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Keep these safety tips in mind to avoid becoming the victim of a con artist...


By John M. Carpino & John W. Kolberg


If someone calls and is purporting to be handling a insurance claim for health benefits, don't be too eager to release confidential information over the telephone.

Don't give your social security number to anyone either over the telephone or Internet.

Don't give out credit card numbers over the telephone or Internet unless you are the one that initiated the transaction and know the source to be reputable.

Don't be fooled by callers representing themselves to be soliciting for your local police or fire department. Ask for the name of the contact person at the police or fire department. Chances are the caller won't be able to provide you with any such contact.
Local police and fire departments do in fact solicit funds at times and may even use a professional solicitation company, but if it's legit the caller will certainly be able to provide you with a name of a local representative of the police/fire agency soliciting the donation.

When disposing of old records with personal information, such as social security number(s), personal checks, wage/earning statement(s), do not throw away in the trash, without first tearing the sheet into small pieces. Don't make it easy for the con to steal your identity. Its bad enough if your purse or wallet is taken and your personal history information is taken and used by another party. Don't just throw the info to the wind and leave it at the curb on garbage day. If you take it one step further, make sure you hand the garbage bag directly to the trash man on pick up day and watch it being disposed of.

When sending out U.S. Mail make sure you drop off the mail in a U.S. Postal Box and not leave it hanging at your box for the mail carrier to pick up. A con can easily get control of the envelope and if it contains a personal check of yours, the con will now know your account number, the bank drawn on, and have a sample of your signature to practice.

When leaving your car with a valet parking service, only leave the key(s) for the car necessary for the valet to lock and start your car. Do not leave house keys with the car. Even if the valet service has a good reputation it doesn't mean an employee can't go bad. I am certain somewhere inside the car a valet could find your home address on a insurance card or other document and easily either duplicate the key or now pass it off to another con. He can then enter your residence while you are out.

Just move into a new house? Have the locks changed immediately. A qualified locksmith can keep the current locks and re- key the cylinder. During construction numerous parties have access to the house key or have a master capable of opening your residence. Don't believe them when they tell you after construction was completed the unit was re- keyed. Pay the few extra dollars and have piece of mind.

A stranger knocks at your door . The stranger is looking for someone who does not ,of course, live there. Could be a burglar casing you out. A burglar will often times knock first and if no response proceed to make his entry.  If the resident is home and responds then the stranger will make an excuse for who he is looking for. Report any/all suspicious activity to your local police.

Burglars like to watch local newspapers for upcoming weddings as the burglar may target the home of the bride and groom knowing nobody will be home. You may want to alert your local police and request an extra watch on such a date. Also burglars have been known to view the obit column and commit a burglary on the day of the funeral at the residence of the deceased.
These same type of cons are the ones that find their targets for the Bank Examiner Scam, featured this month, as the lone survivor of the deceased.

Don't be tricked into leaving a large sum of money with a con who promises to lift a curse from you in order to bring happiness or success and needs the money to show as an offering for the spirits to do good things. This is an old gypsy fortune teller scam. Sounds ridiculous but you'd be surprised how many people still fall for this.

Use common sense when dealing with strangers. Expect the impossible because it may happen sooner or later. If it doesn't look right and it doesn't sound right, guess what? It probably isn't right!

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