By Phoebe LaMont

Have you ever received a call from someone claiming to be a Medicare representative or debt collector, but something about them seemed fishy? Maybe you’ve opened your email to see requests for money from distant relatives. If so, you’re not alone—approximately 1 in 18 seniors has been the victim of financial scams or fraud, with many more being targeted.

As frightening as it is to have someone go after your money, there are several steps to prevent these fraudsters from gaining access to your assets.

  1. Familiarize yourself with the schemes most commonly used to target seniors.
  2. Shred documents with your social security number, credit card information, bank information, Medicare number, or any other confidential information.
  3. Install antivirus software onto your computer and be cautious of websites that ask for personal information. Make sure that website’s address starts with “https”, which insures that the website is secure, and check out more tips on protecting your information online here.
  4. If you get a phone call from someone asking for money or personal information, confirm their identity. Ask to call back and then call from an official phone number for their organization. Never give out your personal information to an unsolicited request.
  5. If someone calls claiming to be a family member in need of money, ask a few questions that only they would know. Many times, they will ask you not to tell anyone or they will get in trouble—this is to prevent you from finding out that no one in your family asked for money.
  6. Make sure to pick up your mail promptly and to use a secure mailbox when sending sensitive outgoing mail.
  7. Keep track of your financial statements. Look over your monthly credit card and bank statements and immediately notify your institutions if something looks wrong.
  8. You are entitled to three free credit reports per year, and many credit cards offer free credit monitoring. Take advantage of them.

If you believe that your personal information may have been compromised, don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed. Immediately contact your bank, credit card companies, and local police. Additionally, Adult Protective Services can help you protect your assets: you can visit their website to find services near you.