Dumpster divers, email and phone scam artists, as well as unethical door-to-door repair service people are all looking to make a buck (or more) off of you. Don’t be their next victim.

October is Fraud and Financial Abuse Awareness Month, and University of Tennessee Extension is a partner with the Tennessee Vulnerable Adults Coalition (TVAC), a coalition urging you to protect yourself and your loved ones against financial crimes including identity theft.

The National Adult Protective Services (NAPS) reports that the number of incidences of financial abuse of older adults has increased significantly over the past decade, but only one in 44 cases of financial abuse is ever reported. Many of the reports to NAPS involve perpetrators who are relatives or friends with the victim, although scams and frauds by strangers are common.

In a survey conducted by UT Extension and other TVAC partners during 2012, telephone scams, home improvement scams and theft of cash from a home or ATM were found to be the most prevalent economic crimes in Tennessee to which consumers fell victim.

Ann Berry, an associate professor and consumer economics specialist with UT Extension, offers these tips that can help you protect your identity and your finances:
  • Do not give out your personal information over the phone, email or Internet, unless you initiated the conversation and trust the party at the other end.
  • Protect your Social Security number, credit and debit card numbers, passwords and other personal identification. Never carry your Social Security card in your wallet.
  • Know what is in your wallet in case is it stolen or misplaced. Carry only what you really need with you.
  • Keep your financial trash clean by shredding documents with personal and account information in them.
  • Check out companies with the Better Business Bureau who come door-to-door or solicit business over the phone.
  • Check bank account and credit card statements closely.
  • Register your phone numbers with the Do Not Call registries.
  • Report any fraudulent activity to law enforcement and other appropriate agencies as soon as you become suspicious. 

If you do become a victim of identity theft, Berry recommends you contact each of the three credit reporting agencies and place a fraud alert on your reports. You may contact them online at www.annualcreditreport.com

Experts recommended that you get a free copy of your credit report every year from each of the agencies. The three major credit reporting agencies and their toll-free numbers are:

TransUnion, 800-680-7289
Equifax, 800-525-6285
Experian, 888-397-3742

Experts also recommend that you close accounts known to have been tampered with or opened without your permission. You should also file a police report and a report with the Federal Trade Commission at
www.ftc.gov/idtheft, or call 877-438-4338.

For more resources contact your local UT Extension office or visit
http://tnassetabuse.tennessee.edu or http://state.tn.us/comaging/TVAC

UT Extension provides a gateway to the University of Tennessee as the outreach unit of the Institute of Agriculture. With an office in every Tennessee county, UT Extension delivers educational programs and research-based information to citizens throughout the state. In cooperation with Tennessee State University, UT Extension works with farmers, families, youth and communities to improve lives by addressing problems and issue at the local, state and national levels.

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Contact:

Dr. Ann A. Berry, Associate Professor and Consumer Economics Specialist, 865-974-8198
 
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