“The person actually purchased an iPad,” said Tyler, director of the Orange County Department on Aging.
“How I even found out that this had happened was I got a bill from PayPal Credit, and to me, it looked like a junk mail,” she said.
“I opened it up, and it said that I owed $4,000, and they thank you for opening this new account, and it had an email address that was not mine.”
Robin Clark, an officer with the Chapel Hill Police Department’s community services division, said financial fraud is one of the fastest growing crimes because of modern technology.
She said that there have been 126 reported identity theft cases since January, which represents a 293 percent increase from the 32 cases reported in all of 2013.
Clark said Chapel Hill Police have responded to 49 credit card fraud cases and nine credit card theft cases this year. In all of 2013, residents reported 48 total cases of credit card fraud or theft.
Seniors are the most targeted group for financial crimes, said ZhenZhen Yu, a social worker at the Department on Aging.
The department offered seminars this month for seniors to educate them about how to prevent fraud and where to go if they are victims of fraud, said Beverly Shuford, the information and benefits specialist at the aging department.
A common scam affecting seniors is called the grandparents scam — people will call seniors pretending to be a grandchild and say that they have been arrested overseas and need money to get out of jail, Clark said.
“Never give out your personal information to the people, except the professional ones, like the bankers, insurance, or hospitals,” Yu said.
“When you go somewhere, only bring the amount of the money and the card you need, never bring the social security number with you.”
In the case of PayPal, people usually receive mail or letters saying that someone is trying to open up an account using their information, Clark said.
When Tyler found out her identity had been stolen, she immediately called PayPal. She then went to her bank so they could put fraud alerts on her account. She also reported the incident to the Chapel Hill Police Department.
“It’s just a pain,” Tyler said.