Monthly Archives: July 2017

A few pieces of useful information

There are times when we deviate from our mission. This is one of them. So, if you are interested only in the financially impoverished people of Placer county, you might want to skip this and go on with the rest of the site.

I want to say a few things about the current state of affairs. Specifically, theft. And, I am not talking about bank robbery or burglary. Those crimes are immediately clear and dealt with quickly.

No, what I am referring to is what was once called a “white collar” crime. Some may call it “victim-less” crime, but that is a misnomer as there are real victims in any crime.

When I grew up, computers took whole floors of buildings and cost millions of dollars to buy. They were about as fast as your cell phone and had about 1/100th the storage. Now, everyone has a computer. And, if you don’t have one, you have access to one — at least at your local public library.

Some people use these machines to commit fraud — well, let’s call it what it is — theft. Sometimes this is done by teenage boys. (Girls are less likely to do this, but there are exceptions.) They feel that they are immune from their actions because they “are under-age” (less than 18) and can not be caught, or if they are, prosecuted for their crimes. [That is false. They can. But, it their belief which emboldens them — until they are caught.]

But, let’s not just restrict it to juvenile men as there are plenty of older people doing this (and now I do count women in this population).

What I am referring to is called “identity theft”. This was never an issue 50 years ago when computers were uncommon machines. It is the advent and general use of computers that has catapulted this crime to almost epidemic proportions.

Let’s take the typical route for the thief. The first is to find someone’s identity. They look for social security numbers or driver’s license numbers and even passport numbers or utility bills. You shred all you papers that you get in the mail listing things such as social security numbers, bank statements, bank checks, bank deposit slips, paid utility bills, etc. Correct? If you don’t — start!

The other way is to try to get the information from you directly over the telephone. I am sure that you have received calls claiming to be from the IRS saying that they have filed a lawsuit against you and you must call some telephone number immediately. Or, perhaps it is someone saying that you have won a lottery (for which you did not enter) and you just need to call them and give them the bank information to have the funds wired to your account.

All of these ways are trying to find the information needed to get your identity. It is a step to steal from you in a way that you may not notice for eight months; long after the thief has since fled in the electronic trail.

So, what is important about computers? Well, that takes me to the last part of the story. I can only say it revolves around your identity. If you notice when you sign-on to a bank, credit card account, social security office, or just your own email account, that you need two pieces of information. You need the account ID and a password. Rarely do you use anything else. But, in most cases you believe that your password is safe. After all, you know it.

A typical person trying to guess your password would probably give up after about 100 tries. They would try a password about once very five seconds. They would quickly get board and quit. But, your computer operates at a speed of around 2 billion instructions per second. It does not get board. It does not give up. It can try a hundred passwords a second; second after second; minute after minute; until it finds the proper one. And, everyone has a computer. They are no longer limited to companies who leased or purchased those multi-million dollar monstrosities from years past.

Once it found the proper password for one site, it probably has found the passwords for all of your sites. Like most people, you use the same password on every site. It makes it easy to remember, right? To put that into perspective, it you be the same as if every lock in your neighborhood had the same key. A thief breaking into one of your neighbor’s houses, has the key to your house too. Does that make you feel safe when you wake up to strange noises outside your bedroom at night?

If you find it hard to remember passwords, then get a notebook. Write them down in the notebook. But, use a different password, one that you have never used before and won’t use ever again someplace else, for each different website that you have an account — facebook, twitter, linked-in, photograph sharing sites, your bank, social security office, your email account(s), or your favorite shopping sites such as Amazon. Every site, every site, every instance must have a different password. Then, keep the notebook either in your home and next to the computer or take it with you to the library and bring it back. This is simple. It is safe and secure. You don’t need any fancy software. Use a pencil with a good eraser so the password may be changed in the notebook when you change it on-line.

Why is it important that you worry about passwords when you are concerned about identity theft? The answer is simple. Take your bank account access. You gave them your email address when you got access, correct? Well, if the thief can use your email address, they can reach the bank account information by a simple procedure of resetting the password. That access will give them access to your finances and possibly lead them to other locations such as your social security number and other ID that is kept with the bank.

All of this ties together. The first thing that you must do is to protect your accounts and your identity in any printed form. Shred what you throw out, even if it is just a simple offer for a new credit card that banks send out. Secure your online identity as much as possible.

A few articles for further reading may be found at the following address:

Understanding Password Security

And, to help protect your financial matters, the following site may be of interest:

Protecting your Financial Information

Finally, if it is too late, maybe this site will be of help:

Steps to help recover from identity theft.