As a 21-year-old victim of identity theft and a student at the University of Southern Maine, hearing about the recent phishing attempt at the Orono campus scares me. I’ve had first-hand experience about how prevalent scams are and want to share some of the steps I have taken to keep my information, and my money, safe from scammers.

Being aware of where you make purchases and reporting any suspicious activity to your bank and/or the attorney general’s office is a good start. This fall, my debit card information was stolen. Because I review my statements each month, I noticed charges that were unfamiliar to me, including several purchases at an out-of-state Dunkin’ Donuts. I canceled my card and worked with my bank to readjust the charges. Had I not been checking my statements, I might not have been able to get my money back.

Most importantly, I placed a freeze on my credit report. Turning on the freeze is free in Maine and prevents identity thieves from accessing all the sensitive information in your credit report. When the freeze is turned on, scammers cannot obtain credit (loans, credit cards, etc.) in your name. Any Maine resident (regardless of age!) can easily freeze and unfreeze their credit report for free at any time. Just make sure your place a freeze on your credit report with all three major credit bureaus.

The AARP Fraud Watch Network has great resources and tools available at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork and you can sign up for free scam alerts to stay ahead of the fraudsters. I’ve become a lot more cautious of how I’m sharing personal info — online and offline — and I encourage anyone reading this to place a credit freeze right away.

Meghan Jellison

AARP Maine intern

South Portland