Thursday, August 30, 2007

Legal Thriller Book Author Warns of "Paper Trails" Scams Epidemic

--Now, with easy-to-follow paper trails showing the way, modern-day con artists are cleaning up with their polished, quick- buck attack:

Why is the con man so good at passing himself off as the most qualified authority on redemptive truth since Pontius Pilot? For the same reason Willie Sutton robbed banks, because, "that's where the money is." Money, to the scamsters, is like blood is to sharks. Unlike bank robbers, who rely on gun expertise, get-away cars, and hideouts, the polished con artist rolls the dice based on his self-presumed intellect, charisma, charm, and powers of persuasion. He is boisterous, loud. He pours it on. The result? Now , with the instant, world-wide reach of the internet to aid him, it's an eruption of shell games so severe they can only be described as an epidemic.

If you must blame the messenger, it's the internet. Pure and simple. These charlatans no longer have to toil long hours beguiling the masses in person. Gone are the days when they would merely talk, smile, mislead, fleece and run. Now they can operate entirely from the shadows, the anonymity of the internet. And, they do. More and more and more, as each year passes.

The figures are frightening:

>Escrow scams which averaged $3,000 just 5 years ago are now approaching $10,000.

>Wire fraud which came to some $5,000 an average pop in 2002 now comes in at an estimated $12,000.

>In 2002 the FTC put identity thievery at some 750,000 cases Today they are looking at upwards of 1,000,000. Some estimates go as high as 10,000,000.

These are just a few scare tactics we are using to get you to wake up, smell the coffee, take the medicine--eat the can of cold beef chili if necessary. Armor yourself for the coming onslaught against your good name, established identity, anchored lifestyle, and peace of mind. Do it now. This plague is growing by leaps. So, be assured, as you are reading this, at this very moment it is inexorably coming at you. It will surface, most likely, sometime within your next 10-year future. The ages-old, tried and true "Law of Averages" dictates this.

First protective steps:

1. Wire money in select, rare instances only. Going overboard here could speedily make your primary source of income be the pawn shop. Do this only when maximum research has revealed the safety of it.

2. Forget all kinds of bank transfers for the most part (In some instances bank-to-bank transfers are O.K.) This omission alone, if done en masse, would be a sharp stick in the eye to con men.

3. Never use your debit card online. Set up a "debit block" at your bank. This is locking the barn door well before the horse escapes to freedom.

4. Never send money that you cannot afford to lose overseas. Except, in rare cases, money orders or cashier's check only, preferably just small amounts at any given time. (This is preferable to wiring funds because the extra delivery time gives you, at least, a small window to alert law enforcement authorities if things go immediately afoul.) This will go far toward thwarting eager overseas con men who feast on gullible Americans like Al Capone once did on rival gangsters.

5. Deal only in credit card transactions, watch your statements closely, and at the first sign of trouble, report it to your bank in order to nail down your maximum $50 loss protection. This is not something you can put off.

6. At one time in your life you might have thought to yourself, I used to be indecisive, but now I'm not sure. No place for that kind of thinking here. If you are ever caught up in a costly financial loss due to a scam, don't walk, run to your nearest police station and file a Crime Report. Decisiveness is paramount. All subsequent, meaningful legal actions will spring from this.

7. Never send out by mail or internet--to anyone you have no history of doing business with--vital personal financial information, e.g. bank account numbers, routing numbers, debit account numbers, social security numbers, passwords. Doing this would be boldly going nowhere.

A fool and his money can throw one helluva party. Better to spend your money that way than to feed it to these sharks. That's probably the way they would spend it, once they parted you from it.

A group of bears is known as a sloth. Sadly, a large portion of our lackadaisical, laid back citizenry also falls under this description. Bears because they sleep half the year away; people because they sleep year around--when it comes to their financial protection, that is. You cannot trustingly await the flowering of moral values among the con man breed. Like it or not, now is the time to swallow a large dose of horse sense. Then mull it. Contemplate it. Act on it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Con Men's Best Get-Rich-Quick Opportunity: Identity Theft

--Important Do and Don't considerations when traveling the con men identity theft minefield

What we learn from history is that we do not learn from history. That's Identity theft. For some reason, these many horror stories appear to leave little or no impression on the public. Profoundly hard to understand.

We're sure you wouldn't drink a quart of milk just before riding a roller-coaster. You wouldn't enjoy the ride any more than you'd enjoy the response if you were to walk into a crowded bikers' bar and loudly yell, "You're all a bunch of pussies." We're sure that, on both counts, restraint would hold sway. In fact, you'd most likely flip to the other extreme. Why, then, at this other extreme,do so many people choose to live on the edge when it comes to guarding their identity against theft, when anyone can easily do so? This is one of the big riddles of modern life. A real puzzler. Too much restraint.

Look all around you. We all live in a highly commercialized world. This is a generally-accepted reality. Unfortunately, this very same stage of civilized advancement creates a throwback jungle to navigate, populated by con men at every turn. And, there we all are. Machete in hand, we must cut our way through this civilized thicket--every step of the way--carefully avoiding the headhunter identity thief hiding behind every bush.

Now, though, you can be the master of these shell games instead of the con men, move the peanuts around yourself. In past articles we've covered many of the essential defensive moves you can take. There are still more. Here they are:

> You don't want your credit status to be flypaper for con men. Review your consumer credit reports annually. Do this more frequently at the first hint of wrong-doing. It is important to know early in the game if anyone is opening accounts in your name without your consent. The 3 credit reporting agencies (and toll-free phone numbers) are:

Equifax, 800-525-6285. Experian, 888-397-3742, Trans Union, 800-680-7289.

> Never use your date of birth as a password. Same for your age. Too much help for the guessers. Using these dates would be like giving Bonnie and Clyde "his" and "her" shotguns.

> Never leave, intact, receipts behind--at ATMs,, on counters, at financial institutions, or at gas pumps. Reason for this should be misunderstood only by those with a room temperature I.Q.

> If you don't get a replacement credit card before your present one expires, complain loudly. In fact, it's probably a good idea to complain at least 30 days prior to expiration. Many do not realize it, but the internal policy of the credit card issuers is to send these out well in advance of deadline. Only ignore if you like the whooshing sound of deadlines as they go flying by.

> Same for monthly bills and financial statements. You do not want the computerized footprint of these to loiter in cyberspace too long, easily accessible by con men. Complain. Make sparks, if necessary. Sure, friction can be a drag, but overexposure can cause you a severe case of financial pneumonia.

< Most of all, the first order of business in taking a firm defensive posture is to be quick to retort--when asked for bank, credit card numbers, and all other highly personal information--"Sorry, that's private information." Or, if you prefer being more blunt, "That's none of your business." It all starts here. In card games a good poker player holds them, as they say, close to the vest. In warfare, a good general never telegraphs his punches. Will he use tanks? Will he lunge? Will he out-flank? Will he dig in? Let the other side guess.

> If and when it all falls apart anyway, despite your best preventive efforts, keep a record--names, phone numbers, and complete addresses where available--of all the people with whom you have discussed your case. Also, all supporting documents. Look at it this way: experience is great--it enables you to recognize mistakes when you make them again.

It should go without saying that you should be prepared against the intolerable temptations born of greed which lurk everywhere these days in our civilized jungle. If you were a blimp pilot you'd have a bird's eye view. Failing that, we suppose, the old fashioned way of book-lernin'-style study will have to do. Remember Murphy's Law of Combat: The cavalry doesn't always come to the rescue.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Con Man Focus--Finding Small Business Easier Marks

--Small businesses facing greater challenges in fighting off the con man due to inexperience and under-staffing

Magalia, California--The con man is setting his sites on small businesses for a number of reasons, according to veteran business book author, Jack Payne. He reports an extensive list of citations:

The inexperience factor. So many of the more complex cons pulled on major corporations have been played out. Defenses are up More highly skilled personnel have been brought in to thwart the scamsters. And better, quicker reporting has cut into their scam-power Hence, the con man is looking for, if not greener pastures, at least, easier pastures, and is finding these among small businesses who cannot keep up with the giant companies' staffing capabilities.

The fear factor. Small businesses are, relatively, financially weak. Thus, the con man is finding they are more prone to "go along" with smaller dollar scams. They tend to sweep them under the rug, if "taken," absorb them and move on.

The embarrassment factor. Usually well-known and respected at a personal level in local communities, the human element in a small business is more widely exposed than it is in the large, faceless corporation. This makes it easier--it is believed--for the con artist to shame his victim into silence once scammed.

Here are a representative few of the flashing red lights of warning:

The restaurant patron refund demand. This involves a letter to restaurant owners--probably hundreds of them around a major city--demanding an unsatisfactory meal refund in a nominal amount--usually anywhere from $8.99 to $25. If properly threatened, the proprietor is most often tempted to just pay, and have done with it.

Charity fraud. This is rampant. Small businesses are especially vulnerable to such scams. Because of their community status, the generally held notion is that their "image" must be upheld at all costs.

Voice mail access scams. PBX (Private Branch Exchange) remote access features are a prime target for hackers, who can quickly run up thousands of dollars in charges.

Phony invoices. This is a traditional scam that seems to never die. Local media, yellow pages advertising, and organization memberships are the most often pitched scams, but these also include just about every other product and service imaginable.

Government document ruses. a phony questionnaire is sent, together with a demand for a fee in the amount of, usually, $100-$200. Failure to comply would result in a $2,000-per-day fine is the common threat.

Energy "shocking," similar to phone "slamming" is a popular scam in the many states which have deregulated energy, allowing for a variety of providers.

"Remember Werthen's Law: Assumption is the mother of all screw-ups," adds legal thriller author, Jack Payne. "The reason more inexperienced people are sought out is because it is believed they will be more prone to 'just go along' with whatever slight of hand trick is flashed at them.

"Just remember one principle, when dealing with any stranger in business," Payne concludes, "Any time things appear to be going better, you have overlooked something. Then, follow your instincts. Act defensively, accordingly."

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Con Man or Average Citizen? Pursuing Zany Jury Awards

--Legal adjudication. Situation comedy, or psychological fantasy? Today it is often difficult to tell the difference.

More and more plaintiffs and trial lawyers are chasing unconscionable quick buck pay-offs, using con man tactics. Which came first, pillage or burn? This seems to be the the question asked by these people in going to court.

Is it the water, something they're smoking? Or, is it just plain, blind greed played out to a ridiculous extreme? Whatever the reason, frivolous law suits, pursued by supposedly mentally-stable people, have literally gone through the roof of the U.S. court system. After reading the following sampler, you decide whether this more represents the American system of jurisprudence--or the Twilight Zone, featuring a cast of con man players.

> The Chicago Cubs sue freeloaders who watch their baseball games through holes in their Wrigley Field fence. This violates their copyright it's claimed. This sounds like a legal case filed by Goliath against David.

> In San Francisco a teen throws herself off the Golden Gate Bridge. This violates the teen's constitutional right not to be deprived of life without due process of law, is the charge of her mother in a law suit filed against the Bridge's Board of Directors. Deep pockets, anyone?

> A movie has bad guys driving a bulldozer. Manufacturer of the bulldozer sues, because showing bad guys driving their product "disparages" the brand's good name.

> Man, armed with shotgun, is confronted by property owner. Burglar attacks man who shoots in self-defense and kills him. The man's family sues property owner, and even though district attorney has declared the shooting justified, wins the case. Illogical? The whole thing sounds about as likely as peanut butter sliding off toast.

> A group of rowdies drive around throwing lit fireworks from a car window. A rocket explodes inside the car, and the car rental agency is sued. Outcome? Who knows? Still pending. Former Attorney General, Janet Reno, said it best, "I always wait until a jury has spoken before I anticipate what they will do."

> Lottery winner says his winnings were impaired because the vendor didn't explain there was a cap on winnings. The court rules in his favor. The jury must have felt that upholding the rights of downtrodden lottery winners was an important constitutional issue.

> Man who had legally changed his name to "Jack Ass" sues MTV for $50,000,000, claiming that their series, "jackass" disparages his "good name.." This shows that just about anybody can become a bottomless pit of needs and wants.

Sacred cows make the best hamburger. That seems to be the battle cry of a chunk of the legal profession today, using con-man-style tactics as they stake out anybody and everybody--especially those with "deep pockets"--for picking.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Legal Con Man Game? Credit Card Rigging

--to Card Holders' Disadvantage
--How the credit card Industry has changed and what this means for you. Evolution to revolution?

Magalia, California--In 1982 2-cycle billing was virtually unknown in the credit card business. "Today it's rampant," says author of 55 business books, Jack Payne. There's more. Much more.

Twenty five years ago fees for cash advances and balance transfers were 2% or less, with a maximum fee of $10. Today fees are 4% and up, with no maximum whatsoever.

In 1982 late fees were seldom over $5. Today they average $35. And, postmarks are now meaningless. The card holder is charged a late fee for as little as 10-minute late arrival at the credit card office. The aim of the credit card companies to build up the "late fee" segment of their business is focused. Last year this segment brought in $1.5 billion, and was their third largest revenue stream.

In 1982 the customer was not crowded on his / her first cycle billing payment. A 25-day grace period was commonplace. Now 20 days seems to be standard. And, this includes travel time,from the statement date to the customer's date of receipt. The card holder is being ever-pushed, it appears, closer and closer to the late payment fee "edge."

In 1982 over-limit charges were unheard of. Why? Simply because card credit limits were enforced. Excessive draw, no pay. No way. That was policy. Now card companies will permit the customer to overdraw. One catch.. in exchange for this "convenience" the card holder is charged another small fee. (If this "convenience" is offered, why even have a card limit? one might ask.)

Payne, author of the legal thriller, Six Hours Past Thursday, has a "take" on the present-day credit card market:

"With more than half its customer-base on life support--that huge market the 'Bad Credit' people are always appealing to-- the credit card industry should be wary indeed," Payne says. "They are walking on thin ice. Too many 'consolidate your bills' people are out there right now, to complicate the problems of the card issuers and processors--the very problems that the card vendors, themselves, created. Thus,, in this evolutionary climate there are a couple of things you must remember: Stay away from multiple credit cards and rollover debt usage. If you seek credit card diagnosis and help, like the health patient, you want a doctor with a stethoscope, not one with a catheter. And, in the meantime, It is only prudent to stay away from all of the tricks the credit card issuers use to 'endear' you to them.

"Evolution in the credit card market is in full swing," Payne adds, "Will this lead to revolution? If so, don't let yourself get sucked up in it.."

Con Man's Rapture: Mail Theft Made Easy, Compliments of Your U.S. Postal Service

--Details of one big step you can take to protect yourself from mail theft spelled out

Criminals regularly "case" residential neighborhoods, staking out homes that are vacant--due to vacationing, business travels, or other away-from-home reasons. Object, of course, is to, when empty, burglarize them.

Identity thieves are now taking the easy way when engaging in this pastime. They simply gather up the names and addresses, fill out change-of-address forms at the Post Office, and await delivery of this mail to a new address of their choosing. There they can leisurely rifle through the victims' mail in search of credit card and debit card data, IRS W-2 forms at tax time (which include social security numbers), bank statements, and all other highly personal information. They then fit themselves out with a brand new identity--yours, if they are staking you out--and go on a spending spree at their victim's--or your-- expense. To pursue this line of gainful endeavor, the con man does not even have to develop an elaborate shell game.

Perhaps the most frightening thing about this latest form of identity theft is the no-hassle mechanics of it: simply filling out a change-of-address form and presenting it at the Post Office counter. They don't even have to provide an ID.

Do you hear the not-too-distant thunder? And, the lack of defenses you have against such unprovoked attacks on your good name is near-total. It's chilling.

Then, what options do you have? How do you fight back? There's got to be a means, an equally simple way to protect yourself. Right? You'd think so. If, in 1770, a London prisoner could attach some bristles to a bone and brush his teeth with it, thus inventing the tooth brush, why can't you just as easily protect yourself from this nearly-effortless crime?

You can. And, the solution doesn't have to be so unappetizing as drinking a quart of used hot dog water But, there's only one way you can do it with complete assurance it will work.

Divorce your identity from your residential address. Divert your mail to a Post Office box or private receiving / forwarding service. Sure, you would have the inconvenience of daily mail pick-up, but maybe, just maybe, this could be one of the most decisive steps you could ever take to protect yourself from this too-easy form of crime. This remedy is near fool-proof. Obviously, if there is no mail delivery to your home, the identity thief cannot possibly divert it.

In this wrought-iron world of crisscross cause and effect, a clear path to justice is obscured. If you were ever hit up with the total loss of identity this form of theft would entail, you would have to seek a solution through the twisted logic of a nightmare. Hundreds and hundreds of hours of agonizing mental torture would await you. You could go through the hellish ordeal of identity reconstruction, credit repositioning, police investigations, legal maneuverings, stress counseling, and maybe, even, funny farm admittance procedures.

If you can't stop singing, The Green, Green Grass of Home, as your psychiatrist is tightening your straight jacket straps, it's because you failed to protect your identity from theft.