Q: Recently I became aware of scams involving misuse of personal checks. Do you have any suggestions on how to avoid becoming a victim of this crime?
A: Scams involving misuse of personal checks and bank account information have become “big business” with annual losses in the billions.
The most effective step consumers can take to guard against fraud is to be aware. To help avoid being victimized, store checks safely and when appropriate destroy properly.
Proper handling begins with ordering of checks. When your order is received, promptly review the checks to ensure they are correctly printed and all the checks were received. Then store your blank checks in a safe place, preferably in a locked area.
If you find an error on your checks, an order for checks is not received or your checks have been lost or stolen report the problem to your financial institution immediately.
To properly destroy old checks, voided checks or unused deposit slips, shred or tear them into small pieces. Account statements should also be destroyed in this manner. 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 your 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 they are received. It will help to discover any fraudulent activity that may have occurred. 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 not only to the mail carrier but also to anyone else in the neighborhood that there is mail to be picked up.
Always take outgoing mail to the post office or place it in the big blue boxes provided by the post office. When using the blue boxes check to determine that a mail pickup will be made after you make your deposit. You don’t want to leave mail uncollected overnight.
Q: When I receive my bills and statements I always take all the inserts and just throw them away. After talking with a neighbor I realize some of those inserts may have been privacy notices that I should have taken some action on. Is there anything I can do?
A: From comments I have heard you are not alone. These particular privacy notice inserts don’t look much different from the usual “junk mail” enclosures we receive in bills and statements. But rest assured, all is not lost.
Even if you threw away the notices you can act at any time to protect your personal information. Contact the bank or company and ask for a copy of their privacy notice and follow the instructions for protecting your privacy.
You can also draft your own notice. It should instruct the company that you do not want it to disclose personally identifiable information about you to non-affiliated companies or individuals.
In the future keep alert for notices when you open new accounts or when companies notify you of changes in their privacy policies.
It is always a good idea to look over all the “junk mail” before you toss it. Shred it if it contains any identifiable information. The little time it takes to do this is a good investment.
Sunday: Community garage sale, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Goebel Adult Community Center’s parking lot, 1385 E. Janss Road in Thousand Oaks. More than 50 individual garage sales in one location.
Monday: “Will You Pass Your Next Driving Test” seminar. 1:30-3 p.m. at Goebel Adult Community Center, 1385 E. Janss Road in Thousand Oaks. For information and reservations call 381-2744.
Oct. 22: Boomer Bootcamp distinguished speakers series, 6:30 p.m. at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, Scherr Forum Theatre. For information and tickets ($30) call 497-0189 or go on-line https://www.seniorconcerns.org.
MEDICARE 2015 and COVERED CAlifornia SEMINARS:
Friday, 1 p.m., Goebel Adult Community Center, 1385 E. Janss Road in Thousand Oaks. For information and reservations call 381-2744.
Tuesday, 1:30-3 p.m., Simi Valley Senior Center, 3900 Avenida in Simi Valley. For information and reservations call 583-6363.
Oct. 15, 1:30-3 p.m. at Westlake Village Civic Center, 31200 E. Oak Crest Drive in Westlake Village. For information and reservations call the Advocate’s office at 495-6250.
Oct. 16, 1:30-3 p.m. at Moorpark Active Adult Center, 799 Moorpark Ave. in Moorpark. For information and reservations call 517-6261.