Millions of Americans are victims of fraud each year. Many of those who fall prey to this crime are elderly; however, it is difficult to estimate the prevalence of elder fraud because cases are underreported and the definition of "elderly" varies from state to state. Even though national statistics on elder fraud do not exist, studies have shown that it is a problem in this country. This crime can have a significant impact on its victims because they are incapable of recovering financial losses; many are too old or frail to reenter the workforce. The emotional impact of elder fraud can be traumatic as well.
A variety of innovative policies and practices have been developed to address and raise awareness of financial fraud committed against the elderly. The Communities Against Senior Exploitation (CASE) Partnership, developed by the Denver District Attorney's Office with funding from the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), is a promising program that is working to address this significant problem. From 2002 to 2006, OVC funded the partnership between the Denver District Attorney's Office and specific faith-based organizations to provide community-based services for elder financial fraud prevention, intervention, reporting, and victim support. The program has now been expanded to many other states, including Minnesota.
The CASE (Communities Against Senior Exploitation) Partnership was funded as an elder fraud prevention demonstration project of the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, in 2002. Faith communities have proved to be successful partners for the following reasons:
•A significant number of older adults are active participants.
•Many older adults receive much of their information and social support from their church, synagogue, temple, or mosque.
•Many older adults trust and respect clerical authority.
By providing ongoing programs in this environment, C.A.S.E. uses the trust and compassion associated with faith communities to effectively educate, empower, protect, and assist older adults.
COMMUNITIES AGAINST SENIOR EXPLOITATION - WHAT IS IT ??
Communities Against Senior Exploitation - is a unique and successful elder fraud prevention program, for both urban and rural communities, in which prosecutors and law enforcement partner with faith communities. CASE provides a faith-based program for elder fraud prevention, crime detection and reporting, and victim support. Program components include:
• An ongoing partnership between prosecutors or law enforcement agencies and faith-based communities
• Faith-based Power Against Fraud prevention seminars led by prosecutor or law enforcement staff
• Monthly Fraud Alerts sent to the faith partners for congregational distribution
• Fraud prevention assistance and victim support
By involving the faith community, CASE builds an alliance that reaches a large and broad audience of older adults, their families and caregivers, as well as clergy and other community leaders. The CASE Program is a successful community partnership that uses the trust and compassion associated with faith communities to effectively educate and empower, protect and assist older adults.
CASE - Communities Against Senior Exploitation - is a unique and successful elder fraud prevention program that partners prosecutors and law enforcement agencies with the faith community and other community-based organizations. Through education and prevention, CASE works to empower older adults, their families and caregivers, as well as clergy and community leaders to prevent fraud and financial exploitation.
Why would a prosecutor and law enforcement agency want faith community partners?
Faith communities are successful partners because a significant number of older adults are active participants and receive much of their information and social support from their church, synagogue or temple. Older adults also have a high level of trust and respect for clerical authority. By providing ongoing programs in this environment, CASE uses the trust and compassion associated with faith communities to effectively educate and empower, protect and assist older adults.
WHAT IS YOUR IDENTITY THEFT PREVENTION SCORE ??
1. I pay bills with checks and place them in my mailbox or in a corner postal box. 10 points ________
2. I do not use direct deposit or electronic transfer for paychecks, refund or insurance claims checks. 5 points ________
3. New boxes of checks are mailed to my home. 10 points ________
4. I have not ‘opted out’ of my credit card marketing programs and receive “convenience” checks in the mail. 10 points ________
5. I carry a purse or wear a wallet in my back pocket. 0 points ________
6. I use checks for shopping and carry my checkbook with me when in public. 5 points ________
7. I have not copied the contents of my wallet. 5 points ________
8. I have at least one item in my wallet that contains my SSN. 10 points ________
9. I throw away my annual Social Security Earnings Statement without reviewing it. 10 points ________
10. I keep my purse, briefcase, checkbook, registration, insurance card, or other identifying information in my car. 10 points ________
11. I do not keep financial and personal documents in locked files in my home or office. 10 points ________
12. I do not shred bank/credit info before trashing. 10 points ________
13. I use a shredder, but not a cross-cut shredder. 5 points ________
14. I have not “opted out” of credit reporting agencies’ credit card solicitations. 5 points ________
15. I have not ordered copies of my credit report in over a year. 10 points ________
16. I have not notified the credit reporting agencies of the death of a relative or friend. 10 points ________
17. I have responded to e-mails or telephone calls from my Internet provider, bank, or companies like 10 points ________
eBay or PayPal requesting account verification (“phishing’).
18. I use e-commerce, but do not use a secure browser, or I have high-speed Internet service but no 10 points ________
My ITP Score: _________
The Power Against
60+ points - You are at high risk of being an ID theft victim. We recommend you use the attached check list to reduce your vulnerability.
30-60 points - Your odds of being victimized are about average. Higher if you have good credit. Use the attached check list to identify additional changes that will reduce your risk.
0-30 points - Congratulations. You have a high "IQ." Keep up the good work, but check the attached list for anything you may have overlooked.
MINIMIZE YOUR ID THEFT RISK
Mail bills to be paid at the Post Office, not in your mailbox or in street corner postal boxes. Consider using automated payment plans.
Have paychecks, benefit and pension checks direct deposited to your account. Ask the IRS, insurance companies and others to send refund checks electronically.
Ask your bank or credit union to receive your box of new checks, rather than have them mailed to your home.
Call your bank and credit card customer service and ask to “opt out” of ALL marketing programs, including ‘convenience’ checks mailings.
Carry sensitive information in a close fitting pouch or in your front pocket, not in your purse or wallet, including driver’s license, credit & debit cards, checks, car registration and anything with your Social Security Number (make a copy of your Medicare card and black out all but the last four digits.)
Don’t carry your checkbook in public. Carry only the checks you need.
Copy the contents (back and front) of your wallet.
If possible remove anything from your wallet containing your SSN, including your Social Security card, Medicare card, military ID card. If your SSN is on your Driver’s License – get a new license.
Check your earnings record at least annually and more often if you suspect your SSN has been compromised (it’s free and there is no limit to how often you may request it.) Contact the Social Security Administration (see page 8, Item 4) and ask for Form SSA-7004, Request for Earnings and Benefit Estimate Statement.
Do not keep your purse, briefcase, checkbook, registration, insurance card, or other identifying information in your car. Carry them in a secure manner on your person. Do not leave your car unlocked or unattended.
Keep your financial and tax records in locked files in your home or office.
Don’t give any part of your Social Security, credit card or bank account numbers over the phone, e-mail or Internet, unless you have initiated the contact to a verifiable company or financial institution.
Request a free copy of your credit report once a year.
Notify the credit reporting agencies of the death of a relative or friend to block the misuse of the deceased person’s credit.
Call the Credit Card Offer Opt Out Line to reduce number of credit card solicitations you receive. (1-888-567-8688 or www.optoutprescreen.com)
Shred pre-approved credit card offers, convenience checks and any document containing sensitive information - with a crosscut shredder.
DON'T RESPOND TO E-MAILS ASKING YOU TO SUBMIT PERSONAL DATA !!
The message may include fancy graphics, trademark symbols and an authentic-looking
e-mail address, but that can be faked. Here are ways to tell:
The message tries to scare you saying your account needs to be verified/updated.
The message threatens negative action if you fail to act immediately.
The message asks you to click on a link or to submit information through a button. Legitimate emails will not contain a link, but will ask you to close out the message, open the company’s Internet Web site, and use your name and password to update the required information. Never click on a link provided in the message!
The message appears to come from a company with whom you do business, but it calls you "Dear Customer" instead of your name.
Use a firewall program if you use a high-speed connection like cable, DSL or T-1, which connects your computer 24 hours a day. A firewall may stop hackers from accessing your computer. Without it, they can access personal information and use it to commit crimes.
Use a secure browser - software that encrypts or scrambles information you send over the Internet - to guard the security of online transactions. Be sure your browser has up-to-date encryption capabilities by using the latest version available from the manufacturer.
IF YOUR IDENTITY IS STOLEN
Unfortunately, resolving the consequences of identity theft is left largely to victims. Act quickly and assertively, and keep records/copies of all contacts and reports
File a report with your police/sheriff and get a copy of the report for the credit agencies, banks and credit card companies. Or request and complete the ID Theft Affidavit from the Federal Trade Commission.
Cancel each credit card. If you report the loss before the cards are used, you are not responsible for any unauthorized charges. Beware of callers selling credit card protection – you don’t need this! Carefully monitor your credit card statements for evidence of fraudulent activity.
Contact your financial institution and cancel all accounts and PIN numbers. Stop payments on outstanding checks and complete “affidavits of forgery” on unauthorized checks.
Report the theft to one of the fraud units of the credit reporting agencies. That agency will notify the other two of the possible fraud. Request the credit reporting agencies to flag your credit file for fraud. Add a victim’s statement to your report, such as: “My identification has been used to apply for fraudulent credit. Contact me at (your telephone number or address) to verify ALL applications.”
Consider subscribing to a credit report monitoring service (available from the credit reporting agencies) that includes fraud-watch e-mails and frequent credit reports.
Ask utility companies (especially cellular service) to watch for anyone ordering services in your name. If you have trouble with falsified accounts, contact the Public Utility Commission.
You are not responsible for losses from ID theft.
Your credit should not be permanently affected.
No legal action should be taken. Cooperate, but don’t be coerced into paying a fraudulent debt.
UNDER FEDERAL LAW/RULES, YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO:
Request a free copy of your credit report once a year from each of the three credit reporting agencies. If you dispute credit report information, credit bureaus must resolve your dispute within 30 days and send you written notice of the results of the investigation, including a copy of the credit report, if it has changed.
‘Opt Out’ of credit card companies’ and banks’ marketing programs, including ‘convenience checks’ sent on your credit card account by calling the companies’ customer service numbers.