AARP New York, the state Attorney General’s Office and the Albany County Department for Aging teamed up to host a free paper-shredding event for the public today.
“Operation Stop Scam,” among 14 being held statewide this week and next, ran from 9 to noon in the parking lot at the Sidney Albert Albany Jewish Community Center and saw hundreds of residents dropping off documents like bank statements, old tax information, checks, credit applications, medical records and more.
Associate State Director of AARP for Northeastern New York Laura Ehrich says identity theft happens once every two seconds. [and 15.4 million Americans were victimized by identity fraud last year – up 16 percent from 2015.] “So if it hasn’t happened to you yet, there’s a pretty good chance it’s gonna happen to you in the future.”
A whopping 90 percent of New York Generation Xers and Baby Boomers called the prevalence of fraud, including identity theft, a “significant problem” for New Yorkers – with 63 percent saying it’s a “very significant problem,” according to a 2016 AARP NY/Siena College survey.
Even an unsolicited mail-order catalog carries enough information about you on the address label to help a scam artist. Ehrich says you don’t have to hang on to risky papers as you wait for the next Shred-a-thon. Shedders can by purchased at any office supply store. “Identity theft is an exponentially growing problem, and adults age 50 and over are more likely to be victims. Identity thieves are constantly devising new schemes that are more and more difficult to detect.”
Experts say when you are shopping for a shredder for in-home use, look for the words “cross-cut”or “micro-cut” on the packaging.
Michael Sprague of the New York State Attorney General’s Office notes that while shredding is an important step, you can do more to protect your personal information. “Be very careful about giving your personal information out, like your mother’s maiden name, your Social Security number, even your birthday. And never ever give your personal information to someone who solicits you on the phone. Always think of the phone as a one-way street. If you do get calls, feel free just to hang up, no matter what the caller says, no matter what the caller ID says. You should regularly monitor your credit report with the big three credit monitoring services, because being forewarned is being forearmed. That’s often the first place you’ll see someone using your identity without your permission.”
Last year, New York residents registered more than 112,000 complaints about fraud with the Federal Trade Commission. In the Albany metro area, the FTC received more than 3,400 reports of identity theft alone.
A full list of Operation Stop Scam events in New York State: www.aarp.org/nystopscams.
For those unable to attend an Operation: Stop Scams event, security experts urge consumers to shred the following types of materials to avoid having sensitive information compromised:
- Old documents: Papers that carry your Social Security number, birth date, signature, account numbers, passwords or PIN numbers.
- Banking: Canceled or unused checks. Shred deposit slips and ATM and credit card receipts, once you receive your monthly statements.
- Credit Cards: Preapproved credit card applications and incentive/gift checks from credit card companies.
- Medical: unneeded medical bills.
- Investments: Investment account statements.
- Obsolete ID cards: Expired driver’s licenses, medical insurance cards and passports.
The AARP Fraud Watch Network launched in 2013 as a free resource for people of all ages. The website provides information about fraud and scams, prevention tips from experts, an interactive scam-tracking map.