Did you know that more than 600 million personal information records have been compromised due to data breaches, in more than 3,000 breaches, in less than ten years? It’s true and it’s a growing problem in the U.S. It stands to reason that a large portion of those 600 million records belong to senior citizens. It’s proving to be problematic and in ways you may not think. Elder law attorneys see the long term repercussions first hand.
By now, most of us have heard of the many denial of service attacks – or DDoS attacks – that have hit all of the major U.S. banks in recent months. Stores, government offices and credit card companies have all been targeted – and they’re all a gold mine for thieves looking for personal information – even if it’s you’re 90 year old mother.
The Costs of Data Breaches and ID Theft
In fact, an extraordinary cyber ring was uncovered this past May that allowed just eight people to steal more than $45 million from victims. Along with that, there was more than $2 million was stolen from ATMs scattered around New York.
Did we mention those thieves were able to accomplish this in just nine hours? Couple that with a whopping $4 million stolen in an even faster timeframe in other countries and it becomes clear none of us stand a chance. It should be noted the government said then – and continues to say today – that this is all the work of an international campaign.
But it’s also for these reasons why law and security enforcement agencies are on a mission to combat these types of crimes. Cyber hacks have become a $110 billion industry that spans the globe.
As elder law attorneys, we know that the odds are extremely high that the records of senior citizens have been exposed. In fact, we’ve seen first-hand the outcome of these thieves who do target seniors. They’re already on tight budgets and even the smallest thefts can have serious consequences. As a result, we feel it’s our responsibility to keep our clients aware of the potential of identity theft, credit card charges and other fraudulent efforts. For years, we’ve encouraged clients to be a proactive player when it comes to their estate planning efforts. What none of us could have anticipated was that we would also be warning clients that their financial security could be at stake for reasons they have nothing to do with.
Remain Vigilant for Misuse of Personal Data
Whether you’re a senior citizen or a loved one who’s concerned about the safety of your mom, dad or other senior, there are a few things you can do to remain proactive.
This is perhaps the one single most important thing any of us can do to remain proactive: Closely examine your bank statement and your credit card statements every month. You’re looking for charges or withdrawals that don’t “sit right”. If there’s anything remotely suspicious, contact your bank or credit card network as soon as possible.
Credit Reports for Clues
Also, and this is another important and easy to cover rule (though often overlooked): request a copy of your loved one’s credit report each year. New laws state that each of us is entitled to a complimentary credit report every year.
Take advantage of it. Note: if you’re requesting the report on behalf of a loved one, you’ll need to have the proper legal documentation – perhaps a guardianship or power of attorney, depending on where you’re located.
If your senior’s identity has been compromised, a credit freeze might be in order and can prevent further damage while the problems are sorted out.
Finally, be sure to speak with your elder law attorney who can provide specialized guidance for estate planning