Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Frightening and Important Lesson

I had an identify theft scare this week that really put me on my toes. As it turns out, it was just a scare, with a little card # theft for dessert.

As has been my lot of late, I was in Georgia on business for the week. On Wednesday morning, when I went online to balance my account (if you've read my book you know I do that every day), I noticed an unusual charge. It was for $29.95. The amount was innocuous enough, but I didn't recognize it nor the company name associated with it. The name sounded like a Sports Bar or an online betting name, so I decided to google it. Turns out, it was a porn company. Needless to say, I immediately contacted the bank and got the charge removed. I canceled my debit card and ordered a new one.

A few things about the incident really jumped out at me that I want to pass on. First, my experience shows that things like this can happen to anyone. That's why it's important to check your accounts regularly and to check your credit report annually. It's free, so there's no excuse. Secondly, I was surprised at the stereotypical nature of the fraudulent charge. The person used my card number to order PORN. How very unimaginative!

The third item of note, was how unsurprised the customer service agent was when I told her my story. I was, like, out of my mind with panic and outrage. I was afraid charges were going to start popping up like dandelions in the Spring. But the dear lady said, "Don't worry, it happens all the time." All the time? Holy Smokes!

Debit cards are convenient and useful. But they have their risks. Cards can be lost or stolen. Numbers can be retrieved from trash cans and computers. It is critical that we pay attention to where and how we use our cards and how we dispose of receipts. Remember to do computer virus and spyware scans regularly, as well.

In the end, I only had the one charge come through and I caught it within a few hours of the charge, while it was still a pending transaction so no real harm was done, other than to my adrenal system. Be warned. Be vigilant. Be prepared.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Just Some Musings

I saw an article on Yahoo Money earlier this week that said if your household income if $40k you are in the top 50% of the country. That's a pretty impressive number on many fronts. First, it demonstrates why things like high gas and oil prices affect things like the retail sector so badly. When half the country has to choose between heating their homes, getting to and from work/school and buying things like movies, music or toys, there is going to be a loser.

We have to break our dependence on foreign oil. It won't be cheaper at first, but we'll be better off in the long run. Besides, the nations we buy oil from, hate us. They want us to die. What is the upside in that business relationship?

I am a firm believer in bio fuels. I have read the pros, I have read the cons and the pros outweigh the cons in my book. 1. We have a renewable resource. 2. Bio fuels are fairly easy to produce. 3. Farming becomes viable again. Especially in places like the tobacco belt where farmers who can no longer subsist on tobacco can switch to things like soy beans, corn and hemp.

Brazil in an excellent example of a country who understands the issue. They have bio fuel plants everywhere and I believe there are bio fuel pumps at gas stations all over the country. They haven't eliminated the need for petroleum and fossil fuels, but they are reducing the need. That's where we start.

Now, I'm really going to get controversial. If we want to actually reduce heating and energy costs in the long run, we need to look at nuclear energy. This is the 21st century. Nuclear energy is not new, it's not science fiction and it's not going to turn us all into mutants. It's clean, it's safe, it's effective and it's cheap in the long run. France gets most of it's energy from nuclear powered sources.

I know I sound conflicted by promoting both Bio and Nuclear fuels. But I'm not conflicted. I'm a pragmatist. I'm all about making the best choices for the present and for the future.

And don't even get me started about medical costs..............