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November 7, 2006 > Buyer beware

Buyer beware

by Linda Stone

Identity theft complaints represented 37 percent of the 686,683 complaints filed with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2005. A significant proportion considering that the penultimate complaint filed was Internet auctions at 12 percent.

With the holidays coming, many people are out shopping for gifts without ever thinking that they could become a victim of fraud. How do you protect yourself from these savvy scam artists? Well, you could attend a workshop next week at the Newark Senior Center to find out how these schemes work.

Legal Assistance for Seniors (LAS) will hold a free workshop entitled “Buyer Beware: How to Protect Yourself Against Scams and Fraud.” Salony Mehrok, staff attorney for LAS, will discuss common scams by telemarketers, mail, door-to-door solicitors, and the Internet: how to protect yourself against scam artists; fair credit reporting, how to dispute inaccurate reports; and ways to help stop financial abuse, harassments and threats by debt collectors.

According to Mehrok, one of the most common ways to become a victim of identity theft is through online shopping. Hackers are always a threat. Another is through someone you know, like a family member. Anyone who owns a credit card or has a bank account can be at risk. For example, you may think that if you write “Void” on a check and throw it out, no one will be able to cash it. Wrong. Once you throw your trash out, anyone can go through it. Your check can be taken and the word “Void” can be washed off or the check can be reproduced. You can protect yourself by shredding documents, credit card offers and banking information.

It’s very important to take preventive measures said Mehrok. Being proactive by ordering your credit report is an important part. Mehrok encourages everyone to order his or her credit report at least once a year.

In January of this year, a law was passed that ensures that all consumers can order a free credit report. The three nationwide reporting agencies are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You can order your report from all three agencies by visiting or by calling 1-877-322-8228, or by completing the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mailing it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

The FTC, the nation's consumer protection agency, warns consumers to make sure that they spell the Web site name correctly or you could end up on a fraudulent site. Credit information request forms will be made available to workshop participants.

Although there is no sure way to completely protect yourself because as technology advances, so do the schemes. However, you can take informed measures to protect your identity.

Buyer Beware Workshop
Wednesday, November 15
10 a.m. to 11a.m.
Newark Senior Center
7401 Enterprise Drive, Newark
Pre-register by calling (510) 742-4840, reference Class #18920

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