Identity Theft Protection: Giving Fraudsters the Bounce

bouncing kidEach year trampolines injure thousands of children and adults. The seemingly innocuous activity of jumping up and down, of pumping legs skyward in defiance of gravity, ends in tragedy more often than one would imagine.

Perhaps the joy of a seemingly weightless body proves too great to encourage prudence, or maybe sheer force with which blood is diverted from the brain to make prudence impossible. Whatever the reason, trampolines inspire a unique variety of happiness that at its core harbors sorrow.

This sorrow, that of soaring happiness come crashing down, is usually felt in the quiet, white hallways of the hospital. There the body that maybe a few hours before bounded and stretched to the sun, vaulted itself to the limitless expanse of the heavens, lies broken. Perhaps a plaster cast encases a leg, or maybe an arm, bent at an angle unfamiliar, hangs in traction. The victim often sleeps, his mind quiescent from morphine. The body too seeks rest; it knows not what brought it to this state, and the shock of immobility leads it to curl into itself, into the limbs encrusted with gauze and plaster, like a snail that recoils from assaults from the world beyond its shell.

The trampoline reduced the victim to this state of wounded languor. From the far shores of Red China came this toy to delight American consumers. From the far shores of a land large and hostile came this instrument of joy and destruction. Many hands made the trampoline. They welded steel, stitched plastic, painted metal legs, and inserted spikes. Innumerable eyes watched the trampoline assume its form. They watched with weariness and defeat; after one trampoline was born from the machine, another followed. These factory midwives assembled and waited. They helped the machine birth forth trampoline after trampoline, their hands working as swiftly and silently as soft, white spiders to assemble the pieces fallen jumbled from the hot, indifferent womb. They assembled feverishly. They assembled carelessly. Each trampoline held within it the potential to maim, to bring not only elation but also harm.

The trampoline’s victim writhes in bed. He dreams of his toy, recalling the eagerness and anticipation with which he peeled back the cardboard as he opened this gift to himself. It was swaddled like a child, he recalls. Wrapped so carefully in a plastic sheath, it ripples and creaks, undulant with trapped air. In his dream he jumps and jumps, feeling neither pain nor fear….

The trampoline claims another victim. But who’s to blame? Thousands are injured, yet no one speaks for the victims. You could liken the devastation to having your identity stolen while enjoying in a night out. Imagine the delight of eating in a restaurant – lights, the odor of hot fat, faces that shine with contentment and the rigors of digestion. The best restaurants are in large cities, where when you step inside, you’re as if enfolded in a embrace, safe from the thieves and crowds outside.

Should the weather be wet, you’re dining experience is made all the more pleasurable. The restaurant glows with warmth and the laughter rings melodious. Outside the rain streams; inside all the qualities of conviviality form a happy whole. You eat and drink and laugh. The check arrives. You reach for your credit card and place it on the table. The server takes it, promises with a quick smile to be right back, and you continue in cheerful conversation.

The next week you discover your bank account has dwindled. Hundreds of dollars have disappeared. You call the police, and they impart unwelcome news: You are the victim of identity theft. As with a trampoline injury, you suffer terribly – not in your body, of course, but in your heart and soul. How can you trust after such a violation? How can you delight in the others’ company again? You lie awake in the small hours of the night, your heart flutters like a dizzy moth, and the darkness comes crashing down. You realize that life is hell, that nowhere lies the comfort of a knowable community of like-minded souls. Peace has been pried from your mind. You are alone.

—————

An old fable tells of a man who tried to ride a swan. Each morning he would walk to the village pond. There he saw the swan with her puffy white body and eyes lined in kohl. She dazzled and the man yearned to climb upon her back and lace his arms around her long, thin neck. “Swan,” he would whisper. “How close I could fly to the sun if only you would let me climb on your back.” The swan was insensate to his entreaties. Her mouth she would open and close, her tail she would wag, but never would she allow the man to climb upon her back.

One day the man decided to trick the swan. On his morning visit to the pond, he brought with him a loaf of the sweetest bread, as white and puffy as the swan’s breast. The swan looked with her pale blue eye and her stomach hungered. She drew closer, until she was so close that the man could smell the rank mustiness of her feathers and feel her breath, which smelled of brackish water, on his neck. Seeing his chance, the man heaved himself upon her back. Her bones give way beneath his bulk. A quick hiss burst from her mouth and her body deflated between the man’s legs. The swan was dead, crushed by the weight of he who dreamed of what no man should dream. To no sun would he fly, to no star would he venture. He had violated the sanctity of the swan, and with it, the sanctity of human concourse.

Such is the way with trust. Once violated, it deflates until it ceases to exist. It is a castle built of hollow bird bones, vulnerable to those who seek to violate its inner sanctums. Identity theft is one such way human trust can be violated. Protect against it by investing in identity theft protection or credit monitoring. It’s the easiest thing you can do to ensure your life doesn’t become a living hell such as a trampoline disaster might make it.

Identity Theft Protection: Keep Fraudsters from Tying You in Knots This Holiday Season

knotOnce considered a strange regimen from the exotic East, yoga is now as mainstream an exercise as sit-ups or jumping jacks are.

A peek into the past shows how fundamentally attitudes toward this Indian spiritual discipline has changed. “Yoga may … be defined as the ‘rational application of the laws of the unfolding consciousness in an individual case,'” writes Annie Besant in her 1908 book, “An Introduction to Yoga.” “That is what is meant by the methods of Yoga. You study the laws of the unfolding of consciousness in the universe, you then apply them to a special case – and that case is your own.”

The concern of yoga as Besant sees it is primarily spiritual, not physical. This sentiment is echoed by O Hashnu Hara, who in his 1908 book, “Practical Yoga,” writes, “The Wisdom Religion, as Yoga has been called, is undeniably a very beautiful one in many respects, albeit selfish, for it certainly causes its votaries to shirk their earthly duties and responsibilities.”

Shirking duties and responsibilities may not exactly be what we busy adults are after. “Hindus generally regard Yoga chiefly as the means by which occult powers are considered to be attainable,” writes John Murdoch in his 1897 book, “Yoga Shastra.” With the speed at which our lives move these days, and the demands that we constantly race to meet, the cultivation of occult powers would be a welcome event indeed.

But even if occult powers aren’t forthcoming, your yoga practice, should you elect to develop one, will no doubt pay big dividends in terms of physical fitness. “As more became known about the beneficial effects of yoga as a means of stress management and improving health and well-being, the practice gained more acceptance and respect,” observe Lynea and Jim Gellen in their 2008 book, “Yoga Calm for Children.”

Since the 1990s, it has absolutely exploded in popularity. Today, approximately 16.5 million Americans are taking classes in hatha yoga…. These classes meet in a wide variety of settings including yoga studios, health clubs, businesses, churches, physical therapy clinics, and hospitals.

Just about any appreciably sized town is bound to feature a yoga studio – or at the very least it will contain some space in which classes are offered. In no time at all beginning practitioners experience results in the form of greater strength, poise, and stamina, as well as increased equanimity and peace of mind.

In addition to its many spiritual and physical benefits, yoga possesses considerable aesthetic value. One viewing of the video clip below is enough to convince even the most resistant skeptic of the true grace and beauty of this divine discipline.

Like yoga, the many scrapes you find yourself in require incredible flexibility if you are to come through them OK. You must know when to take action, and when to refrain from acting. Even the most innocuous-seeming activities can conceal outsized dangers. Social media sites, for instance, can put you at tremendous risk for identity theft and related forms of fraud, especially in this season of increased commerce. “People who post on social media sites are warned to be especially careful during the holiday season about revealing when they are not at home,” reports a November 28, 2011 KSDK.com story.

The KSDK.com story offers nine tips on how you can keep your Facebook page crook-proof for the holiday season and beyond. Specifically, the story recommends that you:

  • Deactivate any automatic features on your Facebook page;
  • Review with a view to understanding your Facebook page’s privacy features and settings;
  • Upload photos to your Facebook page only from home;
  • Avoid uploading photos or videos that contain such identifying background elements as your house’s street number, the car you drive, etc.;
  • Avoid “checking in” from easily identifiable locations – popular restaurants, shops, etc;
  • Refrain from publicizing your travel plans;
  • Keep updates as general as possible;
  • Avoid publicizing the purchase or receipt of any big-ticket items;
  • Make it your general policy to keep your Facebook page free of personal information.

These tips can work wonders during the most wonderful time of the year. But they can’t keep you completely safe from the predations of fraudsters intent on pilfering your identity, wealth, and good name. That’s why it’s critical that you secure the services of a reputable identity theft protection or credit monitoring provider. Whether American or Indian, Christian or Hindu, we all need to protect ourselves against the assault of cyber-crooks, who truly are equal opportunity destroyers.

Don’t Become Bait for Identity Thieves

baitSix or seven hundred flashes of silver in a dark sea of blue – mackerel perhaps, or maybe whitebait. Like knives they slice through water, each in a different direction. In time, they school together, swirling, churning their bodies into a ball. The stronger swim inside; the weaker, abandoned to the perimeter, jerk left or right, eager to penetrate the center of this living sphere of defense.

Around dark shapes loom – sharks, dolphins, emerald-colored eels with syphilitic gills. Predators. They take turns cutting through the whirling ball with bodies rough with excrescencies, mouths open, teeth gleaming ivory white. If fish eyes could be said to smolder with pleasure, then their eyes smolder, indeed – smolder with an inward light, with the cold fires of hell. To these marauders, a bait ball is an endless source of nutriment. Thousands of bodies shimmy and crush together to avoid the gaping maws. They spin and shimmer in delectable accessibility.

For the mackerel this press of bodies is an illusion of safety. For in the bait ball no exit exists. Once one fish pushes it way to the safety of the center, another is pushed to the periphery, its frail, pale body exposed to the predators. The bait ball, then, is a losing proposition for the smaller creatures of the sea. But what other option do they have? The sea heaves with life. Shelter is scarce, and the seemingly endless expanse of blue offers no hiding places. The weaker, more numerous creatures must make a shelter of their neighbors. At the first sign of danger, they crowd together, believing, perhaps, in their fish hearts the size of Sweet Tarts that safety exists in numbers.

But does it? More likely they have unwittingly agreed to play an infernal lottery, where death comes to an unlucky few. And the multitude secretly rejoice each time a comrade is picked off, each death representing one more ounce of flesh filling the shark’s stomach to satiety. The death of a brother or sister means that the chance of survival increases for those remaining. And so the bait ball pits fish against fish, until those that survive to disperse again into the black breast of the sea carry within them a sin too great for words – the knowledge that their life sprung from death and will continue to spring from death until one day they too draw an unlucky number and fill the void in a shark’s stomach.

How can the mackerel or whitebait exist under such conditions? How can they come together to mate, or enjoy an hour’s company in an otherwise bleak and vacant landscape? How can they swim side-by-side, eye-by-eye, into the dim twilight of the briny deep? For the mackerel’s existence, its identity even, depends upon the destruction of his fellow creatures. And it is this unhappy fact that joins the animal kingdom to that of humans. For each time an instance of identity theft occurs, that means thousands more have been spared the horrors of credit fraud or false accusations. Millions of people sleep safely in their beds, huddled together in cities and towns – the human equivalent, perhaps, of the bait ball – dreaming of ever larger houses, ever faster cars. Their sheer numbers ensure that not everyone will wake up to an identity pilfered. Only an unfortunate few will have their dearest possession snatched by voracious thieves in Russia, China, or in the house across the street.

Yet such is the way of life: The sacrificial lambs, a lonely cursed few, ensure the happiness of the many. The upstanding salesclerk at Best Buy who loves nothing more than to play a few hours of World of Warcraft after work and perhaps, after more troublesome days, drink a beer or two, wakes up one morning to find his life and bank account destroyed by a Chinese gold farmer. His devious co-worker, on the other hand, continues to lead a peaceful and trouble-free existence until she dies without pain in her sleep. Was he marked at birth? If so, where was that mark? Was it written only in the annals of the Divine? Or were his dreams sometimes troubled, plagued by vague intimations of a fate blighted from birth?

We cannot know the answer to that question. Such things remain staunchly in the realm of the unknown. You may be a sacrificial lamb, the whitebait whose body is crushed between the mossy teeth of insatiable appetite, or you may be one of the Elect, the favored many whose happiness continues unabated so long as what is Caesar’s is rendered unto Caesar. It’s best you invest in identity theft protection or credit monitoring. You can’t prevent the ravages of fate from destroying your life, but you can make it easier to pick up the pieces. Identity theft protection can help you do that. So don’t delay. Seek out a company like LifeLock or one of its competitors. It’s never too late to defend against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or the fishy dealings of some lurking fraudster.

Identity Thieves Can Go Get Stuffed

The nice thing about subway trains is that, if you miss one, another will be along in minutes. This certainly eases the prospect of commuting.

If commuting stands as one of the dullest horrors of modern existence, the subways offers some modest relief from it. Engineering marvels, the latter represent the best of what advanced civilizations are capable.

Of course, an undertaking as massive as a subway system requires equally massive sums of capital. “The present subway represents a total investment of about $100,000,000 dollars,” reports one Delos F. Wilcox in a 1013 issue of “The American City.” “To this subway are to be added new lines at a cost of about $140,000,000.”

Those are some staggering numbers – especially when you consider those are in dollars of nearly a century ago. Translate those into 2011 equivalents and the zeroes multiply dramatically.

Impressive as might be subway systems and other urban wonders, this is often lost on the city dweller. “Familiarity breeds contempt,” the old saying goes; and none feel this contempt more acutely than those individuals for whom the metropolis is a daily reality. “[T]he average work of the city is deadening,” write Scott Nearing, Frank Dekker Watson, and Carl Linn Seiler in their 1908 book, “Economics.”

There is very little in it to stimulate enthusiasm or interest. The work of the average city man is minutely subdivided and therefore monotonous. The various streets of the average city are exactly the same and therefore monotonous. Likewise its houses are built in rows of the same texture and the same external appearance. Its days vary little, – when it rains there is no mud; snow is removed by the sweeper; and the spring thaw is unknown. In short, the whole city life is a round of sameness and a rushing whirlwind of existence which leads to no apparent result and leaves its victims prostrated and incapable of enjoying life.

Yet this rushing whirlwind of existence can sometimes appear as a huge log jam. The video clip below of the rush-hour commute situation in a Japanese subway station offers a sense of the cramped indignities suffered daily by city dwellers.

At worst, a rider packed in such a way as shown in the video risks getting hurt. “Passengers frequently receive more or less serious injuries while struggling to board street cars in crowds,” observes an article in a 1907 issue of The Green Bag. At very least, stuffed so uncomfortably into already crowded trained cars, the urban commuter is brought into distasteful proximity to sundry strangers whom he’d rather keep at arm’s length, no doubt thinking that were these strangers any closer to him they’d be him.

The irony is that, in light of the rapid progress made in the digital domain, some stranger made indeed be this hapless commuter while being nowhere near him, thanks to that very 21st-century imposture known as identity theft. “J. Edgar Hoover, the notorious crime fighter who directed the FBI for forty-eight years, would be intrigued to learn about this new invisible criminal wreaking financial havoc in America,” writes Ethan Pope in his 2006 book, “Identity Theft: Protecting Yourself from [sic] an Unprotected World”: “a criminal who never uses a gun, never enters a bank or a home, yet has the ability to steal money right out of your bank account or go on a major spending spree using your good name and credit cards.”

This new-model crook is none other than the identity thief, who seldom wears a mask or any of the other signature items of a criminal. “An identity thief can be a lowly store clerk, a neighborhood teen with a fancy computer or you colleague at work with too many bills to pay,” writes Kristin Loberg in her 2004 book, “Identity Theft: How to Protect Your Name, Your Credit and Your Vital Information … and What to Do When Someone Hijacks Any of These.” “But these thieves also include organized criminal groups, street gangs and convicted felons.”

It should be clear to you that fraudsters run the gamut of social types, which is why you need sound identity theft protection or credit monitoring. These services can help you to mount a vigorous defense against the schemes of identity thieves intent on pilfering your personal information. After all, there are worse things than a crowded subway car. Identity theft certainly counts as one.

The Painful Contortions of ID Theft Recovery

ContortionistIdentity theft can get you really bent out of shape. Receiving bills for credit card purchases you never made and seeing your savings drained will tie you in knots in no time.

In this credit-driven age, your good name represents your primary asset. Your fortunes rise or fall on a tick downward or upward of your credit score. It seems that everyone from creditors to landlords and even prospective employers wants to have a look of that number of yours these days.

It’s safe to say that so much rides on a credit score, which is why identity theft and related sorts of fraud are terribly pernicious. The damage inflicted on you can be far-reaching and long-lasting. You find yourself fending off creditors, dodging calls from collection agents, thumbing through piles of ominous mail, pleading with banks, and generally put through tremendous hassle – and all because some lowlife would rather rob you than work for a living.

And, man, the lowlifes are everywhere. The briefest survey of daily headlines confirms this. No corner of the map is too out of the way to feel the blighting effects of identity theft. The small northern California town of Oroville recently felt them. “Deputies arrested four suspects in an identity theft ring after an incident at Feather Falls Casino. Butte County investigators looked into a report of a fraudulent check last week,” reports November 10, 2011 KRCRTV.com story. “They uncovered an identity theft ring involving four suspects and at least 15 victims.”

That’s the thing about ID theft: There are always more victims than perpetrators of the crime. The relative proportions may increase or decrease, but the net effect is the same. A fraudster seldom limits himself to boosting a single identity.

One recently busted identity thief managed to make off with nearly a dozen IDs. The case of Maria Johnson, a.k.a. Gia Hendricks, offers some sense of the kind of success enjoyed by particularly incorrigible crooks. “Another ten or so potential victims of Maria Christina Johnson, 40, who also used the name Gia Hendricks, have come forward one day after her arrest on charges of forgery and burglary,” reports a November 9, 2011 article in Patch.com for Manhattan Beach, California.

Johnson’s modus operandi involves an appeal that clearly aims to hit men below the belt. Sex appeal is her weapon of choice. “Johnson, who is described as a ‘prolific identity theft suspect’ … is said to pose as a wealthy individual who runs a modeling agency,” continues the Patch.com article. “Police report that she ‘befriends unsuspecting people, gains their trust and then uses their identity to obtain cash and property.'”

As prolific an identity thief as Johnson proved to be, she was eventually brought to justice. Yet it’s a sure bet that there lurks many such similar fraud-minded vixens eager to strip a man of his wealth and good name.

But no doubt many men resort to the same ploy as Johnson, using flattery, flirtation, and innuendo as so many hammer blows to break the vault of an individual’s finances. A long time ago, a woman in a very unlikely walk of life understood the fragility of personal identity and thus took steps to safeguard it in a most extraordinary manner: A child contortionist by trade, she copyrighted her poses. “In 1916 dancer Lilian Ross put in her copyright application for ‘a Dumb Act entitled Single and Double Contortion Poses on Pedestal,'” reports a November 10, 2011 < a href=”http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2011/11/10/3361504.htm”>Australian Broadcast Corporation story.

It appears that pilfering of property extended to products corporeal as well as physical or intellectual. “In her letter to the Registrar of Copyrights, Lilian complained ‘when I produce a new feat, it is stolen and used by other teachers,'” continues the ABC story.

You wonder who’d be so limber as to steal young Lilian Ross’s moves.

Yes, it appears that even contortionists aren’t immune from expropriation. The video clip below shows to what extremes you’d have to be driven to filch from the individual featured.

Truly, identity theft can get your knickers in a twist much faster than can the most advanced contortionist’s poses. And it’s far likelier that you’ll sooner find yourself untangling your finance’s from a fraudster’s misdeeds than untangling your toes from your hair.

When it comes to unpleasant events in life, it pays to be flexible. You should be able to bend without breaking. A November 9, 2011 WLTX.com story offers some tips on how to wrap your sensitive data in layers of sound defense. Specifically, the story recommends that you:

  • Refuse to respond any requests made over the phone by someone claiming to represent a banking, financial, or insurance outfit for your date of birth, Social Security number, or similar bits of personal information;
  • Refuse to respond to email messages requesting that same information;
  • Collect your mail regularly;
  • Take an inventory of the financial information you keep on your person and on such personal communication devices as your smartphone or laptop computer.

The WLTX.com story offers some solid advice on how to guard against identity theft. Yet not defense is complete without reliable identity theft protection or credit monitoring. Take the appropriate action to lock down your ID. Contact one of these service providers right away to learn about the many affordable forms of coverage and protection they offer.

Penguins, Parents, and ID Theft Perps

PenguinsOf all the creatures in animal kingdom, penguins enjoy the distinction of being the best dressed. They’re always outfitted impeccably, standing at the ready to adorn any formal gathering. “When seen for the first time,” writes George Murray Levick in his 1914 book, “Antarctic Penguins: A Study of Their Social Habits,” “The Adélie penguin gives you the impression of a very smart little man in an evening dress suit, so absolutely immaculate is he, with his shimmering white front and black back and shoulders.”

The sad truth is, however, that, for all their natty deportment, seldom do you find penguins at formal gatherings. Rather, you’re much likelier to encounter them in their native habitat of Antarctica, a forbiddingly frigid land difficult to reach and even more difficult to inhabit.

In such chilly climes the penguins feels right at home. Their nesting grounds prove veritable metropolises, with all the hustle and bustle you’d associate with human settlements. And like humans they are family-oriented, preferring to pair off in exclusive arrangements over playing the mating field. “Penguins are monogamists, and seem to have great respect for matrimonial contracts,” reports an article in an 1898 issue of The Century Magazine.

This respect perhaps owes to a certain aesthetic homogeneity characteristic of the bird. “There could never be any cause for jealousy in the choice of wives, for one is exactly the image of the other,” the Century Magazine article continues. “Still, the right male seems always to find his own wife.” Penguin fidelity is helped along by the absence of certain complications when it comes to looks.

Anyone who has seen the popular documentary “March of the Penguins” can no doubt attest to the family-minded nature of this Antarctic fowl. “The Adélie penguins … are wont to collect in enormous numbers at certain spots on the Antarctic coasts to breed,” Robert Falcon Scott observes in his 1905 book, “The Voyage of the ‘Discovery,'” “after which they build their nests and lay their eggs, which are “incubated in turns by the male and female for upwards of thirty-two days, when two little sooty-black chickens would appear, the as a rule growing to double the size of the other.”

Such attentiveness on the part of penguin parents no doubt extends to the nesting territory itself. And woe unto any interloper who dare trespass on it! The video clip below offers an idea of what any such trespasser can expect by way of welcome.

A display of ferocity of the kind can only come as a response to perceived threat. From the penguin’s perspective a human being looms gigantically and can thus only appear menacing. Indeed, you have to admire the bird’s pluck.

You would hope to find similar ferocity among humans when it comes to protecting their offspring. And in the vast majority of instances, you do. There are, though, those minority of cases in which parents not only do nothing to protect their progeny, they exploit their progeny themselves, before any other malefactor has had a crack at them.

One of the most prevalent forms this exploitation of offspring takes these days is identity theft. “An estimated 500,000 children have had their identities stolen by a parent,” reports a November 11, 2011It is a crime of opportunity, with the culprits having total access to their children’s unused Social Security numbers and the victims unaware they are victims at all.”

The child may be father to the man, as the poet William Wordsworth wrote, but he’s also father to the bad credit rating should his own parents abuse his personal information.

More and more children are finding themselves among a growing group that comes of age only to discover “their Social Security numbers have been abused for years without detection,” the Huffington Post article continues. “When victims turn 18, they encounter a series of financial roadblocks, unable to acquire loans for college, cars or homes due to damaged credit.”

With credit extremely difficult to come by as a consequence of the near-total financial collapse of 2008, young adults need every advantage possible to make a life for themselves. Victims of identity theft at the hands of their parents, then, truly find themselves behind the eight ball in this respect.

Adding to the pain these victims feel is the difficult position they find themselves in when they discover that a parent has committed fraud in their name. “[E]xperts say figures on child identity theft are likely much higher because the crime often goes unreported,” the Huffington Post article reports. “Out of 55 identity theft victims who were targeted by family members, 24 percent said they ‘did not feel right’ about filing a police report…. An additional 13 percent said “my family is ashamed and remains in denial” and 9 percent said ‘my family will turn against me if I take any action against this person.'”

Between a rock and a hard place is about the best way to describe the position the victim of ID theft finds himself in when the perpetrator in question is dear ol’ Mum or Dad. This is why you should never leave anything to chance when it comes to this crime. After all, if a family member will knowingly exploit you, what qualm would a stranger feel if also afforded an opportunity to take advantage of you? A robust defense consisting of proven identity theft protection or credit monitoring. Take the appropriate action today, because you don’t know where lurk crooks eager for an opportunity to peck away at your finances and good name.

Identity Theft: A Grubby Affair

In life you’re frequently summoned to overcome your prejudices in the interest of continued personal growth. You’d like to keep on avoiding things you find distasteful, but then you ask yourself, “Is this indeed the most mature course to take?”

A great deal of progress is made once folks doff their prejudices in favor of open-mindedness – which is a good thing, because, had they not, it may be that at the very least racial segregation would still be a social fact in the United States, if indeed not the institution of slavery.

Things odious to the Creator soon perish; things odious to us create opportunities for improved understanding – “learning opportunities,” as they’re commonly called.

The creatures featured in the video clip below many find disgusting. Perhaps you may even consider them so.

Nothing says “nasty” like grubs found in a compost pile. These creatures pulsate and undulate obscenely, quickened by the heat of decay, by the vapors of corruption. Yet once yanked from this fetid matrix they appear vulnerable. Exposed, they become almost pitiable. You can just imagine some ravenous bird delightedly scooping them into its bill, eager to make the most of this boon repast.

And nothing makes you feel as vulnerable and exposed as a garden slug shaken from compost heap like identity theft.

You can take decisive action against this crime. A November 11, 2011 post at Lifehacker.com offers some sound tips on how to defy any would-be fraudsters intent on nabbing your personal info:

  • Shred any and all sensitive documents before you toss them. “Depending on how much you need to shred and how many sheets you want to put through it at one time, you can buy one for around $40-$50 at Staples or over at Amazon,” the Lifehacker.com article reports. “If you need serious shredding capabilities though, you can easily wind up spending over $100 on a larger shredder capable of dicing up a dozen sheets of paper or more. Most of us will only need the ability to shred 8-10 pages or less, so there’s no reason to break the bank on a shredder, but having one in your home gives you an easy way to securely dispose of sensitive documents.”
  • Make sure you keep necessary sensitive documents under lock and key. “We’re big fans of organizing your documents in a filing cabinet, and keeping that filing cabinet organized, but it’s also important to make sure that filing cabinet has a lock on it,” the Lifehacker.com article states. “If the unthinkable happens and your home is burglarized, the thief likely won’t be interested in lugging out a massive locked filing cabinet just to get what may be inside. Similarly, keeping your filing cabinet locked will discourage friends or family members in your home from poking around in it.”
  • Immediately reports any stolen or lost documents to the proper parties. “If you’ve lost your checkbook, call your bank immediately and ask them to cancel all checks in that book past the one you last wrote,” advises the Lifehacker.com post. “Avoid carrying your social security card in your purse or wallet in the first place, and keep it under lock and key at home. The same applies for your credit cards and debit cards. Keep any you don’t use regularly in a safe place, and if any go missing, don’t keep digging around your house days after you misplaced them hoping they’ll ‘just turn up.’ Report them missing and get new ones as soon as possible.”
  • Exercise caution when dealing with suspicious phone calls, even if these calls come from companies you trust. “If someone calls asking for payment information for a service they claim you signed up for, don’t be afraid to give them the third degree, especially if they claim to call from a company you actually do business with,” the Lifehacker.com article counsels. “Banks and credit unions will tell you that they’ll never call you and ask you for information that they should have already, like your credit card number, account number, routing number, or PIN, and anyone you’ve already done business with shouldn’t need to reach out to you for information unless they can prove they really need it.”
  • Cultivate habits of skepticism and vigilance. The Lifehacker.com article reports that “it’s important to keep up that healthy skepticism and be vigilant about the security of your sensitive documents and information out here in the real world. The FTC’s tips to avoid identity theft are a good place to start, as are the additional resources at USA.gov. The Better Business Bureau says that identity theft and fraud are still more prevalent offline than online, so don’t underestimate the importance of making sure your sensitive information is safe and locked up, and that you report anything missing or suspicious as soon as possible.”

It’s wise to take this advice from Lifehacker.com to heart sooner as opposed to later, because with each passing day fraudsters are finding – and in many instances actually creating – opportunities for the identity theft. The latest arena for their odious efforts are social media sites. Stories abound concerning the tricks crooks pull on Facebook to nab users’ data. Now these crooks have directed their energies at LinkedIn, which is a sort of Facebook for career professionals. A November 11, 2011 Toronto Sun article reports that “hi-tech thieves are sifting through business networking websites like Linkedin to find rich CEOs and businessmen to prey on by stealing their personal data and creating false identities to rack up cash and credit.”

Making LinkedIn such an attractive site for fraudulent activity is the freedom of behavior exhibited by users in terms of their personal information. “Most Linkedin users post their photographs, names, job positions, companies they work for, projects they are involved in, addresses or hometowns and even phone numbers,” the Toronto Sun article reports.

The article goes on to quote Toronto police detective Alan Spratt, who reveals that “some thieves use Linkedin data and a photograph from another person to create identities, which are used to befriend others online before scamming them for cash.”

Spratt advises that users “always verify independently what they are told on the Internet” so that they may guard against such overtures of friendship.

The Internet is a peculiar environment. On one hand it can magnify our influence and powers of communication, making us feel almost like demigods. On the other hand, it puts us in a position of extremely vulnerability with respect to identity theft, fraud, and other related kinds of criminal exploitation at a distance, making us feel every bit as naked and powerless as any compost grub shaken from its loamy bed. Reducing this exposure begins with sound identity theft protection or credit monitoring. With such assets in your corner, you need never find yourself without your daily grub because some fraudster has snatched all your resources.

Holidays Reveal Who’s Naughty and Nice When It Comes to ID Theft

We please ourselves to think that there’s something inherently stable about identities. Your birth name and Social Security number follow you throughout your lifetime time more or less without alteration. Sure, you can go by as nickname or have your name legally changed, but the trouble that attends the latter is such as to provide strong disincentive for doing so.

Most people learn to live with their names and, with any luck, accept their identities. A few, however, wish to shed them either for practical reasons – in response to committing a crime or being associated with felons – for psychological reasons: a rough childhood, troubled gender or sexual identity, and so on.

The psychological impulse to change your identity can come on quite strongly, because, though you remain the same person in many significant respects, it’s equally true that you can experience rather profound changes that, when taken together, signal nothing less than a complete metamorphosis.

You wonder how many people actually wish to change completely their identities. Common sense would suggest that the vast majority of folks are content to remain as they are, but would like to change one or two things about themselves.

It’s fortunate, then, that structured into the lives of many are opportunities for such mild transformation, which comes generally with a move of some sort. A spaghetti-armed geek goes away to college and comes home a rippling lady killer; a shy wallflower runs away to the big city and comes home a ravishing sophisticate: these are just two of the (admittedly stereotypical) examples of naturally occurring change that comes as a result of an alteration in life circumstances.

The stages on life’s away that allow us to doff and to don new personalities aspects can come at times that you need them most. Perhaps you wish to escape so youthful silliness that now brings you shame. The kid who is the subject of the video clip below no doubt will look forward to leaving for college as he grows older.

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Parents’ pride in their offspring, while mostly beneficial, can run to extremes, encouraging them to make lasting records of events their children wish to be forgotten. The digital age will likely prove to have an elephant’s memory. And will the various forms of fraud being committed these days online, changes to our identity stand a chance of changing pretty radically – whether we’d like them to or not.

Instances of identity theft only threaten to increase as shopping increases and more transactional media begin circulating. As if on cue, a November 8, 2011 Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article presents some tips, which come courtesy of the Federal Trade Commission, on how to dodge fraudsters this holiday season. Specifically, the article recommends that you:

  • Carry when shopping only the bare essentials in terms of personal identification – driver’s license and a credit card or two;
  • Immediately shred receipts and other register-generated material if you don’t plan on the need for exchanges and returns ever arising;
  • Monitor closely your credit card billing statements, keeping an eye out for suspicious charges, which, if you come across them, you should report to the bank or company that issued your credit card;
  • Conduct e-commerce only with verified and secure online vendors;
  • Consider changing passwords and personal identification numbers (PINs) before beginning your holiday shopping, be it online or in actual stores.

OK. You’ve taken precautions to guard against identity theft for the holiday season, but what about rest of the year and the year after. Much talk in paranormal circles revolves around the termination of the Mayan calendar, which happens next year. If you don’t want 2012 to be the year of your personal-information apocalypse, you should take measures to inoculate yourself against fraud all the year ’round. A November 7, 2011 FoxBusiness.com article makes some recommendations of how you can adopt a general a lasting posture that makes nabbing your ID a difficult proposition. Specifically, the article advises that you:

  • Refrain from carrying your Social Security card on your person and keep it instead in a secure, locked place;
  • Refrain from divulging your personal information to any party via telephone, text message, or email, even if that party claims to represent a governmental, financial institution, or bank;
  • Refrain from clicking on any link purporting to seek verification of your identity on behalf of a governmental or financial institution;
  • Make a habit of studying closely monthly banking and credit card statements;
  • Subscribe to a reputable identity theft protection or credit monitoring service;
  • Refrain from posting personal information on such social networking sites as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter;
  • Install and update your computer’s security and virus-protection software.

Fortifying your defense against identity theft and related fraud is an absolute must in the digital age. So transform your entire attitude regarding this burgeoning form of crime; it’s one of the smartest changes you can make!

The Painful Shock of Identity Theft

In cities it’s the subway’s “third rail” that’s known to give you a jolt; out in the sticks, it’s the electric fence.

For those urbanites unfamiliar with the electric fence, the Wikipedia entry on the subject offers enlightenment. “An electric fence is a barrier that uses electric shocks to deter animals or people from crossing a boundary. The voltage of the shock may have effects ranging from uncomfortable, to painful or even lethal.”

Such a device could only be unpleasant at best and deadly at worst, you’ think. But leave it to the irrepressible inventiveness of ordinary individuals to wrest fun from what would otherwise simply be agony. The video below depicts a stunt by some young people that, while humorous, offers a sense of how powerful a punch an electric fence can pack.

The primary use for this contrivance is for keeping livestock in line. Some, however, have been eying for other applications. “Most electric fencing is used today for agricultural fencing and other forms of animal control purposes,” the Wikipedia entry continues, “though it is frequently used to enhance security of sensitive areas, and there exist places where lethal voltages are used.”

Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain apparently considers the entire southern border of the United States one such sensitive area in need of enhanced security. “On a campaign tour through Tennessee, Cain elaborated on what will be a central portion of his immigration policy: a big electric fence,” reports an October 15, 2011 Care2.com article. “Cain’s fence … would be electrified and run the entire course of the US-Mexican border with voltage high enough to kill anyone trying to enter illegally.”

The candidate has since revised his vision of border security, laughing off his earlier solution as a joke. “Herman Cain said … that the electrified border fence he once proposed as a means to solve illegal immigration was an ‘over-exaggeration,’ and that, until elected president, he will ‘tone down’ his sense of humor,” reports an October 30, 2011 CBSNews.com story.

Some exasperated Americans no doubt ask themselves, “If not an electric fence along the border, then what?” Passions run high on this issue. One faction holds the opinion that the free movement of people across national boundaries is a sign of progress, and is at any rate inevitable in a globalized economy. A second faction holds the opinion that this free movement constitutes grave peril.

Which faction is right? It depends on who you talk to. Put this question who has fallen victim to identity theft, and you’re bound to get an answer along the lines of the second faction. Identity theft offers rough and ready means of securing employment sub rosa, particularly those of children. A November 7, 2011 Juvenile Justice Information Exchange article reports that “stolen Social Security numbers are typically used to bypass illegal immigration constraints (to obtain false identification for employment, for example), commit financial fraud and work around bad credit ratings.”

A WWLTV.com story gives a sense of the risk children run of having their identity stolen. It reports that “500,000 kids a year will have their numbers stolen, some sold on the black market, often times to illegal immigrants looking to work in the country.”

Indeed, as a June 2009 Center for Immigration Studies article points out, children are “prime targets” for the depredations of fraudsters, with kids in western states the most imperiled. “In Arizona, it is estimated that over one million children are victims of identity theft. In Utah, 1,626 companies were found to be paying wages to the SSNs of children on public assistance under the age of 13. These individuals suffer very real and very serious consequences in their lives.”

Very real and serious consequences that visit these poor children before they’ve even had opportunity to make a start in life, you might add. As far back as 2006 MSNBC.com warned of the plague of lost wealth rampant ID theft committed by illegal immigrants would visit on the hapless citizenry. “Thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of Americans are right now sharing their identities with immigrants and don’t know it,” the MSNBC.com article reports. “It is the dirty little secret of the immigration issue: By not dealing directly with the undocumented worker situation, the U.S government is actually encouraging identity theft. In fact, one can argue that the origins of the identity theft epidemic can be traced to the immigration issue.”

So there you have it. Not only will the government refuse to curb illegal immigration, it will also unwittingly create incentive for the illegal immigrants to steal law-abiding citizens’ personal information. Looks like you need to create your own impregnable defense against fraud. Though perhaps not as formidable as an electric fence, reliable identity theft protection and credit monitoring can prove exceedingly effective in combating this crime. Don’t wait for ID theft to jolt your life or the lives of those you care about. Take appropriate action today.

Nearly Naked Strangers and ID Theft Dangers

As you look forward to Thanksgiving you think about how you have survived another summer in which it seemed like you and your family wanted to vacation or take recreation, adversity met you at every turn. Bugs, bad weather, swoon-inducing heat – these represent some of the dark aspects of the summer holidays. But worst of all – absolutely, positively worst of all – are crowds. Everywhere you went it seems like hordes of other vacationers had taken the notion to journey to the same destination. And these vacationers were often of a most regrettable sort: loud, greasy, pushing, perspiring people, many times with ill-behaved children in tow. Added to all ready high temperatures, these other people made you summer trip a literal hell.

To beat the heat, folks flock to waterparks, especially if large natural bodies of water are in short supply. The languishing landlocked head for the slides, the sprays, the swings and rings of the local wet and wild wonderland. It’s no exaggeration that waterparks have largely supplanted municipal swimming pools, the latter simply lacking the glamour that the former enjoys in spades.

As crowded as your local waterpark is on its busiest, it probably can’t hold a candle the the pool featured in the video below. Have a look at it and you’ll quickly get a sense of how massive a crowd of fun-seekers can get.

Truly nothing says “good times” like a Tokyo wave pool!

All of those bobbing bodies bumping together, as well as into you. So many strangers in one place threaten to dissolve that distinctive sense of self that preserves you against assimilation to the massy mass.

You have to ask: Among strangers, who would be the ones to boost my ID were they given a chance? It’s long been a truism that the modern individual has become socially isolated, and is growing even more so, despite the progress of such social media as Facebook or Google +, and the constant improvements made to personal communication devices, such as iPhones and Droids.

In fact, advances in technology have only increased and expanded opportunities for identity theft. Would-be fraudsters become actual ones, thanks to the relative anonymity afforded them by the Internet, the power of which with enough know-how can be harnessed in the service of fraud at a distance. A November 3, 2011 ZDNetAsia.com article brings word of “Socialbots,” which are “computer programs resembling humans.” These socialbots “have penetrated Facebook and harvested 250 gigabytes of personal information belonging to thousands of users on the social networking site.”

The ZDNetAsia article goes on to report that “social networks were ‘highly vulnerable’ to large-scale infiltration attacks.”

Of course some simple precautions can reduce the chances that some socialbot will make off with your personal information. If you wish to guard against online ID theft, you should:

  • Limit the among of personal information you publicize on social media sites;
  • Avoid posting any information that would uniquely identify you (full date of birth, city of birth, favorite pets’ names) and would therefore allow fraudsters to get past login challenge questions;
  • Make sure that any smartphone app you use to access social media sites is password protected.

Of course, all the precautions in the world can’t protect you from identity theft if some company with which you do business screws up, as happened recently with banking behemoth Wells Fargo. An October 23, 2011 OnlineAthens.com article reports that “some customers who opened their accounts in South Carolina and Florida received pages from other customers’ accounts in their September statements.” Blamed for the botched billing was “[a] malfunctioning printer in Charlotte.”

The Wells Fargo statement screw-up should impress on you how vitally important it is that you carry sound identity theft protection or that you subscribe to regular credit monitoring. These serves insert an added layer of protection between you and any bungling business that has your sensitive information.

Carrying such protection has never been more important, especially as cyber-crooks have resorted to other means of bagging your ID online. “Thousands of Facebook users are risking their identities by falling for marketing ploys offering free stuff like, free crochet packs,” reports an October 10, 2011 opinion piece in The Sundial (the student newspaper of California State University–Northridge). “Scheming companies create these campaigns to promote themselves in exchange for access to one’s Facebook profile. Just ask the 772,308 monthly active users who have gotten suckered into it.”

“Victims of identity theft only have themselves to blame,” the opinion piece rather sternly observes; “they knew the rules and without regard threw caution to the wind.” Don’t leave your better senses flapping in the breeze. Take the appropriate today to lockdown your personal information.

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