Beware of fake charities

By Jesse Lewis
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 7, 2005

In the wake of the Hurricane Katrina disaster, people are opening their hearts and wallets to the victims, but students are urged to be aware of where their money is going to avoid falling prey to identity thieves.

The UA has had its share of scam artists following the campuswide warnings released last semester and during the summer regarding fake newspaper subscriptions.

The Pima County Sheriff's Department released an alert to help Arizona residents keep their personal information from potential thieves.

The release advises being aware of whom you are communicating with and being able to verify that they are who they say they are.

The easiest way to do this is to be the person to initiate the communication by calling the charity, credit institution or bank personally rather than giving information at their request.

Sgt. Eugene Mejia, University of Arizona Police Department spokesman, said only carrying two forms of identification on you at a time can help lessen the threat of theft.

Mejia explained that if students carry all their credit cards and bank information in one place, like their wallet, and the wallet is stolen, there are a lot of pieces of information to assist the thief.

It is also more difficult to cancel your credit cards and anything else that may have been stolen if everything is gone at once.

With the wide use of the Internet, identity theft suspects have access to much more information. UAPD and PCSD advise students to not provide personal information to people who request it in e-mails. Thieves can quickly cut and paste a document to make it look like it's from a real financial institution, though it may not be.

Also, always be wary of suspicious Web sites and only enter personal information in known, secure and legitimate Web sites, Mejia said.

Students should check their e-mail and mailbox regularly and report anything suspicious, Mejia said.

"With your name, date of birth and Social Security number, identity theft suspects can obtain access to your information," Mejia said.

He also stressed the importance of shredding anything with personal information on it, including pre-approved credit card and bank statements, before disposing of them because many thieves will pilfer through trash cans to find credit information.

If students think they have been victims of identity theft or fake charities, they should report it to police, contact their bank and credit companies and advise them of the situation, and keep a close eye on credit statements.

Also, always take with you your bank receipts, do not use your Social Security number as an ID on your checks and credit statements, and keep all information in a safe place like a lock box, safe or safety deposit box.