Senior Scams

Over the past months, State’s Attorney James W. Glasgow and Sheriff Paul Kaupas have spoken to hundreds of Senior Citizens to inform them on common scams and prevention techniques that can help them avoid becoming a victim of a Scam Artist or Identity Theft.

 

The following information is important for Citizens to know:

Common Scams

How much money will you have to spend or invest in the coming years? You could lose a lot of money to swindlers through:

  • Unfair pricing
  • Shoddy goods
  • Inflated interest rates
  • Poor service
  • Crooked schemes

Check with a trusted friend or family member before you:

  • Sign a contract
  • Make a purchase
  • Invest money

 

Common Methods

Anyone can be a victim of fraud, including older people. Senior Citizens are often prime targets for scams. You can protect yourself by learning to recognize key warning signs such as:

  • An offer of something for nothing
  • Pressure to sign or buy something right away
  • Unwillingness to explain the details of a service
  • Tricky wording or vague language in any contract
  • Promise of a kickback that hinges on a future event
  • Phone solicitation by questionable organizations

 

Protecting Yourself from Scammers

  • Never give out your credit card number or ANY personal identification information over the phone to anyone. If you call and place an order, use a separate credit card with a very low limit.
  • Keep all carbon copies of charge slips and destroy them when you get home. Destroy all bill receipts and other mail with personal information.
  • Check your monthly credit card statements for unauthorized charges.
  • Beware of social security, insurance, and veteran scams. Remember, do not give any personal information over the phone.
  • Don’t be a victim of phone fraud.
  • You don’t have to listen to someone if you don’t want to. It is okay to hang up when someone is talking. You can also demand to be taken off their call list.
  • You do not have to answer your door.
  • Donate only to trusted local charities or churches.
  • Don’t advertise living alone. List yourself in the phone book with a first name initial only.
  • Legitimate police and fire organizations will not ask for donations over the phone.

 

Identity Theft

Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the nation today. It is affecting over a half a million people each year costing millions of dollars in damage to credit ratings and savings accounts.

 

You may be a victim of identity theft and not even know it. How easy do you think it is for someone to obtain your identity? A lot easier than you think! With the computer age upon us, there are hundreds of databases that collect and retain personal information about you.

 

That information could include your buying habits, lifestyle activities, social security and drivers license numbers, date of birth, phone number, home address, and profession.

 

Where do they get my information?

Most information collected from you is collected legitimately, from grocery stores, magazine subscriptions, buying habits gleaned from credit card purchases, insurance carriers and doctor’s offices. However, sometimes criminals gain access to this information.

 

Another method of information gathering is much darker. Dumpster Divers check your mailbox and your garbage for credit card statements, bill receipts and other documents that may give them information on your credit or banking information.

 

Take your mail to the post office or put it in your mailbox right before the mail carrier comes. Shred all bill receipts, credit card statements and applications, and bank statements. Don’t forget to destroy any other mail that comes to you and identifies any personal information.

 

How to Prevent Identity Theft

At Home

  • Take your mail to the post office or put it in your mailbox right before the mail carrier comes.
  • Shred all bill receipts and credit card and bank statements.
  • Don’t put your social security number on your driver’s license
  • Don’t carry your social security card, passport, or birth certificate unless it is absolutely necessary
  • If someone calls you and offers you the chance to receive a credit card, “grand prize”, or anything else valuable, DO NOT give them any information, instead ask them to send you written verification. If they won’t, hang up.
  • Keep a complete list of all your account numbers in a safe place and don’t forget to include the phone numbers for customer service.
  • Watch the expiration dates on your credit cards. In the event your new card doesn’t show up on time, contact your credit card company immediately.
  • Cancel credit cards that haven’t been used for six months; open credit is a prime target.
  • Don’t put your credit card number on the Internet unless the site is noted as safe.
  • If you want to stop receiving most pre-approved credit card applications from coming to you in the mail (information on persons with good credit is given to credit card companies from the credit reporting bureaus) call 1-888-5OPTOUT (567-8688).

 

While Traveling

  • Stop all mail, newspapers and other recurring deliveries.
  • Don’t give out any personal information unless you know and trust the person; i.e. hotel, car rental, etc.
  • Use a secure (where no one can overhear you) location when you need to give out any personal information.
  • If you think you may be a victim of a Scam or Identity Theft, please contact your local police department or the Sheriff’s Department and print the Identity Theft Victim Response Packet and follow the steps to begin recovering your identity

 

Check Your Credit Report

Beginning March 1, 2005, all Illinoisans can receive free copies of their credit reports once a year from each of the three national credit reporting agencies.

The annual free reports are available only through the centralized source set up the three credit reporting agencies. If consumers contact the companies directly they will still be charged for their credit reports. To obtain the free reports, consumers can:

  • Call 1-877-322-8228;
  • Order online at www.annualcreditreport.com; or
  • Complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form available at www.ftc.gov/credit, and mail it to:
Annual Credit Reports Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281

For more information on Identity Theft, visit http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft/

If you would like someone to come speak to your senior group about preventing senior scams or identity theft, please call the State’s Attorney’s Office Crime Prevention Department at 815-727-8742.

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