Category Archives: planning ahead

Identity Theft—My Story & Ways to Protect You 

 

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On June 12 about two-something in the afternoon, my wallet was stolen at Trader Joe’s. Leaving my purse open in the shopping cart, I had reached to grasp strawberries, coffee, and other foods. When I dug for my wallet to pay at the check-stand, all my identification, credit cards, and $233 in cash were gone. A sense of disbelief swept over me, followed by guilt for being cavalier about my purse while shopping—followed the rest of the week by a deep sense of invasion, betrayal, anger, and some depression. Probably the biggest loss was the time it took to get back my life. It’s been a week today. I’m still working on it.

In this article are contacts you will need to report key documents and information missing, to replace those things you need, as well as to protect the identity you carry in your purse or wallet in the future. Having a list helps you get organized.

I stumbled through the process of reacting and regrouping,
which often happens when you’re the victim of a crime.

Losing your identity is more traumatic than one would think. “Victims may experience emotional trauma—emotional wounds or shocks that may have long-lasting effects,” according to the Victims of Crime website. They say emotional trauma may take many different forms, and certainly feeling frozen and experiencing disbelief, difficulty with decisions, sleeplessness, anger, and stress are reactions I experienced. Here are emotions people feel as victims of many types of crimes.

  • Shock or numbness: Victims may feel “frozen” and cut off from their own emotions. Some victims say they feel as if they are “watching a movie” rather than having their own experiences. Victims may not be able to make decisions or conduct their lives as they did before the crime.
  • Denial, Disbelief, and Anger: Victims may experience “denial,” an unconscious defense against painful or unbearable memories and feelings about the crime. Or they may experience disbelief, telling themselves, “this just could not have happened to me!” They may feel intense anger and a desire to get even with the offender.
  • Acute Stress Disorder: Some crime victims may experience trouble sleeping, flashbacks, extreme tension or anxiety, outbursts of anger, memory problems, trouble concentrating, and other symptoms of distress for days or weeks following a trauma. A person may be diagnosed as having acute stress disorder (ASD) if these or other mental disorders continue for a minimum of two days to up to four weeks within a month of the trauma. If these symptoms persist after a month, the diagnosis becomes posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

    Source: http://victimsofcrime.org/help-for-crime-victims/get-help-bulletins-for-crime-victims/how-crime-victims-react-to-trauma

While some of these emotions were going on, I checked and re-checked all the places in the store where I’d stopped to consult food labels and place items in my cart, thinking I’d left my wallet there, which was silly, because why would I? It never occurred to me to look accusingly at fellow shoppers, mostly women. After hours of searching and talking to owners of shops I had visited that day, I went home and waited for a sheriff’s deputy to come over and take an incident report.

That interview was the best part of my day. Not only was I taking back a little control, but the deputy was young, pretty, impressively intelligent, and after an initial stiffness/professional demeanor, memorably helpful and friendly. She gave me advice about steps to take to protect myself from further abuse, including contacting credit bureaus to put a lock on my accounts, and other key survival tips.

Did you know you’re not supposed to store your Social Security card in your wallet? I didn’t. So I have to fill out paperwork and bring my driver’s license to the SS office nearby to order another. You can’t do that online.

Except, oh, wait, I no longer have a driver’s license. Mine was in my wallet.

The driver’s license issue was a nightmare. It took two visits to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and close to eight hours to order a new license. This task you can’t do online or at Triple A, and the DMV offices in Southern California are so overburdened with requests for the fed’s new REAL I.D. (an I.D. that lets you fly domestically) on top of the other typical and complex tasks and new paperwork requirements, that lines form around the block and it takes hours to complete the simplest things, such as taking a driver’s test. In my area, there is a two-month wait to get a DMV appointment, which cuts down on standing in the line-around-the-block but doesn’t cut down on the two- or three-hour lines inside the building. It is illegal to drive without a license, so I had no alternative to spending those wasted hours to get a new one ordered. Clearly, California DMVs are severely impacted and understaffed for serving the public’s needs.

On the day of the theft, the thief traveled quickly to a Ralph’s Supermarket in my city and tried to purchase $1514.85 in merchandise and/or gift cards. First, they used my business debit card. Bank of America automatically rejected it, presumably due to algorithms or tracking: The bank knows I would never spend that amount at a grocery store. Next, the thief tried my Mastercard. Then my American Express. I don’t know whether the person got away with the latter two or if the financial companies simply reversed the charges once I reported the loss.

In reaction, I visited the Ralph’s store manager and learned that, no, the check-out clerks don’t report an incident when a patron uses card after card after card, each being declined, for a purchase. Why not? If I had presented two cards and was turned down, and still presented a third, I would appreciate a store policy wherein the manager gets involved and even takes a report or at the very least compares the driver’s license to the person’s face. With identity theft so rampant, a store’s policy of non-intervention doesn’t work for me. It’s a failure of customer service.

Identity Theft is Rising

For the annual National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), the definition of identity theft includes three general types of incidents:

  • unauthorized use or attempted use of an existing account
  • unauthorized use or attempted use of personal information to open a new account
  • misuse of personal information for a fraudulent purpose.

I am a victim of the first type—as far as I know to date. I’m still contacting agencies, such as the credit bureaus. With my Social Security card and my credit cards and driver’s license, the thief could easily buy a car. Or maybe a house.

Here are a few statistics:  In 2004, “3.6 million U.S. households learned they were identity theft victims during a six-month period.” Ten years later, in 2014, 17.6 million U.S. residents experienced identity theft” (NCVS).

A number of times the bank has cancelled my debit or credit card “for unauthorized use” by unknown parties. This inconvenience now happens at least twice per year, especially on the debit card. So frustrating!

Contact Information for Victims

If identity theft happens to you because your purse or wallet is stolen, here are a few contacts that will help you get your life back*.

Credit Bureaus:

Equifax: 800-685-1111
Experian:  888-397-3742
Trans Union: 800-888-4213

Federal Trade Commission: 877- 438-4338    https://www.ftc.gov/contact Contact them to report a missing or stolen Social Security card, to learn how to reorder one, to get info to repair your credit, and to open an identity theft account for further protection.

Social Security Administration: 800-772-1213    https://www.ssa.gov/   to print the form to reorder a SS card and to find an office near you.

California DMV: www.dmv.ca.gov  Check here to make appointments, get instructions for obtaining a new driver’s license, and find DMV field offices. You’re going to need a lot of patience!

Passport Office: http://travel.state.gov/passport for fraud involving your passport.

US Secret Service: www.secretservice.gov if someone committed credit card fraud in your name.

California Attorney General’s Victim Services: 877-433-9069 or 800-952-5225 or 800-777-9229 for a variety of services including victim compensation, rights, and support.

Orange County Sheriff’s Dept. Crimes Main Line:  714-647-7486.   Always file a “police report.”

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In addition to guarding your wallet or purse, and keeping it close to your body when out and about, here are other precautions recommended by the Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Department*:

  • Don’t carry your PIN numbers
  • Don’t carry your Passport or government Visa
  • Don’t carry more credit cards than you need
  • Don’t carry your Social Security card or number

To obtain a copy of *“Identity Theft: a Quick Reference Guide,” which includes how to respond to credit agencies, visit your local law enforcement office.

Opt-Outs:

  • Opt Out of credit card offers: 888-567-8688
  • Opt Out of solicitations on your phone (land or cell):   http://DoNotCall.gov  Call the registry 888-382-1222 to register phone numbers to reduce spam calls and/or report abuses.

Special thanks to Sheriff’s Deputy Raphael for professionalism, thoroughness, and kindness. Special thanks to friends Debra Holland and Matt Orso for being concerned enough when I was overwhelmed to bring me roses and very specific favorite See’s chocolates and for spending time. Thanks to Carl and Stacee for follow-up calls and loving support.

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Best-selling Author Parlays BookBub Ad to Bigger Sales

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On March 8, 2017, book-promoter BookBub Partners featured a post by guest blogger Glynnis Campbell titled “How I Sold 100x More of My Book Series.”

For my writer friends, this post by the USA Today best-selling author is helpful for planning a promotion campaign to boost sales and add interest for a new-book launch. The article offers tips and, step-by-step, what Glynnis did to gain more mileage from a BookBub upcoming promotion. Here’s a teaser:

“I opted strictly for email blast–style promotions with a good ROI history. These included Bargain Booksy, Choosy Bookworm, Free Kindle Books and Tips, Friday Freebies, Fussy Librarian, Robin Reads, and The eReader Café.”

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Glynnis also offered her book and its description and buy links for publication in well-known newsletters such as that by historical author Lauren Royal, who generously features free and on-sale books by other authors as well as recipes, mini-stories, and promotions for her own novels.

RhysReprieve (3) FinalLast year Lauren featured my own Rye’s Reprieve when Amazon put the book on sale. I also had success with eReaderNewsToday and other email-blast entities. See my blog post “Making Ads and Amazon Rankings Work for You.”

So check out this easy-to-read and very helpful article by Glynnis Campbell: https://insights.bookbub.com/how-sold-100x-more-book-series/

For my readers, here is what BookBub is all about:

“BookBub is a free daily email that notifies you about deep discounts on acclaimed ebooks. You choose the types you’d like to get notified about — with categories ranging from mysteries to cookbooks — and we send great deals in those genres to your inbox. BookBub doesn’t actually sell books.”

Also check out eReaderNewsToday, another author-approved free service for book-lovers. To sign up, “Choose your genres, enter your email, and start reading your new books today.”

Authors feel it is prestigious to be selected for a BookBub or an eReaderNews promotion. In Glynnis’s case, she qualified by her status as a best-selling author and the many reviews she had already gained on the novel that BookBub was about to promote. In my case, it was my best-seller status as well as timing: eReaderNews had an opening, and I grabbed it, with very satisfactory results. I’m waiting for the stars to align for a BookBub ad to rocket my books into the arms of new readers.

Mercury retrograde could affect your writing—and more

 

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2000mm exposure in Florida in March 2016 by Steve Matchett

If writing is more challenging recently, it may be the fault of the planets. And things may  get dicier if you blunder forward without considering the influences hurtling by at 465 meters per second or 1000 mph (or thereabouts) above your head. To whit: Currently (September 2016), as the planet was April 28-May 22, Mercury is in retrograde. Other planets have been retrograding since January. You know how the moon and sun affect the tides? It stands to reason the other orbs affect different aspects of life-as-we-prefer-it. Some of the back-spin may actually be positive!

“Retrograde” doesn’t mean the planets are actually moving backward in orbit, although that’s a convenient image. They appear to regress because of their relative positions in relation to Earth and how all of them are moving around the sun. So sayeth NASA.

I can only attest to the magnetic pull of the planets-in-retro by saying I’ve spent the last two weeks avoiding any serious research or writing on my next historical novel, Rebel Love Song, by bingeing on Netflix series, and by pretending I have nothing to do with the outside world. Yes, even the first in my historical series, Rye’s Reprieve, featuring a doctor with a tragic secret in 1880s Montana Territory, has been waging war in the marketplace without my leadership.

But can I blame myself for the absenteeism? Really?

How influential are those planets? I think of the twenty-foot-plus sweep between high and low tides at certain phases of the moon, and I wonder. I don’t make this stuff up. The largest vertical tidal sweep in the world is, arguably, in the Bay of Fundy, edging Nova Scotia, natal home of my grandmother, with tides ranging 47 to 53 feet.  If our most well-known planets could make tides run like that, nipping at your front steps and flooding your garden, what could a bunch of retro planets do to your psyche? Your writing plans?

Of course, being a story-teller, I may exaggerate a tad. Today in nearby Laguna Beach, the tidal sweep is about four feet. However, the up-coming Mercury retrograde is a notorious relationship trouble-maker and project-discombobulator, made worse by the planetary chaos that began earlier this year. Thus I can blame the heavenly bodies for my procrastination. So there.

The good news? Now that I’m back in writing mode, I can move forward without concern for the plethora of planetary pulls, because I started the current project several weeks ago.

Getting stalled isn’t the end of the world. Never getting back to writing is, in a writer’s universe. Forward, ho! Meanwhile noting a few cautions:

With Mercury regressing (so to speak), sages say communications may be glitchy, so be extra clear and gentle in your disagreements.  If you have a new project to start or finish between April 28-May 22, at least write a few words or pound a few nails now—get a start on the work before April 28.

Those with more wisdom than I (soooo many people!) recommend you don’t sign contracts or start new projects during Mercury retrograde. Just sayin. It’s a time for contemplation and review. And for making headway on an in-progress writing project. Maybe getting in a little word-polishing, too.

Here are some upbeat thoughts on all the retrograding, with more available via the link, written by writer-teacher-bookseller Maddy Foley  a day ago on Bustle:

Recently, I was talking with a co-worker about planets going retrograde, and we both agreed that while, ha ha, we are strong, independent women who don’t need the planets to tell us what to do, we also, like, just mark our calendars just to be, um, careful and cover our bases. Well, my sweets, five planets will be retrograde in April 2016, so here’s how to celebrate — because the only thing to do in the face of topsy-turvy-ness is to dance. Duh.

Jupiter was the first planet to turn retrograde this year on Jan. 7, followed by Saturn on March 25 and Mars on April 17. Pluto turns retrograde today, actually (April 18), and on April 28, Mercury, the retrograde-iest of all planets, will turn as well. Hardcore, am I right?

Each planet has its own characteristics; as such, they’re all supposed to have an effect on a different aspect of your life. Honestly, this particular retrograde season is just like one giant tough love seminar: Jupiter, for example, deals with personal growth and expansion, so when Jupiter turns retrograde, a lot of your support systems and crutches have a habit of disappearing. This sucks and is the worst and makes it seem like you’re stalled out, but it also forces you to find your internal strength. See? Tough love.

Kind of makes you want to yell, “Oh my God, FINE, I GET IT” at the universe, doesn’t it?

The other areas of your life that may be affected by this retrograde-tastic period are communication (Mercury), love and relationships (Pluto), emotions, particularly anger and aggression (Mars), and karma (Saturn), so… yeah. Things may be a little weird, and some self-care amazingness is definitely in order. Here are some ways to celebrate all the learnin’ you will be doing about yourself, because rewards are important. I’m going to be the best parent.

For more, click on the Bustle link. And Maddy—love love love your perky “voice.” Thanks for the insights.