“The consumer has more power than they think,” stated Devin Carrington, the Commissioner of the Virgin Islands Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs (DLCA) at a recent Town Hall meeting on St. Thomas, “Too often we depend on the government to do everything, but we, as consumers need to work in solidarity and not allow businesses to provide us with products or services that are not up to standard.”
The same holds true for taking action to protect ourselves from fraudsters and scammers who illegally obtain information from people by way of either tricking them into revealing personal information or by stealing it over the internet or via the local dumpster.
“Scammers are ingenious, their ingenuity knows no bounds,” states Carrington, “One of the biggest problems today is the internet and how comfortable we, as a society, have become with willfully supplying information about ourselves.” That same information is gathered and used by criminals.
“The strongest admonition that I can give to Virgin Islands residents, particularly seniors, is to vigilantly safeguard their personal information, especially health or financial record, continued Carrington.
“Shredding paperwork related to either of these areas helps to keep this information out of the hands of those who would ingeniously use this information for their own personal gain,” stated Carrington. Years ago, people felt confident that when they threw out their old credit card bills, WAPA bills, Medicare statements or receipts in the trash no harm would come to them. But criminals are much smarter today. There are even people who scour garbage cans and dumpsters looking specifically for this kind of information. So shredding these items is a much safer way to dispose of these old documents.
But, unfortunately, today not even all shredding is equivalent. Criminals have been known to actually take the single strips of shredded documents and paste them back together. That’s why newer shredding machines now, cross-cut documents into tiny diamond shaped confetti which is almost impossible to piece back together is far safer.
The AARP/DLCA shredding event, held on April 27 th on St. Croix, is a great example of what people need to do. Shredding is something that is definitely within the power of the consumer. Whether it is done in large events with a commercial shredder like the one that we recently sponsored or whether you shred your materials at home in a convenient home size shredder the result is the same. You protect your identity and your financial information and deny a criminal access to what they need to harm you.
For more information on ways to protect yourself and your loved ones from identity theft please visit: www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork