--Shell shock is the name of the game, when you consider all the different ways you can be "had" if you don't know how to spot the signs. Here are 10 ways to fight back, protect yourself from the con man
Your luck doesn't have to be so bad as the California man, who, in a series of unrelated events, was hit by a car on Sunday, mugged on Monday, and shot on Tuesday. But, if you lose your identity to a con man, your foul luck level could be close.
With a con man-launched barrage, stolen identities are rising at a rate of up to 10,000,000 per year, creating a problem that is now approaching crisis proportions.
If we were a fire-eating, Bible-thumping preacher, we would deliver our sermon something like quoting from a legal thriller, something like this:
Con men everywhere are taking rifle-shot focus on a very specific target: your social security number. (Your bank account number would be nice too. That's secondary targeting.) Once obtaining this they are finding it a cake-walk to taking over your paper identity, and, thus, opening up a free-flowing channel to all of your financial assets.
They count on--and are successfully cashing in on--a seemingly human axiom: a one-sided exercise in the "Law of Inertia." So, you must surmount this inertia, conquer it, if it exists.
As never before, if you do not wish to provide the con man a feeding tube into your bank account, you must be highly selective about the handling of your financial affairs. All of them. The time is now.
Here are a few suggestions:
1. When ordering over the internet remember that URLs that begin with "http" are not secure sites. The sites that begin with "https" are. First step is to foil hackers as best you can.
2. Verify all email and telephone offers by checking them out directly through a customer service number you locate, yourself, in your phone book, then follow through with a phone call, only one you initiate. If you can't find a phone number there, call the reference desk of your public library and you will probably have the requested number in minutes.
3. If you suspect an obvious, serious scam--many of which these days read like a legal thriller--don't hesitate, looking for a cause dujour. Contact the FBI or your State Attorney General's office. Do it with cat-quick speed. Famed French World War II hero and President, Charles DeGaulle, had a very forgettable message to leave from his death bed. His last words were, "It hurts." This is the same near-death way you'd feel if, no matter what you'd accomplished in life, a con man cleaned you of your identity.
4. Never reship any product on behalf of a stranger in a foreign country.. If you don't know the contents, which could be stolen goods, you might be unwittingly participating in a crime. You don't want to become a self-indulgent, navel-gazing victim.
5. Never respond to email or phone calls asking you to verify anything. These requests are most often placed by the con man under the guise of being a bank, credit card company, retail store, government agency official--any manner of subterfuge. It's always best to check out the "source" represented, independently of any reference numbers or call-back data provided by the inquirer. You don't have to be a peripheral visionary to see these scams coming. They're frontal. They're clear. Act accordingly.
6. Ignore all "free credit report" offers you receive, either by phone or over the internet. Big majority of these are scams.
Your cooperation would be like singing along at the opera.
7. "Free" gift offers should be avoided. Unless they are entirely free. If asked to "pay only shipping and handling charges," look out. This is a big red light.
8. Pyramid schemes and email chain letters. The answer to this should be obvious. Ignore, ignore, ignore. Never respond to these. The con man's eerie vulgarity, his frothing-at-the-mouth greed, rears its ugly head pronouncedly on this one.
9. Never enter your social security number on a resume, one you are asked to send via email by anyone with whom you are not totally familiar. Some scam-fighters will say, simply enter 000-00-0000, but pause should be exercised before even doing this. If you wish to save yourself from becoming a drooling head-banger, by all means do not let your social security number fall into the hands of a con man.
10. Gift or order confirmations. These, from any vendor you have not contacted. Usually they are "phishing" expeditions, designed only to reel in personal information from you.
These are some of the cautionary high points. Be totally aware that the identity theft threat is now of epidemic proportions. and, sadly, it appears that--like all epidemics--the time-honored "Law of Averages" is about the only governor to dictate the length of time before it gets to you. When it finally hits, the jolt will be like unwittingly sticking your hand into a sealed box of scorpions.
Monday, October 29, 2007
--Shell shock is the name of the game, when you consider all the different ways you can be "had" if you don't know how to spot the signs. Here are 10 ways to fight back, protect yourself from the con man
Posted by Jack Payne at 5:37 AM
Friday, October 19, 2007
--Seemingly heaven-sent offerings proliferating, to the chagrin of legitimate travel agents
Magalia, California--Are the recent railings of the FTC against travel scams valid? Are all the add-on costs legitimate? Are accommodations all really 5-star? What's being done to staunch these suspected scams? These are some of the questions analyzed by veteran business writer, Jack Payne.
While "some" travel opportunities sold over the phone or offered through the mail, internet, or by fax are legitimate, "many" are scams that defraud consumers out of "millions of dollars each month."
These are words directly from the FTC on telephone travel offerings. The words and phrase in inserted quotes above should be closely observed. Note how these quoted words add up to, it appears, the true significance of this statement:
> "some" = minority of phone, mail, fax, and internet offers.
> "many" = majority of phone, mail, fax, and internet offers.
> "millions of dollars each month" = scam artists at work: large scale fraud
In the travel agent industry there is widespread agreement, a feeling that this interpretation is factual.
Payne, former publisher of Business Opportunities Digest, chimes in with these observations:
"To the victim of such a pitch, it would start out with a brief, glossed over description of the offered trip package. This would be followed by a request for the victim's credit card number to bill his / her account for this bargain-priced vacation.
The victim would then hear--only if they ask--a dizzying array of additional charges: upgrade costs to receive actual destinations, accommodations, cruises, or dates they were promised, various deposits, port charges, hotel taxes, service fees, and other 'required' up-front fees.
"If the customer even gets to make the trip, after the scam artists have collected all their up-front fees, they should adhere closely to this kind of warning label that appears on the package of a child's Superman costume: 'Wearing of this garment does not enable you to fly.' They should expect bare minimums, and extra charges at every turn.
"The pattern should be crystal clear to anyone wishing to see." continues Payne, author of the legal thriller Six Hours Past Thursday. "Yet, maybe due to the lure of glamour, adventure, or some kind of insatiable wish-fulfillment dream, people tend to let their guards down and fall into these vacation travel traps.
"Most travel agents are hard-working, straight-shooting people," he concludes.
"But their rebuttal task, to counter these outrageous travel rip-offs, is a frustrating one. For all of their flashing red lights of warning, they are making little progress. So, if any clearly-identified travel-lover gets such a phone call, my suggestion is, why not conclude to yourself, in self-deprecating Alfred E. Neuman fashion,, something like, 'I smile a lot because I don't know what the hell is going on.' Then, hang up And, if still interested, consult a local travel agent."
Posted by Jack Payne at 5:19 AM
Monday, October 15, 2007
--Sound, basic habits are needed to assure extended protection of your financial affairs
Wrong choices in your home financial management would be like taking on a stock broker who is the Uncle Fester of portfolio styling You might be extending an open invitation to con men and not even know it. This self-check of your personal habits could reveal this tendency.
Do you have the proper armor to resist the advances of con men? First step toward self-protection against them is a look-in-the-mirror analysis of your own personal habits. And, these all begin at home. The Better Business Bureau has a most interesting test designed to alert you to some bad habits you might have there, with the vulnerability-possibility of carrying these forth into the outside world, inviting con men to victimize you.
Ponder these questions:
> How often do you shred documents containing sensitive financial information? Always? Usually? Sometimes? Rarely? Never?
Majority of Americans now shred regularly. Smart. Have you adopted this as standing practice yet? Any task worth doing was worth doing yesterday.
> Do you use a computer to conduct online banking? Yes? No?
Surprising to many, engaging in encrypted online banking is safer than the paper kind, survey says. Remember Murphy's Law of Combat #23: If the enemy is within range, so are you. Computer use establishes a good distance.
> How often do you obtain a credit report or receive credit monitoring reports? Never? Monthly? Several times a year? Yearly?
Certainly, you don't have to make your life so well protected that you outfit, even, your bicycle with a gun rack. But, frequent monitoring of your credit status is playing it safe.
> How many other individuals have potential, unauthorized access to your highly sensitive records? None? One? 2-3 4-6? More than 6?
Here's where most people fall down: carelessness in exposure. You don't have to go to the extreme of suffering delusions of competency. But, if you are one of these careless people, do something to shore up your privacy at home. If carried with you, away from your home, sloppiness in your financial management is a personal trait con men can nail you on in the outside world.
> Where do you keep or store highly sensitive financial information? Unlocked desk drawer? At home in plain sight? In car? On Desktop? In wallet or purse? Tucked safely away under lock and key?
Survey reveals a close relationship to the prior question, requiring a beefed up resort to better security. Remember what Confucius say: Man who live in glass house should shower in basement.
Mistakes are often the stepping stones to utter failure. And, these formative habits begin at home. Some corrections needed?The grass is always greener when you remember to water it.
Posted by Jack Payne at 5:43 AM
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
--The yo-yo effect, with disappearing billions of dollars on the downside revealed, as Wall Street prepares for a launch of new Hedge Funds
Magalia, California-- With huge losses rung up among the 9,000 existing hedge funds, nearly 50% of which are located offshore in the Caribbean, and with a new deluge of these funds about to be unleashed, warning bells are ringing out. One of the bell ringers, business book author, Jack Payne, warns of the tremendous loss potential of these behemoths of investment.
In 2006, hedge fund, Amaranth Advisors, dropped a staggering $6 billion on wrongly betting the direction of natural gas prices. (An unexpectedly severe nationwide heat wave in August turned the tide against them.) And now, as Wall Street prepares for a record release of new hedge funds, many worried observers believe holding them more to account is relevant.
What is a "hedge" fund anyway? one might ask Many suspect these secretive entities to be of con men-style activity To understand, the best model to compare alongside is a mutual fund which most everybody recognizes.
The lightly regulated hedge funds can invest in literally anything at all.. Commodities, real estate, and currencies adorn their habitat. They are beyond stock tips At one end of the investment spectrum they buy entire companies, at the other they speculatively day trade the stock market. This freedom is indeed inviting to con men. In contrast, mutual funds are tightly regulated, with their investments generally limited to stocks, bonds, and closely-related offshoots.
In 1998 the crack up of the giant Long Term Capital Management Fund nearly collapsed the entire U.S. economy. It rocked Wall Street to its very core. Thus, with 9,000 operating hedge funds, soliciting ever more investment dollars, Wall Street observers feel it only fitting and proper--the time being now--to bring them into the spotlight's bright glare.
"SEC regulations are slight; about the only rules governing hedge funds are that an investor must have at least $1,000,000 in net worth, or $200,000 in annual income," says legal thriller author, Jack Payne, former editor / publisher of Business Opportunities Digest, and author of 55 business books. "And, these rules have been in place since 1982 So, one has to think of the inflation push since then.
"More and more people are being propelled into the 'eligibility' classification. More and more people are being solicited by these funds for their 'investment' contributions. More and more horrendous losses lie on the horizon," he concludes. "Combined, these factors can only mean more and more caution should be exercised before investing. With hedge funds, billions of dollars can disappear faster than ice cream in a microwave. Need I say more?"
Posted by Jack Payne at 6:35 AM
Friday, October 5, 2007
--How the legal line was blurred in the 1990s hi-tech boom
Magalia, California--Stock options scams?
Collapse of employees' stock portfolios, post-9/ll? Continuing practice today? These are some of the questions posed by Jack Payne, author of 55 business books, who has studied this problem in depth.
To comprehend--legal brokerage or con man boiler room?--understanding the "exercise-and-hold" strategy used by stock brokers, to lure employees of hi-tech companies into converting their lucrative stock options into brokerage accounts is essential.
In the late 1990s hi-tech boom, many thousands of employees had two options: they could convert their immensely-inflated stock options to either "exercise and sell"--whereby they would immediately line their pockets with supposed obscene cash profits--or, they could "exercise and hold"--rollover the proceeds into brokerage accounts.
The latter option was mouth-watering for brokers. Frenzy to convert these stock options into brokerage accounts knew no bounds Courtships developed. Financial planning seminars proliferated. Brokers even solicited employees at their workplaces.
It's said these options-holders were lured with "hooks." The creditline, believed to be an unsecured line of credit, turned out to be a margin loan, with all the inherent dangers of such, including the risk of total loss.
Tax advantages were hyped, it's charged, where none existed.
The accusations were many and pointed: brokers sold themselves to these new customers as "full service financial advisors," They were not. Their house profits were still their prime incentives.
The "diversification," peddled as bait, was pure hallucination. Brokers took the lazy way, from the shelter of their management fee structure, and concentrated the investments in few areas. This, as opposed to the hard work of true diversification into a variety of securities, as a straight brokerage commission structure would have encouraged. And, the list of charges goes on:
Frosting on the cake was the brokers' margining the further stock purchases that the creditline enabled into areas the employees' companies were already in. Net effect? The opposite from diversification. Instead, their customers' accounts became overly concentrated, and with margin, subjected them to quick dissipation, even total disappearance of their nest eggs in a down market--which is what happened after 9 / 11--it is theorized.
Jack Payne, former editor / publisher of Business Opportunities Digest, sums it up,"Similarities to legendary con man games?" he asks. "This goes beyond simple stock tips. The pot of gold: dirt pile. Feeding frenzy of the up market; panic of the down market: Ponzi. The tax-advantage pitch to get the account, then the lazy management style, into highly-leveraged margin accounts: bait and switch. See the bouncing ball here / how did it get over there?: shell game."
As In his legal thriller, Six Hours Past Thursday, Payne claims, "It's a now-you-see-it, now-you-don't exercise you won't forget."
Though much of this hi-tech boom era flim-flammery has been cleaned up, vestiges remain. Conmanship to assiduously study. Learn well. And, prudently avoid."
Posted by Jack Payne at 7:35 AM
Thursday, October 4, 2007
What's over when the fat lady sings?
The aggressive marketer thinks he knows. So does the con man.
Apparently it is interpreted by the consumer as a shrinkage of the waistline, rather than shrinkage of his / her wallet. If so, the national obesity fight is providing myriad opportunities for legal scams by con men.
Resulting from the widespread appeal of keeping one's stomach from looking like a deflated clown balloon, it is amazing to what lengths some weight-loss promoters--both the legitimate marketer and the con man--will go to achieve such desired results. From advertisements surveyed from the pages of national magazines--and particularly the supermarket tabloids--comes a compendium of really unconventional (read, downright weird) ways to win the obesity battle: "Lose weight the quick, easy, painless way," they cajole. Ready to lose? (Which way do you mean that? you ask.) Ponder these methods for physical weight reduction:
> Your appetite suppressed by way of a lip balm? Whenever you get hungry--for a meal or snack--you merely apply this product to your lips, and, voila, appetite curbed. (In counterpoint you could simply forget the whole thing. Just rationalize. Say to yourself, "I have flabby thighs, but fortunately my stomach covers them.")
> The Hula Hoop is back, suggested as an excellent means for extracting globs of spare-tire flesh from your gut and hips. (Con man emergence again?) This is an approach that might not be too far off base, if you think your vascular system could support the rigors of such vigorous mid-section undulations. If you plan on doing this for any length of time it's probably best to first check with your doctor for an O.K.
> Have at your digestive system with determination by wearing Slim Slippers. Through use of magnets and reflexology technology, to manipulate your nervous system, these are purported to influence your metabolism to the point where your hunger will decrease. Interested? If so, first respect Duckcrime's Axiom: If you view your problem closely enough you will recognize yourself as part of the problem. Some introspection needed?
> Here's your chance to be slim, or, at least, look slimmer. Wear caffeine tights. Body heat stimulates caffeine in the tights to leak through your pores--to speed up your metabolism, thereby burning fat, it is claimed. Seems like another experiment of equal merit would be to get falling-down drunk to see if you can fall off the floor.
> Apple Cider Vinegar, Lecithin, Kelp, Grapefruit Diet. Here's one that's been around for ages. Never went away. Interesting natural ingredients, but, never any impressive double-blind studies to prove claims. Piping hot, this is, nonetheless, a good sedative. You should sleep like a gnome on a concrete slab beneath a bridge.
> Apply a sunscreen loaded with caffeine. ??? Suppose this beats bathing with flea and tick soap.
> Control your hunger with earrings, custom-fitted to your ears so as to access acupressure points which will curb your appetite. Divine intervention might work, too.
> Retina / eyeglasses relationship to weight control? Yes, according to this sales pitch, the color lenses supposedly project a specific image onto your eyeballs which will reduce your desire to consume food. Rose-colored glasses? So, if it doesn't work on your appetite, you'll still gain a healthier outlook on life as a residual benefit?
> You're familiar with the smoking patch, loaded with nicotine, to enable you to throw away the crutch of cigarettes? Now comes a weight reduction patch to enable you to discard the gluttony crutch. Place anywhere on your body, lean back, relax, and lose weight. Words will not flow to our keyboard to even comment on this one.
Real head-scratchers, all. You could lose weight quickly, too, by eating raw pork and rancid tuna. If you choose this easily accessed method, right out of your own kitchen, you would be strongly advised to ignore the con man and first consult your physician.
Posted by Jack Payne at 3:04 AM