Protect yourself from identity theft
By Bill Conallen
December is National Identity Theft Prevention and Awareness Month, which coincides with one of the biggest online exchanges of personal information each year – the holiday shopping season. During the holidays, it is especially important to remain vigilant while shopping online and to be aware of the new cybersecurity risks.
Identity theft is when someone uses your personal or financial information without your permission. This might include your name and address, credit card or bank account numbers, Social Security number, or medical insurance account numbers. The Federal Trade Commission strongly recommends protecting your personal information to prevent identity theft. Individuals would also be wise to avoid logging into bank
accounts while using public Wi-Fi and improving antivirus software on their personal computers and tablets as soon as updates are available.
In 1987, the Older Adult Protective Services Act designated resources to protect older adults from abuse, neglect and exploitation. The following year, Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA) created its Older Adult Protective Services (OAPS) unit to investigate reports of elder abuse in Philadelphia which commonly include cases of identity theft.
“Cases of identity theft can have a destructive impact not on only the individual but on the victims families and community as well,” said Tamikia Morris, director of older adult protective services at PCA. “These cases present complex problems and require those who care for the older adult to be on the lookout for warning signs.”
Signs of identity theft can appear in an individual’s physical appearance, personal behavior, or financial transactions. Increased isolation from friends and family, signs of trauma, and withdrawal from usual activities should be treated with caution. Fraudulent signatures, bills and unusual spending are leading indicators of one’s personal information being compromised.
Recently, Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA) took action to address this issue by joining a new collaboration of Philadelphia government agencies and nonprofit formed to prevent and address elder abuse and financial exploitation of older adults which includes reported cases of identity theft.
Through a $375,000 grant over three years from the Department of Justice, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office has assembled the Elder Abuse Multidisciplinary Team: a network of agencies each with its own specialty when it comes to assisting older people. The group includes the Penn Memory Center, the SeniorLAW Center, the Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of Elders (CARIE), and PCA.
“This new investigative unit is incredibly important because PCA has seen an increase in elder abuse, including financial exploitation cases enhanced by the harmful effects of identity theft, over the course of the past few years. Any initiatives from the state to support Area Agencies on Aging’s efforts to protect older adults from harm in the communities we serve is one that PCA wholeheartedly supports,” said Najja R. Orr, PCA’s President & CEO.
Reports of identity theft can be made 24/7 to the PCA Helpline at 215-765-9040. Anyone can make a report of identity theft against an older Philadelphian. All reports are confidential.
To report identity theft, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-438-4338 or IdentityTheft.gov.
Bill Conallen is the public relations specialist at Philadelphia Corporation for Aging.