Protect Yourself Against, and Mitigate Damages From, Identity Theft

We’ve all heard of it. But we all think that we’re invincible to it. Identity Theft!

What is it? It refers to the preparatory stage of acquiring and collecting someone else’s personal information for criminal purposes.

Identity theft techniques can range from unsophisticated, such as dumpster diving and mail theft, to more elaborate schemes.

If your identity is stolen, do you have a plan in place to mitigate the damages? If not, you should at least bookmark this, just in case you need it in the future.

Identity thieves are looking for the following information:
• full name
• date of birth
• Social Insurance Numbers
• full address
• mother’s maiden name
• username and password for online services
• driver’s license number
• personal identification numbers (PIN)
• credit card information (numbers, expiry dates and the last three digits printed on the signature panel)
• bank account numbers
• signature
• passport number

There are things that you can do to protect yourself from identity theft, and there are steps that you can take to minimize the damage and help bring the thief to justice.

Here are 5 things that you can do right now to protect yourself:
1. Do not sign the back of your credit cards. Instead, put ‘PHOTO ID REQUIRED.’
2. When you are writing checks to pay on your credit card accounts, DO NOT put the complete account number on the ‘For’ line. Instead, just put the last four numbers. The credit card company knows the rest of the number, and anyone who might be handling your cheque as it passes through all the cheque processing channels won’t have access to it.
3. Put your work phone # on your checks instead of your home phone. If you have a PO Box, use that instead of your home address. If you do not have a PO Box, use your work address. Never have your SIN printed on your checks. (DUH!) You can add it if it is necessary. But if you have It printed, anyone can get it.
4. Place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine. Do both sides of each license, credit card, etc. You will know what you had in your wallet and all of the account numbers and phone numbers to call and cancel. Keep the photocopy in a safe place.
5. When you travel abroad, carry a photocopy of your passport. We’ve all heard horror stories about fraud that’s committed on us in stealing a Name, address, Social Insurance number, credit cards, etc…

If your identity does get stolen, what kind of things can you expect to have happen?

Here are just some of what they can do:
1. Access your bank accounts
2. Open new bank accounts
3. Transfer bank balances
4. Apply for loans, credit cards
5. Make purchases
6. Buy cell phone packages
7. Credit line approved by retail stores
8. Access your driving record, and change your information online

If you are a victim, here’s some critical information to act on immediately:
1. Cancel your credit cards immediately. But the key is having the toll free numbers and your card numbers handy so you know whom to call. Keep those where you can find them. This is why we photocopy them (see above). Call your local bank/financial institution as well.
2. File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where your credit cards, etc., were stolen. This proves to credit providers you were diligent, and this is a first step toward an investigation (if there ever is one).
But here’s what is perhaps most important of all:
3. Call the nationwide credit reporting companies immediately. Ask them to put a fraud alert on your name and credit report. The alert means any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen, and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit.

Here are the numbers for two national credit bureaus:
1.) Equifax: 1-800-465-7166
2.) TransUnion Canada: 1-877-525-3823
3. Order free copies of your credit report from each of the nationwide credit reporting companies.

Have you even been a victim of identify theft? Tell us your story and maybe others can learn from what you did, or didn’t do.

Six Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday Season

If you are thinking about the holidays right now and frowning, smooth your face, square your shoulders and take a cleansing breath. A little positive thinking can go a long way in helping you to enjoy the holidays this year instead of agonizing over all the little details. These 6 tips for a stress-free holiday season will start you off on the right foot.

1. Plan ahead. Print out return address labels for cards (I’m really doing it this year – bad hand cramping), update your address book, make room in your front hall closet for guest coats instead of piling them on a bed like usual, and prepare guest rooms ahead of time. Tackling a few of these tasks before you get really busy can make a world of difference.

2. Rethink your gift giving. Cut down on the mad shopping rush and stress of finding exactly what everyone wants this year – consider giving experiences instead of material gifts, and maybe even implement The Four Gift Rule. My extreme-gift-giving mom is actually trying it this year. Thanks, Mom!

3. Keep things simple with food and décor. Stick to your favourite recipes instead of trying something complicated and new, and a simple homemade centrepiece is all you need on your table. Please don’t belittle yourself for not having matching napkins and candleholders! Focus more on the family and friends you are gathering with rather than stressing over too many fussy preparations.

4. Have a few extra gifts on hand. A small stash of thoughtfully wrapped gifts is perfect for unannounced friends or last-minute invites. Choose items that have universal appeal and can be used by you and your family if they are still around come January. Think locally-made condiments, soy candles, handmade chocolates, wine and preserves.

5. Be choosy when it comes to events. This can be tough for social butterflies (my husband) and people who have trouble saying no (me). Only accept invitations to gatherings that are pertinent to the holiday and meaningful to your family. When planning your own event, keep it small and intimate with just a few close friends and relatives. We used to have a big Christmas open house but after a few years, we realized it was too chaotic as we spent most of our time greeting and seeing friends out, refilling glasses and snack bowls, and making sure little ones didn’t trash our house (even if they were adorable). Choose to host big parties at a different time of the year, when there is less going on and you are not so taxed.

6. Live in the now. As you trim the tree or make cookies with your kids, don’t forget to pause and really live in the moment. Don’t worry about what’s still on your to-do list (there’s always something), because before you know it the holiday will be over and you’ll be disappointed that you didn’t make the most of it. Also, carve out some time to do something just for you – take a walk, read your book, have a hot bath – it will go a long way in helping you to keep your sanity during the holidays.

Economics and Collateralizing Future Earnings Ownership

In order to stand a snowball’s chance in this brave, new, globalized, Trumped-up economy, here’s something that millennials need to know and understand. For all practical purposes, ALL THE DISCRETIONARY WEALTH IS BEING GENERATED ON THE OWNERSHIP SIDE OF THE ECONOMY!

That’s right. There are two ways in which to generate income. You can work for it in order to earn a wage or a salary. Or you can own wealth producing capital assets such as stocks, bonds, real estate, machinery, copyrights, or patents, etc. Owners of such wealth producing capital assets collect dividends (i.e. generate an income) strictly by virtue of their ownership.

That’s why best-selling author and motivational speaker Robert Kiyosaki says “A job is a short term solution to a long term problem.” The long term solution to the long term problem of course is capital ownership because for all practical purposes ALL THE DISCRETIONARY WEALTH IS BEING GENERATED ON THE OWNERSHIP SIDE OF THE ECONOMY – NOT ON THE JOBS/LABOR SIDE. The jobs/labor side of the economy has stagnated for over three decades now, while the ownership side has expanded exponentially during the same time period.

So What Can Millennials Do?
So what can millennials do with this insightful piece of knowledge? For starters, in the wake of graduation, as they make their way into the brave, new, 21st century economy, they can look for companies that are owned by employees (including worker owned co-ops and ESOPS) and submit their resumes and applications.

Collateralizing Future Earnings
You see, companies that are employee owned (ESOPs which is short for Employee Stock Ownership Plans) are organized in such a way that employees who qualify are rewarded with opportunities to buy stock (become semi-partners) in the company they work for using FUTURE EARNINGS OF THE COMPANY (as opposed to their own savings or equity, which minimizes personal risk) AS COLLATERAL. In investment circles this strategy would be called a Leveraged Buy Out (an LBO).

THIS UNIQUE FORM OF CAPITAL CREDIT FINANCING IS ACCESSIBLE ONLY TO EMPLOYEES WORKING FOR COMPANIES OFFERING AN ESOP OPTION. More specifically, it’s not available in employee owned co-ops, which is the next best option. And it has NOTHING TO DO with a company offering employee stock options which is not only highly speculative, but 100% dependent on conventionally collateralized financing possibilities.

Two Income Streams
So, without dipping into savings or jeopardizing the family home, ESOP employees develop TWO STREAMS OF INCOME. One from their wage or salary, and the other from their stock based dividends. The first is actively generated through the employee’s own time and effort. The second is passive or residual income that’s generated by virtue of their ownership.

Suddenly you see employees/workers who are benefitting from both the job/labor and the ownership side of the economy – which, as we’ve said before, is where ALL THE DISCRETIONARY WEALTH IS BEING GENERATED in the 21st century economy.

What Else Can Millennials Do?
So what else can millennials do in this regard? They can support political candidates who advocate employee ownership as a business model. For example, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has sponsored two bills in the US Senate that are specifically designed to encourage employee ownership practices. The first (S.2909) “Provides programs designed to encourage employee ownership and participation in business decision making throughout the US.” The second (S.2914) “Creates a US Employee Ownership Bank” which is designed to be friendly to the idea of using future earnings as collateral in the stock ownership transaction.

The more millennials know about the power of ownership, the better their odds become of participating on the ownership side of the economy, where as we’ve said before, all the discretionary wealth is being generated. In the process the malignant wealth gap that’s so threatening to American democracy can be reversed. Corporate plantations that are built on hierarchy and on the backs of modern wage slaves can be democratized. And the odds of millennials surviving, even thriving in the 21st century economy will be maximized.

Telling Your Story the Right Way for Your Brand

We all want our marketing dollars to stretch as far as they can. One way to ensure that your dollars are taking your company as far as they should go is to have your brand tell the right story in the right way. It is important to think of marketing as someone in the corner raising their hand to get attention. If you aren’t intrigued by what you see, if you aren’t interested in figuring out what the story is, then your marketing and advertising can quickly be ignored and even more quickly add up to a cost that is not sustainable. Most marketing is an interruption, plain and simple. Whether it’s the ads you see scattered around the internet, streets, windows, and seemingly everywhere these days, the stuff that works is the stuff that grips you, makes you stop, and makes you curious.

Appeal to Your Customers
The first step in telling your story is to meet your customers where they are. No one is going to listen to your story if they can’t hear you. You need amplification to get your message out there and keep it out there.

Be Genuine
Developing a brand that really represents the high caliber services and products that your company provides is key to attracting the kind of loyal customers you want. You need to show them exactly what they can expect from you from the first moment they encounter your brand.

Create a Connection
Life is about the connections we make. If you can successfully connect with your customer base, then they are more likely to become your customers, return as customers, and spread the word about your brand to their connections.

You need a way to stay in your customers’ minds so that when they need your products or services, your brand is the first one they think of. Using promotional products can help your brand be remembered long after you make an initial connection with your customer base.

And Repeat
The stories that stick with us are those that we hear all the time. The best way to get the story of your brand remembered is to tell it over and over.

One of the easiest ways to accomplish that is with promotional products that appeal to your customers. Giving potential customers something they will use every day is the smart way to keep your brand repeating in their mind.

Ready to choose the right promotional product to tell your brand’s story?