“Should I ever give out my social security number or banking information over the phone or the Internet?” “Is there anything I can do to stop those annoying phone calls from telemarketers trying to sell me things I don’t need?” “Everyday my mailbox is stuffed with junk mail, how can I put an end to this?”
These are just three of the questions often asked of Westchester County Clerk Timothy Idoni by senior citizens concerned about protecting their privacy. “While not necessarily government related, I believe as your County Clerk, it is my duty to help protect our seniors from minor annoyances from telemarketers to outright theft of their personal information”, said Idoni, whose office has seen a spike in inquiries from Westchester County seniors who are often the target of these unwanted solicitations. To help protect seniors’ privacy, County Clerk Idoni offers the following valuable tips:
Protect against identity theft. “Check your credit report every year”, recommends Idoni. “You may not be aware that you’re entitled to one free report each year from any of the three nationwide consumer reporting agencies.” To order a free credit report seniors can go online to http://www.annualcreditreport.com/ or call (877) 322-8228. “However”, cautions Idoni, “I would also suggest that you never give out your social security number, especially over the Internet, unless you know who you are giving it to and the website is secure.”
Stopping calls from telemarketers. “Unfortunately, it’s not possible to stop all unwanted calls, but you can take advantage of the Do-Not-Call Registry to reduce the number of calls from telemarketers”, advises Idoni who recommends seniors log on to http://www.donotcall.gov/ or call (888)382-1222 to register their home and cell phone numbers with the federal Do-Not-Call Registry. Consumers using this service can register up to three phone numbers at once if done online. If registering by phone, they can only call from the number that is being registered. “And if you have already registered, but are concerned that it may have expired, you can rest assured that the Federal Trade Commission will not drop any telephone numbers from the Do-Not-Call Registry pending federal action regarding whether to make the registry permanent”, said Idoni.
Reducing junk mail. There are several ways to reduce junk mail at little or no cost. One no cost way is through the website http://www.optoutprescreen.com/ or by calling (888)5-OPT-OUT to stop future “pre-approved” or “pre-screened” solicitations for credit or insurance. Seniors can also request to be removed from catalog mailings lists. They can email their name and address to or send a letter to Abacus, Inc., P.O. Box 1478, Broomfield, CO 80038 or by sending a letter with a $1 check or money order to Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association, P.O. Box 282, Carmel, NY 10512. By registering, they will remain on the “Do Not Mail” for five years.
As a result of the increase in questions from seniors about how they can protect their privacy, beginning this fall County Clerk Idoni will be visiting senior centers throughout the county to share these important tips and more. “My office is here to help”, said Idoni. “And my community outreach staff will be on hand and have letters seniors can sign on the spot to opt-out of or reduce the number of unnecessary mailings.”
Check the county clerk website http://www.westchesterclerk.com/ later this summer for the list of scheduled senior center appearances. If you’re a senior and want to arrange for the county clerk to come to your center or meet with your club, call 995-3082.