Dozens of older adults line up in the rain for fraud prevention shredding event in Flushing

Screenshot 2024-05-10 at 5.12.32 PM
One local resident brought a suitcase full of paper to shred at the event in Flushing
Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

Despite the rainy morning, dozens of older adults lined up in Flushing on Friday to shred stacks of their personal documents in an effort to prevent fraud. 

For the second year in a row, AARP partnered with the Flushing YMCA on Northern Blvd to bring the shredding event to older adults in the area. It’s one of 33 shredding events that AARP scheduled across the state this year after tax season. 

“We are committed to offering these free opportunities so that New Yorkers will feel empowered to fight back against criminals, who grow more and more sophisticated,” said Beth Finkel, AARP New York State Director. “Fraud reports are surging. We’re here to prevent more. Shredding documents is a good first step to destroy documents with identifying information.”

Last year, there were over 200,000 reports of fraud across the state, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The fraud losses totaled $401 million, with the median loss being $500. 

City Council Member Sandra Ung, who represents the area, helped the constituents dump their bags of paper into a bin before a truck loaded it through the shredding machine inside. Several of those who brought their paper stood and waited for the machine to shred it away as an extra layer of protection. 

Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

“Elder fraud crime is on the rise all across New York. I want to thank AARP for sponsoring today’s shredding event and all of the community members who are spreading the word about elder fraud prevention,” added Assembly Member Ron Kim, who also attended the event. 

Kim, who chairs the Committee on Aging, also urged his constituents to stay vigilant and speak out regarding suspicious phone calls and mail. He added, “If you have not met someone in person, do not give them money.”

Several of the people lined up mentioned that it can take a significant amount of time to manually shred documents with a smaller at home machine. Especially when stacks of paperwork pile up, the task of shredding them all can seem overwhelming. 

Local elected officials and AARP staff helped dump the papers before they were loaded into the shredding truck.Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

“I’ll be there forever. And then it gets too hot and it stops working so you have to start all over again,” said Mary Robinson, who lives in Flushing and heard about the event from a flier in the mail. 

She noted that she frequently pushes her local elected officials to host shredding events more often. 

“I’m like a paper hoarder. So when I saw the event on the AARP app I said let me take some bags down,” said Evelyn Torres, who traveled from Fresh Meadows for the shredding event, which she says is her first. 

In the past, she would throw out personal documents in the trash but make sure to rip up the papers and cut up the credit cards. But after receiving a suspicious letter requesting thousands of dollars, and claiming to be the IRS, Torres says she is more concerned about fraud. 

Since the letter did have the last four digits of her social security number, it made her paranoid that someone would go through her trash. Shredding events like this, she says, are more convenient than disposing of the documents herself.

“I’m taking it more seriously now. I’m not throwing things out in the garbage,” added Torres after dumping several bags filled with paper.