Q: I recently became aware of scams involving misuse of personal checks. Do you have suggestions on how to avoid becoming a victim of this crime?

A: The most effective steps consumers can take are to store checks safely and destroy them properly when appropriate.

When you receive an order of new checks, promptly review them to ensure they are correctly printed and that all were received. The blank checks should then be stored in a safe, preferably locked, place.

If you find an error on your checks, an order for checks has not been received or checks have been lost or stolen, tell your financial institution immediately.

Voided checks, account statements or unused deposit slips should be shredded or torn into small pieces. Criminals search through trash to gain account numbers from old checks, credit card receipts and monthly statements.

Don’t provide telephone or door-to-door solicitors with checking account information until you have checked out the company they represent. There is no reason to provide this information unless you are authorizing a withdrawal from your account.

Review your account statements as soon as soon as you receive them. Notify your bank promptly of any discrepancies.

Never put bill payments in your mailbox for pickup by your mail carrier. The minute you put up the red flag for pickup, you announce to anyone in the neighborhood that there is mail to be picked up.

Outgoing mail should always be taken to the post office or placed in the blue postal boxes. When using the blue boxes, check the time of pickup. You don’t want to leave mail uncollected overnight.

Q: How can seniors protect themselves from becoming victims of elder abuse?

A: Isolation is a prime factor in cases of abuse. Seniors should try to remain sociable by maintaining and if possible increasing their network of friends and acquaintances. If a change of address is necessary, keep in contact with old neighbors and friends and make new ones.

Seniors who are still active should plan for at least a weekly meeting with a friend outside the home. If you are confined to a home or facility, ask friends to stop by, even if the visit is brief. Visits should not be on a scheduled basis but on different days and at different times. This can allow members from outside the household and friends to observe your well-being.

Remaining independent is important. If possible have your own telephone and post and open your own mail. Keep your important papers and belongings organized and make sure others are aware that you know where everything is kept.

Direct deposit of your Social Security and pension checks will guarantee their safe receipt. Get legal advice about arrangements you can make for possible future disability.

If you suspect that an elder is being abused physically, emotionally or financially, call Adult Protective Services at 634-3200.

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