|Holiday Safety Tips|
Better Business Bureau’s Holiday Safety Tips
Dec. 8, 2005, Arlington, VA -- Not everyone is full of goodwill during the holidays. Unfortunately, the holidays are prime time for financial crimes - identity theft, robbery and fraud - and seniors are often the target.
According to the National Crime Prevention Council, seniors fall prey to fraud for a variety of reasons. They are generally more accessible by telephone and mail; are trusting and willing to listen; have limited experience with investments; and are deeply concerned with maintaining finances to last them throughout their lives. Furthermore, many older people are complacent or forgetful of details and may be embarrassed to admit they've been "had" by a scam artist.
To safeguard against financial crimes this holiday season, the Better Business Bureau offers these timely tips for seniors and those who care for them:
* Hang on to your personal information. Do not give any personal information over the phone or Internet to an unfamiliar company or caller. This includes your credit card numbers, but also the credit card expiration date, your Social Security number, driver's license number, bank account numbers, and personal information, such as your mother's maiden name. Even if you are told it is only for "identification" or "verification" purposes, this information can be used for unauthorized credit card charges or bank account debits. Tell the person to send their request to you in the mail and that you will check out their record with the Better Business Bureau.
* Use direct deposit. Your mail - both incoming and outgoing - can be vulnerable, especially during the holidays when criminal activity is heightened. If your Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) check or other payments is delivered by mail to an unlocked box, you may be at risk for theft. Direct deposit eliminates the risk of lost or stolen checks, reduces fraud and gives people faster access to their money on payment day. Direct deposit also protects against identity theft. For more information about enrolling in direct deposit of your Social Security or SSI payment, call the Go Direct helpline at 1.800. 333.1795 or sign-up online at http://www.GoDirect.org
* Pay the safest way. Many older Americans enjoy the convenience of online holiday shopping. If you're one of them, remember it's best to use a credit card as your payment option and to check that the Internet connection you will be using is secure. Under federal law you can dispute the charges if you don't get what you were promised, or if the product is not delivered within the stated time period. Many credit card issuers also have a "zero liability" policy for unauthorized charges in the event your credit card number is stolen.
* Arm yourself with information. The Better Business Bureau offers safe shopping advice and other helpful tips at the http://www.bbb.orghttp://www.bbb.org .
Web site. When in doubt, always check things out. Consult with trusted family members, friends or neighbors before making a major purchasing decision. Whenever you have a question or concern regarding a merchant or marketplace transaction, contact your local Better Business Bureau or check the consumer tips and alerts at