Charlotte’s Blog

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Who Stole Grandma?

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It’s not a new story that the internet is a potentially hazardous place to conduct financial transactions.  You may have warned your kids and even your older parents.  Beware of the companies who may be hacked and your older loved one’s (or your) credit card information is compromised…or the companies that ask for your mom’s or dad’s social security number and now someone has access to your loved one’s identity…an identity that can be used to build new credit requests, run up dollars of debt and more.  Well, all of this has now gone from bad to worse.

Think of the Web – the place we go to learn the stats on our favorite teams, what size shoes the presidents have worn or picking a gift that can be delivered in two days to our door.  There is transactional activity here and some risk to our credit, but a lot is manageable.  But there is a layer beyond this called the Deep Web.  This is where social media like Facebook call home or where your bank hosts your information so that you can access your checking account, make recurring purchases and store really big files for sharing…DropBox and others.

Bad guys can lurk around either of these levels of the Web, and they can hack your information.  So, okay, they get your credit card details and go on a shopping spree – you can call your credit card company and contest the charges.  It’s a headache, but it’s a one and done and you’re then back to business as usual.  A lot of what is stolen on the Web and the Deep Web can be auctioned on the Dark Web.  Why not take that credit card – and password – information that you just hijacked and sell it at an auction site on the Dark Web to anyone who can spend less than ten dollars for it…but there will be thousands of buyers?  And even if the bad guys get just part of your loved one’s identity like their social security number, and they can go on-line and do searches for anything that matches that information.  They soon can have a credit card number, a home address, a mother’s maiden name and more.

You can help your loved ones and yourself with just three basic safeguards:

  1. Monitor your loved one’s accounts. Ideally, they should be going on-line regularly to check their credit cards, investments or bank accounts for activity.  Most accounts also allow for a feature that sends text alerts when there is activity…perhaps in excess of a certain dollar amount that your loved one can establish.
  2. Place a security freeze on all your loved one’s accounts. They can do this by reaching out to one of the three credit reporting agencies.  This will stop anyone from applying for a new credit card, securing a loan or otherwise misusing your loved one’s information.
  3. Secure your passwords. Discourage your loved one from making everything tied to a sequence of numbers that are their birth date or anniversary.  Even go so far as to use a secure online vault that will create really complex passwords and keep them secure.  Passwords can also be changed quickly if security is suspect.

So, instead of buying grandma a new Chromebook or iPad for the next birthday or holiday, enroll them in a secure vault and work from there on steps they can take to be both tech savvy and safe!

Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago.  She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.

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