By Betty Berry, Tuesday, May 10, 2011 

Q: I am trying to educate my widowed mother about protecting herself from identity theft. But my words are falling on deaf ears. She reads your column. Can you help?

A: I’ll try. Identity theft is a serious crime that can cost you time and money, destroy your credit and ruin your good name.

There are three steps you can take to protect yourself. Think of them as the three D’s; deter, detect and defend.

You can deter identity thieves by protecting your vital information. This can be accomplished by shredding all documents that contain personal information before disposing of them. Protect your Social Security number — give it out only when absolutely necessary. Don’t use obvious passwords such as your birth date, mother’s maiden name or last four digits of your Social Security number, and keep personal information in a secure place at home.

You can detect suspicious activity by being alert. Be aware of when bills should arrive each month, and if they don’t arrive, make inquiries. Have you been denied credit for no apparent reason or have you been contacted about a purchase you did not make? Any of these occurrences require your immediate attention.

On a timely basis, inspect your credit reports and financial statements. Question discrepancies.

If you suspect identity theft, take action and defend against it. Place a “fraud alert” on your credit reports. Close any accounts that have been tampered with and file a police report.

Identity theft happens in many ways, including Dumpster diving, skimming credit card numbers, phishing on the Internet, diverting billing statements to another location and just plain, old-fashioned stealing.

It isn’t hard to protect yourself. Just take a few simple steps and incorporate them into your everyday schedule. It will pay off — saving you time, money and grief in the long run.

Q: I and several of my friends were talking about our health care coverage, which is Medicare, and were surprised to discover we had different understandings on several areas of coverage. Is there somewhere we could go to clear up these misunderstandings?

A: Medicare coverage is a very complex plan with a number of options available. I am sure you and your friends are not the only ones who could use a refresher course.

“Medicare 101” will be presented at 10 a.m. May 19 in the Pavilion Room of the Courtyard by Marriott, 800 Esplanade Drive in Oxnard.

The event is being sponsored by Kaiser Permanente and will be facilitated by a spokesman from the Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program, or HICAP. There will be time for questions and answers, so I am sure you can obtain the information you need. HICAP is a program sponsored by the Ventura County Area Agency on Aging.

Reservations for the seminar can be made by calling 800-600-4182.

If you cannot attend May 19, the program will be repeated at 1:30 p.m. June 17 at the Goebel Senior Adult Center in Thousand Oaks.


Today, 1:30-3 p.m.: Presentation on “Supplementing Your Medicare Fee-for-Service Coverage,” Westlake Village Civic Center, 31200 E. Oak Crest Drive, facilitated by Senior Concerns advocate.

May 18, 1:30-3 p.m.: Presentation on “Will You Pass Your Next Driving Test?” at Simi Valley Senior Center, 3900 Avenida Simi, facilitated by Senior Concerns advocate. For information and reservations, call 583-6363.

June 5, 7 a.m.: Senior Concerns Love Run — 5K, 10K and 1K run/walk; 2815 Townsgate Road, Westlake Village. For details, contact Susan at 497-0189 or


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