It’s that time of year again: Time when the turning of the calendar page makes most of us think about improving our lives in some way. While you’re hatching plans for losing those holiday pounds or getting more organized, here are 5 resolutions to help you and the seniors in your life have a scam-free 2015:
1. Have the “scam talk” regularly. Mention to your elders the huge and growing number of scams happening in today’s world, and review best practices such as The 3 R’s of Scam Prevention. Help them keep safety from financial victimization and preserving their resources at the forefront of their thinking and practice. Make paying attention to scams a part of their daily or weekly routine. Remember: We become that which we practice most.
2. Help them place a credit freeze or fraud alert on their accounts. This simple step can stop crooks from opening up new accounts in the elder’s name. Be aware that there is a cost for both placing and removing a freeze (usually $5-$20) and you have to place a credit freeze with each of the credit reporting agencies. For more information see pp. 93-96 in Scammed: 3 Steps to Help Your Elder Parents and Yourself.
3. Keep their computers updated. In case the seniors in your life haven’t heard or haven’t acted on this yet, Microsoft no longer supports good old Windows XP. This means that people running that software are vulnerable to all sorts of threats. Remember that spyware, firewalls, and malware need to be updated as well. And be sure that they complete the recommended updates from their operating system, usually either Windows or Apple OS.
4. Buy and use a shredder for anything with personal information on it. This should be obvious and old-hat by now, but I am consistently amazed at the people who still don’t use one. The best ones are the confetti type, and here is an excellent quality shredder if you are ready for a new one. I’ve already ordered my new one and it should be here any day now. (Note: In the interest of full disclosure, the link for the shredder is an affiliate link, which means that if you click through it and buy the shredder I recommend I receive a small commission. Anything I earn from this I will use to support my work spreading the word about scams and frauds. Thank you in advance!)
5. Change and strengthen passwords. Do a password review and change any that are weak or obvious. Choices like “password” or “abc123″ are entirely inadequate for today’s cyber-threats. This can be hard because of possible memory issues, but security experts say it’s ok to write down passwords, just be sure they are not stored on the computer and are locked up whenever the senior leaves the house or has anyone over. The best passwords contain a mix of numbers, upper and lower case letters, and special symbols like # or ^.