Identity Theft, Fraud Discussed at Meeting
By Albert Lanier
Con men and professional scam artists are huge fans of the elderly — especially when it comes to taking their money.
That was one facet of the main message delivered by Malcolm Findley, a Volunteer Specialist who works with the Hawaii chapter of AARP, during a presentation he gave to residents at the Home Pumehana Senior Center last Wednesday.
Findley is a retired former Federal employee for 30 years who worked for agencies such the FHA and HUD, and is now based in Paia, Maui. He talked to over 30 residents in Home Pumehana’s meeting room about protecting themselves from criminal predators who pounce on their social security card numbers, credit card numbers and any other types of financial information that can net scam artists large amounts of ill-gotten gain. Findley’s half-hour talk covered three basic areas of fraud: identity theft, securities and telemarketing fraud.
Kinds of Fraud
Identity Theft is perhaps the most well-known and pressing of financial fraud issues.
If a crook gets access to your credit card information and uses under the guise of your name, Findley told the seniors “your credit can be destroyed for the rest of your life.”
Findley divided ID theft into two sections: Items you can control and items you cannot control.
Items you can control entail safeguarding your financial information from phony phone solicitors who like to get on seniors’ good sides by being courteous, polite and feigning friendship in the hopes that kupuna will give up valuable Social Security Card and credit card numbers. “Dumpster divers,” predators who pick through trash to glean financial details printed on discarded bills and notices, are also a threat.
Items you can’t control involve factors such as the fact that thousands of documents are stolen every year due to computer hackers’ ability to tap into websites that hold credit card numbers and other personal financial data so they can be auctioned and sold off for profit. Findley stated that,according to the Wall Street Journal,40 million credit card numbers have been stolen in what has become a $50 million illegal business.
Investment fraud usually revolves around such types of investments as annuities and securities. These investments are required to be registered by law but this is of no interest to criminals who try to sell seniors on “investing” their moneys with them.
Telemarketing fraud takes place when con men cold call individuals pretending to work for a business or organization and use their charm to solicit specific financial information from unknowing citizens.
What can you do?
Findley shared with his audience three tips they can use to deter would-be crooks:
1) Be Wary: If someone sounds too good to be true, what they’re saying is probably false.
2) Don’t be Afraid to be Impolite: If a caller is trying to get your personal financial details from you, don’t hesitate to hang up.
3) Don’t Give Your Data to Strangers: Above all, don’t tell give anybody-over the phone, online or elsewhere-any snippet, any nugget of information pertaining to your finances.
In the case of the unauthorized use of credit card numbers, Findley advised audience members to put a credit alert or credit freeze on their numbers by calling any one of the three major credit card reporting agencies namely Equifax, Experian and Transunion.A credit alert will allow these agencies to track use and purchases on a given card while a freeze would require $5 fee to be paid per each transaction.
Findley provided seniors with flyers from the State Office on Aging’s Fraud Squad — an organization he works with — and the State Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs’ Office of the Securities Commissioner as well as pamphlet on ID theft from AARP.
Gladys Brown, Vice President of the Molokai Chapter of AARP, invited Findley to Molokai and encouraged seniors here to call her if they come across any potential scams.“If you think you’re too smart to be taken by a con man,” Findley warned during his talk, “you’re wrong.”
To report a scam or find out more information on ID theft and other kinds of fraud, call Gladys Brown at 553-5375 and Malcolm Findley at (808) 759-9944.