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Survey: WA Consumers Don't Do Enough to Protect from ID Theft

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014   

SEATTLE - Many Washingtonians are playing right into the hands of crooks and identity thieves, according to a new statewide survey by AARP Washington. And it's the simple fraud prevention tips everyone has heard that, surprisingly, they're not putting into place.

Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed said they've left a phone or laptop in a vehicle in the last six months. Only about half have changed their online passwords lately or said they don't have online access to all their credit accounts. Doug Shadel, AARP Washington state director, says criminals follow the path of least resistance; so even small steps can be just enough resistance.

"It might be inevitable that, at some point, your data is accessed by an ID thief or one of these big, multimillion-dollar breach things," says Shadel. "But it is not inevitable that you become an ID theft victim - and the quicker you catch it, the better."

Other troubling survey findings: One in four people doesn't password-protect their mobile phone, one in five says they don't bother shredding documents, and four out of five say they haven't ordered the free annual copies of their credit reports in the past year to check for accuracy and fraudulent activity.

For an article in the latest issue of AARP The Magazine, Shadel interviewed a 34-year-old former drug addict and masterful ID thief in Seattle, as well as one of the women whose financial life she commandeered.

He says the thief was matter-of-fact in describing how easy it is to gain access to personal information.

"What she had was sort of a network of drug dealers and drug addicts who would go out, break into cars, Dumpster-dive into the garbage of people's homes - and she said, 'It's actually gotten easier because people recycle now. So, it's much cleaner and nicer, 'cause there's no spaghetti sauce in it.'"

He says a locking mailbox is another simple anti-theft precaution, but one-third of Washingtonians in the survey said they don't have one.

If you suspect identity theft, Shadel says file a police report and contact the Washington State Attorney General's office or the AARP Foundation's Fraud Fighter Call Center (800-646-2283).



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