09/01/08 — Wayne senior citizens warned about scams

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Wayne senior citizens warned about scams

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on September 1, 2008 12:21 PM

DUDLEY -- Virnece Beamon's daughter had been targeted. So had Michael Giddens of Grantham.

It didn't take long to see the length of identity theft's claws at a recent Grange meeting -- at least three people said they or family members had become victims.

That was the point, said John Tart, president of the Pomona Grange and others who gathered to watch a representative of N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper's office talk to them about identity theft and fraud.

Cooper's Internet site quotes him saying that 300,000 North Carolinians fall victim to identity theft- or fraud-related crimes every year.

And many of those victims are senior citizens, who can sometimes be easy targets because they are used to less-vigilant financial practices that perhaps served them well in the past.

"Some of our members of the Grange, whether they'd like to admit it or not, are classified as elderly -- though they're all young at heart," joked Jimmy Martin, president of the Brogden Grange.

And since some of those Grange members fall into a high-risk financial crimes group, they need to keep themselves from becoming "easy targets," said N.C. Attorney General's Office representative Brandon Madden.

"They're targeting older, mainly elderly people, and what these criminals are looking for (are) called 'easy targets,'" Madden said. "The majority of them, the victims, they never get their money back."

Madden offered a variety of tips to protect personal information:

*Leave the Social Security card at home. Give it out only when necessary -- not everyone, including many businesses needs access to it.

"If it's an emergency and you go the hospital, they're not going to turn you away if you can't give them your Social Security (card)," Madden said.

Requests for the Social Security number get more and more frequent, Madden said.

"It seems like everywhere you go, somebody's asking for it," Madden said. "Do not be presured into giving out your Social Security number. Ask them, 'Why do you need it?' If they can't tell you, you probably don't need to give it to them."

One factor complicating identity theft is the difficulty in pinning crimes on the accused perpetrator.

"Identity thieves are not very easily prosecuted -- just because you or I know we didn't make a purchase, when you get in a courtroom, it's very hard to get 12 (jurors) to make a unanimous decision, 'Yes, this guy stole your identity.'"

Madden also advised checking mail every day, and not using unsecured mailboxes for outgoing mail.

The little flag many people use to signify an outgoing piece of mail is a clue for both postman and criminal, Madden said.

"Mail can be considered a playground for identity thieves," Madden said. "If you have an unlocked mailbox, take your outgoing mail to the post office."

For more information and resources about identity theft and fraud, the Attorney General's office recommends its own online product: www.noscamNC.gov.

The site provides information about how to freeze your credit line through each of the three major credit bureaus, consumer tips and crime statistics.

For a free yearly credit report from each of the three bureaus -- Experian, Equifax or TransUnion -- www.annualcreditreport.com is recommended by the attorney general's office.

If you've already become a victim of identity fraud, you can call the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM. The number is toll-free within North Carolina.

At the meeting, there was also news about the granges, which are organized under the county, or "Pomona" grange, which reports to the national and state grange organizations.

The granges present -- Brogden, Nahunta, and Grantham -- voted to consolidate into one group that would meet quarterly at the Pomona Grange meeting location at Dudley Christian Church.

Oakland's Grange organization was absent.