Think It’s A Money Scam? Verify Through the BBB’s Scambuster Sites

A new decade brings fresh hope, palpable promise of good will and prosperity, and, new scams. Unbelievably, the emails from wealthy – but currently unemployed foreign royalty –  imploring your help in transferring millions to the United States via your bank account – for which you shall be richly rewarded – are still rolling in and, people are still literally buying into this hoax. But, today’s scammers have evolved just as much (if not more) as personal information mining technology.

Novel top scams involve more targeted schemes wherein digital hustlers purchase insights into your shopping and charitable donation habits. Aside from the traditional procurement of personal information through data brokers, Google Ads and other such outlets, we are now seeing a surge in bogus businesses and charities whose only intent is to separate you from your money.

Certainly one can conduct a corporate search with state Secretary/Department of State, Business Entity lookups or research Charity Watch for registered nonprofits but these are governmental and non-investigatory entities with generalized time-of-filing data. Crowd-sourced Better Business Bureau’s scambuster sites provide the most reliable real-time corporate and charity verification and up-to-date reputation reviews. i.e.:

1. Warn others and stop fraudsters by reporting scams to BBB’s Scamtracker. Scamtracker is a crowd-sourced website where you can report if you’ve been contacted by a scammer. Since reports are plotted on a map, you can also use Scamtracker to find out what’s happening in your area. Click here for more information. Scamtracker reports also help BBB educate the public with more in-depth reports via our scam studies.

2. Check out businesses and charities first. A little research before you buy or donate to make sure you’re working with a reputable company or charity can save you a lot of time, money and heartache later. Check out companies here and a full report on charities here . BBB accredited businesses and charities have been evaluated by BBB, and meet and promise to maintain our Standards of Trust or Standards for Charity Accountability.

Trust but verify- especially when it comes to your finances.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

CoronaVirus: U.S. State Department Warns Of Travel Restrictions; Being Stranded In A Foreign Country

 

January 27, 2020  The deadly novel (new) coronavirus, originating in China, has spread  to countries across the globe.  Travelers need to be aware of travel advisories and, the very real possibility of not being allowed to leave their host countries if suspected of infection or, the overall restriction of travel in and out of the impacted areas.

As of the date of this article, the following countries have reported confirmed cases of this new virus:

Australia, France, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, China, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, U.S. and Vietnam

And, countries with suspected cases:

Canada, Czech Republic, FiJi, India, Austria, Ivory Coast, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Romania, Sri Lanka, Sweden and Switzerland.

The U.S. State Department has issued a Level Four travel advisory for China: DO NOT TRAVEL.  France has been issued a Level Two designation: EXERCISE INCREASED PRECAUTIONS.  Check the Travel Advisories for your intended destination. If you are traveling abroad, in that conditions can change very rapidly in a country at any time,  opt to receive updated Travel Advisories and Alerts from the State Department.

Of particular concern is the ability of travelers to leave China if the situation there worsens.  From the State Department:

Exercise increased caution in China due to arbitrary enforcement of local laws and special restrictions on dual U.S.-Chinese citizens:

The Chinese government has asserted broad authority to prohibit U.S. citizens from leaving China by using “exit bans,” sometimes keeping U.S. citizens in China for years. The Chinese government uses exit bans coercively:

  • to compel U.S. citizens to participate in Chinese government investigations,
  • to lure individuals back to China from abroad, and
  • to aid Chinese authorities in resolving civil disputes in favor of Chinese parties.

In most cases, U.S. citizens only become aware of the exit ban when they attempt to depart China, and there is no method to find out how long the ban may continue. U.S. citizens under exit bans have been harassed and threatened.

U.S. citizens may be detained without access to U.S. consular services or information about their alleged crime. U.S. citizens may be subjected to prolonged interrogations and extended detention for reasons related to “state security.” Security personnel may detain and/or deport U.S. citizens for sending private electronic messages critical of the Chinese government.

Extra security measures, such as security checks and increased levels of police presence, are common in the Xinjiang Uighur and Tibet Autonomous Regions. Authorities may impose curfews and travel restrictions on short notice.

The Chinese government does not recognize dual nationality. U.S.-Chinese citizens and U.S. citizens of Chinese heritage may be subject to additional scrutiny and harassment, and the Chinese government may prevent the U.S. Embassy from providing consular services. Read the Safety and Security section on the country information page.

If you decide to travel to China:

The Guardian reports that 100,000 people worldwide may already be infected with the coronavirus.  Avoid paranoia but do stay informed.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As aways, be safe.

 

20 Top Productivity Apps for 2020

From Teamweek:

The world is more distracting than ever before. From social media and streaming services like Netflix to video games and silly YouTube videos, our attention is constantly being diverted from our daily tasks.

If you’re frequently finding yourself looking at your smartphone or falling behind in your workload, there are numerous productivity apps available to remove distractions and keep you focused on the task at hand. These tools provide specialized practices for a wide range of needs.

We’re already at the half-month mark – get going on your projects!

BNI Operative: Situationally aware.

As always, be safe.

Assisted Living Facility Injuries Caused By Neglect

broken hip

Collectively, we are living longer.  That’s the good news.  When it comes to living arrangements, however, with increased age,  often comes the need for more formal medical care.  There many be health concerns that prohibit our elderly family members from continuing to live at home or with family.  As potential caregivers, we wish to make parents and grandparents as comfortable as possible but if there are medical or housing issues, our desires are secondary to necessary daily healthcare and well-being management.   Often, families and seniors look to assisted living facilities (ALF) for elder residential and medical care.  The hope is to find a caring and attentive senior living facility but that is all too often not the case. Generally through negligence rather than malevolence, elderly people in these type of institutions are getting hurt- too often, from preventable injuries such as hip fractures.

The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that there are around 300,000 people in this age group who suffer from a broken hip each year. Of those, 20 to 30% will be dead within 12 months of the injury, and many others show a significant decrease in their functional abilities.

Main Causes of Broken Hips in the Elderly

The primary cause of broken hips in the elderly are slip and fall incidents. In an ALF, these type of falls are fairly common.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that the average 100-bed ALF reports 100 to 200 falls each year and that around 1,800 patients who fall die from their injuries.

There are many reasons that seniors in these facilities may fall. Their muscles are weaker, their balance may be off, vertigo, poor eyesight and the physical limitations of moving from one place to another.  However, these problems are often exacerbated by negligence within the facility.

Of the reported falls each year, approximately 27% are due to environmental hazards. Some of the most common hazards include:

  • Wet floors
  • Inadequate lighting
  • Wheelchairs and beds that are not properly equipped for the patient (i.e., chairs are not locked into place or the beds do not have high rails or restraints to prevent falling)
  • Improper monitoring and lack of physical assistance

Each of these hazards is preventable, and may be considered negligent acts by the facility when a patient is injured.

A thorough ALF injury investigation should include a comprehensive review of the resident’s medical records, daily activity reports, maintenance records, incident reports, personnel files, prior litigation involving the facility, visitor logs, surveillance camera footage and any and all other records maintained by the ALF. Canvassing for witnesses should also be conducted.

Broken hips in the elderly are serious, and when they occur in an assisted living facility, one should consider whether the injury (or worse) was due to institution’s abuse or negligence,

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Interview Techniques By Witness Personality Type: Part II: The Empath.

empathy

(Continuing the series)

Interview techniques by witness personality type: Last week, we stated:

“An often requested service for investigators is to interview witnesses in order to obtain written or recorded statements.

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.”

In our multiple-part series, this week we focus 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, below are effective approaches that can be taken by an investigator attempting to elicit a strong, accurate and credible statement from an empathic witness.

  1. The empath, prone to daydreaming, needs to be kept on track by sticking to the facts as points of reference. Empathic witnesses may keenly recall many details at once, flooding their sensitive natures.  Albeit more time-consuming, let the empath tell the story their way but guide them to stay on point 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?”  The latter is too abstract for an empath who is reliving, moment by moment, the witnessed event.  We’ve all experienced startling incidents which seem to either have occurred much more rapidly or stretched out impossibly longer than the reality. Guide (not lead) the empath through a factual timeline.
  2. Don’t lead (you can direct) an empath as, they tend towards creativity.  “In which hand was the defendant driver holding her cell phone?” is very different from the correct “Was the def. driver on her cell phone before or during the accident?”  The former may generate a very wrong interpretation of the facts.  If asked the first way, conceivably, what the empath witness meant and can potentially state during a deposition or trial, might be, “In her right hand.  After she pulled it out of her purse to call 911 after the accident.” Lawyers do not like to be surprised during negotiations or at trial.
  3. Recognize the memory-clouding emotional process that an empathic witness may experience.  An empath’s sensitivity is heightened.  She may process the pain and shock through the eyes of the actual victim during recall. Do not rush the interview.  While keeping the witness on track by time and position reference points, an investigator may be surprised by the voluminous recall by empaths.   Again, an empath is able to place herself in the victim’s state of mind and emotions at time/place of occurrence and observe the event through that prism.  Follow the facts through the emotions; conduct soft fact checks, though, such as asking the empathic witness if she’d been involved in a similar accident/incident.  If the recall timeline doesn’t make sense, the empath may be emotionally overwhelmed, thereby relaying events with huge sequential gaps.  Ensure that the facts make rational and logistical sense.  E.g., the witness may say, “I was in the same train car as the man who got hurt. The train was stopped at the Chambers Street station.  He slipped and fell on to the tracks where he was then run over.”  (This scenario is graphic but also true, and representative of the need to take accurate statements.) There are follow up questions then that an investigator must ask to correctly interpret that statement: 1. What was the position of the witness relative to the victim? Clear line of sight?  2. Had the witness observed the victim before the incident?  If so, what were the victim’s actions? Did he appear sick, injured or under the influence? 3. If the victim was in the car, how did he fall onto the tracks?  Was he between cars? 4. Obviously, the train must have bolted forward (brake test?) or begun traveling for the victim to have been struck. How long had the train been stopped at this station?  (The list goes on but the point has been made – the investigator must ensure the logical sequence of events.)

Continuing with this series, in the next Bulletin, we will cover, “The A-Type”: techniques for interviewing an alpha personality witness.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Interview Techniques By Witness Personality Type: Part I: The Narcissist.

narcissist

An often requested service for investigators is to interview witnesses in order to obtain written or recorded statements.

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 relatively 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 assess 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.  At some point, with mild encouragement, 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.

Inheritance Theft: Rarely Committed By Strangers

Inheritance theft occurs when a person, usually a relative, friend, new spouse or advisor, takes advantage of his or her relationship with the person making the will (called a testator), to obtain or take money or property from the testator that the testator intended to leave to his legal heirs.

The person attempting to steal the testator’s assets gains his trust and proceeds to use such tactics as undue influence, isolation, manipulation, lies, threats or forgery to obtain alleged “gifts”, cash and property.

When most people hear the term inheritance theft, they presume these are acts committed by outsiders that are not related to the testator.  The opposite is true- the vast majority of inheritance thefts are committed by the testator’s own children or other family members.

Seniors are particularly vulnerable to inheritance theft and – under undue influence –  will give away valuables, money and other property to people that visit or stay with them more or help them on a regular basis, especially if the testator’s relatives live far away.

Signs of Inheritance Theft:

  1. The inheritance thief physically moves in or close to his intended victim or visits often.
  2. He insinuates himself into the daily lifestyle of the testator (runs errands, accompanies testator to medical appointments, becomes involved in financial matters, etc.)
  3. There are signers or owners are added to the testator’s bank accounts.
  4. There are bank, brokerage, and retirement account statements indicating withdrawals in amounts that are greater than normal.
  5. The testator is isolated from other family members.

Penalties for Inheritance Theft:

Anyone involved in an inheritance scam can potentially face criminal charges for a variety of crimes including:

  • State or federal fraud charges.
  • Bank fraud charges
  • Identity theft charges
  • Wire fraud charges
  • Forgery charges

These criminal charges, if proven, carry serious penalties and, a defendant could also be subject to civil or criminal forfeiture, a civil lawsuit and forced to pay restitution to the victim.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware

As always, stay safe.