute estimates that senior citizens lose a minimum of $2.9 billion a year to identity thieves. There are several ways a criminal can steal someone’s identity, and elders were particularly susceptible to a few tactics.
One of the more common ways in which seniors’ identities become compromised is through the mail. For instance, any criminal can easily access an elderly victim’s mail which may contain sensitive information such as social security checks or credit card statements.
Introducing the My Social Security Account
Creating a My Social Security Account is one of the first steps everyone should take in preventing future identity theft.
Even if you’re a few years from collecting social security, the account will allow you to access your Social Security Statement, obtain estimates of your future benefits, and verify your earnings. You can even request a replacement social security card from the comfort of your own home.
Those who already receive benefits can use their MySSA account to get proof of their benefits, change contact information, change direct deposit information, and replace a lost or stolen Medicare Card. A My Social Security Account provides more than just security. It provides an easy way to access necessary information without tedious steps.
Senior Citizens & Identity Theft Risk
Identity theft occurs when a criminal accesses someone’s personal information and uses it to steal money from their victim. Thieves can clean out bank accounts and ruin credit with only a few pieces of identifying information.
Seniors are at the greatest risk of having their identity stolen. People were more trustworthy when they were growing up. Seniors are more likely to think that the stranger on the phone has their best interest in mind, and are less liable to be suspicious.
Seniors often have a considerable amount of savings compared to the rest of us, which means they are one of the more lucrative targets for identity thieves. Adults over 50 control at least 70% of the national household net worth. Seniors are especially vulnerable and offer a large sum of money to those who want to take advantage of them, which makes them a perfect target for identity criminals.
Identity theft has been a concern for a long time, and the methods criminals use are developing. Online identity theft is becoming an increasing worry, especially among elderly users who aren’t as computer literate.
Online thieves often send spam emails to their victims asking for personal information. These emails may appear to come from a reputable source, such as Amazon or eBay, but they’re a criminal impersonating a company.
Sometimes criminals can gain access to information through insecure websites. Seniors may not be as confident on the computer as the rest of the population. They are more likely to click on suspicious links and visit unsafe websites. When this is the case, the victim may not be aware that they put their identifying information at risk before it’s too late.
Fraudulent Phone Calls
Another way criminals get hold of personal information is through phone calls. Criminals specifically target seniors over the phone due to their trusting nature and lack of online presence.
There are several ways a criminal can extract information over the phone. Sometimes they pretend to be the IRS, other times they’ll pretend to represent a charity. Seniors are trusting, so it’s far more likely that they’ll divulge some of their personal information for a chance to help a worthy cause.
The phone calls seniors receive make it clear that they are the ones who criminals target at a larger rate. After the age of 60, people are more likely to receive scam phone calls. They could be offering assistance on a computer, telling you they can reduce your pain, or extorting money out of you by telling you you’re in debt to the IRS. Remember, no legitimate organization will require that you offer any personal information over the phone.
Credit Card Theft
Physical theft has never changed, and the prospect of thieves stealing seniors’ credit cards and wallets are always a concern. A person may not even notice that someone stole their credit card if it was a card they barely use. Theft has always been a slight fear for those who are older, but criminals are making it, so they don’t even have to steal your wallet anymore.
Lately, criminals have made it even easier to take their victim’s information. They no longer have to steal the physical card to take the information. Identity thieves place small scanning devices on credit card machines, allowing them to take the number and run up a tab before anyone notices.
Just because a senior isn’t active online doesn’t mean identity thieves can't target them by the “phishing” method. Criminals use regular mail to accomplish the same results as they do online.
The thieves send their victims letters that appear to be from a reputable source – somewhere like a bank or doctor’s office. These letters will request some personal information, and anyone who sends something back to these thieves will usually end up losing a considerable amount of information
Thieves stealing information from the mail has been a problem for as long as identity theft has been around. This method is one of the oldest, and criminals still use it. Seniors are especially susceptible to mail theft because they frequently receive checks and statements that contain sensitive information.
There are several ways in which criminals will steal mail. They can steal it right out of a mailbox, or they can go dumpster-diving to look for documents containing social security numbers and account information. Since seniors usually have a lot more money saved-up, they are one of the best victims for identity thieves who use this method.
Thieves who steal mail can victimize the elderly in a few ways. They can cash checks on the victim’s behalf, but one of the more common methods thieves use is to take the personal information off of the documents they find in the trash. Social Security checks and statements are of specific concern, as these offer multiple forms of identifying information.
Using the information gathered off of a Social Security Statement, thieves can make a profit in various ways. They can bill insurance companies for services, file taxes under the victim’s name, and many other means of making money. These thieves can even target a person after they have died, using the deceased’s information to collect checks and benefits.
A MySSA Account Can Prevent Senior ID Theft
As a whole, seniors are the most vulnerable to mail theft. Computers may not come as second-nature to senior citizens who prefer to receive information in paper form. Unfortunately, receiving paper copies of your Social Security Statement puts you at extreme risk of having your identity compromised by criminals.
Creating a MySSA account is one of the best ways to ensure your identity is well protected. In your account, you can access your Social Security Statement without receiving any mail. This feature eliminates the threat of criminals stealing the mail and using it for their own gain.
For additional security, the My Social Security Account now requires a two-step verification process, where the user is sent a one-time security code when they log in.
On top of the security, the My Social Security Account provides, there are also several features that will make future interactions much simpler. You won’t have to call or send a letter to change any of your preferences. Just log on and make the changes yourself.
The best form of protection from identity theft is to remove the tools that criminals use. Viewing your Social Security online instead of on-paper gives thieves one less way to steal your identity.
How to Create an Online Social Security Account
Creating a MySSA account couldn’t be simpler than it already is. It’s a secure way to ensure that your information is safe and out of the hands of criminals who want to steal from you.
You will provide some of your information to ensure that more of your information isn’t compromised. Follow these simple Social Security account setup steps to protect yourself against people with malicious intent.
- Make sure you have a valid Email address: If you don’t use your computer much, you may be lacking a valid Email address. You need an Email address create a Social Security Account. There are several free options available online, including Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, and many others. Choose which site you like best and make an account.
- Go to https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/
- Select “Sign In or Create an Account.”
- Select “Create an Account.”
- Read the Terms of Service and check the box “I agree to the Terms of Service.” Then select “Next.”
- On the next page, enter your first name, last name, and middle initial as it appears on your social security card.
- Enter your Social Security Number
- Enter your Date of Birth, Home Address, and Phone Number
- Adding Extra Security: At this stage, the site will ask you if you want to add additional security to your account. If you select “Yes, let’s start now,” then you will be given three options that will offer your account further verification and extra security. Select “Next” once you are finished adding your information to this page.
- Answer the Personal Questions: These questions are designed in a way that only the user will know the answers. Make sure that you keep this information secure as well. Select “Next” after you have finished answering.
- Create a Username and Password: Your username must contain between 8 and 20 letters and/or numbers. These letters and numbers cannot be part of your name or your Social Security Number. Your password must also contain a minimum of 8 characters, and has to have at least one uppercase letter, one lowercase letter, one number, and one symbol (such as !,@,#,$,%, etc.)
- Add your Email address.
- Select Password Reset Questions: These questions offer further security in the case that you forgot your password. Make sure to select questions that provide memorable answers but won’t be too obvious to anyone who may try to be fraudulently accessing your account. Select “Next” when you are finished.
- Choose How You Want Your Security Code Sent: In this section, you will be asked to provide a means of communication for your one-time security code. If you have a cell phone, you can have the number texted to you. If you don’t have a phone capable of receiving texts or don’t want to receive your code this way, you can have the code sent via email. You can change your registered email at this time.
- Enter Your Security Code: If you entered your email or phone number correctly. You will receive a one-time security code to enter into this box. Take note that this code only lasts for ten minutes, so if you miss the window you’ll have to receive a new code.
- Account Created: If you have completed these steps correctly, you will get a message telling you that you have successfully created your account.
- Signing In: Each time you sign in, you will be required to enter your Email address and password, along with a security code that My Social Security Account will text to your phone or send to you via Email.
- Visit www.socialsecurity.gov or call 1-800-772-1213 for more information. TTY number is 1-800-325-0778 for those who are hard of hearing.
About 15 million Americans fall victim to identity theft every year. Senior citizens are particularly vulnerable to these threats due to their trusting nature and larger savings. One of the easiest ways to stop criminals from accessing your mail is to eliminate the identity theft risks. Use MySSA to prevent identity thieves from stealing your Social Security Statements and putting you and your family at risk.