AUGUSTA. Ga.– (As I put together this special report, there were several things I wanted to share with you that I couldn’t include in the on-air report, due to time constraints. Please continue reading below the article to find my reporter’s blog. ~Jennie)
Fraud never sleeps. It is global, organized, tech-savvy and relentless.
It can happen online… on your phone… or in your mailbox.
I spoke with a fraud expert to get information about the latest scams in our area, and who is most at risk. College students and senior citizens, time to take notes… in this NewsChannel 6 Special Report.
Statistics show every 2 seconds someone’s identity is stolen. Each year, more than 16-million of us have our identities stolen– and the bad guys make off with an estimated 25-billion dollars!
Charima Young is one of the fraud experts with AARP.
“Criminals have come up with new and innovative ways through technology to steal our identities.Things like phishing and profiling- when they’re clicking on those apps, what those criminals are doing is profiling and fishing for information.”
So here’s how it works: you’re surfing the internet and you get a pop-up telling you to call a number because there’s something wrong with your computer. A local man, Norman Pittman, says it happened to him and it cost him more than $800.
“I don’t know a lot about computers. They said it was a network issue or virus.”
(SCAMMER) “If I’m able to fix it there will not be any costs involved. But just in case we’re not able to fix it, or if we have to buy a few software and install them then it might include a cost.”
The caller wouldn’t tell us a cost. But experts say the expense can range between hundreds to thousands of dollars.
Something Pittman thinks is outrageous.
“It makes me mad to know that people out there are just preying on other people.”
College students are among some of the most vulnerable targets for scammers. Michelle Shaffer us with the Better Business Bureau.
“They’re actually more susceptible than they may think.”
NUMBER ONE– companies that offer students forgiveness on student loan debt.
“They are businesses that really are going to charge a fee, for a lot of services that are actually free, if you go directly to the government.”
NUMBER TWO– off-campus rentals. If you rent an apartment or a room sight-unseen, it may be offered to multiple people, or may not even exist. .
“And whenever you see the words “wire funds”, it’s usually a pretty big red flag.”
AND NUMBER THREE– credit cards. There are companies that prey on college students’ inexperience with credit.
“Things like extremely high interest rates- make sure you’re working with an entity that has a familiar name. These threats that are out there for students, parents are just as susceptible.”
Charima Young says all ages are susceptible to being scammed.
“And we want to make sure that we give them the tools that they need to protect themselves. So we have the AARP Fraud Watch Network- it’s online – it’s actually on the phone, so you can call us if you’ve been scammed, or if you just have questions about being scammed, so it’s a great mechanism for us to be the watchdog for the community. You can see where fraud is happening in your area. We don’t read the fine print and also, we don’t ask enough questions. Sometimes if we ask enough questions we can get the right and truthful answers, And, if we tell someone we know, we’re less likely to become a victim.”
Here are more tips to protect against fraud:
- Beware of bogus emails claiming to come from your bank, internet service provider or charity
- Make sure websites are secure when shopping online, look for the h-t-t-p-s, not the typical h-t-t-p
- Cut down on unwanted telemarketing calls bu signing up for the do not call registry at 888-382-1222
- Stop pre-approved credit card applications that a thief could steal from your mailbox by calling 888-5-OPTOUT
It’s also a good idea to have photocopies of the front and back of your credit cards…. in a safe place –not– in your wallet or purse… in case you have a lost or stolen card, so you can quickly access the information you need to have it cancelled.
This is the day when many of you are making lists and planning strategies– NOT for Thanksgiving, but for Black Friday shopping! One thing to keep in mind is how to keep yourself from being a target of identity fraud. Last year it happened to me. Every Black Friday I spend hours at the local shopping mall, not spending money, but raising it for The Salvation Army by ringing the red kettle bell with my family. It was on that day in 2015 that my sweet husband went inside Augusta Mall to make a Starbucks run for us. He stopped at an ATM in the mall… and that was when our card was compromised. I didn’t know it had happened for a couple of weeks, when charges started showing up in my bank account. Turns out, a ring of bad guys hit a bunch of ATMs in the southeast, and Augusta, GA was one place on their radar.
Fortunately, the bank and the Sheriff’s office worked with us and all of the money was recovered. Our card was used to buy lots of high dollar tennis shoes, video games, and several trips to a Smoothie King in the Atlanta area.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone… and be safe in your online and bricks & mortar shopping this holiday weekend.
There are number of things you can do to protect you and your loved ones from online identity theft:
- Protect your SSN and personal info
- Monitor your bills and accounts
- Protect passwords
We hear these things but what are the specifics? For starters, don’t carry your Social Security Card in your wallet and don’t put it on your checks. Shred sensitive information and LIMIT the number of credit cards you carry.
It’s also a great idea to keep copies of your credit cards in a safe place, in case one is lost or stolen.
As far as monitoring your bills goes, the point is to watch for missing bills and review your monthly statements carefully. Contact your creditors if a bill doesn’t arrive or when you see charges you don’t recognize.
And finally, don’t carry PINS or passwords in your wallet. Steer clear of easily obtainable information like your mom’s maiden name or your phione number. And this is the piece of advice that’s hardest for me…
CHOOSE A DIFFERENT PIN FOR EACH ACCOUNT.
(My brain can’t keep it all straight– I will never be able to log into anything again!!)
So how scary is this? Every 2 seconds someone’s identity is stolen… it adds up to more 16-million of us becoming victims each year, with the bad guys making off with an estimated 25-billion dollars! I talked with a fraud expert about AARP’s massive fraud watch network… and their effort to actually learn from the con artists. That way, they can tell us how NOT to do what the criminal wants us to do!
Because many of you will be traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday, I want to go ahead and share a tip sheet from “The Watchdog” that’s the AARP Fraud Watch Network’s newsletter:
- Wi-Fi dangers – avoid doing sensitive transactions. like shopping and banking, via public Wi-Fi.
- Takeout fake-out– Don’t trust copiesof fliers for eateries left under hotel doors. Ask the hotel front desk for recommendations.
- Front-desk fraud– You get a call in the middle of the night saying it’s the front desk, asking you to confirm your credit info.
- Cabbie cons— You are distracted so the driver takes a longer route; driver gets you to the destination then drives off with your bags.