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DA and computer crimes investigator lay it on the line

PLATTSBURGH Clinton County D.A. Andrew Wiley and Computer Crimes Investigator Jerome Jay Miner of the New York State Police were recently welcomed as guest speakers at the Clinton County Senior Computer Club meeting. Their message came through loud and clear On-line schemes and fraud, identity theft, and fake charitable organizations pose a serious threat to seniors. Wiley said that luckily they have not had to prosecute many such cases, but that certainly doesnt mean those crimes are non-existent in this area. He said there is a real difficulty in prosecuting these cases, in part because many of the perpetrators are from Canada or from other states. Unfortunately we have no jurisdiction in other states, Wylie said. In order for the case to be taken on by the U.S. Attorney it must be a theft of at least $10,000, he added. Miner said that since the inception of the Computer Crime Unit in 1992 that department has grown to include 28 investigators, because of the demand. The Internet has become a haven to all sorts of criminals who use their computers for anything and everything from harassment to planning and implementing murders, he said. But when it comes to seniors, he is more worried about people gaining access to and using their personal information to establish and run up credit - both on and off-line. Not everybody that works at your bank is honest, he said, causing a wave of startling looks from his audience of dozens of seniors. When paying for a meal at a restaurant, using a credit card can pose a risk. Your credit card number is right there on the slip. I can honestly tell you all that somewhere, someday it is going to happen to you, Miner warned. Thats where the saying due diligence, comes into play, he told the audience. You need to review those credit card reports and bank statements, he said. There are companies out there that take out $20-40 at a time, Miner said. They are hoping you wont notice it. And these companies rely upon you not replying (to the discrepancies in the statements or bills), Wylie chimed in. The senior group was advised not to carry too many credit cards or social security cards in their wallets or purses. And when deciding to get rid of a credit card account, Miner said they should not just cut it up, instead they really need to contact the company to close it out. Other safe-guarding suggestions: Always use a secure US Postal drop box to mail out bill payments and income taxes. Never should those be left in rural mailboxes for pick-up. Shred, burn or otherwise destroy all pre-approved credit card offers, or those containing checks. Get your free annual credit reports - but do so by using the Federal Trade Commissions Web site and follow the link. Do not fall for the over the phone scams that include fake calls from your bank telling you they lost your information. Then how would they have your telephone number? Miner asked. Same goes for the lottery scams, if you didnt enter one, then you didnt win! Never should you have to pay money to claim a prize! If you are on-line, know what phishing means. Always keep your anti-virus and spyware up to date and make sure you have firewall protection. Wire transfers are never a good way to do business. If given the receipt number anyone can access the funds from anywhere. If you dont get your monthly credit card statement - find out why -chances are someone may have gained access to your information and diverted the bills to another address so that you would not know extra charges were being made. Lock your doors and keep personal information, bills, cards in a safe, secure place. For more information on how to protect yourself: The most important place to visit is the Federal Trade Commissions Web site at www.ftc.gov/idtheft or call 1-877-438-4338 for information on how to deter, detect and defend yourself from ID theft. For more on identity theft visit www.usps.com/postalinspectors or call the USPS ID Theft hotline at 1-877-987-3728. To place a fraud alert with your credit card companies contact one of the three following companies: Equifax 1-800-525-6285, Experian 1-888-397-3742, or TransUnion 1-800-680-7289. To report a crime: Contact NYS Police Computer Crime Unit, Northern Region by calling 562-7682.

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