Happy New Year! It’s a new year and with it comes a new chance to protect yourself from fraud. I talked with AARP ElderWatch Colorado about the three ways to protect your identity in the new year.

"While there are many different ways to protect your identity, I want to highlight three,” said AARP's Mark Fetterhoff.

“No. 1, check your free annual credit report. You can do that by visiting annualcreditreport.com or calling the number 877-322-8228. This is a critical step just to make sure someone has not opened a line of credit in your name.”

The second most important thing to do is to manage your devices and keep them updated, Fetterhoff said.

“When I say devices, I'm talking about your phones, computers, tablets, really anything that connects to the internet. So don't respond to unsolicited calls, text messages and emails. Investigate scam blocking and warning apps and services that are provided by your phone carrier.

"Additionally, keep operating systems that have antivirus detection updated. Just know there are many scammers out there who are posing as antivirus software protection services, so just make sure you're dealing with your legitimate service.”

Third, Fetterhoff said, keep your passwords up to date.

“Update passwords for accounts that contain personal or financial information. Try a passphrase rather than a password, something a little bit longer that might be easy to remember for you.

"Use fingerprints and facial recognition when possible and also investigate using a password manager if you feel overwhelmed by all those passwords that you have."

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Thousands of folks are victims of identity theft every year. You can take preventive steps to help protect your identity.

"We hear over and over again from Coloradans that identity theft is one of the things they're most concerned about with regards to any type of fraud and scam issues, so taking these steps will help make you safe in the new year,” said Fetterhoff.

You can also take steps like freezing your credit to make it harder for crooks to open a line of credit in your name.

"Placing a fraud alert or a credit freeze is a good step to take. Lots of identity theft experts will suggest placing that fraud alert or credit freeze," Fetterhoff said. "I would highly recommend visiting the website, identitytheft.gov, for any information you need about placing a fraud alert or credit freeze.” 

You can report scams and fraud to the Colorado Attorney General’s Office at 800-222-4444; press option 2 to speak with AARP ElderWatch.

Finally, I know a lot of you have been affected by the flight cancellations over the holidays, or you know someone who is, so I reached out to the Colorado Attorney General’s Office to find out what you can do. Attorney General Phil Weiser sent me this statement:

"We are committed to fighting for the rights of airline travelers and ensuring airlines treat them fairly. If consumers are mistreated and left in the lurch, we want to know about it. We encourage all consumers to document their experiences and be ready to follow up with us and the U.S. Department of Transportation if they are treated unfairly by an airline." 

His office said consumers can file a complaint at StopFraudColorado.gov or www.transportation.gov/airconsumer

I hope you have a happy and safe New Year!

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