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Archive for the ‘Self-Help’ Category

DEALING WITH CORPORATE ARROGANCE

In Bureaucracy, History, Self-Help, Social commentary on June 3, 2021 at 12:41 am

So you’ve spent the last half-hour or more on the phone, listening to one recorded message after another (and probably a symphony of bad music).

And you’re no closer to solving the problem that caused you to phone the company/agency in the first place.

What to do?   

  • Go on the Internet and look up the company’s/agency’s website. 
  • Look for links to their Board of Directors. Often enough you’ll get not only their names but their bios, phone numbers and even email addresses.
  • Start looking at the bottom of the website page. Many companies/agencies put this information there—and usually in small print.
  • Look for the names of officials who can help you. That means the ones at the top—or at least high enough so you can be sure that whoever responds to your call/letter/email has the necessary clout to address your problem.
  • If you call, don’t ask to speak directly with Mr. Big—that’s not going to happen. Ask to speak with Mr. Big’s secretary, who is far more accessible.
  • Keep your tone civil, and try to make your call as brief as possible. Don’t go into a lot of background about all the problems you’ve been having getting through to someone.
  • Give the gist and ask for a referral to someone who can help resolve your problem.

  • If the secretary needs more time to study the problem before referring you to someone else, be patient. Answer any questions asked—such as your name, address, phone number and/or email.
  • State—specifically—what you want the company to do to resolve your problem.  If you want a refund or repairs for your product, say so.
  • Too many consumers don’t specify what they want the company to do–they’re so caught up in their rage and frustration that this completely escapes them. 
  • Be reasonable. If you want a refund, then don’t ask for more money than you paid for the product. 
  • If you want to return a product for an exchange, don’t expect the company to give you a new one with even more bells and whistles—unless you’re willing to pay the difference in price.
  • If you want an agency to investigate your complaint, give them time to assess your information and that supplied by others.
  • Give the CEO’s secretary at least one to two days to get back to you. Resolving your problem isn’t the only task she needs to complete.
  • You can usually get one agency to sit on another—if you can make a convincing case that it’s in that secondary agency’s best interests to do so. 
  • If you’ve been roughed up by local police for no good reason, for example, you can file a complaint with that department–-and the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office (federal prosecutor) to investigate.

  • That doesn’t guarantee they will resolve your problem.  But if you can show that the cops have violated several Federal civil rights laws,  the odds are good that someone will take a serious look at your complaint.
  • If a company/agency official has acted so outrageously that the company/agency might now be sued or prosecuted, don’t be afraid to say so. 
  • But don’t threaten to sue. Just point out that the company’s/agency’s reputation for integrity/efficiency is not well-served by such behavior.
  • Whoever reads your letter/email will instantly realize the legal implications of what you’re saying—and will likely take quick action to head off a lawsuit by trying to satisfy your request. Remember: The foremost priority of every bureaucracy is to ensure its own survival..  
  • If you’re writing the CEO, make sure you use his full name and title—and that you spell both correctly. People don’t get to be CEOs without a huge sense of ego. People don’t get to be CEOs without a huge sense of ego. Nothing will turn him off faster than your failing to get his name and title exactly right.
  • As in the case with his secretary, be brief—no more than a page and a half. Outline the problem you’re having and at least some (though not necessarily all) of the steps you’re taken to get it resolved.
  • Then state what you want the company to do.  Again, be fair and reasonable.

If all of this fails, you still have the option to sue. But don’t be in a rush to go to court.  For one thing, you might not have a case that a judge would consider trying.

For another, judges and juries like to feel that you’ve behaved reasonably and done everything short of filing a lawsuit before you actually file one.

If your claim is $10,000 or less, you can file in small claims court. There you won’t need a lawyer—in fact, you’re not allowed to have one. It’s just you and the person you’re suing standing before a judge and explaining your side of the case.

For claims above $10,000, you’ll go to superior court. You aren’t required to have a lawyer, but odds are your opponent will have one. So you’d better be ready to shell out money for one—unless you can find one who’ll take your case on a contingency basis (for a portion of the fee recovered). 

WHEN A COMPANY/AGENCY IGNORES YOUR PROBLEM

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Self-Help, Social commentary on December 25, 2020 at 12:06 am

How many times have you called a government agency or company and instantly found yourself put on hold?

To add insult to injury, you usually wind up serenaded by recorded music that would be totally forgettable if it weren’t so unforgivably irritating.

And every 30 seconds or so a recorded voice comes on to assure you: “Your call is very important to us.”

Have you ever wondered:If my call is so important to you, why aren’t you answering it?” 

The truth is that most companies and government agencies don’t want their employees speaking with the customers who make their existence a reality.

Having your questions answered by another human being requires the company/agency to assign—and pay—people to do just that.

Most hiring managers don’t want to hire any more people than they absolutely have to. They want to siphon off as much of the company’s profits for themselves as possible.

And assigning people to answer customers’ calls means that many of those calls will take time to answer, because some problems can’t be solved in a matter of seconds. 

Even government agencies like police departments don’t want to spend any more time than necessary taking the calls of those who need to reach them.

Even calls to 911 can leave you talking to no one, with only a recorded message telling you to wait until someone deigns to speak with you.

And you’re no closer to solving the problem that caused you to phone the company/agency in the first place.

What to do? 

For starters, don’t lose heart. There are usually a great many things you can do to obtain the help you need.

  • Go on the Internet and look up the company’s/agency’s website. 
  • Look for links to their Board of Directors. Often enough you’ll get not only their names but their bios, phone numbers and even email addresses.
  • Look at the bottom of the website page. Many companies/agencies put this information there–and usually in small print.
  • Look for the names of officials who can help you—those at the top, or at least high enough so that whoever responds to your call/letter/email has the necessary clout to address your problem.
  • If you call, don’t ask to speak directly with Mr. Big. Ask to speak with Mr. Big’s secretary, who is far more accessible.
  • Keep your tone civil, and try to make your call as brief as possible. Don’t go into a lot of background about the problems you had getting through.
  • Give the gist and ask for a referral to someone who can help resolve your problem.
  • If the secretary needs more time to study the problem before referring you to someone else, be patient.
  • Answer any questions asked—such as your name, address, phone number and/or email.
  • State—specifically—what you want the company to do to resolve your problem.  If you want a refund or repairs for your product, say so.

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  • If you want a refund, don’t ask for more money than you paid for the product. 
  • If you want to return a product for an exchange, don’t expect the company to give you a new one with even more bells and whistles—unless you’re willing to pay the difference in price.
  • If you want an agency to investigate your complaint, don’t expect them to do so instantly.  Give them time to assess your information and that supplied by others.
  • It’s usually possible to get one agency to sit on another—if you can make a convincing case that it’s in that secondary agency’s best interests to do so.  
  • That doesn’t guarantee they will resolve your problem. But if you can show that the agency will gain by it—such as getting good publicity.
  • If a company/agency official has acted so outrageously that the company/agency might be held liable for his actions, don’t be afraid to say so. But don’t threaten to sue.
  • Just point out that the employee has acted in such a way as to jeopardize the company’s/agency’s reputation for integrity/efficiency and that the organization is not well-served by such behavior.
  • Whoever reads your letter/email will instantly realize the legal implications of what you’re saying—and, in most cases, will take quick action to head off a lawsuit by trying to satisfy your request. 
  • Give the CEO’s secretary at least one to two days to get back to you. Remember: Resolving your problem isn’t the only task she needs to complete.
  • If you’re writing the CEO, make sure you use his full name and title–and that you spell both correctly. People don’t get to be CEOs without a huge sense of ego. Nothing will turn him off faster than your failing to get his name and title exactly right.
  • As in the case with his secretary, be brief—no more than a page and a half. Outline the problem you’re having and at least some (though not necessarily all) of the steps you’re taken to get it resolved.
  • Then state what you want the company to do.  Again, be fair and reasonable.

DEFEATING CORPORATE PREDATORS WITH “WHO/WHOM?”

In Bureaucracy, Business, Law, Law Enforcement, Self-Help, Social commentary on December 14, 2020 at 12:12 am

It’s easy to be intimidated by a large corporation—such as a bank or phone company—when you’ve been ripped off. After all, it’s well-known, has millions of dollars, and legions of attorneys.

But when that happens, it’s essential to remember two words: Who/Whom?

Translation: Who can do What to Whom

When you’re dealing with people whose greed is equaled only by their arrogance, there is only one way to prevail: You need to make them afraid of you.

And that can be achieved only by finding someone—or some agency—they fear, and turning them into your ally.

A friend of mine—Lynn—tried to order a calendar from an online calendar company. She put in the required information—including her debit card number—but kept getting “Error” messages.

Eventually she quit trying.

Lynn never got the calendar—but she wound up with four separate charges to her debit card, totaling $71.32.

She tried to get a refund from the company—which claimed they couldn’t find the charges.

Meanwhile, Lynn’s bank had in fact confirmed the charges—since the money had been taken from her account. And the bank—Bank of America—promised to remove the charges within 72 hours.

Three days came and went—and no reimbursement had been made to her account. 

Bank of America Corporate Center.jpg

Bank of America Corporate Center

So Lynn called BofA again—and was told it would take about 45 days to run “an investigation” into her loss.

Luckily, an investigator-friend of hers advised her to file a complaint with the Federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).  It can be reached at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/ 

According to its website, the agency operates as follows: 

  • “We create clear rules to implement the law and preserve choices for consumers.”
  • “We enforce federal consumer financial laws by investigating cases of potential wrongdoing and taking action.”
  • “We supervise financial companies to ensure compliance with federal consumer laws.”

So she called the agency—at (855) 411-2372 on a Friday—and waited to see what happened. 

Two days later—a Sunday—she called Bank of America to check her balance. To her surprise, she found that the bank had found a way to reverse the fraudulent charges that had been made to her debit card.

And it had done in far less than 45 days.

Clearly, someone at BofA had gotten the message: This is no woman—or agency—to take lightly.

CFPB seal.png

Then there’s this case: From November, 2011 to February 2012, AT&T demanded that Dave (not his real name) pay for a service the company had failed to provide.

They had promised to supply him with Uverse high-speed Internet—at 25 MBPs a second. Instead, he had gotten only 6 MBPs—and a big dot in the middle of his computer screen while watching YouTube videos. 

Finally, an AT&T rep told him the blunt truth: His geographical area in San Francisco was not yet supplied with the fiber-optic cables that could provide high-speed Internet service. 

Dave canceled Uverse—and began getting a series of bills from AT&T.

After getting a phone call from a collection agency, Dave decided to ask me to intervene on his behalf.

I decided to go directly to the Office of the President of AT&T.

Why? Because the man at the top of an organization cannot fob you off with the excuse: “My hands are tied. I can’t do it.” He can do anything he wants.

I found the name of the president by a quick search on Google under: “AT&T Corporate Offices.”

And at the top of the heap stood Randall L. Stephenson––Chairman of the Board, CEO and President of AT&T Inc.

I didn’t expect to speak with Stephenson. One of his chief lieutenants would do nicely—such as a woman I’ll call Margie.

SOS - Report Fraud to the Office of Investigative Services

First, I introduced myself and said I was authorized to act on Dave’s behalf. Then I handed the phone to Dave (who was sitting next to me) so he could confirm this. 

After that, I briefly outlined the problems Dave had been having. 

Margie—using Dave’s phone number—quickly accessed the computerized records documenting all I had told her. She said she needed three or four days to fully investigate the matter before getting back to me.

Police long ago learned the “good cop/bad cop” routine usually works wonders. So I decided to apply a variation of this with Margie. 

I said that Dave wanted to resolve this quietly and amicably. But, if necessary, he was prepared to do so through the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)—both of which had jurisdiction over AT&T. 

Margie hurriedly said there was no need to conduct an investigation after all. In fact, she added, she was writing a credit to Dave of $150.00 that very minute.

Why had Margie changed her mind?

Just as banks use every excuse to charge their customers for anything they can get away with, so do phone companies. AT&T wouldn’t want the PUC and FCC to start asking: “Is AT&T generally dunning customers for money they don’t owe?”

I had no doubt the answer would have proven to be: “Yes.”

And I believe that Margie felt the same way. 

HOUSETRAINING YOUR STORMTRUMPER

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Self-Help, Social commentary on August 17, 2020 at 12:56 am

Every family has one—or several: Right-wing relations or friends who treat every word of President Donald Trump as if it comes down from the Most High. Who furiously assert that:

  • COVID-19 is still a Democratic hoax.
  • The Trump administration is doing a terrific job at controlling a pandemic that has killed more than 170,000 Americans.
  • Legitimate media stories of Trump’s crimes and failures are “fake news.”
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci (and, more recently, Dr. Deborah Birx) are traitors for daring to contradict Trump’s lies and ignorance with scientific facts.
  • Only Trump can be trusted to safeguard America.

What to do? 

There are three methods to cope with such behavior.

Method One: Challenge the Stormtrumper

Bring up an embarrassing incident that even the Stormtrumper can’t deny.

Example: A Stormtrumper accuses Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden of “groping” women.

Response: Mention how Trump openly bragged about grabbing women “by the pussy.” Then ask: “Would you leave your mother / wife / sister alone in a room with him?”

Related image

Donald Trump

No matter how the Stormtrumper replies, you have him.

  • If he says “No, I wouldn’t,” then ask: “How can you support a candidate like this?”
  • If he says, “Yes, I would,” then assert: “So you’d leave your mother / wife / sister alone with an admitted sexual predator?”

Odds are the Stormtrumper will back off—or try to change the subject.

If he opts for the latter, don’t let him. Keep attacking him for supporting a sexual predator until he flees or shuts up.

Method Two: Fight Fire With Fire

Trump has long relied on slanders and insults to successfully attack his opponents—in business, politics and media.

His slanders have included:

  • He falsely accused the father of Texas United States Senator Rafael “Ted” Cruz of being a party to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. 
  • He falsely accused Barack Obama—who was born in Hawaii—of being born in Kenya, and therefore ineligible to be President.
  • He has accused Democratic Vice Presidential Nominee Kamala Harris—who was born in Oakland—of being born outside the United States.

SLANDER | Linda4444 Disinformation Agent

Among his insults:

  • “Little Marco” [Rubio]
  •  “Pocahontas” [Elizabeth Warren]
  • “Lyin’ Ted” [Cruz]
  • “Crazy Bernie” [Sanders]
  • “Crooked Hillary” [Clinton].

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These slanders and insults need not be taken lying down.

Slanders can be attacked with counter-slanders.

For example: It’s widely assumed that Trump’s failed response to the COVID-19 plague results from mere incompetence. But it could result from the deliberate sabotaging of the American healthcare system. Why? To curry favor with Russian President Vladimir Putin

Trump’s ties to Putin—and the monies he’s received from Russian oligarchs—are well-known. Perhaps he’s weakening the United States to pay off that debt. 

Image result for images of vladimir putin

Vladimir Putin

If this assertion is false, let the Stormtrumper prove it. 

And insults can be countered with insults—such as:

  • “Commissar-in-Chief”
  • “Fake President”
  • “Carrot Caligula”
  • “Putin’s Poodle”
  • “Coronavirus-in-Chief”. 

There’s no need to insult your Stormtrumper friend/relative (unless you want to).

Just keep jabbing at his infamous idol. If he ends your relationship because you don’t subscribe to his brand of treason and criminality, the loss is his.

Of course, if he insults you and you feel like responding, here’s a reply that’s always useful: “Everybody has a right to be stupid, but some people abuse the privilege.”

Then walk out, hang up or block him if he’s on your Facebook or Twitter page.

Method Three: Use Diplomacy

But suppose you’re peace-loving by nature and don’t want to get into a verbal (and possibly physical) combat with your Stormtrumper relative/friend.

At the same time, you don’t want to prostitute your integrity by agreeing with the sheer ignorance and lies coming out of his/her mouth. (And often it’s impossible to tell which is at play.) 

In that case, you can honorably defuse the situation by simply saying: “Of course.”

Most Stormtrumpers come from the ranks of high school dropouts or, at best, graduates. 

They dismiss legitimate news media who chronicle Trump’s crimes and failures as “fake news.” Thus, they remain—proudly—ignorant of what’s going on in the world. 

In short, they’re not exactly the sharpest knife in the box.

So when you say, “Of course,” they will most likely think you’re agreeing with them. When what you mean is: “Of course only a moron and Fascist like you would believe that.”

This will save you from wasting your time in trying to educate them.  (Remember the adage: “Never try to teach a GOPig how to sing. It only wastes your time and annoys the GOPig.”)

It also allows you to preserve the relationship. (That’s assuming you want a relationship with someone who actively supports a master criminal and traitor.)   

* * * * *

The key thing to remember when dealing with Stormtrumpers is what Ernest Hemingway said about Fascism: “Fascism is a lie told by bullies.”

Stormtrumpers are Fascistic bullies who tell lies. They give you two choices: You can be their slave—or their enemy.  

If you choose to be their slave and you have any sense of self-worth, you will despise yourself for doing so. 

If you choose to fight, you might not win, but you’ll have preserved your own integrity—which the Stormtrumper forfeited long ago.

REAL ID DOESN’T MAKE FOR REAL SECURITY

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Self-Help, Social commentary on April 29, 2019 at 12:04 am

More than two million Californians got a rude Christmas gift in 2018. 

The Department of Homeland Security informed the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) that the driver’s licenses and identity cards it had issued were worthless.    

The DMV had been issuing ID cards and driver’s licenses that didn’t comply with the Federal Government’s standards. So if you’ve received such a card, you won’t be allowed to board an airplane or enter a Federal Building after October, 2020.

The Federal Government is requiring all states to upgrade to the so-called Real ID cards, which are supposedly harder to forge. The “enhancements” were ordered into place after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.

In 2005, Congress passed the Real ID Act as a counter-terrorism measure. Its goal was to set security standards for government-issued IDs.

The Act started to be introduced in late 2013. Now in the last phase of its implementation, its enforcers have decided that licenses issued by some states don’t contain enough identifying information to pass muster with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

One of those states is California.

The others:

  • Alaska
  • Illinois
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Missouri
  • Montana 
  • New Jersey
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island 

So where did the California DMV go wrong? 

Instead of requiring two documents to prove residency, the DMV was only asking for one document from Real ID applicants. The department would then mail the ID card to the applicant’s address, which they believed constituted a second method of verifying the person’s residency.

And how are residents of states like California supposed to cope? 

The Federal Government is advising them to get a passport.

And this, in turn, carries an illogic all its own.

As one soon-to-be affected traveler outlined: “To get a passport I’ll first need to get a certified copy of my birth certificate. And to get a copy of my birth certificate I need only to submit a copy of my driver’s license.

“A copy, no face-to-face, is-that-really you?  So a New York driver’s license isn’t good enough for flying but it is good enough to get a birth certificate, which gets me a passport, which allows me to fly.”

Related image

Sample state ID card that’s acceptable under the Real ID Act

So much of what passes for security is actually security theater.  It doesn’t actually make us safer, but it makes us feel safer.  

And it makes us feel the government is keeping us safe, even when it isn’t.

For example: In the months after 9/11, National Guard troops were stationed in American airports. They certainly looked impressive.  

But passengers would have felt far less reassured had they known the assault rifles they carried had no bullets.

Or take the checking of photo IDs that has become routine to enter State and Federal office buildings.

What exactly does this tell the security guard?

If you’re John Dillinger or Osama bin Laden, it tells him: “This is a very wanted man.”  

But if you’re John Q. Public, who’s not notorious as a bank robber or terrorist, showing him your ID tells him nothing.

But people watching the guard performing this ritual assume: “The security guard must know what he’s looking for. So we have to be safer for his checking those IDs.”

In fact, most security guards have little training and even less experience. Many of them don’t carry firearms and lack self-defense skills.

According to Salary.com: The median annual Security Guard salary is $29,204, as of July 29, 2016, with a range usually between $25,857 and $33,522.  

Repeated showings of security theater can be seen every weekday at any Federal Building.

To enter, you must show a driver’s license or State ID card.

Then you must remove

  • Your belt;
  • Your shoes;
  • Your watch;
  • Your wallet;
  • All other objects from your pants pockets;
  • Any jacket you’re wearing;
  • Any cell phone you’re carrying.

All of these must be placed in one or more large plastic containers, which are run through an x-ray scanner.

Finally, assuming you avoid setting off any alarm system, you’re allowed to enter.

If you want to report a crime to a field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), here’s the procedure.

You take an elevator to the floor its offices are on. You tell a secretary why you want to speak with an agent. She requires you to pass her your driver’s license or State ID card. Then she makes a xerox of this and hands the card back.

Then you must list, on a single-page form, your:

  • Name;
  • Address;
  • Phone number;
  • Social Security umber;
  • The reason you want to speak to an agent.

You can refuse to fill out the form. But then the secretary will refuse to let you speak with an agent.

The FBI has always encouraged Americans to report anything they consider a threat to national security or a violation of Federal law.

But this demand for so much private information is almost certain to sharply decrease the number of people willing to report knowledge of a crime.

At a time when Federal law enforcement agencies need all the cooperation they can get, this is not a matter to be taken lightly.

DANGER! ONLINE SCAMMERS AHEAD!

In Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Self-Help, Social commentary on March 21, 2019 at 12:08 am

According to the FBI, Internet scams cost victims more than $1.4 billion in 2017. Among the most popular types of fraud:

  • Email phishing scams
  • Credit card scams
  • Bank loan scams
  • Lottery fee scams
  • Online dating scams
  • “Nigerian Prince” scams

But you can protect yourself. Here’s how to spot the warning signs of fraud.

  • Addressed Generally: “Attention!” “Dear Friend,” “Attention the owner of this email,” “Hello, Dear.” Your name is not mentioned, because this email has been mass-mailed to thousands of intended victims. 
  • Unsolicited:  You’re told that you’ve won a lottery you never entered, or have inherited a fortune from someone you never knew existed.
  • Appeals to Religion: “Hello Beloved in the Lord” or “Yours in Christ” seeks to create a bond with those who deeply believe in God.
  • Misuse of English: Mis-spellings and faulty grammar usually denote someone—probably a foreigner—using English as a second language. Examples: Run-on sentences; “you’re” for “your”; “except” instead of “accept”; “Dear Beneficial” instead of “Dear Beneficiary.”
  • Appeals to Sympathy: “My husband just died” or “I am dying of cancer.” This is to make you feel sorry for the sender and lower your guard as an intended victim.
  • Use of Important Titles/Organizations: “Director,” ‘Barrister,” “Secretary General of the United Nations,” “Police Inspector.” This is to impress recipients and convince them that the email comes from a trusted and legitimate organization.
  • Request for Personal Information: This includes some combination of: Name / Address / Telephone Number / Bank Name / Bank Account Number / Fax Number / Driver’s License Number / Occupation / Sex / Beneficiary / Passport Number
  • Claims of Deposit: “We have deposited the check of your fund to your account” is a typical line to instantly grab your attention. Someone you’ve never heard of claims he has just put a huge amount of money into an account you know nothing about. Nor can you access it unless you first pay a “contact fee.”
  • The “Bank” is in Africa: Unless you know you have relatives there, this should be a dead giveaway to a scam. Africa is a continent kept alive by the charity of other nations. It’s not in the business of doling out large sums of money to Westerners.
  • Overseas Phone Numbers: If you call these, you’ll have a huge bill.  So many people skip calling and just send the money “required” to receive their “cash prize.”
  • Highly Personal Requests: Asking you—someone they’ve never met—to assume the burden of acting as the executor of their “Last Will and Testament.”
  • Love Scams: The scammer poses as a man or woman—usually outside the United States—seeking love. A series of emails flows back and forth for days/weeks, until the scammer says s/he will be glad to fly to the United States to be yours. All you have to do is put up the money for the flight cost.
  • “Make Money From Home”: With most employers refusing to hire, “work from home” scams promise a way to support yourself and your family. You’re required to provide bank information or pay an up-front “registration fee.” Then you wait for job orders—that never come.
  • Debt Relief: Scammers promise to relieve most or all of your debt—for a large up-front fee. You pay the fee—and are not only out of that money but still in debt.
  • Home Repair Schemes: Huge down payments are required for home repairs that never happen.
  • “Free” Trial Offers: The service or product is free for awhile, but you must opt out later to avoid monthly billings.
  • The Email Claims to Be From the FBI: Often the “address” includes “Anti-Terrorist and Monetary Crime Division.”  One such email was addressed: “Dear Beneficiary” and offered help in obtaining a “fund.” The FBI is an investigative agency responsible to the U.S. Department of Justice. It does not resolve financial disputes or secure monies for “deserving” recipients. If the FBI wants to contact you, it will do so by letter or by sending agents to your address. The FBI’s own website states: “At this time we do not have a national e-mail address for sending or forwarding investigative information.”
  • “I Need Help”: You get an email claiming to be from someone you know—who’s “in jail here in Mexico” or some other foreign country. S/he begs you to send money for bail or bribes to win his/her freedom. If you get such an email, call the person to make certain. Don’t rush to send money—chances are it will go directly to a scammer.

FBI Headquarters

There are several commonsense rules to follow in protecting yourself from online scammers:

  • Don’t trust people you’ve never met to want to give you money.
  • Shop online only with well-known merchants who have a good reputation.
  • Don’t click on unknown links—especially those in emails from unknown senders.
  • If you’re required to pay an advance fee—“on faith”—to receive a big amount of money, the odds are it’s a scam.
  • If you can’t find any solid information on a company, chances are it doesn’t exist.
  • For additional information on how to protect yourself from cybercrime, check out the FBI’s page at https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/cyber.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, the odds are: It is untrue.

ALERT! SCAMMERS AHEAD!

In Business, History, Law Enforcement, Self-Help, Social commentary on April 27, 2018 at 12:04 am

Receiving unsolicited, get-rich-quick emails has become a regular headache for millions of Internet users.

All too often, the result is fraud for their recipients. In 2016, losses from get-rich Ponzi schemes totaled $123 million.

Here’s how to spot the warning signs of fraud:

  • Addressed Generally: “Attention!” “Dear Friend,” “Attention the owner of this email,” “Hello, Dear.” Your name is not mentioned, because this email has been mass-mailed to thousands of intended victims. 
  • Unsolicited:  You’re told that you’ve won a lottery you never entered, or have inherited a fortune from someone you never knew existed.
  • Appeals to Religion: “Hello Beloved in the Lord” or “Yours in Christ” seeks to create a bond with those who deeply believe in God.
  • Misuse of English: Mis-spellings and faulty grammar usually denote someone–probably a foreigner–using English as a second language. Examples: Run-on sentences; “you’re” for “your”; “except” instead of “accept”; “Dear Beneficial” instead of “Dear Beneficiary.”
  • Appeals to Sympathy: “My husband just died” or “I am dying of cancer.” This is to make you feel sorry for the sender and lower your guard as an intended victim.
  • Use of Important Titles/Organizations: “Director,” ‘Barrister,” “Secretary General of the United Nations,” “Police Inspector.” This is to impress recipients and convince them that the email comes from a trusted and legitimate organization.
  • Request for Personal Information: This includes some combination of: Name / Address / Telephone Number / Bank Name / Bank Account Number / Fax Number / Driver’s License Number / Occupation / Sex / Beneficiary / Passport Number
  • Claims of Deposit: “We have deposited the check of your fund to your account” is a typical line to instantly grab your attention. Someone you’ve never heard of claims he has just put a huge amount of money into an account you know nothing about. Nor can you access it unless you first pay a “contact fee.”
  • The “Bank” is in Africa: Unless you know you have relatives there, this should be a dead giveaway to a scam. Africa is a continent kept alive by the charity of other nations. It’s not in the business of doling out large sums of money to Westerners.
  • Overseas Phone Numbers: If you call these, you’ll have a huge bill.  So many people skip calling and just send the money “required” to receive their “cash prize.”
  • Highly Personal Requests: Asking you—someone they’ve never met—to assume the burden of acting as the executor of their “Last Will and Testament.”
  • Love Scams: The scammer poses as a man or woman—usually outside the United States—seeking love. A series of emails flows back and forth for days/weeks, until the scammer says s/he will be glad to fly to the United States to be yours. All you have to do is put up the money for the flight cost.
  • “Make Money From Home”: With most employers refusing to hire, “work from home” scams promise a way to support yourself and your family. You’re required to provide bank information or pay an up-front “registration fee.” Then you wait for job orders—that never come.
  • Debt Relief: Scammers promise to relieve most or all of your debt—for a large up-front fee. You pay the fee—and are not only out of that money but still in debt.
  • Home Repair Schemes: Huge down payments are required for home repairs that never happen.
  • “Free” Trial Offers: The service or product is free for awhile, but you must opt out later to avoid monthly billings.
  • The Email Claims to Be From the FBI: Often the “address” includes “Anti-Terrorist and Monetary Crime Division.”  One such email was addressed: “Dear Beneficiary” and offered help in obtaining a “fund.” The FBI is an investigative agency responsible to the U.S. Department of Justice. It does not resolve financial disputes or secure monies for “deserving” recipients. If the FBI wants to contact you, it will do so by letter or by sending agents to your address. The FBI’s own website states: “At this time we do not have a national e-mail address for sending or forwarding investigative information.”
  • “I Need Help”: You get an email claiming to be from someone you know—who’s “in jail here in Mexico” or some other foreign country. S/he begs you to send money for bail or bribes to win his/her freedom. If you get such an email, call the person to make certain. Don’t rush to send money—chances are it will go directly to a scammer.

FBI Headquarters: Where stopping cybercrime is now a top priority.

There are several commonsense rules to follow in protecting yourself from online scammers:

  • Don’t trust people you’ve never met to want to give you money.
  • Shop online only with well-known merchants who have a good reputation.
  • Don’t click on unknown links—especially those in emails from unknown senders.
  • If you’re required to pay an advance fee—“on faith”—to receive a big amount of money, the odds are it’s a scam.
  • If you can’t find any solid information on a company, chances are it doesn’t exist.
  • For additional information on how to protect yourself from cybercrime, check out the FBI’s page at http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/cyber.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, the odds are: It is untrue.

TWEET AT YOUR OWN RISK

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Self-Help, Social commentary on December 29, 2017 at 12:29 am
If Donald Trump ever read The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman, he’s decided he doesn’t need it. And his ever-falling popularity among Americans clearly proves his mistake. 

MORE DATA SECURITY BREACHES: “WE DON’T CARE–WE DON’T HAVE TO”

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Self-Help, Social commentary on September 12, 2017 at 12:01 am

Comedian Lily Tomlin rose to fame on the 1960s comedy hit, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, as Ernestine, the rude, sarcastic switchboard operator for Ma Bell.

She would tap into customers’ calls, interrupt them, make snide remarks about their personal lives. And her victims included celebrities as much as run-of-the-mill customers.

Lily Tomlin as Ernestine

She introduced herself as working for “the phone company, serving everyone from presidents and kings to the scum of the earth.”

But perhaps the line for which her character is best remembered was: “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the phone company.”

Clearly, too many companies take the same attitude as Ernestine: “We don’t care. We don’t have to.”

This is especially true for companies that are supposed to safeguard their customers’ most sensitive information.  

Companies like:

  • Kmart
  • Staples
  • Dairy Queen
  • Target Home Depot
  • JPMorgan/Chase
  • Anthem Insurance 

All these corporations suffered data breeches that exposed tens of millions of individuals’ private information–such as:

  • Names
  • Birthdates
  • Credit card numbers
  • Social Security numbers
  • Member ID numbers
  • Addresses
  • Email addresses
  • Employment Information
  • Phone numbers

And now hackers have compromised Equifax, the consumer credit reporting agency. 

Image result for Equifax

One out of every two Americans stands to be a victim. Some 143 million consumers’ sensitive data is potentially compromised.

From mid-May to July, 2017, there was a flaw in Equifax’s website software. This allowed hackers to access 143 million Americans’ supposedly private information. Only after this massive robbery had occurred did the company discover the breach and close the loophole.

On September 8, PBS Newshour correspondent William Brangham outlined the dimensions of this catastrophe:

“It’s everything that would be in your credit report. So, it’s Social Security number. It’s your name, it’s your address, it’s your driver’s license information, it’s your employers, it’s your payment history, it’s what bank accounts you have….

“The thing that a thief could do with this information is, one, they could hack into your existing accounts once they have all that information. They could also set up new ones pretending to be John Yang or William Brangham and set up new accounts and then rack up big charges on those.

“So, the great irony here is that Equifax is a company that actually sells identity theft protection, and here it is they have theoretically allowed a huge breach that could trigger a ton of identity theft.

According to Brangham, the two most outrageous aspects of this catastrophe are: 

“[Equifax] found out about this on July 29, and we only found out about this breach on—this week. So, you’re supposed to, in these kinds of cases, immediately jump to do something about it. And it seems like they didn’t give consumers much time.

“And, secondly, several executives at the company, after they found out about the breach, sold about $18.8 million worth of stock in their company before this news got out, the implication being they didn’t want their stock to tank and their stock to lose value.”

Asked, “What are we supposed to do?” Brangham replied:

  • Freeze your credit account—thus blocking anyone from setting up a new bank account, loan or mortgage in your name without you being alerted to it.
  • Alert credit reporting companies Equifax, Transunion and Experian.
  • Monitor your bank and credit cards for suspicious activity.

An October 22, 2014 “commentary” published in Forbes magazine raised the highly disturbing question: “Cybersecurity: Does Corporate America Really Care?”

And the answer is clearly: No.

Its author is John Hering, co-founder and executive director of Lookout, which bills itself as “the world leader in mobile security for consumers and enterprises alike.”

Click here: Cybersecurity: Does corporate America really care? 

“One thing is clear,” writes Hering. “CEOs need to put security on their strategic agendas alongside revenue growth and other issues given priority in boardrooms.”

Hering warns that “CEOs don’t seem to be making security a priority.” And he offers several reasons for this:

  • The sheer number of data compromises;
  • Relatively little consumer outcry;
  • Almost no impact on the companies’ standing on Wall Street;
  • Executives may consider such breaches part of the cost of doing business.

“There’s a short-term mindset and denial of convenience in board rooms,” writes Hering. “Top executives don’t realize their systems are vulnerable and don’t understand the risks. Sales figures and new products are top of mind; shoring up IT systems aren’t.”

There are three ways corporations can be forced to start behaving responsibly on this issue.

  • Smart attorneys need to start filing class-action lawsuits against companies that refuse to take steps to protect their customers’ private information. There is a name for such behavior: Criminal negligence. And there are laws carrying serious penalties for it.
  • There must be Federal legislation to ensure that multi-million-dollar fines are levied against such companies—and especially their CEOs—when such data breaches occur.
  • Congress should enact legislation allowing for the prosecution of CEOs whose companies’ negligence leads to such massive data breaches. They should be considered as accessories to crime, and, if convicted, sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

Only then will the CEO mindset of “We don’t care, we don’t have to” be replaced with: “We care, because we’ll lose our money and/or freedom if we don’t.”

TAKING ON KGB AIRWAYS: PART EIGHT (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Self-Help, Social commentary on April 20, 2017 at 12:08 am

Even if you feel you have an airtight case against an airline and want to sue, remember this: The vast majority of cases–civil and criminal–are settled outside of court.

In civil cases especially, judges strongly urge both sides to reach a compromise rather than duke it out in court. And both sides are usually willing to do this, since there’s no telling how a jury might rule.

Finally, there’s the option of filing a class-action lawsuit.

Related image

The Lady Justice

A plus to this is that you’re not alone in your charge against the airline.  Other passengers who have been similarly wronged are seeking damages, and so the spotlight is not on any one plaintiff.

A minus is that such cases are extremely complex and must be handled by experienced attorneys.  Typically, federal courts are thought to be more favorable for defendants, and state courts more favorable for plaintiffs. Many class actions are filed initially in state court. The defendant will frequently try to remove the case to federal court.

Another minus: If your side prevails, the amount of money each plaintiff receives will be far smaller than if the award were to be divided between a single plaintiff and his attorney(s).

Finally, even if you win, you can be certain the airline will appeal the verdict. Such appeals can go on for literally years.

But the most far-reaching reforms can emerge only through Congress. And this can happen only if Americans demand that their representatives create passenger rights through long-overdue legislation.

Image result for Images of United States Capitol

United States Capitol Building

Protections are especially needed when a single airline official–such as a steward–kicks a passenger off an airplane for reasons that have nothing to do with security.

Examples:

  • Two women kissing;
  • A steward demanding whether a woman is wearing underwear;
  • Another steward taking offense at a passenger’s request for help.

During the administration of President George H.W. Bush, Congress overrode only one of his 44 vetoes. In that case, Congress put a cap on the rates cable TV companies could charge.

They did so because their constituents made clear their rage about high-priced cable fees.

Members of the Senate and House of Representatives will respond to constituent demands–if voters:

  1. Make their specific demands known; and
  2. Bluntly warn: “Support this–or look for another job.”

Only such sustained action will counter the legalized bribes (known as “campaign contributions) the airlines offer to members of Congress.      

There is new reason to hope that long-overdue reforms may be coming.  

On April 9, police dragged Dr. David Dao, bloodied and screaming, off his United Airlines flight at Chicago O’Hare Airport.

His crime?  Refusing to give up his seat for a commuting crew member.

He suffered a broken nose, the loss of two front teeth and a concussion.

Dao’s mistreatment was captured on cellphone video taken by several passengers. Posted on Youtube and on national newscasts, it sparked a massive outcry.

To the horror of company officials, United Continental Holdings stock quickly lost an estimated $255 million to $1 billion. Many passengers cut up their United-Chase credit cards and frequent flyer member cards. Others swore to never again fly United.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called for a suspension to the widespread practice of overbooking: 

“To have somebody pay for a ticket, reserve a seat, be seated and then dragged off the plane physically by law enforcement officers at the direction of United–it’s outrageous,” Christie told CNN’s “New Day.”

Yet Dao has plenty of company. In 2016, more than 475,000 passengers who were bumped off American domestic flights–usually due to overbooking.

It’s standard practice for airlines to sell more tickets than there are seats. “Airlines overbook because people don’t show up for flights and they don’t want to go with empty seats,” said George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog.com.  

When a flight is overbooked, federal Department of Transportation (DOT) rules require an airline to first ask passengers to voluntarily give up their seats. Airlines can choose the amount or type of compensation.  It’s usually a gift card or travel voucher for another flight.

If you are kicked off a flight due to overbooking, you can sue for more money if you believe the compensation offered wasn’t sufficient. If you intend to sue, don’t accept any flight vouchers or cash offered by the airline.

And what gives airlines the right to virtually operate as KGB agents? Consumer advocate Ralph Nader puts it thus:

“Because the contract of carriage, which is on the [United] website, is 67,000 words long and fine print, and it takes away the rights to be assured that when you have a confirmed reservation and you’re in the seat, you can stay in the seat—total unbridled discretion by the airline to throw you off the plane.”  

And every other airline has a similar “contract of carriage.” These are written by airline lawyers and are entirely biased toward airlines–not customers.

Above all, remember: Airlines are run by corporations. Their foremost concern is not your comfort or even safety as a passenger. It’s with further enriching their overpaid key executives.

You must be willing to stand up for your own rights–because the CEOs running KGB Airways don’t care about them.

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