The Weekly Briefing – 01/21/14

Are you protected against identity theft?

by John Vogt

Today’s Home Page feature focuses on our Weekly Briefing with Chief Jim Bodine of the Wellsboro Police Department. Tioga County is facing a number of serious problems regarding identity theft and online scams. Many in our older population are particularly vulnerable especially if they are not very tech savvy. But it can happen to anyone and the scammers are becoming more sophisticated. There seems to be certain times during the year when these problems intensify and according to Chief Bodine, with tax time upon us, we are experiencing one of those times. Residents in our area need to be alert and smart regarding identity theft and falling prey to scams in general. Credit card fraud and medical fraud are two of the areas being hit the hardest.

There are many residents in our area who have become a victim by giving their information over the internet. Others have had problems after giving their information to a retail store or by providing their information over the phone. Make sure that you know the retailer and never give your personal information over the phone to a person who calls you. You should initiate the call and then be careful to first verify the phone number before calling. Many have been burned by giving their personal information to charities or benevolent organizations that they are inclined to support. Only to find out later that it was a fraudulent call designed to get a credit card number and personal information. Remember, anyone can call you and ask for a donation and pose as a well known charity or even a political party. There is no way to know who the person is on the other end of that line. If you want to donate to a particular organization then you should contact them. Others in our area have been burned by mailing personal information thinking that they will receive something in return. Make sure you know who you are dealing with and take the few extra moments to verify that you are truly in contact with the real organization and not a knock-off fraud.

Some things to remember that will help protect you from identity theft and fraud. First, NEVER give your personal information over the phone or internet unless you are 200% sure that it’s legitimate. If you shop frequently online, make sure your internet virus protection is up to date and working. Even if you are on a Mac be smart. Check your bank account frequently to make sure you don’ t see anything our of the ordinary. Check your Credit History on a regular basis.

If you have been compromised and fall victim to identity theft call your financial institution immediately and report the activity. Close all accounts in question. Report the activity to your local police department. The Wellsboro Police Department has an identity theft packet that will help guide you through some of the reporting steps that you need to take. The Federal Trade Commission’s consumer website has a great deal of information to help victims of identity theft. That website can be found here: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0014-identity-theft.

“I wanted you to know that I thought the interview with Chief Bodine of Wellsboro Police Department was a very timely and useful tool. Chief Bodine mentioned that right after Christmas when people have shopped online and their income tax is about to be deposited is the time when hackers are watching your accounts. This very thing happened to me in February 2010. Our income tax refund had been deposited and when I looked at our account that night there were 3 purchases not made by us. The first red flag was a membership to “match.com”. Since neither Joe or I would be looking into that I knew something was wrong. There was also a purchase from Aeropostale in another state and a membership to Sam’s Club. I was able to track down where the items ordered from Sam’s Club were to be delivered. They were going to a home in Texas. Fortunately, when this happens you can call the phone number on the back of your debit or credit card and they will hotwire it meaning no more purchases can be made and they will issue you a new card. Also, the bank takes full responsibility and they refunded all of the money to us. It is a good thing to remind people to really be monitoring their accounts at this time. The other thing Chief Bodine shared that is very true and happening more often is bogus companies wanting you to “verify” your account information through your email. I never even open the email. I immediately delete it. If I have a question, I call the institution. Thank you for sharing that very important interview.” – Cindy Carreon

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