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Beach chamber learn myriad of scams, frauds

July 19, 2017
Chuck Ballaro - , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

In this day and age of computers, it is so easy for any unassuming person to have their lives turned upside down by someone who's stolen their identity. Yet, there are still many ways they can do it the old-fashioned way.

That was the warning given by Peggy Lince of the Lee County Sheriff's Office, during the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce's monthly meeting at Charley's Boat House on Thursday.

Lince said there is a difference between a scam and a fraud. A fraud is when someone takes your identity, while a scam involves an actual participant.

A fraud can be ransomware, where a hacker freezes your computer and demands money to release the information on it. This is usually something out of your control.

A scam can involve someone pretending to be your grandson needing money to bail them out of jail. It is a choice to participate.

Lince told the crowd there are ways to avoid being a victim. Be careful of opening e-mails from someone you do not know, because that's where ransomware usually begins.

"People have their personal information or family photos on there, and usually, people pay the ransom. These are criminals. It's 50/50 whether or not you get your information back," Lince said.

Some strategies for protecting yourself are good firewall, strong passwords you change frequently, and backing up information so if you're a victim, you might be better off buying a new computer rather than pay a ransom that's likely more than the computer itself.

Lince also warned to stay away from the ads on the side or bottom of a web page. Scammers have figured out how to get into your computer that way through phishing, the fraudulent practice of pretending to be a reputable company in the attempt to get information such as login and passwords, credit card numbers and Social Security numbers. Before clicking an ad, search the name of the company to see if any scam reports are present.

"They make get bank account numbers because you want to find that one way to get rid of belly fat," Lince said. "Go to Google and put it in the search bar."

All scammers need to get your identity is the last four digits of your social security number and the place you were born to know your social security number, since for many older people the first three numbers reveal the place of birth, which is public record. Now, those numbers are given out randomly.

There are still dumpster divers who get information from someone's trash to scan and use, from names to credit card information. Lince said you're better off to rip it up or shred.

Put all together, people can get your identity to make money at your expense. Florida is third in the country in identity theft and Fort Myers/Cape Coral is 11th in the state. Lince said the reason is there are so any seniors, as well as children, who have become the newest targets for identity thieves.

"We have the two perfect groups. Seniors have their finances and are from a generation that was more trusting," Lince said. "Children get their Social Security number at birth, but don't touch it until their first job."

Lince warns to check your credit report regularly, as you are entitled to one per year. Even do that with your young children, as they should have no credit report.

She also said to use cash as much as possible and credit cards only when you need to. Do not use your debit card for anything except maybe at your bank ATM. Credit companies can protect you from identity theft, while banks can be much more difficult.



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