Tuesday, September 19, 2017

How The Media Are Getting The Equifax Story Wrong.


The data breach at Equifax, in which the personal information of more than 140 million Americans was compromised, is one of the biggest stories of 2017, one that has received multiday coverage by a wide variety of news outlets.

The breach has placed this information as risk of being used by others:

- Names
- Dates of birth
- Addresses
- Social Security numbers
- Drivers license numbers.

The coverage of the breach has included any number of pieces that offer people guidance on how to respond to it. Like this one from CNN Money, "5 things to do right now if you're worried about the Equifax hack."

The five things are:


  1. Check your free credit reports
  2. Put a fraud alert on your credit
  3. Keep an eye on bank accounts and credit card statements
  4. Sign up for a credit monitoring or identity theft protection service
  5. If you're really worried, put a freeze on your credit.


What word do you see in all of those suggestions?

Credit.

The entire piece, like everything else that I've read so far giving guidance to consumers, is focused on credit. And that focus ignores one giant simple reality: more than 80% of identity theft is NOT credit-related. 

Most identity theft falls into other categories, such as:

- medical idenity theft
- drivers license idenity theft
- Social Security fraud
- tax return fraud

By focusing nearly entirely on credit, the media are getting the story wrong, and providing advice that will likely be useless more than 80% of the time.

You can do all of the five things listed above and still have someone use your information to access Social Security benefits. You can do all of them and still have someone get a job in your name, as a 1099 worker, and find yourself liable for taxes on that person's income. You can do all of the five things and still have someone use your information to access medical services, thus mingling their medical information with yours. Which could endanger you the next time you go a hospital.

The 143 million people whose personal information has been leaked need more than credit protection. They need true identity protection.

I have it, and I'm glad. On a daily basis, I have professionals watching over my social security number and my drivers license number. I have professionals searching the Dark Web for misuse of my information, or for my information being offered for sale. Most importantly, when my identity does get stolen (let's just go ahead and take that as a given, ok?), I have licensed private investigators ready to do what it takes for as long as it takes to restore it.

I have all of that through a program called IDShield. And because I have IDShield, I have peace of mind - even when Equifax screws up with 143 million Americans' information.

If you would also like to have identity protection (not just credit protection) that provides peace of mind, click on the "IDSHIELD" link here.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Reading Donald Trump: Responding To Charlottesville

Yesterday, in Charlottesville, Virginia, someone killed someone with a car.

If you haven't yet seen video of the incident, in which a car plowed into a crowd of people protesting a rally of white nationalists who were in turn protesting the removal of a statue of General Robert E. Lee - and if you want to - here's CNN's version, which stitches together video clips from two of the counterprotestors.

This post isn't about that. It's about President Donald Trump's response to that. He already had a press conference scheduled yesterday to announce new funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs, and took time to comment on what was happening in Charlottesville. Here's the transcript, in its entirety, as reported by Vox:

Thank you very much. As you know, this was a small press conference, but a very important one. And it was scheduled to talk about the great things that we're doing with the secretary on the veterans administration. And we will talk about that very much so in a little while. But I thought I should put out a comment as to what's going on in Charlottesville. So, again, I want to thank everybody for being here, in particular I want to thank our incredible veterans. And thank you, fellas. Let me shake your hand.

They're great people. Great people. But we're closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia. We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides. It's been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama, this has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America. What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives. No citizen should ever fear for their safety and security in our society. And no child should ever be afraid to go outside and play or be with their parents and have a good time.

I just got off the phone with the governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, and we agree that the hate and the division must stop, and must stop right now. We have to come together as Americans with love for our nation and true affection-- really, I say this so strongly, true affection for each other. Our country is doing very well in so many ways. We have record -- just absolute record employment. We have unemployment the lowest it's been in almost 17 years. We have companies pouring into our country, Foxconn and car companies and so many others. They're coming back to our country. We're renegotiating trade deals to make them great for our country and great for the American worker.

We have so many incredible things happening in our country, so when I watch Charlottesville, to me it's very, very sad. I want to salute the great work of the state and local police in Virginia. Incredible people. Law enforcement, incredible people. And also the National Guard. They've really been working smart and working hard. They've been doing a terrific job. Federal authorities are also providing tremendous support to the governor. He thanked me for that. And we are here to provide whatever other assistance is needed. We are ready, willing and able. Above all else, we must remember this truth: No matter our color, creed, religion or political party, we are all Americans first. We love our country. We love our god.

We love our flag. We're proud of our country. We're proud of who we are, so we want to get the situation straightened out in Charlottesville, and we want to study it. And we want to see what we're doing wrong as a country where things like this can happen. My administration is restoring the sacred bonds of loyalty between this nation and its citizens, but our citizens must also restore the bonds of trust and loyalty between one another. We must love each other, respect each other and cherish our history and our future together. So important. We have to respect each other. Ideally, we have to love each other.
One sentence set the Internet on fire, and well it should have: "We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides." On many sides? What the frick-frack are you talking about? Even some of his fellow Republicans took issue.

I suspect that many people, watching the video of his remarks, stopped listening at that point, as a result of their heads having exploded. But read the rest of the second paragraph, beginning with "It's been going on for a long time in our country," and answer me this: is or is not that entire paragraph a steaming pile that goes beyond being offensive into being incoherent?  What does "Not Donald Trump. Not Barack Obama" even mean?? And, what's been "going on for a long, long time"?

Then, keep going, if you dare - how does "the hate and division must stop, and it must stop now" - a sentiment hard to refute - how does that lead to a boast about "record employment"?

Someone killed someone with a car.

"We're renegotiating trade deals to make them great for our country and great for the American worker."

SOMEONE KILLED SOMEONE WITH A CAR.

The next paragraph is quintessential Trump: the childlike description of the day's events in Charlottesville as "very, very sad," buried in fluff about incredible people doing incredible things, and the assertion that "Federal authorities are also providing tremendous support to the governor. He thanked me for that." Because everything, all the time, has to become about him.

And yet, despite the fact that everything, all the time, has to become about him, in the last paragraph he speaks as if he doesn't see how this - a rally whose organizers are his supporters, in which some participants gave Nazi salutes while saying, "Heil Trump!", and in which someone kills someone with a car -  really is about him. He doesn't see all of this as a result of his success in feeding the fears and resentments that energize hate. No, he doesn't see that; to him, it's a mystery, so he wants to study the situation:

"And we want to see what we're doing wrong as a country where things like this can happen."

The phrase "so many sides" set the Internet on fire, but the entire statement, the entire utterance, was incoherent nonsense. If you form the habit of reading transcripts of Donald Trump, rather than watching videos, you'll see that incoherent nonsense - the weaving of incomplete sentences, pointless hyperbole, insultsunverifiable declarations of fact, and outright lies - is his norm.

And yesterday, I believe, Donald Trump's entire mode of public discourse congealed into an unusable mass of verbal putty.

The man who encouraged supporters to rough people up at his campaign rallies finished by saying. "We have to respect each other. Ideally, we have to love each other."

I'm going to go out a limb to say this: It's too late, Mr. President. The people who voted for you have been too strongly encouraged to hate, to listen to you speak about love. The people who voted against you are too deeply convinced that you do not know love. No one, friend or enemy, can believe that you mean it now when you say that we have to respect and love each other.

If you did mean it, then so much the worse for you, that none of us will believe you. And so much the worse for us, that none of us believe we can.

When Trump tweeted (of course), "We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!" former KKK leader David Duke CORRECTED HIM: "I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency..."

The most powerful man in the world has lost the greatest power that he could have - the ability to inspire others to follow the better angels of their nature. Having chosen to inspire others to hate, he cannot inspire others to love; having lowered himself to operating as a fountain of contempt, he can lift neither himself nor others to drink from purer streams.

Donald Trump's presidency may continue - he has 1,255 days remaining in office. But yesterday, his leadership died.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

"What Do You Do?" "Uhhh...."

I met some new people tonight, and was asked the question, and stumbled a bit, as I often do, before saying something like, "I publish Homewood Nation, an internet-based community news service."

I stumbled, and often do, not because that answer is false, but because it is so very incomplete. Any single answer to the question has been incomplete for...decades.

And for decades, giving a single answer has cheated the people who asked, of a more complete answer.

At times, that has produced absurd consequences.

From 1989 through 1994, I was a real estate agent with a family-owned firm, Lavelle Real Estate, Inc. Against the counsel of those who said that a real estate agent should begin that work on a part-time basis, I quit my job to pursue it full-time, telling myself that that was the way to experience success sooner.

It took me a year to complete my first sale.

While I was struggling as a real estate agent, I was also an associate minister at Bethany Baptist Church, a Homewood congregation whose Sunday morning attendance averaged 300 or so people, most of them (as far as I could tell) middle class.

I taught classes, I counseled, I helped to lead worship, I preached, I performed weddings and funerals and dedicated infants. All for free.

(From 1985 - 1988, I was paid, through an arrangement with the Coalition for Christian Outreach, a campus ministry organization.)

In five years, I never did make a living as a real estate agent, and one reason was that in five years, I never presented myself to the hundreds of people at Bethany as a real estate agent. I convinced myself that people who saw me in the pastoral role could not see me well as a business person.

So I didn't give them the chance to give me the chance to make a living.

Absurd.

But the failure, if not downright refusal, to present myself to the world in a holistic way has been one of my strongest habits for...well, seemingly forever.

So now, most people who know that I market LegalShield don't know that I am the president of a fledgling nonprofit organization (Race Street 2050, Inc.), and my fellow members of that nonprofit probably don't know that I publish Homewood Nation. Do readers of Homewood Nation know that I market LegalShield? Most probably don't.

So I was thinking about how I want a better answer to, "What do you do?" and came up with this:

"I'm building a media company, and working on a project to help college students graduate debt-free, and collaborating with my neighbors to exercise leadership in maintaining and enhancing our street. Oh, and I drive for Uber."

That's all stuff that I am doing right now, but whaddaya think? Too much?