Consumers urged to “Check it, Lock it, & Shred it”
Vancouver, WA – More than 40 AARP Fraud Fighters lit up the phone lines today as part of a “Reverse Boiler Room,” dialing hundreds of seniors in Portland and Vancouver.
In an ironic turn on a favorite tactic of con artists, volunteer Fraud Fighters operated their own telemarketing boiler room. But instead of hearing from crooks, local seniors received tips and information on how they can protect themselves from identity theft.
Attorney General Rob McKenna joined the volunteers as they made calls to hundreds of seniors in Portland and Vancouver. The event was part of “Operation Take Charge,” a consumer education partnership between AARP, the Attorney General’s Office and the Federal Trade Commission.
“ I am extremely concerned about protecting consumers and businesses from identity theft,” said McKenna. “Prevention is the key, and there are many simple steps that each of us can take to protect our personal information from falling into the wrong hands.”
AARP is urging the public to “check it, lock it and shred it.”
“We need to take charge of our personal information,” said volunteer Fraud Fighter Joe Dukes. “Consumers should check their credit reports often, lock their mailboxes and shred any unneeded documents that contain useful information for a thief.”
Outside the reverse boiler room, Fraud Fighters helped seniors and other members from the local community safely shred their personal documents in a 32-foot commercial shredder. Nearly 3,000 pounds of sensitive materials were shredded.
Identity theft is the fastest growing financial crime in the country. Last year, 5,654 Washington residents reported they were identity theft victims, a 20 percent increase from the previous year. Oregon saw a 9 percent increase in reports over the same period, with 3,156 victims last year. A 2005 survey by AARP and the Washington State Attorney General found that 75 percent of Washington residents are concerned about falling prey to identity theft.
“ Identity thieves target older consumers, as the criminals themselves have told us,” said AARP Washington State Director Doug Shadel. “Older consumers tend to have good credit. The better the victim’s credit, the more criminals covet their stolen identities.”
McKenna said community partnerships, outreach and prevention efforts such as Fraud Fighters are essential in the fight against identity theft.
Recipients of today’s calls were offered a free copy of AARP’s “Operation Take Charge Tool Kit.” The tool kit included a comprehensive set of resources to help consumers take charge of their identity. The materials can be found on AARP’s website at www.aarp.org/wa.
Jason Erskine, AARP, 206-517-9345
Kristin Alexander, AGO Public Affairs, 206-464-6432