Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

36% of Retirees Fear Falling Victim to Financial Fraud. Here's How to Avoid It.

By Maurie Backman – May 31, 2020 at 9:36AM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

Following a few simple rules could spare you a world of trouble.

Seniors are often regarded as our nation's most vulnerable population, largely due to health and mobility issues that often leave them isolated. Seniors also tend to financially insecure -- particularly those who rely mostly on Social Security to pay their bills. It's not surprising, then, to learn that 27% of retirees are concerned about falling victim to financial fraud or a money-related scam, according to a new survey by the Society of Actuaries. If you share similar fears, here are some important rules to keep in mind.

1. Guard your Social Security number

Your Social Security number is an important identifier. Once a criminal gets hold of it, he or she can use it to open a credit card in your name or even attempt to steal your tax refund or Social Security benefits. That's why you should never give your Social Security number out without first fully vetting the person, company, or agency that's asking for it. And also, don't carry your Social Security card with you. There's really no need for that, and if your wallet is lost or stolen, you could end up with a serious identity theft problem on your hands.

Older woman with serious expression resting head on fist


2. Don't give out your Medicare ID number

A criminal may not be able to use your Medicare ID number to open a bank account, but you never know what trouble someone unscrupulous will cause. While it's OK to provide your medical providers with that information, don't give it out to people calling randomly over the phone asking you to verify your benefits. That's not something Medicare itself does, and while a medical office may need to do it, make sure you're actually talking to that office before sharing those details -- namely, by hanging up and initiating a call to that office yourself.

3. Safely discard all documents containing personal information

You probably get your share of financial statements in the mail containing information criminals can use to their advantage. To avoid dangerous consequences, invest in a paper shredder and make a point to shred any documents containing your Social Security number or account information.

4. Don't keep your banking or credit card passwords written down and posted in your home

Difficult as it may be to remember your various banking and credit card passwords, writing them down and posting them in different corners of your home is a bad idea. Chances are, you'll forget they're there, which means any time you have a repair professional, cleaning service, or delivery person enter your home, that individual will have an opportunity to access those passwords -- and that's a recipe for disaster. If you need help remembering your passwords, try using a password manager on your computer. And while emailing them to yourself isn't a great idea, it's safer than writing them down and storing them in plain sight.

Financial fraud is a scary thing, and unfortunately, seniors are particularly vulnerable to it. If you're worried about being a scam victim, stick to the above rules. Doing so could spare you a world of stress and heartache.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
S&P 500 Returns

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 09/29/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.