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Guest Column: Here are some tips toavoid identity theft

By SHERRI BEVAN WALSH Summit County Prosecutor Published: January 25, 2017 12:00 AM

2017 is here! Are you ready to stay safe? Many times we make New Year's resolutions focusing on our health and family, but does that include keeping yourself and your identity safe? Now is the time to keep scammers away and protect your family.

Scammers will do just about anything to grab hold of your money or personal information. Just recently, teachers in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District were victims to an email spoofing scam. Over 60 employees clicked on an email which they thought was from their bank.

Everything looked official, but it turned out the email was from scammers. The employees were directed to another website where their direct-deposit paychecks were eventually directed to someone other than their bank. More than $100,000 dollars were lost.

So how can you keep this from happening to you? First, be skeptical of everything, especially unsolicited emails, even if they are from a friend. If you get an email from what appears to be a legitimate company or bank, call your own bank to see if it's legit. They will be able to tell you if it's real or if they have had prior calls concerning the same email. Benjamin Franklin was right when he said an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Scammers try to take advantage of people who let their guard down. Some of the most common involve callers who pressure you into making a decision right away or play on your emotions. The "Grandparent Scam" is one example. That's when someone calls claiming to be your grandchild and they desperately need money

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ecause they're in trouble. Those scammers will request you make a payment via gift card or wire transfer. If you get a request to pay this way, you should be alerted immediately that it is a scam.

Part of your financial well-being should also include a review of your bank account. You should try to do this daily to catch any suspicious activity. If you find unauthorized charges, immediately contact your bank and dispute the charges.

While you make sure your finances are in good shape, many of us focus on getting our bodies in shape. So you join a gym! Gyms are a great place to exercise and learn how to get healthy. But before you sign up, make sure you understand your rights when joining a gym. Under Ohio law, people usually have three business days to cancel a contract with a fitness center. Also, think before you sign a contract longer than one year. Gym contracts generally should not last longer than three years.

Also, don't forget about those gift cards you received during the holidays. The longer you wait to use a gift card, the more likely it will be lost or stolen. Plus, while most gift cards last at least five years, certain promotions, bonuses or other special cards may expire sooner.

And finally, we always remind people that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. We'd all love to win the lottery, but those emails promising that you won millions of dollars are a scam, especially if you have to pay to collect your winnings.


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