by Carol Higgins Taylor
Eastern Area Agency on Aging
You would probably know fairly quickly if your wallet, purse or car had been stolen. Upon walking into your house you could probably tell immediately if it had been burglarized. But how would you know if your identity had been filched and was being used by criminals?
Identity theft is a big problem and is happening right here in our state. Nothing is truly local anymore as the invention of the Internet has taken even the smallest town global.
Rosscare, partnering with the Penobscot County Sheriff’s office, is on a mission to keep you safe. There will be a free presentation on Identity Theft by the incomparable Chief Deputy Sheriff Troy Morton at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 18, at Sylvia Ross Home, 758 Broadway, Bangor.
Morton will discuss many methods of identity protection and provide information on the tricks scammers use to steal identities and what seniors can do to protect themselves.
“According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 16.6 million people experienced identity theft in 2012,” said Morton. “The financial losses totaled $24.7 billion dollars. While you probably can’t prevent identity theft entirely, you can minimize your risk. By managing your personal information wisely, cautiously, and with an awareness of the issue, you can help guard against identity theft.”
There are several ways to tell if you are a victim of identity theft, including being denied for credit unexpectedly, calls from debt collectors and companies with whom you do not do business and a reduction of mail received which could indicate that someone has filed a change of address on you.
There are steps you can take to protect yourself.
Contact your creditors if your bill does not arrive in your mailbox on time. It could signal that someone has hijacked your account and has changed the billing address. Of course, the perpetrator is not actually going to pay the bill.
Conceal personal information in your home, especially if you have lots of company or workers. You just never know for whom the temptation would be too much.
Memorize passwords and PIN numbers. Use your debit card as a credit card. The money still comes directly out of your account but you won’t need to enter your PIN number into the swipe machine. Also, get creative with passwords and don’t rely on maiden names and birthdays.
Get a copy of your credit report from one of the three credit bureaus and check it for errors. In Maine, people can receive one free credit report per year so be careful of companies that attempt to charge you for your report. For more information, you can go to the Consumer Credit Protection page on the Maine.gov website. If you find inaccuracies in your credit report, act immediately. Contact the credit bureau.
Beat these thieves at their own game by staying informed on the latest scams, being careful, diligent and notifying the authorities immediately if you think you have been defrauded. Even if you are unsure, call the police anyway. It is better to alert them early than to wait and have an even bigger mess on your hands.
“The name of the scams change but the idea behind them remains the same,” said Morton. “Make sure to check out all solicitations before giving out your information.”
Join Chief Morton for this informative talk. It’s one more step in the right direction to protecting yourself from crime. Call 992-2674 to reserve your spot for this free presentation.
Carol Higgins Taylor is the director of community education at Eastern Area Agency on Aging. For information on EAAA, call 941-2865, toll-free 1-800-432-7812.