Guard Yourself Against Financial Scams To avoid becoming a victim of identity theft and scams related to financial institutions: Request a free annual credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies to ensure someone hasn’t stolen your identity by submitting credit requests. Review bank and credit card statements each month to ensure there are no unauthorized withdrawals or fraudulent charges. Never provide personal or payment information to anyone calling to collect a payment. Ask for the request to be mailed instead. Shred documents with identifying account numbers if they are not needed, including old, unwanted and unused blank checks. Pay attention to alerts from financial institutions indicating when unfamiliar charges or withdrawals occur. Requests to confirm address changes also signal possible fraud. Protect personal and financial account data including a Social Security number, birth date, credit and debit card numbers, and bank account numbers. Keep debit card PIN information private. Use preprinted personal checks, not blank checks that arrive unsolicited through the mail. Contact the Division of Financial Institutions Consumer Affairs office at 1-866-278-0003 to get tips to protect yourself from fraud or to file a complaint. Check Before You Invest Across the country, older Americans are being encouraged to take part in activities that promote wellness and social interaction. While remaining socially engaged can improve the quality of life for older adults, at the same time, scammers will steal seniors’ money through affinity fraud, which exploits relationships built through common interests and activities. These scams exploit the trust and friendship that exists in groups, including religious and ethnic affiliations, sports and other leisure activities, and business and professional groups. Because of the tight-knit structure of these groups, the scammer – who is a member or pretends to be a member – counts on the trust factor that develops among group members. Often, the leader of the group is the first unsuspecting victim and unwittingly spreads the word among other members that the investment is legitimate when, in reality, it’s a scam. Also, don’t fall for investments that promise little or no risk, “guaranteed” returns or unusually high profits. These are classic warning signs of fraud. Before investing, research the person’s background and the investment itself, even if you know the person. The person telling you about the investment may have been fooled into believing the investment is legitimate when it is not. Get additional information and tips to avoid affinity fraud online . If you or someone you know suspects they may be a victim of fraud, call the Division of Securities’ Investor Protection Hotline at 877-683-7841.