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Protect Personal Information to Guard Against Fraud

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DURHAM — A Durham woman Is accused of stealing thousands of dollars from elderly people who thought she was a friend. Investigators say she did it with information any person could find sitting around your house.

Beatrice McCollum faces several counts of fraud forallegedly taking out home equity loanson other people's property.

A judge reduced McCollum's bond Wednesday and she is out of prison. Fraud investigators McCollum targeted senior citizens, scamming them out of $200,000.

Police say seniors are sometimes an easy target, but it can happen to anyone.

"Financial crimes are a crime and an opportunity. Everyone leaves their information out for anybody to get access to. Unfortunately, these days, you can't trust anyone, not even family members," warns Durham Police Investigator Laird Evans.

Evans says we just do not realize how easy it is to make anyone a financial crime victim.

"It's very easy," he says. "I could get Mark Roberts' birthday and Social Security number and I could be him tomorrow."

Evans says the Durham senior citizens were fooled by someone posing as a friend. No matter who you are dealing with, there are ways to protect yourself.
  • Safeguard you personal information. Evans says do not carry your Social Security card with you. You will most likely only need it to apply for benefits.
  • Do not carry your birth certificate.
  • Leave credit cards locked up at home if you do not need them.
  • Do not give away personal information.
  • Evans says the Durham Police Department stopped a scam that was just getting started by arresting McCollum. He says financial institutions could help police put a stop to more crimes.

    According to Evans, the technology is already available. Fingerprint scanners andretinal scannerswould stop a lot of ripoffs.

    He says it all comes down to the convenience we all demand these days. The easier it is for legitimate customers, the easier it is for the criminals.

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    Mark Roberts, Reporter
    Terry Cantrell, Photographer
    Michelle Singer, Web Editor

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