When Milda Rosa shared ways to protect yourself against fraud and identity theft with a group of New Community seniors, she began her presentation on a personal note.
Several years ago, Rosa, who is now a Community Educator with New Jersey Citizen Action, said she stopped by a gas station convenience store to buy a few things. Later that day, she discovered that someone had plucked her wallet right out of her bag while she was inside the store. The thief quickly racked up charges on the five different credit cards she had in her wallet at the time. Rosa also carried several documents with her personal information—a practice she’s now stopped and warned seniors against.
“You name it, it was in that wallet,” she told her audience at NCC Douglas Homes. With Rosa’s personal information held hostage, the perpetrator used her identity to make unauthorized financial transactions. She reported her stolen wallet to the police but Rosa says it’s taken her years to restore her damaged credit and unravel the mess. She urged seniors not to carry multiple credit cards or their Social Security, Medicare or insurance cards.
Rosa outlined three simple ways to reduce the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft or fraud. First, she said, shred all documents that contain your personal information. Next, avoid using ATMs at bodegas and convenience stores. Finally, do not give out your personal information over the phone. “People pretend to be a legitimate company and we give in,” she said.
Evelyn Collier, a 50-year-old Douglas Homes resident, says another precaution she takes is avoiding ATM transactions altogether. “I go inside the bank and I go to the teller,” she said.
“There are so many scams going on. You’ve got to pay attention,” resident Wayne Bullock, 57, added.
Regarding frequent questions surrounding the federal Internal Revenue Service, Rosa simply said this: “If you owe them money, they’re going to send you a letter and if they owe you money, they’re going to send you a letter.”