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Tips for Preventing Identity Theft and Fraud

More than half of Coloradans surveyed in a consumer protection report have experienced fraudulent charges on their credit or debit cards. (Pixabay)
More than half of Coloradans surveyed in a consumer protection report have experienced fraudulent charges on their credit or debit cards. (Pixabay)
December 11, 2017

DENVER – Consumer fraud can affect Coloradans of all ages and backgrounds, according to a new report by the AARP Foundation.

The group asked Centennial State residents ages 50 and above about their experiences with a variety of scams, and found a clear majority had been targeted.

Mark Fetterhoff, a senior program specialist with the AARP Foundation, says, especially during this holiday shopping season, one way people can protect themselves is to limit their online activities at coffee shops, airports and other places that offer free, wireless Internet.

"We highly recommend that people do not do anything involving personal information, banking information, or shopping when they're using public Wi-Fi, because those networks are not necessarily secure," he explains.

Fetterhoff points out it's easy for hackers to access passwords, Social Security numbers and bank account information if public networks are not properly secured, and home networks are typically safer.

The Colorado Attorney General's office welcomed the report, and encourages people who think they've been victims of fraud to file a complaint in order to protect others.

More than half the survey respondents have seen fraudulent charges on their credit or debit cards, and 70 percent received a phone call or pop-up message on their computers from someone claiming to be a tech support representative.

Fetterhoff says people have paid hundreds of dollars to fix what the scammer tells them is a software glitch, and he warns allowing remote access to your computer can put sensitive information at risk.

"Oftentimes, they say they're affiliated with Microsoft, or Apple or Dell, or another large computer company, and they're just frankly not,” he relates. “None of those companies do outbound calling or will put a pop-up on your screen telling you to call them."

Other scams to watch for include notifications about winning a sweepstakes or lottery, phone calls from people posing as IRS agents, and requests to wire money to help a family member in a crisis.

Fetterhoff also recommends requesting free annual credit reports to make sure accounts have not been opened in your name without your consent.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO