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Many Mainers Not Protected from Identity Theft

Monitoring bank and credit card accounts on line helps detect fraudulent charges. (TheDigitalWay/pixabay)
Monitoring bank and credit card accounts on line helps detect fraudulent charges. (TheDigitalWay/pixabay)
November 5, 2018

AUGUSTA, Maine – Computer hackers are stealing more and more personal data every day, but a new survey shows many Mainers aren't taking the basic steps to protect themselves.

The numbers are staggering – every two seconds, another American's identity is stolen.

There are simple steps people should take to secure their information. But according to Jane Margesson, communications director for AARP Maine, almost half of Mainers surveyed still use the same password for multiple accounts, only 4 in 10 can monitor their bank accounts online and fewer than 25 percent have taken what she calls the most important precaution, putting a freeze on their credit reports.

"Your mortgage on your home, car payments for your car, all of that is housed in your credit report,” she stresses. “You do not want that information falling into the hands of an identity thief."

Placing security freezes with all three credit reporting bureaus is free. More security tips are available online through the AARP Fraud Watch Network at AARP.org/fraud.

Margesson points out that regular monitoring of bank and credit card accounts is vital. Once identity thieves have account information, they may first check it out by making a small charge that could be less than a dollar.

"They're banking on the fact that a consumer who sees a charge for something that just seems insignificant may not take the time to follow up, and call the credit card company and say, 'I don't recognize it,'" she explains.

People are liable for no more than $50 of fraudulent charges on a credit card, but there is no such protection for money stolen from a bank account through a debit card.

Margesson also urges people to change passwords regularly, use different, strong passwords for each account, and use a digital password manager to keep track of them.

"If a scammer gets hold of a password and it is the key to opening up multiple accounts, then you're setting yourself in more of a risky spot," she points out.

Consumers can sign up with AARP to get weekly scam alerts by sending an email to ME@AARP.org.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - ME