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Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice discussed a variety of issues of concern to seniors at the Port Washington Senior Community Service Center.

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice recently paid a visit to the Port Washington Senior Community Service Center. In a meeting that was open to the public, she instructed the seniors how to protect themselves against identity theft and related threats. She spent most of the meeting answering questions, saying, "I want to address the things that are of concern to you." Rice also provided many informative handouts, and was accompanied by staff who took telephone numbers of persons who had individual issues, promising to follow up.

Rice spoke not just abstractly, but from personal experience. She told of having her credit cards stolen and the nightmarish effort to get the charges reversed. Rice said, "Within one hour of my purse's being stolen, all my cards were maxed out." She recommended a variety of safety measures, including: carrying only the credit card(s) that you will be using that day and leaving the others at home. She also advised keeping a written list of all credit cards in a separate place so that you can immediately report any theft. If your credit card or Social Security numbers are stolen, Rice recommended that in addition to contacting the issuing agencies and the police, get in touch immediately with the credit reporting agencies so that the thief cannot open any more accounts. She said, "Essentially, shut your credit down." The district attorney's office provided a handout with detailed information on reporting identity or credit card theft to the credit reporting agencies, including addresses, telephone numbers, and sample letters. Rice opined that the credit card companies should be entirely responsible for charges on stolen cards. "With the usurious interest rates they charge, they should be responsible," she said.

With respect to Social Security numbers, Rice said that one should avoid giving them out except when absolutely necessary. She also advocated for the federal and state governments to find a better way to identify individuals apart from the Social Security number. "It's a common-sense thing," she said. She also recommended caution in giving out credit card or other personal information on the Internet.

In spite of the announced topic, a large number of the questions had to do with the corruption and delays in the Buildings Department of the Town of North Hempstead. (Rice had indicated that she would entertain questions on any topic.) Clearly, this is a town responsibility, not a county one, although Rice's office is prosecuting those individuals who were accused of illegal acts. She said, "My hope is that there will be new regulations and oversight in place." Her basic message to those frustrated by the long delays in getting permits or Certificates of Occupancy was: "Just keep calling." She further suggested that the senior center might wish to invite TONH Supervisor Jon Kaiman to address this issue.

Rice also mentioned other issues which she has made a priority, especially enforcement of DWI laws and harsher punishment for convicted offenders. She said, "Drunk driving kills over 17,000 people a year across the country." She added that over one-third of DWIs are repeat offenders. Rice presented herself as a fighter for justice and a defender of the "little guy." She said, "We can't have one set of laws for the 'haves' and another for the 'have-nots.'"

The Port Washington Senior Community Center is operated under the auspices of the Educational and Assistance Corporation (EAC). Carol O'Neill is the EAC Regional Director; the Program Coordinator is Sue Lucatorto. The organization is a private nonprofit, whose funding comes primarily from the Nassau County Department of Senior Citizen Affairs. It also receives support from the New York State Office for the Aging, the Town of North Hempstead, the Port Washington Community Chest, and other sources. It is housed in the parish hall of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church on Carlton Avenue and Main Street.

The center offers a wide variety of programs for persons over 60 years of age. Programs featuring special speakers like Kathleen Rice are open to the public of all ages. O'Neill said, "We have been trying to offer programs not just for seniors but for the community as a whole- today's speaker is among them.

A current focus of the center, in response to strong public interest, is health, nutrition and weight loss. They offer yoga, tai chi and meditation, and are planning to sponsor a weight loss activity similar to Weight Watchers. The center offers nutritious lunches-one hot, the other salad and sandwiches. There is no fee to join, but a $2.50 voluntary contribution is requested for the lunch. For a 50-cent donation, door-to-door transportation is provided. Lucatorto and O'Neill invited anyone who is interested to stop by between 9 and 6 Monday through Friday, or call 944-9654.


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