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Fraud Prevention for Seniors: How to Identify and Avoid Identity Theft, Fraud, and Online Scams

By Chad A. Ritchie

Learning how to avoid identity theft and online scams is very important today.

According to This FTC Report, there was a 47% increase in fraud and identify theft reported from 2019 to 2020. The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that senior citizens lost more than three billion dollars in 2020 due to fraud and scams.

On October 6, 2022, the Ritchie Law Office, Ltd. hosted a Webinar with Guest Speaker Officer Brad Park of the Normal Illinois Police Department who gave information on how to recognize and avoid Identity Theft, Fraud, and Online Scams.

If you would like to watch a video replay of this Webinar, you can Click Here to register for access.

We have put together a Fraud Prevention Checklist, which lists the top 12 things you can do to avoid becoming a victim of fraud, identity theft, and scams. Click Here to download the Fraud Prevention Checklist.

Below is summary of what Officer Brad Park discussed during his presentation on identifying and avoiding identity theft, fraud, and online scams.

Identity Theft:

Protect Your Personal Information from Scammers: Scammers are people who commit fraud by trying to get someone's personal information so they can obtain credit, financial services, or even property without using their own name. Once they have stolen someone’s information, they can:

  • Open fraudulent bank accounts

  • Open fraudulent utility accounts (i.e., power, cable, cellphone, gas)

  • Open fraudulent mortgage loans or vehicle loans

  • Open fraudulent credit card accounts

What Information Do Scammers Want?

  • Social Security Number

  • Driver’s License Number

  • Birth Date

  • Address

  • Phone Number

  • Bank Account Number

  • Credit Card Number

  • Mother’s Maiden Name

The Most Common Scams to Watch Out For

Below, you will find the most common types of scams that law enforcement handles regularly, and of which you could be a potential victim.

1. Overpayment Scams: This type of scam occurs when someone sends you a check to

purchase an item. The amount on the check they send you is is higher than the cost of the item being purchased, so he scammer will ask you to deposit the check and wire or transfer the remaining funds back to them. The original check they send you is invalid, and you are responsible to your bank for the entire amount of the check.

2. Romance Scams: Romance scams occur when someone contacts you via e-mail, text, or phone, trying to build a relationship with you. You never meet the person face to face, though the individual works to earn your trust over time. Eventually, they will start asking you for monetary gifts, such as sending them money, items, or even gift cards. This scammer's intention is only to make financial gain.

3. Lottery Scams: These scams may appear as a letter, an e-mail, or phone call informing you that you have won a drawing or sweepstakes. You will be informed that before you receive your "reward," you must pay insurance for the money or pay taxes on it first. The reality is that you haven't actually won any lottery, and once you wire the money, it is gone and there is very little chance of recovering it.

4. Skimming: Skimming refers to the criminal activity of gathering your credit or debit card information without your knowledge. Scammers will place “dummy” credit card swipe machines at restaurants, gas stations, or any stores where you swipe your card or potentially lose sight of it.

Some Safety Tips to Avoid Identity Theft, Fraud, and Online Scams

Never open any link via text message or email that you cannot verify the sender. Opening fraudulent links can create an opportunity for hackers to access your device or fool you into providing information that should remain private.

1. Keep your financial records, social security information, and Medicare cards in a safe place. When you decide to discard those documents, be sure to shred them before throwing them away.

2. If you receive personal information in the mail, please remove your correspondence from the mailbox as soon as possible. Consider having a “Security Mailbox” that you have to unlock to retrieve your mail.

3. Don’t give your Social Security Number over the phone, email, or text.

4. Use a multi-factor authentication system for your online accounts when you are able. The multi-factor authentication requires you to enter two or more credentials to log in, keeping unwanted scammers locked out of your accounts.

5. Don't give your personal information to anyone you don’t know who calls you or sends you emails or texts.

6. If you have wired money and you expect it was a scam afterwards, immediately call your bank to try to stop the transfer. Once the wire transfer goes through, there is usually little police agencies can do to recover the funds.


We were very fortunate to have Officer Brad Park as a guest speaker for our Fraud Prevention Webinar. Officer Park has been a police officer with the Normal Police Department for 20 years and frequently speaks to our community on various topics. You can check out the Town of Normal Police Website, and you can also check out their Facebook Page for more information.


This article is a service of Attorney Chad A. Ritchie and the Ritchie Law Office, Ltd.

Click Here or call (309) 662-7000 to learn more about Ritchie Law Office, Ltd. and our Estate Planning process, which starts with an initial consultation called our “Ritchie Legacy Planning Session”.

To sign up for the Ritchie Law Office, Ltd. monthly newsletter, click here! Keep up with estate planning news, federal and state legislation affecting your estate plans, and the latest events and happenings at Ritchie Law Office, Ltd.

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