By Patrick Donachie

Queens residents concerned about being scammed brought their private documents, old tax papers and medical records to three separate events throughout the borough to shred them in an attempt to thwart perpetrators of identity theft.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and AARP, Inc. worked together to organize 16 “Shred Fest” events throughout the state, encouraging people to securely destroy financial records and sensitive documents.

At each event, commercial shredders who specialize in destroying documents were on hand to to destroy unnecessary papers in a secure manner. The Queens events were held in Flushing, East Elmhurst and at the intersection of Baisley Boulevard and Gale A. Brewer Boulevard in Jamaica.

More than 400 people showed up for the Jamaica shredding, while more than 300 people attended the event at Bowne Park in Flushing, according to the AARP. Yvette Martinez, an associate state director at AARP’s New York State office, said that more than 120 people attended the Shred Fest event at First Baptist Church in East Elmhurst.

Martinez said that the Shred Fests had been purposefully scheduled to immediately follow the tax filing deadline in the hope that they could act as a “spring cleaning” to get rid of older documents that could pose a security risk. She said it was important to get the word out about the danger of hanging onto unnecessary private documents for months or years.

“It’s not just the shredding, but it’s the education surrounding the shredding, about what should be destroyed and when,” Martinez said, and she noted that older citizens were often singled out as targets for thieves.

AARP started placing a particular focus on identity theft after the organization conducted a survey of New York voters older than 50 in 2014, according to Martinez. In the survey, 56 percent of respondents said that identity theft was of particular concern to them, and 43 percent said they or someone they knew had been a victim of a fraud or scam in the past five years. She said that the Shred Fests had been a success statewide, and more than 4,000 people had participated.

“It’s a good time to have this information available,” Martinez said. “Even if you live in New York, and you make a decent income, you don’t want to get scammed.”

Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdonachie@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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