Police: Seniors beware ID theft

Police: Seniors beware ID theft

WOODSTOWN Salem County law enforcement officials urged residents at the Friends Village here to know the “holy grail” of what they must guard to prevent their identities from being stolen.

The presentation, part of a countywide tour of senior citizen facilities, pointed out what a person needs to know to keep their personal information out of the wrong hands. One of the most important, officials said, is keeping your name, Social Security number and date of birth a well-kept secret.

“Once someone has those three things it opens the door to stealing your identity,” said Investigator Matthew Clarke of the Salem County Prosecutor’s Office’s Insurance Fraud Unit.

The prosecutor’s office has joined up with the community to present valuable keys to both preventing identity theft and giving information of what a person can do if his or her identity does happen to be stolen. The program includes an “Identishred” initiative, which will allow residents to shred paper documents containing their personal identifiers such as utility bills, bank statements and expired credit cards.

According to Clarke, the average victim of identity theft will spend about 30 to 40 hours restoring their name. He said in some cases it requires a person to essentially build back up from scratch, including being issued a new Social Security number. He said that Salem County has gone without a reported identity theft incident for about six months, but with so much personal information sharing going on everyday there is always a possibility.

“As the crimes get bigger and bigger we see just how vulnerable we are,” Clarke said.

Clarke urged people not to carry more than they absolutely have to in their wallets and purses. He said that people need their licenses but all other documents should be left in a fire-proof safe. He told the crowd it is “all about minimizing risks.”

Other tips he gave were to steer clear of Web sites that redirect you to a page that seeks personal information, and be leery of sharing a password for different protected Internet sites, even though it might be tempting to condense the wealth of passwords you may be bombarded with. He said to keep the passwords in writing and put them in a secure location.

He also noted that people should not accept phone calls from people seeking personal information, even if they give you a legitimate business name.

“If you want to do business, you call them when it’s going to be a conversation where personal identifiers are shared,” Clarke said. “The greatest power you have in those situations where unknown people seek you out is to be able to hang up the phone.”

Residents on hand for the presentation Friday at Friends Village agreed they felt much more prepared after hearing the investigator’s remarks.

“I learned to take care of things a little better, it was great,” said Willard Hemple. “Sometimes that information gets left out, I’ll be securing it now.”

Friday marked the fourth presentation of the program. In October, officials reached out to residents at Pennsville Towers, the Penns Grove Towers and the Carneys Point Senior Center. The Insurance Fraud Unit plans to visit Broadway Towers in Salem and the Pittsgrove Senior Center in the future.

“One of the most important things I learned is to be more conscious of our Social Security numbers, of our addresses and our licenses. To me I have only one credit card and that’s all I need, some people might be worse off,” said Gloria Richards. “It was very informative, taking this time might save me a bunch in the future.”

Florida Shredding