The nation’s oldest veteran fell victim to identity theft. How to protect yourself

  • Scammers stole the identity and banking data of Richard Overton, a 112-year-old World War II veteran living in Austin, Texas.
  • His family has set up a GoFundMe page to help cover his $15,000-a-month care expenses.
  • Seniors lose an estimated $36 billion a year to financial scams and abuse.
A photograph of Richard Overton in his military uniform is propped up against a folded American flag in his home.
Amanda Macias/CNBC
A photograph of Richard Overton in his military uniform is propped up against a folded American flag in his home.

No one is immune from identity theft and fraud. Not even, it seems, America’s oldest World War II veteran.

Last week, relatives of Richard Arvin Overton, a 112-year-old Austin, Texas man, reportedly discovered a number of withdrawals from his bank account made over the last several months.

The amount of money stolen was not disclosed.

Overton requires round-the-clock medical care and resides at home. His care costs about $15,000 a month, and his family has set up a GoFundMe to help foot the bill. A phone call to Volma Overton, the veteran's cousin, was not immediately returned.

It’s a harsh reminder that, while anyone can be a victim of fraud, older adults are especially vulnerable to scams.

Focusing on the elderly

Veteran in well-worn cammos salutes during playing of Star Spangled Banner
Andy Katz | Pacific Press | LightRocket | Getty Images

A 2015 report from True Link Financial showed that senior citizens lose more than $36 billion a year to financial scams and abuse, including identity theft.

Thieves have set their sights on scamming older Americans: They impersonate Medicare representatives and either ask you to submit payment for a new ID or they call to confirm your bank account and Social Security number.

Just to be sure, Medicare sends all of its information via mail and does not contact beneficiaries on the phone. Avoid handing out your personal data to anyone who calls you.

In February, the Justice Department announced a broad enforcement sweep, charging more 250 defendants of defrauding seniors in a variety of schemes including mass mailing and telemarketing.

Losses from these plots are estimated at more than $500 million.

See below for a list of common elder fraud cases.

Elder financial fraud cases

Issue
Percentage of cases reported
Third-party abuse/exploitation 27%
Account distributions 26%
Family member, trustee or power of attorney taking advantage 23%
Diminished capacity 12%
Combined diminished capacity and third-party abuse 12%
Fraud 6.30%
Elder exploitation 5.70%
Friend, housekeeper or caretaker taking advantage <1%
Excessive withdrawals <1%
SOURCE: North American Securities Administrators Association

Additional rules

A portrait gifted to Richard Overton on his 110th birthday by a fellow veteran.
Amanda Macias/CNBC
A portrait gifted to Richard Overton on his 110th birthday by a fellow veteran.

Earlier this year, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority put into effect two regulatory changes to help protect seniors from financial exploitation.

One requires broker-dealers to ask their clients for a trusted person whom the advisor can contact in the event of suspected fraud or cognitive decline.

The other rule change will require broker-dealers to place a temporary hold on a requested account withdrawal if they believe financial exploitation is at work. The firm would have to notify the contact of the hold.

See below for additional steps you can take to shore up your identity and banking information.