shredder_magnetWho would have thought my parents would become the victims of identity theft?

Not long ago, my parents received a letter from the FBI informing them their Medicare Advantage Plan insurance company had been hacked, and names, Social Security numbers and other personal information had been compromised.

I was so skeptical of this letter that I asked Judy Christman Yates, criminologist and coordinator of the Ventura County Financial Abuse Specialist Team, to see if it was authentic.

She said it appeared to be.

According to the letter, while the FBI did not know which members’ information had been affected, they suggested everyone who received the letter perform a credit check.

My parents sailed along for a few months with no issues. Their credit report looked normal.

Then one day last week my mother received a call from Schwab, which is the holding company for all my parents’ financial assets. The Schwab representative asked if my father had requested a $6,500 money transfer the day before. My father said “no.” Then they asked if he’d requested a $7,000 money transfer that day. Again his answer was “no.”

Based on my father’s response, Schwab did not wire the $7,000 and contacted Wells Fargo where the $6,500 was sent the day before. The $6,500 was still sitting in the Wells Fargo account.

We learned this is miraculous, as most accounts are cleaned out within seconds of an illegal transfer.

The next day my parents received multiple letters from Schwab alerting them to the fact that someone had requested changes to the account holder’s name, email address, password and beneficiaries.

My parents immediately contacted Schwab and were told that someone who had enough information to claim to be my father had called and requested the money transfers and account changes. They let my parents listen to the phone call to see if they recognized the person’s voice, which they did not.

Schwab asked if anyone had use of my parents’ computer. Their answer was just their daughter (my sister). They were asked if anyone had access to their Schwab account. Just the financial planning firm my parents use. They were asked if there is anyone that comes into the home. Yes, a paid caregiver comes into the home an hour each day to help bathe my father. And of course family comes into the house, too.

Schwab asked if my parents’ passcodes are written anywhere that someone could access or if they are saved in the computer. The codes are in a locked file box and my parents have never saved any passcodes to their Schwab account on the computer. My mother and father honestly can’t recall ever accessing the account by computer.

My parents contacted their financial planner (who also is my sister and her husband’s planner), and he cooperated with authorities, but it seems he has not been hacked. Schwab contacted the FBI and opened a case. Schwab suggested my parents report it to the local police, which they did.

In between all of this, my dad was hospitalized.

My mom forgot to get the mail for a day or two while my dad was in the hospital. When she collected it she found a letter from Nieman Marcus rejecting a credit card request because it didn’t include enough information. My parents had never applied for a Nieman Marcus credit card.

A quick check of their credit report showed the application to Nieman Marcus along with another credit card application. We still aren’t sure if that one was successful or not.

The police were called again, and they suggested my parents fill out and submit IRS Form 14039, an identity theft affidavit, so the IRS will know my parents have experienced an event involving their personal information that may at some time affect their federal tax records. Filling out the form may prevent someone from filing a false tax return on their behalf.

This is likely not the end of the story. My parents have alerts on their credit reports now. The FBI, police and IRS are notified. So far no actual money has been taken from them, and for that we are thankful.

I would encourage all seniors to learn more about identify theft by going to

Also, if you’d like to know what to do if your identity is stolen, the following link provides a step-by-step guide:

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