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Identity Theft

What Is Identity Theft?
Identity Theft and Older Adults
Steps to Take to Minimize Easy Access
What to Do If You Have Been Victimized
Identity Theft Coalitions

What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is the unlawful use of an individual’s personal identification information such as your name, social security number, driver’s license information, or bank and credit card accounts. Identity thieves use the information to establish credit, make purchases, apply for loans or even seek employment.

The FTC estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. The crime takes many forms. Identity thieves may rent an apartment, obtain a credit card, or establish a telephone account in your name. You may not find out about the theft until you review your credit report or a credit card statement and notice charges you didn’t make—or until you’re contacted by a debt collector.

(Source: Federal Trade Commission, NYS Attorney General’s Office)


Identity Theft and Older Adults

While older adults are not the exclusive targets of identity theft, they can be especially susceptible to victimization. The impact of ID theft can be devastating for older adult victims who are unable to restore stolen funds through employment. Older adults are targeted by identity theft criminals. As with any crime, criminals look for opportunity and access. And simply put, older adults tend to have more assets and readily available cash than others.

The reality is that a greater number of people have access to the personal information of vulnerable older adults --home health care workers, nurses, family members. Older adults also visit physician offices, live in assisted facilities, or have other service providers who may possess personal information that can be used for fraudulent purposes.


Steps to Take to Minimize Easy Access:

  • Do not carry your Social Security card in your wallet.
  • If your Medicare card has your social security number listed on it, make a photocopy of your Medicare card and use a permanent marker to black out you’re the first five digits of your Social Security number only on the photocopy of the card. Carry the photocopy of the card and keep your Medicare card in a secure place.
  • Do not carry your checkbook with you. Only carry the number of checks you will need and keep your checkbook in a secure place.
  • Keep all of your sensitive personal documents, including financial documents in a safe, secure, locked place.
  • Shred personal and financial records with a crosscut shredder before throwing them away.
  • Be mindful while using the Internet. Install virus-protection on your computer. Only visit trusted websites and do not respond to unsolicited requests for information.
  • Register for the National Do Not Call List to prevent telemarketers from calling your home with unsolicited offers. Visit to register or call 1-888-382-1222.
  • To stop unsolicited credit or insurance offers, contact 1-888-567-8688 or visit:
  • Monitor and review your credit report annually. If you believe you have been a victim place a fraud alert or credit freeze on your credit report.
  • Contact the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) for more information.






What To Do If You Have Been Victimized

If you are a victim of identity theft, take the following four steps as soon as possible, and keep a record with the details of your conversations and copies of all correspondence.

1. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports, and review your credit reports.

2. Close the accounts that you know, or believe, have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.

3. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

4. File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place.


ID Theft Coalitions

In 2011, ten sites were selected from around the nation to participate in the National Identity Theft Victims Assistance Networks Project grant. With funding from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), the Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center, Inc. (MCVRC) was selected to develop the Identity Theft Victims’ Network Project. This national-scope project seeks to expand and improve the outreach and capacity of victim service programs to better address the rights and needs of victims of identity theft nationwide. Two sites in New York State were selected to develop ID theft coalitions to educate professionals and the general public about ID theft and to develop the capacity of victim service organizations to better serve ID theft victims.

The coalition is coordinated by South Brooklyn Legal Services (SBLS), which provides free civil legal services to low-income people throughout southern and western Brooklyn.

The New York City ID Theft Coalition offers centralized information to guide consumers seeking help in resolving the legal, financial, and myriad other problems caused by identity theft. The coalition includes other legal services providers, community-based consumer debt assistance organizations and agencies focusing on economic development advocacy.

The coalition serves all five boroughs of New York City.
For more information about the New York City ID Theft Coalition, please call 718-237-5500.


The Finger Lakes Identity Theft Coalition was formed in 2011 to focus specifically on the victimization of older adults (age 60 or older). The goals of the coalition are to organize a systematic campaign to educate older persons at risk about preventive strategies and to enable those individuals who become victims of ID theft to take appropriate legal action to recover assets, when possible, and to receive supportive services to restore a sense of safety and integrity.

The Coalition is coordinated by Lifespan of Greater Rochester. The regional network covers eight counties in the Finger Lakes region of New York: Cayuga, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Wayne and Yates Counties.

Professionals or older adults seeking further information about ID theft or help with a case of suspected ID theft in this region, can contact or call Lifespan at 585-244-8400.


(Source: Identity Theft Network)





World Privacy Forum

Federal Trade Commission

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse

U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime
Identity Theft Resources

Identity Theft Victim Assistance Online Training

For police agencies:

FTC Consumer Sentinel Network

Help in New York State

South Brooklyn Legal Services
NYC ID Theft Coalition
105 Court Street, 4th Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11201
(718) 237-5500 (Phone)
(718) 855-0733 (Fax)
(serving New York City)

Finger Lakes ID Theft Coalition
Lifespan of Greater Rochester
1900 Clinton Ave. South
Rochester, NY 14618
(585) 244-8400
(585) 244-9114
(serving Cayuga, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Wayne and Yates Counties) 

NYS Attorney General’s Office
Identity Theft Information



The New York State Coalition on Elder Abuse is administered by Lifespan of Greater Rochester, Inc.
1900 S. Clinton Avenue, Rochester, New York, 14618 
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