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Interviewing Witnesses By Personality Type: Part II: The Empath.

empathy

(Continuing the series)

Last week, we stated:

“Our obvious objective in interviewing witnesses is to obtain a statement.  To that end, a successful interview is often based on the investigator’s approach and the better she can assess the subject’s personality, the more effective the interview. Fortunately, most people are cooperative, fairly truthful and possess a normal personality.  There have been quite a number of times, however, when we’ve had to extract information from people whose base nature or personality has been overwhelmingly outside of the normal range.

With these type subjects, it’s the investigator’s people skills that determine whether she will prevail.”

In our multiple-part series, Part II, focused on interviewing an empathic witness.

Definition of an Empathic Personality: (The Mind Unleashed.org):

  • Feeling others emotions and taking them on as your own

  • Sensitive to violence, cruelty or tragedy

  • Creative

  • Addictive personality

  • Loves to daydream

Description of a Empathic Personality: (from Psychology Today):

“Empaths are highly sensitive and supportive. They are finely tuned instruments when it comes to emotions and tend to feel everything, sometimes to an extreme.”

Empaths unwillingly, unwittingly absorb, intuit and feel other people’s emotions — from joy to misery.”

Armed with the above knowledge, a field investigator, and having determined that the witness has an empathic personality, the best approaches to elicit a strong and credible statement are:

  1. The empath, prone to daydreaming, needs to be kept on track by sticking to the facts as points of reference. Empathic witnesses can keenly recall many details at once, overloading their sensitive natures.  It may take more time, and without coloring their recall, let the empath tell the story their way but keep them on track with facts.  I.e., keep them on a timeline track.  “The accident occurred at 12:30 p.m.  How long after the accident  did the police arrive?”  rather than “At what time did police show up at the accident scene?”
  2. Don’t lead (you can direct) an empath as they tend towards creativity.  “In which hand was the def. driver holding the cell phone?” is very different from the correct “Was the def. driver on her cell phone before or during the accident?”  The former may get the statement, “In her right hand.” which at trial may be expanded to, “In her right hand, after she pulled it out of her purse to call 911 after the accident.”
  3. Allow for emotional outbreaks.  An empath is more sensitive than normal and may process the pain and shock of the actual victim during recall.  Don;t sit there like a cold fish or rush her along.  While maintaining to the above suggestion to keep an empath on track by time reference points, an investigator is often surprised by the deluge of facts retained by empaths.  They are able to place themselves in the victim’s place at time/place of occurrence and observe the event through that prism.  Follow the facts through the emotions.

In the next Bulletin in this series, we will cover, “The A-Type”.  How to interview an alpha type who may be uncooperative.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Interviewing Witnesses By Personality Type: Part I: The Narcissist.

narcissist

Our obvious objective in interviewing witnesses is to obtain a statement.  To that end, a successful interview is often based on the investigator’s approach and the better she can assess the subject’s personality, the more effective the interview. Fortunately, most people are cooperative, fairly truthful and possess a normal personality.  There have been quite a number of times, however, when we’ve had to extract information from people whose base nature or personality has been overwhelmingly outside of the normal range.

With these type subjects, it’s the investigator’s people skills that determine whether she will prevail.

In our multiple-part series, we begin this week with tips for interviewing a subject with a narcissistic personality. Because of their compulsive, detail-oriented personality bent, narcissists can actually make very good witnesses – if you know how to handle them.

Definition of a Narcissistic Personality:

Most experts use the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, to diagnose mental conditions and personalities.

DSM-5 criteria for a narcissistic personality include these features:

  • Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
  • Exaggerating your achievements and talents
  • Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
  • Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people
  • Requiring constant admiration
  • Having a sense of entitlement
  • Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations
  • Taking advantage of others to get what you want
  • Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others

Description of a Narcissist (from Psychology Today):

Narcissism is often interpreted in popular culture as a person who’s in love with him or herself. It is more accurate to characterize the pathological narcissist as someone who’s in love with an idealized self-image, which they project in order to avoid feeling (and being seen as) the real, disenfranchised, wounded self.

Having the above knowledge, a field investigator should be able to quickly pick up on the subject’s personality during the pre-interview casual conversation we engage in with witnesses to determine where they are “coming from”.

If the investigator has ascertained that she is dealing with a narcissist, the three best basic approaches are:

  1. Provide positive feedback throughout the interview without being disingenuous and overly solicitous.  A narcissist needs to be constantly recognized but, is also suspicious of people who are being nice.
  2. Base the account from the narcissist’s perspective.  As with most people, but more so with a narcissist, people recall best when mentally positioned (though guided imagery) to recall an event from where they were at the moment of occurrence.
  3. Let the subject talk.  Sooner or later, with mild steering, the narcissist, because of the compulsive component of this specific personality, will give you the information necessary to complete a thorough statement.  By his very narcissistic nature, he is exacting with details.  Also, we’ve found that engaging a narcissist in minor physical tasks (such as drawing a diagram of the location of accident or arranging site photos) during interviews, helps defuse excess energy and OCD like behavior.

In the next Bulletin in this series, we will cover, “The Empath” – Does she give a true account of the incident or is she wrapped in the emotion of the moment, clouding her recall?

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Is Your Loved One A Victim Of Social Media Abuse?

social media

Recently, online news publication, ProPublica, “Journalism for the Public Interest”, posted 36 incidents (from 2012) of elder humiliation and abuse in which workers at nursing homes and assisted-living centers shared photos or videos of residents on social media networks. The incident details come from government inspection reports, court cases and media reports and depict helpless facility-care residents in embarrassing nude or partially nude poses or actually being assaulted.

We noticed that the social media venues began years ago with permanent posts on Facebook and Instagram and graduated today to disappearing (or so they thought) posts on Snapchat.

Several disturbing true incidents cited:

 

Date: March 2014

Facility: Rosewood Care Center

City: St. Charles

State: IL

Type of facility: Nursing home

How it became public: Government inspection report, news story, criminal charges

Social media site: Snapchat

Description: One nursing home assistant recorded another using a nylon strap to lightly slap the face of a 97-year-old resident with dementia. The video was posted on Snapchat. On it, the resident could be heard crying out “Don’t! Don’t!” as the employees laughed. They were fired, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of battery and were sentenced to probation and community service. Ivy Gleeson, the nursing home administrator, told the Chicago Tribune in 2014 that the two women were fired. “In our facility, resident safety is our utmost concern,” Gleeson said. She did not return calls and emails from ProPublica seeking comment.

 

Date: February 2015

Facility: Autumn Care Center (now Price Road Health and Rehabilitation Center)

City: Newark

State: OH

Type of facility: Nursing home

How it became public: Government inspection report

Social media site: Snapchat

Description: Someone from the community called the facility after being disturbed by a nursing assistant’s posting on Snapchat of two residents lying in bed in hospital gowns being coached to say “I’m in love with the coco” (lyrics of a gangster rap song). As the male resident said the words, a banner appeared across his chest that said, “Hahahhahaha omg” with three laughing emoticons; as the female repeated the words, a banner across her chest said, “Got these hoes trained.” The female resident’s son said his mother would have been embarrassed because she had previously worked as a church secretary for 30 years. After facility staff learned of the conduct, they allowed the nursing assistant to complete her shift. The director of nursing said she did not send her home because “she didn’t know the identity of the residents on the video and didn’t feel it was abuse.” The nursing assistant subsequently resigned. “A systemic breakdown in implementing the facility abuse policy was identified,” inspectors wrote. The home’s current owner, Greystone Healthcare Management, took over days after the incident. A spokeswoman said it “provides extensive, on-going training, support and oversight to insure that we provide patient centered care.”

I can’t begin to express the enormous anger I felt in reading the above sickening recounts of elder and infirm abuse. We need to protect our most vulnerable members of society.

So how do we fight back?  Our suggestion is to insist that the nursing home allow your elderly or infirm relative to have a smartphone or laptop in their room. Install LogMein or any other remote access app on the device.  You should be allowed to visually access or record the patient 24/7.   I’m sure the facility will cite privacy issues but the question is –   for whom? Is their concern for our relative’s privacy or their private actions with our relative?

Feel welcome to provide us feedback.  We will all get old (as my Dad used to say, if we are lucky) and will be in positions where we will need the help of others.  Now is the time to ensure proper monitoring of our elderly, sick or injured while we face the issue head on.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Can’t Find Your Client? A Witness? or the Defect?? 5 Proactive Steps to Avoid These Problems

lost and found

Every attorney has his/her own intake survey (generally varying by incident type) and method of working a case.  Below are several situations that our investigators have experienced in the field, and recommendations based on these incidents.  We hope these observations serve a proactive purpose in case management as it applies to clients, witnesses and evidence.

1. Your client’s emergency contacts.

Situation: On numerous occasions we’ve had to locate a client who has moved without notifying his/her attorney.

Recommendation:  Obtain the complete contact information of at least 2 relatives and 2 friends NOT living with the client.  (Drilling deeper,  obtain the DOBs of the emergency contacts.  This may appear to be a rather aggressive suggestion but,  at least 2 of these 4 contacts should be 25 – 59 years old.  Generally, adults within this age range are employed and therefore, more easily trackable than those younger or retired.  Obtain an email address as these are often traceable. )

 

2.  The witnesses.

Situation: I’m sure you’ve all seen a PAR (Police Accident Report) w/a witness listed as “Johnny, 917-555-1234”. (or same, similarly incomplete police report).   No address, no surname and a cell phone that may or may not be active in 2 weeks, let alone 2 years.

Recommendation(s):  1. Call “Johnny” immediately.  Obviously,  the first objective is to determine his knowledge of events regarding your client’s matter.  2. Obtain his contact information and an identifier.  (Again we suggest DOB.  Many people are reluctant to release their SSN.)  3. Obtain an emergency contact for him.   4.  Check the contact info every 6  months until the case achieves resolution.

 

3. Professional photographs of the accident scene, especially if citing defect or disrepair. 

Situation:   Several years ago, we had an exterior premises  trip and fall situation wherein we were called to investigate the scene approximately 4 months post-incident.  The injured person made several natural and unintentional mistakes: 1. Not realizing the extent of his injuries, he did not call 911.  There were no on-site witnesses and no responder witnesses, and  2. When he returned a week or so later, after receiving medical attention, he’d taken photos of the accident scene but the shots contained shadows running across the defect rendering it difficult to determine the exact nature and severity of the  defect.   He was to go back and re-shoot the scene but did not.  4 months later, no defect, no repair record.  The building owner, of course <eye roll>, knew nothing.  Good luck with an area canvass among usually non-cooperative neighbors.

Recommendation: Send out a professional to photograph the accident scene ASAP.  Don’t expect the client to return and accurately record the scene.  Bear in mind, however, that the defect may have permanently “disappeared” and there may not always be a repair record.

From our good friend, http://www.stus.com:

 car accident

4.  If it seems weird; it probably is.  Check all possible contributory factors.

Situation:  Claimant fell UP the stairs.  She wasn’t carrying bags, wore flat shoes; no drugs or alcohol were involved.  No defects, liquids or debris on the ground.

Recommendation: Measure everything.  After taking detailed step and rail measurements, we realized that a) the steps were unequally sized – from the height between them to the protruding lip of each step (which was excessive at the point where she was caused to trip) and b) the rail would have been out of reach from her position regardless, with no secondary wall rail in place.   Rarely do people slip, trip or fall for no reason (unless there is an underlying medical condition).

 

5. Always check to see if drugs and alcohol were involved. (Defense)

Situation:  Building maintenance crew member claims to have fallen off of a defective ladder.  The ACR showed extremely high bp readings; 3 taken at 15 minute intervals by responding EMS – well above the readings that would be expected even in a  such a stressful situation.

Recommendation: Check the medical history.  The individual was on Lipitor and had not taken his medication as prescribed for several days preceding his fall.  (He’d also commented to several co-workers earlier on the day of incident that he was feeling “dizzy”.)  There was absolutely nothing wrong with the ladder, the area surrounding it, nor was he working at a height requiring specialized safety equipment.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

The Three Biggest Security Threats We Face In 2016

hacker

 

Welcome, 2016 and here come the security threats!

Extortion Hacks

2014 brought us the Sony hack wherein millions of confidential records, including internal emails between corporate executives – that revealed the still-thriving prejudices that exist in Hollywood  – were illegal, electronically obtained and released to the public.  Because they (the hackers) could.

2015 progressed to extortion hacks; nimble-fingered computer criminals accessed private client information from Ashley Madison hack, taking down a CEO and exposed possibly millions of would-be cheaters to public ridicule and worse; and then the hack of InvestBank in the United Arab Emirates, which resulted in the exposure of customer account information.

Extortion hacks play to the deepest fears of companies and top executives everywhere.  If mishandled, company secrets run the risk of exposure, clients can file lawsuits and these very executives stand to lose their jobs. 2016 will see a massive rise in extortion hacks with astronomical demands.

 

Data Change/Manipulation Attacks

From Wired:

In testimony this year, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, told Congress that cyber operations that change or manipulate digital data in order to compromise its integrity—instead of deleting or releasing stolen data—is our next nightmare. Mike Rogers, head of the NSA and US Cyber Command said the same thing. “At the moment, most [of the serious hacks] has been theft,” Rogers said. “But what if someone gets in the system and starts manipulating and changing data, to the point where now as an operator, you no longer believe what you’re seeing in your system?”

Data sabotage can be much more difficult to detect than the kind of physical destruction caused by Stuxnet. That’s because data alterations can be so slight yet have enormous consequences and implications. Anyone remember the Lotus 1-2-3 bug back in the 90s that would produce accounting miscalculations in spreadsheets under certain conditions? That was an unintentional error. But attackers could get into financial and stock-trading systems to alter data and force stock prices to rise or fall, depending on their aim.

Certain types of data manipulation could even result in deaths. In 1991 a Patriot missile in Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War failed to intercept an incoming Scud missile due to a software glitch in the weapon’s control computer, allowing the Scud to hit an Army barracks and kill 28 soldiers. Again, this was an unintentional bug. But Chinese spies have invaded numerous US defense contractor networks in the last decade, raising concern among US military officials that they’re not just stealing blueprints to copy weapons, but might also alter or insert code to sabotage the integrity of weapons systems and change how they operate.

 

Chip and Pin Credit Card Hacks

From Tripwire:

Over the course of the last decade, major credit card companies have begun to implement EMV or “chip and pin” technology. This system requires that a card reader retrieve the customer’s information off of their card’s magnetized chip, which is followed by the cardholder entering in their PIN number.

As a result, chip and pin essentially constitutes a method of two-factor authentication (2FA) for payment card purchases. It is an added security measure that is designed to prevent credit card fraud if a card is physically stolen, so it is natural that VISA, Mastercard and others would switch to EMV technology – even despite the fact that many companies were just recently unprepared for the transition.

I just received my credit and bank EMV-embedded cards.  As the Tripwire article mentions, many merchants are still unprepared to process these cards but that’s the least of worries.  Given that 69% of most purchases utilizing these cards now occur online, the one-time code per transaction is irrelevant as neither the card or a PIN is required for online purchases.  So we are back to cyber criminals simply stealing the card numbers.

The good news is that law enforcement agencies are hiring in record numbers those with anti-hacking experience!

Be smart:  buy via trusted online vendors or use secure purchase transaction portals such as PayPal.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

 

Flare Gun, Yes; Flares, No. Updated Flight Travel Rules For Carry-On/Checked Items.

when i fly

Having spent the last two weeks traveling nearly 15, 000 travel miles, from JFK , LAX, IAD and MIA to several small, regional airports in between, it occurs to me that the regulations for items that one can carry through TSA and ultimately onboard and alternately, check-in, have changed significantly.  Hence, in this week’s Beacon Bulletin, we bring you the latest official carry-on/check-in guidelines from the TSA.

On Domestic Flights:

FOOD:

                                                  Carry-On Checked
Alcohol                                                             Less than 3.4 oz / 100 ml allowed. Item is allowed.
Creamy Dips and Spreads                        Less than 3.4 oz / 100 ml allowed. Item is allowed.
Fresh Whole Fruits                                     Item is allowed. Item is allowed.
Gravy                                                                Less than 3.4 oz / 100 ml allowed. Item is allowed.
Jam and Jelly                                                Less than 3.4 oz / 100 ml allowed. Item is allowed.
Maple Syrup                                                  Less than 3.4 oz / 100 ml allowed. Item is allowed.
Oils and Vinegars                                        Less than 3.4 oz / 100 ml allowed. Item is allowed.
Pies and Cakes                                              Item is allowed. Item is allowed.
Salad Dressing                                             Less than 3.4 oz / 100 ml allowed. Item is allowed.
Salsa and Sauces                                         Less than 3.4 oz / 100 ml allowed. Item is allowed.
Soups                                                               Less than 3.4 oz / 100 ml allowed. Item is allowed.
Yogurt                                                             Less than 3.4 oz / 100 ml allowed. Item is allowed.

FIREARMS: Not allowed as carry-on, but allowable as check-in:  guns, rifles, bb guns, flare guns, starter pistols, air-compressed guns, realistic replicas of gun or parts of guns and, ammo.  As for check-in, properly registered guns MUST be unloaded, packed in a locked hard-sided container, and declared to the airline at check-in. Absolutely not allowed at all, carry on or checked-in are flares, gun lighters and gun powder.

 

FLAMMABLES: NO CARRY-ON/NO CHECKED-IN: Aerosols (other than personal care), blasting caps, chlorine, dynamite, fire extinguishers, fireworks, fuels, flammable liquids and gels, gas torches, gasoline, hand grenades, lighter fuel, liquid bleach, recreational oxygen, spillable batteries, spray paint, strike-anywhere matches, torch lighters, turpentine, paint thinners and vehicle airbags.

 

Allowed as Carry-On but NOT as Check-In:

Lighters : (Lighters without fuel are permitted in checked baggage.) Lighters with fuel are prohibited in checked baggage, unless they adhere to the Department of Transportation exemption, which allows up to two fueled lighters if properly enclosed in a DOT approved case.

Safety Matches: One book of safety (non-strike anywhere) matches are permitted as carry-on items, but all matches are prohibited in checked baggage.

Small Compressed Gas Cartridges Up to two in life vests and two spares. The spares must accompany the personal flotation device and presented as one unit.


SELF-DEFENSE:
None are allowed as carry-on but all permissible as check-in are: billy clubs, black jacks, brass knuckles, kubatons, night sticks, nunchucks, self-defense sprays, stun guns, throwing starts.

SHARP OBJECTS: Only disposable razors are allowed as carry-on.  Knives, ice picks, meat cleavers, sabers, scissors and even swords are allowed to be checked in.

SPORTING GOODS: Only skates, roller and ice, and skate boards are allowed as carry-on.  All others sports equipment have to be checked in.

TOOLS: Only screwdrivers, wrenches and pliers are allowed as carry-on.   Axes, drills, hammers and saws must be checked in.

When it comes to air safety, please pay attention to the rules.  The TSA and law enforcement are not playing around – nor should controlling potentially dangerous items while traveling be taken lightly.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

 

Who Am I Dealing With?? Watching Your Back(ground) Checks.

Lately, we are requested quite often to research the backgrounds of prospective employees, personal and business partners and corporate entities.

With our now internet-enabled reach (not just to locate web-based information but to network with other investigative specialists), we are able to access nationwide data as to the personal, work and credit backgrounds of potential new hires.  We have gained the ability to likewise perform these background search services on a global basis for those seeking new business alliances, products and services.   Today, given the mobility and globalization of people and companies, often the backgrounds of the those with whom we might form potential partnerships are, at best based on hazy anecdotes and very basic, publicly available information.  Unfortunately, these types of non-professionally investigated histories can easily be manipulated, i.e., by net savvy perception managers.  For this, and many other reasons (personal security, access and information verification, to name several) we will always steer people away from the alleged “free” searches available online.  If one is serious about researching a potential employee or partner’s background, get it done right — by an experienced, highly rated private investigator.

Below we outline several types of background searches, their information yield and best applicability situations.

Basic Background Check, Individual:

Primary Uses:  Prospective new hires, subject identification, tenant verification.

Should yield:

  • DOB & Alias Names
  • SSN Verification
  • Address History (20 yr)
  • Address Summaries
  • Others Residing w/Subject
  • Possible Phone #s Associated w Subject (landline/mobile)
  • Email Addresses
  • Nationwide Criminal Profile (Includes State & Nationwide Criminal Databases, National Warrant Databases, Department of Correction Records, Nationwide Sex Offender Check)
  • Property Transactions
  • Civil Judgments, Tax Liens, & Evictions
  • Bankruptcies
  • Registered Vehicles *
  • DL Information *
  • Voter Registrations
  • Hunting & Fishing Permits
  • Professional Licenses
  • Possible Work Affiliations
  • Relatives & Associates

*In available states.

Recommendation: If the new hire will have access to accounting and or client information, we also suggest obtaining a release to conduct a standard asset search.

Comprehensive Background Check, Individual:

Primary Uses:  Prospective partners, major settlement/award cases, potential private care (nannies, housekeepers, home nursing aides…) and personal/business financial services providers (attorneys, accountants, brokers…)

Should yield:

  • All of the above plus :
  • Credit check (obtain authorization)
  • Financial background (to include but not limited to assets, banking information,  involvement in fraud investigations)
  • Professional background (to include but not limited to being a named party in any legal action, professional sanctions, industry rating)
  • Verified (in person/voice) and thorough reference checks

These are basic searches to conduct in the above referenced circumstances.  Of course, no two files will ever be the same and each search should be geared towards individualization.  A good professional investigator will know where to look and when to dig deeper.

As always, stay safe.

Ripped Off Online? 10 Steps That’ll Get You Results.

scammed

(This is an evergreen article that we update and post during the holiday season, especially with the internet now the predominant purchasing venue.)

Let me preface this week’s Bulletin by stating that the majority of online businesses are honest and strive hard to provide the goods and services that the digital public demands, requests and pays for. This self-regulation occurs for two reasons: a) most people/businesses are honest to begin with and b) word of mouth online occurs at lightning speed. Unfortunately, there is always someone out there with a scam and sooner or later, most people purchasing online will run into one of these shady businesses.

Our experience in investigating online fraud has led us to prepare the below checklist of 10 step to take if you are a victim of an online scam:

1. Gather as much information (name, address, phone numbers, domain names..) about the dishonest party as you can.

2. Put your complaint to them in writing rather than phoning it in. Be accurate and concise. Also, think of possible excuses the offending business may try to counter with and be prepared to argue these truth revisions.

3. Put the dishonest party on notice that you intend to take action against them if they do not resolve the problem fairly and to your satisfaction. It may take several rounds of talks before they come around to understanding that it might be better to simply resolve the issue with you and avoid more intense scrutiny. If that fails, we go to the next very nasty steps.

4. File an online compliant with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3): www.ic3.gov. and click on the “File a Complaint” link to fill out an online form. IC3 was formed, in partnership with the FBI, specifically to combat internet fraud.

5. File a complaint with the Internet Fraud Watch on their website www.fraud.org. The Internet Fraud Watch was created by the National Consumers League, the oldest nonprofit consumer organization in the United States.

6. File you next complaint with the Better Business Bureau OnLine website: www.bbbonline.org . BBBOnLine specifically deals with web commerce complaints. The BBB contacts the business involved in the dispute to determine if the dispute can be amicably resolved. A huge file of complaints with the BBB will cut into the business’ profits.

7. Google the Attorney General’s Office of the state in which the dishonest party operates. File a complaint. Criminal charges may be brought against the business if fraud is involved.

8. On the Whois website: Go to  www.whois.net and look up the dishonest party’s domain name and web host. Inform the web host of your issue with this business and advise them that if they continue to provide hosting services to this party, they themselves can potentially be named in any legal action arising from this business’ activities, now that they have been put on notice.  Don’t take an accusatory tone, rather, try to co-opt the web host as they probably do not want to become entangled in any questionable practices.

9. If the shady company has their own servers and do not use a web hosting service, contact the Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) website: www.icann.org. ICANN is the organization that has responsibility for Internet address space allocation.  ICANN generally is reluctant to become involved in online business practice disputes but they will if your case is presented with strong evidence and they have received prior complaints about this same unscrupulous company.

10. If the disreputable business continues to operate despite your best reporting efforts, and they have advertisements n their site, contact their advertisers. Advertisers are not given to spending their marketing budget to receive complaints from disgruntled, ripped-off customers.

The above steps are tough measures, but they should get your internet fraud situation resolved and hopefully, it’ll be a one-time occurrence.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware..

As always, stay safe.

 

Your Social Security Number, Please? Just Say NO! When Disclosing Your SSN Is Mandatory.

ssn

Your Social Security number is one of the most important keys to your financial health. It’s a unique identifier that lenders use to assess your creditworthiness. It’s also exactly what a would-be thief needs to apply for a credit card, mortgage, car loan or job in your name.

If you’re like most Americans, it’s also something you give out all too frequently and often, unnecessarily.

Case in point: A recent Javelin Strategy & Research report — their ID Fraud Survey — found that, among identity theft victims, 38 percent said the perpetrator had obtained their Social Security number and used it in the crime.  It’s certainly logical to state that you could eliminate 38 percent of your risk of identity theft by limiting access to your Social Security number.

Also, given the massive government and corporate database breaches lately, it’s equally safe to assume that someone – other than you – has your SSN info.

So, when is it mandatory to provide your true SSN and when is it not required?  See our chart below, developed by credit reporting agency, Experian.

WHO CAN, CAN’T REQUIRE YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER
Mandatory                                                         Optional
Credit applications                                                 Doctor and dentist intake forms
Cash transactions over $10,000                          Supermarkets
When applying for certain federal benefits       Drugstores
Military paperwork                                                 Preschools
Department of Motor Vehicles                             Airlines

‘Your Social Security number, please’
Still, saying you are going to limit access to your SSN and doing it are two different things.  From the dentist’s office to your child’s pre-school, nearly every application or information form we fill out these days requests your Social Security number.  Shopping stores may ask for it, too, when accepting a check for payment or before issuing check cashing privileges. Potential employers also need it but it is important to remember that you should provide them your SSN only to process your E-Verify submission in anticipation of being employed at this company.  If you are not hired, request that your paperwork, identifying your SSN, be returned or destroyed.  Why would you want it lingering in someone else’s possession and have no control over who may have access to it?  You may also be asked for it by car dealerships, pawnshops, drugstores — even at the airport, should you lose your luggage.  It’s amazing how prolific this practice has become.  (A few years ago I was placing my mother’s things in storage, and I was asked for my SSN.  I denied the request.  It was wholly unnecessary for the transaction at hand.)

Just because someone asks for it doesn’t mean you have to comply,  especially since there are only a handful of organizations that actually have a valid need for it. For instance, anytime you’re applying for credit — for a new credit card, a loan, new utility or cellular service — the creditor will need your Social Security number to run a credit check. You’ll also need to provide it if you are applying for federal or local government benefits such as Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, unemployment insurance or disability. The local motor vehicle department, thanks to the USA PATRIOT Act, has the legal right to ask for Social Security numbers, too. In addition, when you complete a cash transaction totaling more than $10,000 you’ll be required to provide your number so that transaction can be reported to the IRS.

Medical professionals have their own reasons, too.  As morbid as this is, should you die while under a doctor’s care, they are required to put your Social Security number on the death certificate.

Still, fulfilling noncredit-related requests — even medical-related requests — is purely optional.  The problem however is that while you have the right to refuse to disclose your SSN, a business owner has a right to deny doing business with you.  Understandably, they want reassurance should they have to track you down for not paying a bill.

Gracefully saying ‘no’
One of the best ways to get out of giving your Social Security number to someone is to simply overlook it on your paperwork.  It’ll probably not be questioned  If so, however, simply ask why they need it.  But again, be prepared to be denied service if you refuse to provide it.

 

In the worst case scenario — when you absolutely can’t get out of it, but you still don’t feel comfortable –  make up a number.  Just make sure you write it down and don’t inadvertently steal someone else’s identity. The easiest way to ensure that is by putting in two zeros for the middle digits.  No Social Security Number have double zeros in that section.

It’s high time we take back control of our personal identifiers and especially one as important as our SSN which follows us from cradle to grave.  Just be smart and non-confrontational about it.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

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