Officials offer tips to guard against identity theft, phishing scams – Omaha World

LINCOLN — Officials who combat consumer fraud kept raising the bar Monday as they described Nebraskans who’ve been conned by the deal too good to be true.

The first was an 84-year-old woman who lost $50,000.

Next was the elderly couple fleeced of their $150,000 life savings.

The final sad example involved a well-to-do retired farmer who was bilked out of $1 million.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Attorney General Jon Bruning said. “Hope is a powerful thing.”

Phishing scams, store data breaches, phony phone solicitations and work-from-home cons all have stolen money or financial information from Nebraskans. Bruning and other professionals described the dangers of consumer fraud Monday during a State Capitol news conference that marked National Consumer Protection Week.

The attorney general’s consumer protection division received 450 complaints of phishing scams in 2013, ranking it the top consumer complaint of the year. Phishing commonly involves fake checks, fraudulent lottery letters and mystery shopper job offers sent via email or postal mail.

Bruning said his office also ensured proper notification was given to 700,000 consumers affected by Nebraska-based data breaches.

Identity theft remains a major threat, said Jim Hegarty, president of the Better Business Bureau.

Recovering information and stolen cash can be nearly impossible, so officials stressed that prevention is the best way to fight fraud.

Scammers target the most vulnerable, including elderly and those with mental disabilities. So Hegarty urged adult children to help their parents and grandparents protect their information and never wire money to receive a gift or contest winnings.

Other tips discussed Monday:

— Review credit card and bank statements regularly — daily is best — for unauthorized charges. The sooner you catch identity theft, the easier it is to remedy.

— Change passwords for online accounts every other month.

— Check credit reports quarterly. Consumers are entitled to one free copy of their report each year at

— Immediately contact your bank or credit company if you see suspicious activity or think you have given information to a scammer.

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