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Safely dispose of sensitive documents and unwanted medications

As part of our ongoing work to raise awareness about consumer fraud and identity theft, AARP Maine is collaborating with many community partners, agencies and organizations. We are also privileged to work with local law enforcement, including the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office.

With scams and fraud on the rise across the country and right here in Maine, partnerships like these have never been more important. The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, under the leadership of Sheriff Kevin Joyce, is involved with a wide array of programs to enhance community outreach. One issue of paramount concern is identity theft.

Identity theft occurs when someone steals personal information that could be used to falsely apply for credit or for government benefits. One way that scammers steal sensitive documents is by rifling through trash or unlocked mailboxes. While this may seem implausible, remember that many of us do not use locked mailboxes and we announce our outgoing mail with a raised mailbox flag. This is also a flag for a scammer. Never place mail that includes your Social Security number, address and birth date into your unprotected mailbox. Those three items are the key ingredients that identity thieves need to perpetrate their crimes. Take your mail to the post office or drop it into an actual mailbox instead.

With April being the end of tax filing season, you probably have paperwork on hand which would be of interest to an identity thief. One way to protect yourself is to make sure you safely dispose of all sensitive and personal documents. On Saturday, April 28, you can do just that at our free shredding event in Portland.

In addition to shredding sensitive papers and documents, this event presents an opportunity to safely dispose of your unused or expired medicines. If you take prescription drugs, you may be one of the millions of consumers whose medicine cabinet could use a spring cleaning. The Sheriff’s Office will be glad to dispose of your medications for you at no cost. There’s also no quantity limit for either papers or medications. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 28 at the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office at 36 County Way in Portland.

Finally, another way to thwart identity thieves is to contact each of the three credit bureaus and request that they place a “freeze” on your credit report. This is the most effective way to protect yourself from this crime. Freezing and unfreezing your credit report is free for Mainers of all ages thanks to a law passed in 2015. To learn more, go to aarp.org/me or contact the Maine Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection at 1-800-332-8529.

While many consumers are becoming savvier about certain scams, there are steps each of us should take to protect ourselves. We hope you will be proactive by placing a freeze on your credit report and joining us on April 28 for the free Portland shredding and medicine disposal event.

Jane Margesson is the communications director for AARP Maine.

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