Every two seconds, someone’s identity is snatched through fraud.
Identity theft is considered one of the most dominant forms of fraud, and an advocacy group took steps Tuesday to help combat the problem. AARP New York staged a free document-shredding event in Depew. Organizers dubbed the effort “Operation Stop Scams.”
“It’s a huge problem across the nation,” said Randy Hoak, AARP’s associate state director for Western New York. “15.4 million Americans were victimized by identity theft last year that’s a 16 percent increase from 2015.”
Identity theft’s economic toll was placed at $36 billion nationally, according to a 2015 survey led by True Link Financial.
In Erie County alone, more than 4,700 complaints lodged were related to identity fraud last year.
The document-shredding blitz was held at the Grapevine Banquet Facility. Experts have long urged people to shred unneeded medical bills, expired licenses, credit card receipts and documents that contain passwords.
“It’s a nightmare,” said Hoak as he described problems associated with identity theft. “There could be significant financial losses, embarrassment and problems with family. One of the biggest thefts is the time that it takes to restore that identity. To get all those accounts squared away and get everything in good standing.”
Another strategy aimed at preventing identity theft is AARP’s Fraud Watch Network, a free service that provides information on scams, provides a scam-tracking map and offers preventive tips.
“A lot of…the scams that were seeing now target older adults. They’ll target grandparents. There is a grandparent scam that is going around where the perpetrator pretends to be a grandson or granddaughter and is asking for money,” he said.
Other scams involve criminals masquerading as IRS officials who warn people to make payments for what they describe as back taxes or face jail time.people to pay back taxes or serve jail time