AARPColumnists

Reimagine Everything: AARP Offers Tips Consumers Can Take to Protect Against Identity Fraud

By November 13, 2020 No Comments

Ron Mori

AARP has released a new report exploring the impact of identity fraud on U.S. adults aged 55-plus and how technology might play a role in consumers’ ability to protect them from financial harm.

The report, “Identity Fraud in Three Acts,” developed by Javelin Strategy & Research and sponsored by AARP, shows that 26 percent of Americans aged 55-plus have been victims of identity fraud.

However, more are taking additional precautions to prevent losses of personal information: 29 percent have placed credit freezes on their credit bureau information following an identity theft incident, and more than half have enrolled in identity protection or credit monitoring services.

“Older Americans are leading more digitally infused lives, with two-thirds using online banking weekly, so it’s encouraging to see that many are taking proactive steps to protect their identity following a data breach,” said Kathy Stokes, director of AARP Fraud Prevention Programs. “Passwords still represent a security threat, however; using repeated passwords across multiple online accounts makes it easy for criminals to crack one of them so that all of your accounts — including financial accounts — become accessible.”

It’s important to take necessary steps to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of identity fraud and theft. (Photo: AARP)

According to the report, consumers 55-plus want to bank using stronger security authentication. Roughly 90 percent stated a desire to use more fingerprint scanning, and 80 percent viewed facial recognition capabilities as trustworthy forms of technology for financial transactions and private business matters.

The report also shows that identity fraud victims age 65-plus do not necessarily change how they shop, bank or pay following a fraudulent event, with 70 percent exhibiting reluctance to change familiar habits.

“Criminals are regularly targeting Americans aged 55-plus through a combination of sophisticated scams via computer malware and also through more traditional low-tech channels via telephone and U.S. mail,” shared the report’s author, John Buzzard, lead analyst for fraud and security at Javelin Strategy & Research. “The combination of high-tech and low-tech strategies unfortunately gives the upper hand to the criminal — not the consumer.”

The report offers several tips on protecting against identity fraud, including:

  • Hang up on strangers, and independently verify everything.
  • Adopt security practices that go beyond a single password. Start using a password manager tool or app to create and safely store complex passwords.
  • Write down important numbers of companies you do business with rather than rely on a web search for a customer service number, as criminals post fake numbers online.
  • Secure your devices — mobile phone, laptops and tablets – with a complex password, preferably with screen locks that use a fingerprint or facial recognition.
  • Secure personal payments with digital wallets.

Additionally, watch the on-demand “Identity Fraud in Three Acts” webinar with experts Kathy Stokes, director of fraud prevention programs at AARP, and Buzzard. To learn more about AARP’s fraud prevention programs, visit aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.

The AARP Fraud Watch Network launched in 2013 as a free resource for people of all ages. Consumers can sign up for “Watchdog Alert” by email or text that delivers information about scams or call a free helpline at (877) 908-3360 to report scams or get help from trained volunteers in the event someone falls victim to scammers’ tactics.

The Fraud Watch Network website provides information about fraud and scams, prevention tips from experts, an interactive scam-tracking map and access to AARP’s hit podcast series “The Perfect Scam.”

Ron Mori is a member of the Washington, D.C., JACL chapter and manager of community, states and national affairs — multicultural leadership for AARP.