Police teach elderly how to avoid identity theft

During a lecture on identity theft at the Houma-Terrebonne Civic Center on Monday, a spokesman for State Police Troop C said that elderly area residents are in particular danger of having their identities stolen.

“It’s all about taking steps to prevent having your identity stolen, but eventually this will catch up to everyone. Eventually everyone has their identity stolen,” State Trooper Evan Harrell said.

Identity theft is the misuse of a bank or credit card account or personal information by someone for who it is not intended, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Identity theft can be done by someone using your credit card without your permission or by using your personal information to open up a line of credit for their own use, Harrell said.

One woman living in Bayou Blue who for security reasons wished to remain anonymous said she and her husband have had their identities stolen four times, with $200-$400 being taken each time from their accounts.

The woman said she believed her information has been stolen by credit card skimmers attached to gas pumps that she’s used on her way to visit family in New York and Florida.

“Every time we take a trip we come home and find that our credit card numbers have been stolen. We had someone try to buy two plane tickets for overseas on our credit card and we’ve received charges for things that we had to have them take off of our account,” the 73-year-old woman said.

The couple said that they were also among the victims of the Target data breach in Dec. 2013 in which over 70 million Target shoppers had their credit card numbers, addresses and email addresses stolen.

“I shopped at Target once in December, and my bank sent me a new card because of it, but they also told me that someone had tried to use my old card number that had been stolen in three different states,” she said.

Local elderly residents are often taken advantage of in this way because they’re easy targets, a Terrebonne Council on Aging official said.

“Elderly people are the easiest target. They get calls from someone saying something like ‘Your sister is in jail, your grandson is in jail, you have to send money to get them out,” and they send them the money. I get calls all of the time with elderly people telling me they gave away their social security numbers. They’re easy targets because these scams are just not something they’re aware of,” coordinator of the Aging and Disability Resource Center at the Terrebonne Council on Aging Cheryl Washington said.

To deter would-be identity thieves Harrell suggests that residents shred or burn confidential mail that might include personal or banking information, check their credit ratings and bank statements regularly to ensure that there are no fraudulent charges and to never give personal information over the phone or email unless you can verify who you are giving it to.

Staff Writer Jordan Gribble can be reached at 857-2208 or jordan.gribble@houmatoday.com. Follow him on Twitter @JGrib_Courier.

Article source: http://www.houmatoday.com/article/20140616/ARTICLES/140619623/1211/news01?Title=Police-teach-elderly-how-to-avoid-identity-theft

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