Senior citizens are often a prime target for identity theft because they have more ways for their information to be compromised. While some still have checks and credit cards, many often have to use their social security and Medicare cards as identification. Lt Robert Manzo is with the financial crimes unit of the Houston Police Department. He says there are an estimated 9-million victims of identity theft each year.
"The reports that we get in the Houston Police Department of identity theft and fraud in general, we don't separate them by the age of the victim, but our average is 14-hundred reports every month. When I go speak with senior citizen groups like this, I've been asked very often, 'You're telling us not to carry our social security number with us. You're telling us not to provide it, yet the federal government tells us we have to carry our Medicare Card with us, and the identifying number on our Medicare Card is our social security number'."
He says that is an issue for the federal government to work out, but seniors tend to be too trusting.
"They're prime targets for these criminals who use of the phone or the internet. The victims have a lot of time on their hands, and in many cases because of their advanced age, they tend to be more trusting of persons. And criminals take full advantage of that."
Manzo told seniors at the Belmont Village Assisted Living Center on Holcombe that if they become a victim to notify authorities as soon as possible.
"People's witness memories get foggy, or witnesses cannot be located, so there are a whole lot of other issues. So, it's very important for people to be very much on top of this issue, and monitor their bank accounts and their credit card accounts, and all of their finances on a regular basis, and immediately report any issues to the police, as well as to their financial institution."
Helen Copeland says she's glad Lt Manzo came to talk to her and her friends.
"I think it's something we all need to know that this is a serious problem. And the internet scares me to death cause there's no privacy anymore. You can out anything you want to know on the internet, and even though I use it all the time, it still scares me."