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January 23, 2007 > Protect Yourself From Identity Theft and Fraud

Protect Yourself From Identity Theft and Fraud

Washington Hospital Seminar Provides Tips for Seniors to Avoid Scams

Anyone can be the victim of a scam. Unfortunately, older adults are often the target of these scams. Seniors are thought to be more trusting and many have built up a nest egg from years of saving and investing. But if you know what to look for, you can protect yourself from the greedy con artists and dishonest telemarketers.
Learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones at the upcoming seminar "Scam and Identity Theft Prevention for Seniors" scheduled for 10 a.m. on Tuesday, January 30, in the Conrad E. Anderson, MD Auditorium at Washington West, 2500 Mowry Avenue, Fremont. To register, call (800) 963-7070.
"We need to educate seniors and their families so they know the steps they should take to avoid being victims," said Eileen McAndrew, senior deputy district attorney in Alameda County who prosecutes elder abuse cases. She will be presenting the seminar with Donald Chambers, a retired engineer who volunteers for the AARP raising awareness about scams against seniors.
While technology is making some fraud like identity theft easier, it's our old-fashioned reliance on trust that makes us all - and especially seniors - so vulnerable.
"Our system is based on trust," Chambers said. "It's based on the notion that when we make a deal, each party will follow through. Add to that the fact that my generation can be even more trusting because we come from a time when your word really was your word. Scam artists play on all that."
The seminar will provide an overview of some of the more common scams, including identity theft, sweepstakes scams, lottery scams, coin scams, Nigerian money scams, and travel fraud. With the exception of identity theft, the common thread of all these scams is that victims are talked into forking over money for a promise of something they will never receive.
"These con artists are really good at what they do," Chambers said. "They win over your trust, often over the phone, and they know just what to say."
Identity Thieves Steal Your Personal Information
Identity theft is different. It usually happens without your knowledge - until the bills start coming. With identity theft, someone actually steals your personal financial information to apply for loans, credit cards, or leases. Then they are free to rack up the bills, using your credit.
People who have their identities stolen can spend months or years - and thousands of dollars - cleaning up the mess. In the meantime, victims of identity theft risk losing their credit, housing, and even their life savings.
But there are ways seniors can protect themselves from identity theft and other scams, including:
* Remember that if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
* When it comes to a "now or never" opportunity, choose never.
* Do your homework before you give your money or personal information to ANYONE.
* Get all the information in writing before making any large purchases.
* Shred bills, junk mail and receipts when discarding them.
* Don't make financial decisions in isolation. Talk them over with a trusted friend or relative. If the financial decision involves a friend or relative, talk it over with a different one to get an outside perspective.
"One way we can all help the older adults in our lives is not to let them live in isolation," McAndrew said. "Many seniors don't have a good support system in place, and that makes them even more vulnerable."
To learn more about scams and fraud so you can avoid being a victim, attend the seminar on January 30 and visit the AARP's website at To register for the seminar, call (800) 963-7070.
For more information about Washington Hospital and its programs and services, visit

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