Retirement communities like Payson are prime targets for identity theft and fraud schemes.
"One of the top priorities at the attorney general's office is identity theft," Community Service Representative William Bessett said.
He said the rate of identity theft in Arizona is 156.9 persons per 100,000 in population.
One of the preferred ways identity thieves get people's personal information is from wallets and purses, Bessett said.
"People in retirement communities typically don't move around a lot and criminals know that and consider them desired candidates."
"There can be a wealth of personal information they can get if people aren't careful," Bessett said.
The Payson Citizen's Awareness Committee hosted an open meeting with attorney general's office Monday afternoon at the Payson Public Library to discuss the top 10 consumer scams in Arizona.
Bessett said criminals looking to rip off consumers regularly go Dumpster diving.
He recommended getting a confetti-crosscutting shredder to protect information.
He said many older shredders only cut documents into ribbons, which criminals can paste up and reconstruct to extract sensitive personal information.
He said using a confetti-crosscutting shredder makes it virtually impossible for criminals to extract sensitive personal information.
Consumers need to be more careful about securing their personal information, especially when it comes to online purchases using debit and credit cards, Bessett said.
He recommended people use credit cards only for online purchases.
He said most credit card companies have a liability limit protecting consumers from unauthorized transactions, but debit cards don't have the same protections.
"The difference is that credit card purchases are electronic paper transactions and government has streamlined the process for insurers to get their money back."
"Debit cards, on the other hand, are real money transactions, and it is much more difficult for banks to get back money taken from customers' accounts fraudulently," Bessett said.
Bessett said consumers should check their credit reports at least once a year to see if any suspicious activity has occurred.
Consumers are entitled, by law, to one free credit report per year, but can get as many as they want, if they are willing to pay the fees.
Bessett said consumers should go to Annualcreditreport.com to get a free report.
The meeting also covered Nigerian Internet scams offering people easy ways to make fast money.
E-mails asking people for personal banking information, or to use their bank accounts to cash money orders and cashier's checks for a foreign or domestic company are red flags, Bessett said.
The Roundup recently reported on a Payson woman who lost $2,600 to such a scam.
The woman received an e-mail asking her to cash money orders and cashier's checks for a company based in London.
The checks were sent to her by ground mail and she was instructed to deposit them in her bank account, keep 10 percent, and forward the rest to the company in London.
After she did, she soon discovered that her account had been drained of all funds and the checks she had received proved to be fraudulent, and she was held liable for any overdrafts.
Bessett said that is the typical outcome of such Internet get-rich-quick offers.
Bessett said other scams consumers should watch out for include:
- Internet auctions
- Mortgage foreclosure
- Rescue schemes
- Missing prices in stores