Community Voices

Crime Watch: Reader shares why he thinks seniors are identity theft targets

Here is a very compelling letter I received regarding last week column on identity theft. Many others expressed frustration to me loud and clear. Hopefully something will be done on this issue.

Dear Carmen:

The reason seniors are an identity theft target is because nobody cares.

Banks don’t care, credit cards don’t care and, worst of all, authorities don’t care.

The credit bureaus don’t care. Let me tell you why:

▪ Federal Government: The Medicare ID card carries the same number of the Social Security card — this fact alone exposes a senior (over 65 years old) in any medical transaction. On top of that, the medical facility also asks for personal identification such as a drivers license where they have DOB and personal address. Any employee in the medical facility has access to this information.

▪ Banks and credit cards: Banks open accounts online without checking if the person opening the account in their online application is the same it claims to be. Normally the online application goes to a central location and then the bank assigns the account to a branch close to the address of the applicant. By the time the victim learns, the account is already open and operational.

▪ Credit Bureaus: The service depends on the membership you have, if any, and normally to help a member with a suspicious request they ask to upgrade the membership and spend more money.

▪ Federal Trade Commission: Just fill out an Internet form and you get back a case number.

▪ Local Police Department: This was the major disappointment. Over the phone, the police told me that an identity theft report have to be done personally. An officer could come to my home or I could go to a police station, which I did thinking that with all the paperwork I had collected it could be easier to explain at a police station. How wrong I was! I handled the papers and my ID to an officer through a window (protected like a bank teller), no questions asked, the officer came back 20 minutes later to the same window, gave me all papers back and a police case number, no questions, no advice, not a word.

The important things are the case numbers, the Federal and local ones. With that you can tell the banks you are victim of identity theft and the credit bureaus place an alert in your credit reporting to banks and credit cards.

It would be easy to reduce the identity theft crime if Medicare had a different number than the Social Security and the banks and credit cards were more careful opening accounts online.

The nightmare is still going on. Someone opened online four bank accounts and ordered credit cards in my name, using my SS number, even my driver license, and believe me, I am a careful person with my personal docs. Imagine the running through banks, credit bureaus and police dept for a 75 years old guy,

A new scam (for us at least) is to open an account at the Social Security website, then the thieves can redirect your SS deposit to their banks. I had to put a freeze in the SSA website for my number and my wife’s.

Julio, Miami

Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to carmen@citizenscrimewatch.org, or call her at 305-470-1670.

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