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Stop Senior Scams: Preventing identity theft beyond credit cards

Alicia Colombo

By Mary Anna Rodabaugh

According to a 2022-2023 report, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) found fraud and identity theft make up the majority of scams older adults experience. In fact, according to the Senate Committee on Aging, older adults reported losing more than $1.6 billion to fraud in 2022.

Most people associate identity theft with stolen credit card information and scams. However, there are a variety of other types of identity theft. Read on to learn more about these threats and what you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Medical identity theft
When someone’s personally identifiable information (most often a Social Security number) is stolen and used to bill Medicare/Medicaid or a health insurance company for services that were not received, this is a form of medical identity theft. If you receive a bill for medical services that you did not receive, be sure to call your insurance company to question or dispute these charges. You can also call the FTC Complaint Assistance line at 1-877-438-4338. If you receive printed materials after a doctor’s visit or procedure, be sure to file them in a safe location. Do not throw away medical receipts or paperwork. If you no longer need the physical papers, choose to take them to a secure shredding event or shred the documents yourself with a paper shredder. For more information on shred events near you visit

Estate identity theft
Criminals collect tax returns, Social Security checks and other benefits using the personally identifiable information of a deceased individual. These fraudsters may monitor obituaries, steal death certificates or look up a Social Security Death Index file. The best way to prevent estate identity theft is to have the executor of the estate or next of kin contact all credit and financial institutions associated with the deceased. Notification that the individual has died provides documentation on all accounts to prevent someone from fraudulently using the deceased individual’s personal information, bank accounts or credit.

Tax fraud
Criminals can file taxes using a stolen Social Security number or Employee ID number to collect a victim’s tax return. Remember, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will send paper mail but will never call or email taxpayers. If you receive unfamiliar tax documents, forms or transcripts, or if the IRS says you’ve already submitted your tax return for the year (when you have not), you may be a victim of tax fraud.

Military identity theft
Criminals may use personally identifiable information to obtain military benefits, including insurance, on behalf of active military and veterans. Criminals may also call, claiming to represent the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and request personal information by phone. If you need assistance with veterans benefits, contact the Philadelphia VA Regional Benefit Office, 5000 Wissahickon Ave., at 1-800-827-1000 or go to

Prevent identity theft
Follow these tips from Identity Theft Resource Center, Take Care America, Nonprofit Financial Education and Experian to protect yourself from identity theft:

  • Never provide personal information, including your Social Security, Medicare, bank account or credit card numbers, to anyone over the phone unless you initiated the call.•
  • Secure your checkbook and other documents containing financial or personal information in a locked location.•
  • Do not sign any document that you have not read or do not understand.•
  • Shred papers you no longer need; do not just throw them away.
  • Rip up or shred envelopes with your name and address on them before discarding.
  • Obtain a free credit report annually to monitor your accounts and credit history for suspicious activity. Once a year, you can obtain a free credit report from each of the major credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion – at 1-800-972-7204 or
  • If you suspect financial abuse or fraud, contact the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General at 1-866-623-2137 or email Older Philadelphians may also reach out to PCA’s Helpline at 215-765-9040 for assistance.
  • Adults, age 60 or older, can also receive help by calling the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 1-833-372-3811. This hotline is a free resource created by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime.

Mary Anna Rodabaugh is a writer, editor and writing coach.

Categories: Elder Abuse Finances Milestones eNews


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