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06-20-12-senior-corner.jpgYou thought this could never happen: You or a senior loved one has been the victim of a scam.

You need to get help now, before another dollar trickles away and your credit score takes a big hit.

Here are some key steps, according to legal experts:

• Contact the police. File a report with the police department in area where the crime was committed.

• Get a copy of the police report. If you are unable to obtain a copy of the police report, be sure to get the report number.

• Close your accounts. If you notice any accounts under your name that have been tampered with or opened without your consent, close them immediately. Call each bank or company and then follow up in writing. If there are fraudulent charges or debts on your account or if a new account has been opened, you should immediately file a fraud report with your bank’s fraud department. If you close an existing bank account and open a new one, be sure to create new PINs (Personal Identification Numbers) and passwords.

• Eliminate fraudulent new accounts. If a new account has been opened without your knowledge and consent, ask that company if it has a fraud department. If it does, file a fraud report with that department. If not, ask if the company will accept an ID Theft Affidavit from the Federal Trade Commission. You can print out an http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/resources/forms/affidavit.pdf [ID Theft Affidavit]. The FTC also provides http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2002/02/idtheft.shtm [more information on fraud].

• File a federal complaint. The Federal Trade Commission is the federal consumer protection agency. The FTC, in conjunction with the FBI, maintains an Identity Theft Data Clearinghouse. The FTC aids identity theft investigations by collecting complaints from victims and sharing the information with law enforcement agencies, credit bureaus, companies where the fraud took place, and other government agencies. File at www.consumer.gov/idtheft [FTC complaint] or call 877-ID-THEFT (877-438-4338).

• Initiate a fraud alert. Place a fraud alert on your credit file as well as review your credit report. This will prevent a thief from opening any more accounts in your name. You should contact the three major credit bureaus. Credit bureau contact information: Equifax, 800-525-6285; Experian, 888-397-3742; Transunion, 800-680-7289

• Follow-up. After you have a fraud alert included in your credit history, you are entitled to receive a free copy of your credit report from each of the credit bureaus. Request a copy and review your report for accounts you did not open, debts on your account that you did not know about, inquiries from companies you don’t know and inaccurate information.

The important thing to remember is that you’re not alone. It’s unfortunate, but scamming has become commonplace, and there’s no reason to be embarrassed. Acting quickly may prevent someone from going through the same thing. Law enforcement officials are experienced in handling cases such as yours, and they are sympathetic to your plight. A

Home Instead CAREGiverSM can help, too, by serving as a second set of eyes and ears in a senior’s home. CAREGivers can be on the lookout for suspicious activity and assist seniors by sorting through junk mail, throwing out unwanted credit card offers and reminding older adults about other material that needs to be shredded before discarding. Contact your Home Instead Senior Care® office at 910-484-7200 or visit www.homeinstead.com/647.

For more information, visit: www.ago.ne.gov/resources/dyn/files/392571za5a5011a/_fn/AGO_IDTheftBroch_122910.pdf.

Photo: Scammers are equal opportunity crooks. Protect yourself.

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