09/10/06 — Better Business leader says military families often target of scams

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Better Business leader says military families often target of scams

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on September 10, 2006 2:00 AM

Eastern North Carolina Better Business Bureau President Beverly Baskin has a message for consumers, and she's taking it to the streets.

She calls it the "road show," and on Thursday she was in Goldsboro holding a workshop at the Chamber of Commerce for Goldsboro members of the 33-county Better Business Bureau of Eastern North Carolina and talking to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base officials about conducting similar presentations for families of deployed airmen.

Part of her message is "the worst thing you can do is write a check to pay a bill, put it in the mailbox and put up the red flag. It's saying, 'Drive by. Come and get me.'"

Her travels takes her to the towns that are home to the region's military bases, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Camp LeJeune and Cherry Point. Scam artists like to try to prey on families of deployed military, she said.

"I do presentations on all sorts of topics, but the most popular is identity theft," she said.

Identity theft is the only crime where the victim is guilty until proven innocent, she said. It takes years for an identity fraud victim to recover from the crime.

"It breaks up families, devastates lives. I had a woman in my office who was on the verge of suicide. She didn't know what to do."

She said there are several things a victim of identity fraud should do immediately when they discover what has happened.

The first thing to do is file a police report. Then contact all three credit reporting agencies and let them know. Finally, she said, notify all your banks.

She said the Better Business Bureau has a web site, www.bbbenc.org, where consumers can take an identity fraud safety quiz to find out how they can be safer from criminals who try to steal their personal information. They take the information and set up accounts. They use the information to buy large ticket items on the victim's account and hock them. They only use the card a couple times, she said.

For example, she said one question on the quiz asks the consumer if bank statements are received in an unlocked mail box.

"The more you can do with secure on-line the better," she said. "Any one of us could be a victim of identity theft right now and not know it until law enforcement knocks on the door."

Ms. Baskin recommended shredding pre-approved credit card offers.

"They have your name and address and this number they can call to get the card," she said of the criminals who will dig through dumpsters to get sensitive information.

"If you think they don't dumpster dive, it's worth it to them. All they need is a couple good hits."

Rather than signing the back of your new credit card, she recommended writing on the back: "Check photo ID."

"When someone asks to see your photo ID, show your appreciation. They're looking out for you," she said.

She said people should think about their social security number as a block of gold and ask if it's really necessary when somebody asks for the number, addding that people should only carry their social security card with them when they are on their way to a place where they will need it.