Don’t Be a Victim of Identify Theft
L-R: Robin Putnam, MA Office of Consumer Affairs, and Amy Schram, BBB
Fraud in the United States is a five-billion-dollar-a-year industry. Are you unwittingly contributing to it? To a group gathered at the Bellingham Senior Center last month, two experts on identity theft presented ways to safeguard personal information.
Amy Schram from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Robin Putnam of the state’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation heard from residents about a variety of scams and identity thefts, and offered ideas to help.
Two key pieces of advice emerged. First, do not answer phone calls from people you do not know. Second, do not answer the door when someone you do not know knocks or rings the bell.
Who is most vulnerable to scams and ID thefts? “If you’re not paying attention, then you are,” says Putnam. There is no particular geographic or demographic target group.
Pay attention to the stuff you recycle or throw away. Remove labels from prescription medication containers. Remove personal information from retail catalogs that you get in the mail. Properly dispose of unsolicited credit card offers, bank statements, and invoices.
“Scammers would rather take $1 each from 5,000 people than $5,000 from one person,” added Schram.
Here are some tips:
- Check your credit report at least once a year to look for unfamiliar accounts or charges. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com.
- Don’t give donations at the door or over the phone. Ask for more information to be mailed to you.
- Instead of simply throwing away documents that contain personal information, shred them. Google “free paper shredding in Bellingham MA.”
- Remember, by responding to one scam, you will open the door to many more.
- Check out www.ftc.gov for helpful information about preventing identity theft and what to do if you become a victim.