12 KEY TIPS TO AVOID SCAMS AND THIEVES
By Dale Gribow
1. SCAMS: Never sign anything on the spot without reviewing it or sleeping on it. Be wary of internet and phone offers that sound to good to be true. SENIORS are often targeted and are the easiest people to SCAM. This is because they are often financially stable as a group and don’t realize they have been scammed. When they report it to the police they often do not remember enough to prosecute the criminals. When I was a trial lawyer for the county of Los Angeles many years ago, I saw many cases where Seniors who were victims did not remember the facts. Many of these cases would be dismissed because the DA could not prove the case. Some of the cases involved con games where someone comes up to you and tells you about money they have in their account but they need to borrow X dollars from you to retrieve it. More sophisticated cons have come from the internet where con artists pretend to be your relative or HACK INTO YOUR account explaining to your friends and family they have just been robbed in Europe or just been in an accident and they want you to wire money to them. Today many of the scams allegedly come from Nigeria where the thief says he has millions of (illegal) dollars that he has to get out of the country. He promises to send you a cashier’s check for that amount which you are to deposit in your account. Then you keep a set upon amount, like 20%, and send your check back for the difference. You will receive a check that looks like a Cashiers check but is called an OFFICIAL CHECK or something like that. Their check never clears and you are out the money you sent. Always check with the bank before you deposit someone’s check for what looks “to good to be true.” If this happens to you contact the FBI: Internet Crime Complaint Center: www.IC3.gov
2. CHECKS: When writing checks to pay your bills NEVER put the complete account number on your check as your credit card company knows the account number. Always use the last four numbers ie …4567.
3. CREDIT CARDS: Never sign the back of your credit cards. Instead, put ‘ASK FOR PHOTO ID.’
4. CONFIDENTIAL INFO: Never put your home phone number or address on your checks. Instead use your office information. A PO Box or work address is preferable. You should never have to reveal your SS Number. If you print your SS # on your checks you make it easy for thieves to steal it.
5. PHOTOCOPY OR TAKE CELL PHONE PIX: Empty your wallet and photocopy both sides of your driver’s license and credit cards etc and keep the copy in a safe place. That way you will know what was in it and where to report a theft if your wallet is lost or stolen. You can also use your cell phone to take a picture of the contents of your wallet and luggage before departing. Once our luggage was lost in the Paris airport and when they asked me to describe it I gave them a Polaroid picture that I had taken a few hours earlier. This can protect you from ID Theft and aid in the quick recovery of your lost or stolen luggage etc.
6. PASSPORT: When travelling always photocopy or take a cell phone picture of your passport and give a copy to each family member. Also keep a copy of your trip itinerary inside on top of your luggage. Include on your itinerary your contact information (but not your home address) including your cell phone and email address and next destination. When you land open your luggage to be sure everything is there.
7. LUGGAGE: Remove all old airline tags from your bags so airline employees do not send your luggage to the wrong destination. Never use expensive leather or designer luggage that will attract the attention of thieves. Also carry your medications with you and do not check them in.
8. PROTECT HOME ADDRESS: Do not put your home address on your luggage tags as it makes it too easy for someone to know you are out of the country and burglarize your home. Instead use your office address………or the address of your next destination.
9. CREDIT CARD THEFT: Thieves can get a credit card approved and order expensive items if they steal your ID. They can also contact DMV and change your driving record information online, and more.
10. ID THEFT: If you think you are the victim of an ID Theft then canceling your credit cards asap will be easier because you have copies of the front and back of all your cards with the toll free numbers. File a police report right away so you can prove to the card company that your card was stolen and thus limit your liability to $100 or so.
11. FRAUD ALERT: ASAP you need to place a fraud alert on your cards by calling the 3 national credit reporting organizations and the Social Security fraud line at the numbers listed below. This will alert credit companies that your ID was stolen and stop the ID Thieves from applying for credit over the internet.
12. REPORT IMMEDIATELY: If your wallet has been lost or stolen call:
1.) Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
2.) Experian (formerly TRW): 1-888-397 3742
3.) Trans Union: 1-800-680 7289
4.) Social Security Administration (fraud line): 1-800-269-0271