‘Tis the Season for Financial Crimes Against Seniors
Not everyone is full of goodwill during the holidays. Unfortunately, the holidays are prime time for financial crimes — identity theft, robbery and fraud — and seniors are often the target.
“Consumers are reminded to Shred, Signup, Suppress and be Sensitive,” says Melissa Companick, Acting President of the BBB of New Jersey. “Shred any private documents; sign up for automatic payroll, Social Security and SSI payments through direct deposit; suppress the amount of key paperwork left in mail boxes and other accessible areas; and be sensitive to protecting your passwords and financial information from anyone without a specific reason to have that information.”
To safeguard against financial crimes this holiday season the Better Business Bureau of New Jersey offers these tips for seniors:
— Hang on to your personal information. Do not give any personal
information over the phone or Internet to an unfamiliar company or
caller. This includes your credit card numbers, but also the credit
card expiration date, your Social Security number, driver’s license
number, bank account numbers, and personal information, such as your
mother’s maiden name. Even if you are told it is only for
“identification” or “verification” purposes, this information can be
used for unauthorized credit card charges or bank account debits. Tell
the person to send their request to you in the mail and that you will
check out their record with BBB.
— Use direct deposit. Your mail — both incoming and outgoing — can be
vulnerable, especially during the holidays when criminal activity is
heightened. If your Social Security or Supplemental Security Income
(SSI) check or other payments is delivered by mail to an unlocked box,
you may be at risk for theft. Direct deposit eliminates the risk of
lost or stolen checks, reduces fraud and gives people faster access to
their money on payment day. Direct deposit also protects against
identity theft. For more information about enrolling in direct deposit
of your Social Security or SSI payment, call the Go Direct helpline at
1-800-333-1795 or sign-up online at http://www.godirect.org/.
— Pay the safest way. Many consumers use online resources for holiday
shopping. Remember it’s best to pay by credit card or via an online
service like Pay Pal, which afford you protections under the Fair
Credit Billing Act. This means if there are billing errors, the credit
card company can help withhold payment to a seller if you have
received defective or poor quality goods. PayPal also adds an extra
layer of security because the seller doesn’t see your credit
information. Services like PayPal protect your account numbers from
the seller and protect the seller from a dishonest buyer.
— Arm yourself with information. The Better Business Bureau offers safe
shopping advice and other helpful tips at the http://www.bbb.org/ Web
site. Start with trust and investigate before you invest. Consult with
trusted family members, friends or neighbors before making a major
purchasing decision. Whenever you have a question or concern regarding
a merchant or marketplace transaction, contact your Better Business
Bureau or check the consumer tips and alerts at http://www.bbb.org/.