In an effort to update seniors on the latest scams and methods to protect their personal information from identity theft, Congresswoman Jackie Walorski and Linda Gurgel, outreach services specialist for the Indiana Office of the Attorney General, hosted a fraud prevention workshop at Community Services of Starke County. The event, held as part of a district-wide tour to meet with senior groups and constituents in all 10 counties of the Second District, included presentations by Walorski and Gurgel on the most effective ways to protect oneself against fraud and identity theft.
Gurgel explained there are a number of methods everyone can employ to reduce their risk of becoming an identity theft victim.
“First, they have to be proactive. They have to not answer the phone, don’t always rely on what the caller ID says – it’s not always correct. It can be spoofed to look like anything. Of course, running a regular credit report, one every four months, and they’re free through annualcreditreports.com. Putting a credit freeze on the account is very important, burning or shredding personal information. Be very careful about the information that’s given out to other people,” said Gurgel.
Even being careful is not always enough to prevent being a victim, and because of that, Gurgel explained another tactic is to stay abreast of the latest scams. While some scams are time-tested and have been around for years, scammers are always trying to come up with new scams in order to swindle seniors out of their hard-earned cash.
“The ones that are always going around seem to be like the grandparent’s scam – catching seniors off guard, ‘Hey, your grandson is in jail, we need money for him.’ Diabetic equipment, solicitors calling out of the blue, selling diabetic equipment. One I had most recently was a crime watch group, actually a councilwoman, the head of a crime watch group, got a call. Caller ID said, ‘Neighborhood Crime Watch,’ and it turned out to be an alarm company selling their services, saying it was backed and approved by the neighbood crime watch,” Gurgel explained.
While the best protection against identity theft is being educated on the latest scams and methods to avoid them, Walorski explained she is currently in the process of drafting a bill at the federal level to help provide more identity theft protection. She said she’s hoping to garner a level of bipartisan support for the bill, which could go a long way in preventing these crimes in the future.
“I was the author of the identity theft bill in the state of Indiana that then went to several states around the country, and I believe it was 2005 and 2006 that we worked on it, that protected and put some mandates in for protecting social security numbers, mandatory redaction, protection and that kind of thing. Automatic contacts with the credit reporting agencies. We’re looking at doing the same kind of thing at the federal level, which is a bill that would make more uniform codes for protecting identity,” she said.