With the ever-evolving tactics used by criminals to defraud a person of their finances or other material wealth, the task of protecting oneself may seem daunting at best. The best course of action is prevention, but how do you protect yourself from the criminal you do not even see? First, protect your personal information; we will cover four ways your information may become available to criminals. Second, understand that not everyone has your best interest in mind.
1. Protecting Your Online Information
The amount of information available for a person to attain about another individual is overwhelming and has become too easy to access with the use of the internet. You can best preserve your online privacy by limiting what you make public via social media, career websites, and other online search engines. Online media profiles provide “privacy settings” so that you can control what the public sees when you post information. Ensure you have the privacy settings activated to your preference. Never post pictures or details about your time away from home until you return home. Doing so may invite and unwanted individuals to your home while you are away.
2. Preventing ID Theft via the US MAIL
Shred all information that contains your name and address. Do not respond to unsolicited mail for your business unless you have researched the business through a reputable source, such as the BBB. If you receive a demand for money or a document that appears to have legal binding, consult an attorney or contact your local Police Department to file a fraudulent report. You may also contact the US Postal Service Inspector.
3. Deleting that Email!
Go ahead…delete it! Email fraud is increasingly on the rise despite public awareness. If you receive unsolicited mail from a source you are not familiar with or it sounds too good to be true, simply delete it or move it to your SPAM folder and delete it from that folder. A lot of these emails have compelling statements that draw the reader into their scheme. Too often, these unwanted emails have a virus attached to them. Beware of odd emails from a friend or business that you do know. Call the person or business to see if they have been hacked. Never click links from emails to input your credit card information for your bank, UPS, Amazon, etc. Call the number or use the business’ direct website link to access information. Too many times, fraudulent emails will give you a link to input information that will be similar to the business’ website, but with one letter difference. Once clicked, the fraud website will look identical to the actual website, but the information input will be stored in a database that the scammers have access to.
4. Just saying NO….
Lastly, the door to door scam man. If you did not call, do not feel bad about saying “NO” and closing the door. If you are home alone, don’t feel obligated to answer the door at all. Post “No Trespass” and “No Solicitor” signs on your property that are visible as another preventive measure. The in person con-artist is often more dangerous than the criminal behind the computer screen. Never hesitate to call the Police if you feel you are in jeopardy or threatened in your home. Report all suspicious persons and activity, even if you think it may seem insignificant. Local communities often require solicitors to register and wear a badge, therefore check with your local police if suspicion arises.
We have provided you with a few simple tips on protecting yourself and your identity from fraudulent activity. For more information check out these resources:
Social Media Privacy Tips
Additional Resources for Seniors and Consumers
AARP: www.member.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud They can provide additional information on the latest scams.
Consumer Finance for Older Americans can provide information for mortgages, credit cards, banks, loans, and more. Contact them at www.consumerfinance.gov You may also file consumer complaints on their website.
Indiana Attorney General – file complaints for consumer business affairs and for violation of no call lists. You may contact them via their website located through the IN.gov portal, or by calling: 1.800.382.5516 or 317.232.6330.
Do Not Call Lists: www.nomorobocalls.com. Some phone carriers are not adaptable to this feature, but many are. Put yourself on a “DO NOT CALL” list at www.donotcall.gov, or call them at 1-888-382-1222.
Senate Special Committee on Aging. Useful for both families and victims of fraud, visit their website at: www.aging.senate.gov/fraud-hotline
Charity Checks: To verify whether or not a charity to which you are making a donation is a legitimate, tax refundable charity, you may review their credentials online via either the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb-org under their “charity review section” or check www.guidestar.org which may also provided their 501c3 status. Special note, if a charity does not have a 501c3, any donation you make will NOT be tax deductible. You may also check on the latest scams in your area and report any you encounter to the Better Business Bureau: www.bbb.org/scamtracker.org
USA News article from October, 2015 titled: “How to Guard Against Common Scams That Target Seniors”
US Department of Justice Websites: Statistical information retrieved from US Department of Justice website(s) and reports:
• Annual Statistical Reports Fraud Section Year in Review
• Securities and Financial Fraud
• Elder Justice Initiative *Financial Exploitation
• Center for Problem Oriented Policing
• Bureau of Justice Statistics
• Crimes against elderly 2003-2013 (report)