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AARP, AG Host Shred Fest 2016

Dozens of Capital Region residents turned out during a downpour to have personal papers destroyed at “Shred Fest 2016” today.

The event in Albany ran from 9 to noon, an opportunity for folks to dispose of paperwork containing personal financial information. A shredding truck was set up in the parking lot at the Sidney Albert Jewish Community Center. A line of cars packed with documents stretched out onto Whitehall Road.  Bag after bag of paper was dropped off to be ground up at no charge.

Russ Haven of the New York Public Interest Research Group noted identity theft is a pernicious problem.  "It's spring-cleaning time. We've just wrapped up tax day. And now is the time to really think about how you deal with all the records that you have. For identity thieves, all the information here is pure gold."

Identify thieves can sift through curbside trash looking for medical records, bank statements, credit account numbers, financial records, anything that can be used to compromise someone else's identity.

Mary Rozak with County Executive Dan McCoy's office says every 10 minutes some 300 identities are stolen. Rozak's credit monitoring service notified her within the last 10 days that she was being targeted, warning she should check her account. She did.  "And quickly logged in and realized, as I saw something that didn't appear quite right, made the phone call and started the process of shutting down a phony PayPal account that had just been opened in my name."

AARP's Neil Lane and Laura Palmer
Credit WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
AARP's Neil Lane and Laura Palmer

Shred Fest events are being held across New York, part of AARP and Attorney General Schneiderman's efforts to help consumers avoid falling prey to identity theft.  AARP National Policy Council member Neil Lane says victims spend countless hours trying undo the damage and many never recover.    "In 2014 AARP surveyed voters in the Capital District Region and found that identity theft ranked as the top fraud-related concern, with nearly 9 out of 10 respondents saying they are worried about becoming victims of identity theft."

Trish Abate with the AG’s office advises everyone: be careful when giving out personal information.  "Like your mother's maiden name or your Social Security number. And never, ever give your personal information out to someone who calls you unsolicited. Think of the phone as a one-way street. Just hang up, no matter what the caller says and no matter what the caller ID box says. It's OK to give out your information over the phone if you made the call to a number that you know is your bank or credit card company."

Haven adds, "Don't forget about digital information as well." He advises wiping hard drives clean, or better yet, destroying them so any information can never be retrieved.  With an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 pounds of sensitive personal documents shredded at the JCC, organizers say the event was a success.  AARP Associate State Director Laura Palmer:   "This week is our big launch of Shred Fest, but we will be doing shredding events around the state throughout the rest of the year."

AARP’s Fraud Watch Network and AARP Foundation are offering free shredding so you can protect yourself and your family from ID theft.   Shredding services are provided by third-party professionals.  All documents and information submitted during this event will be governed by that party’s privacy and data security policies.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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