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Seniors learn strategies to protect ID

'Your identity is the car, your SSN is the key'

September 23, 2010
CHARLTON — About 15 local seniors got a primer on how to protect their identities Wednesday at the senior center, but some were already well aware of the concept.

"I'm really not here to alarm you; I'm here to inform you," said the presenter, Elizabeth Haddad from the District Attorney's office. "But some of the things I'll say may be alarming. There are really a number of ways to keep yourself safe."

There need to be, she observed, because criminals are constantly coming up with new ways to scam people of anything ranging from credit card numbers and cash to Social Security numbers, health data and other vital information. While the former can be fairly simple to correct by canceling credit cards, many of the other thefts can subject the victim to years of problems by destroying their credit rating.

"If your identity is a car, your Social Security number is the key," she said, noting failure to pay attention to some basic identity security measures is like leaving the car running with the doors open.

Often Haddad said she hears people claim, "I don't care if somebody has my bank account number because there's nothing in it." Her response, though, is simple: the crooks don't really want the bank account, just the doors it can open. If you have good credit, that number can give crooks the ability to use your good name to do all kinds of things.

"We used to worry that they'd steal the money," Haddad later observed, noting simple physical theft of such things as purses or mail is still the most common tactic. "Now we hope they just steal the money."

For more on this story, please see tomorrow's Southbridge Evening News.

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