Identity Theft

Identity theft is real. You haven’t heard from us in a while because despite the enormous efforts we go to, to protect ourselves from this evil in the world, late last week we became the victims of identity fraud. Someone, or an organised group of someone’s, stole our identities. Not Facebook identities either …. we’re talking about major financial institutions here.

It’s been a difficult weekend and few days with not only sleepless nights (not so much from worry but from being emotionally charged and wired, and from making hours of extremely frustrating phone calls during overseas office hours… i.e. after midnight for us!!), but countless hours of hard, frustrating and boring work.

I’m not going to go into any more details for now because this is an ongoing fraud investigation, but it’s important for me to tell you this as there are loopholes in processes, and evil people constantly searching for both those loop holes and your details.

I feel like I’m forever sharing details about why you should NEVER fill in Facebook (and other) quizzes, and people scoff and say “what’s the harm”. But THIS is the harm. We survived this because we are vigilant about our security and had we not been so “over-careful”, the outcome could well have been very very different.

We could have lost much of what we own, and the fight’s not yet over …. by a long shot. This is going to take months to fix, and we can only pray that we don’t lose anything along the road ahead. In many ways, our lives have been put on hold for the past four days (and nights), and will continue to be to a lesser degree, but for months to come. So please bear with us for a while if we aren’t as attentive as we’d like to be.

There a few things to note about this, as warning to others…

  • There isn’t anything we could have done to avoid this.
  • We were able to limit the damage because we are vigilant (without being paranoid) about keeping passwords secret and highly encrypted.
  • We were able to limit the damage because we read all those boring emails from financial institutions, which showed us (not them) that something was amiss, and we jumped in quickly.
  • We were able to limit the damage because we are vigilant about what we share and engage in.
  • Here are some of the absolute basics on keeping your identity as safe as possible.
    • Understand that everything you share leaves a footprint. Those footprints are gathered and sold… to “honest” advertising companies and crooks alike. Computers collate that information and gather all your details from different places over many years.. decades even. There is a cache of information out there on YOU. You can find it.
      Those “quizzes” you have so much fun with, gather your connections to others, and build your cache. Slowly they work out your school, age, mother’s maiden name and so on. And even if your current security question is not “what’s the name of your first boyfriend?”, in ten years time it might be, and you’ll have forgotten that you answered it somewhere along the line in a game or a conversation. You make yourself a target. You become easy prey… low hanging fruit.
      You might feel “safe” now, but if you share info about who your family are, and your family does the quizzes… well, hopefully you get the picture? You filling out the quiz can cost your family or friend everything they own!

    We’ve been vigilant. Our info caches are all but empty. Yet it didn’t stop the thieves from stealing our identity and passing through some of the major security checks, in big, well known, financial institutions. But they only got so far. Again, this isn’t petty, and it’s not about someone hacking my Facebook account either, or even spamming my friends with false information. This is about gaining access to potentially everything we own.

    PS: please forgive me the next time you do a “quiz” on who you were in another life, what you will look like when you’re old etc, or when you share ANYTHING that says “copy and paste this to your wall…” or “I bet no one will share this!…” etc etc etc… and I am less than kind to you!

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    French catch up..

    So… I’ve missed a few blogs. I’m not well. I don’t think of myself as a people pleaser but I haven’t yet learnt to explain to people that I need to rest, with my feet up, for most of every day. I shouldn’t try and sit at the dinner table on upright chairs for more than half an hour and I shouldn’t offer to go on shopping trips … even short ones.

    So while I’ve loved seeing people the last few weeks, I shouldn’t have offered so much. The reality is I’m not sure how not to…

    So I’m sore… very sore, which means I have brain fog, haven’t written my book in a while, and when I’m tired and my brain is foggy I knock and therefore hurt myself. So I’ve had a headache for three days and quite bad concussion. Bertha is doing ok because I’ve been very good with her with all the concussion rest… but I shouldn’t ever let it get this bad.

    The weather hasn’t helped. I can’t stand wind and the stormy weather of the last four days mean my joints hurt. And husbands get grumpy in this kind of weather… who knew?!

    So we’ve taken the opportunity to hide from the world a bit, pop into the odd IKEA for more storage options, and driven across about half of the southern coast of France.

    I sent him out on a ride yesterday, to help him increase his niceness, and it even worked for a few hours.

    What I don’t like about France is their tendency to use guns in clearly risky areas. We woke yesterday morning to someone shooting what appeared to be rabbits (hanging from his belt) with both joggers and cyclists on the same road as he was!

    Right here:

    We’ve since heard an English cyclist was accidentally shot and killed by a French farmer recently. We’re not surprised at all!

    I’ve no idea where we are right now exactly, or what day it is. Nor do I care on either score. All I know is we’re trying to work out life together without the pressures which have dominated us for decades. That isn’t always easy. Especially with concussion and Mah Eeds and bad weather and grumpy old men!

    But I love this man more than I could ever say!

    PS: The book’s never going to happen if I don’t finish it! Or if I don’t have a support team So I’ll keep these links at the bottom of my posts for the next month 🙂 They’re the easy, no-spam emails I’ll send out no more than weekly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those) till the book launches and you can get your free copy!

    Main email group:
    Team Tortoise:
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    New Book Coming October!!

    In case you missed it, today I sent out one of my rather rare Authory newsletters, inviting people to join my Launch Team for my next book which comes out at the end of October.

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    I’m beyond excited for this one as I’ve learnt so much since we launched The Lion and the Peacock last year, and with over 11,000 downloads with that book, we’re hoping to do even better with this one. I’m a little overwhelmed with writing and guest opportunities at the moment but I feel they’re all important in different ways and for different reasons. And most of all they propelled me forward and gave me the extra courage I needed to make this happen.

    So while my health has been a huge problem lately and we’ve been living out of a suitcase for 8 weeks now, bed for me means artwork, writing, and doing all the behind-the-scenes things that make a book happen. And I need to get them behind me so we can finish editing this book!

    We fly to Malta tomorrow to find a new temporary home and get ready to head for the UK and the campervan for October on the road (more about that later).

    So if you’d like to be a part of the process and hadn’t yet signed on for the emails which are no-spam, behind the scenes, personal, and get a hint of the publishing process (good and bad) then it’s not too late! Sign on here: http://eepurl.com/cvljU9

    You’ll also get to see the cover first, the artwork first, and have the opportunity to win prizes and be part of the online launch party 🙂

    Or, if you have any other questions, shoot me an email on JPeaSmith@KingsRoadChronicles.com

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    Where you can find and follow Jennifer:

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    Packing up one’s life!

    People keep telling me how brave we are. It feels weird, as we don’t feel brave. The theory of packing up our lives and having a season to rewind, repurpose, rewire our lives sounds to most people who’ve responded as a great idea… but brave.

    Why brave? Are we stupid, blind, crazy? Am I missing yet another memo that everyone else appears to have?

    There is little about what we’re doing that hasn’t been done before, and daily on social media, we are encouraged to do all these things. There is little about what we’re doing that we personally haven’t done before.

    We spent the first year of our married life living in a campervan as illegal aliens in a foreign land with absolutely no money… pregnant!

    This time we won’t live in it full time (next week we will be off in search of a possible small nest to use as a base), we will no doubt have a key to the van so we won’t need to jump start it every time we drive it. This time we should have a sink that works and we won’t need a wrench to open and close the sliding door. It will be pure luxury!

    I’ve done 8 international moves, some of our belongings have circumnavigated the entire world over the last few decades. I thought there was nothing I didn’t know about selling houses & cars, culling, visas, home affairs and shipping. But I’m wrong…

    We are talking about selling our safe spaces, dealing with 4 different countries at once, managing six different contexts on a regular basis and all the while juggling 17 balls at once, including new babies …and if we drop just one of them, even for a moment, they will all come crashing down. But I can do that, I’ve done it before…

    But sometimes it feels like everything is going against us. As we speak Mr.S is driving to a lawyer in terrible traffic to have documents that have been just fine our entire lives, Apostillized! Autocorrect tells me that word doesn’t even exist. But I can tell you it does, and that lawyers can charge $750 for one document (we have 7 we need doing, but don’t worry, after the first one, the rest are only $350 each!!!). It’s like Certified copies on steroids and takes 2 days, and we need them yesterday. Thankfully someone who knows someone will do it for only a leg instead of both an arm and a leg, and we’re trying to be grateful while we choke.

    It also turns out that there are apparently NO house buyers out there. This can’t be entirely true or literal (in the real sense of the word) of course but so far I’ve heard that story from almost everyone I know. And it’s not just buyers, it’s renters as well. They all up and left apparently.

    I’m trying to remain optimistic but it’s tough when you feel well prepared for the nineteen doors that need knocking on, and you wisely expect that many of them won’t open easily. But I feel like I’ve smashed my face into just about all of them they are slammed shut so hard.

    I’m trying not to let the voices in my head win and throw in the towel and do what everyone else does and just be normal for once. My husband tells me I like being different. I don’t, I can assure you I hate it. I just don’t know how to be the same as everyone else. I grew up missing all the memos everyone else got and had to work life out for myself. It’s hard to take the tarred road when you know what’s behind the fences along the side. Yes, it’s tough out there, but there are also so many mountains and streams and beaches and palm trees …. out there beyond the normal…

    Anyway, sorry to have a gripe, but I promised to share the journey and it’s important not to make it look rosy when it isn’t. Right now it sucks!

    (and sorry to use the same photo … Im tired…)

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    Family Secrets!

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    I stumbled on this photo today. Well, not quite in this condition, of course, I had to hide the identities of all of them even though I would LOVE to put this picture on a billboard somewhere in all its clarity and colour!

    That’s the thing about Christmas and New Year, even long before social media or even the internet, it was a time to connect, share, take and send out family photos and news. This is good for many of us, we love to connect and embrace and celebrate. It is part of the core of our beings to be part of a tribe and to celebrate together.

    But with 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys being sexually abused before they are adults, most of whom were/are abused by family members, this holiday season is a time of immense trauma! Why?

    • Abusers/ex-abusers are often present at these family gatherings and we are forced to be in their company and say nothing.
    • Abuse often happens when families are staying in each other’s homes, bundled into rooms and onto couches around the house. So family get-togethers are often also anniversaries of past abuse.
    • Alcohol flows, emotions are high, abusers are triggered and are more likely to “need” to act out and “self-soothe”.
    • For those same reasons, abused children’s emotions are more likely to be invisible, lost in the chaos, the booze, the fights and the general busyness. People are also busy and don’t have resources left to see or hear things that aren’t quite right around them.

    The list goes on, but there is another one I want to highlight today. And that is the family letters, the photos, the gatherings captured all over social media and emails. One can ignore an uncle (or aunt) who abused us as much as possible during the year, but at this time of year their faces pop up all over the place and it can send many people into a tailspin.

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    This is the photo I stumbled upon this morning, and here are the characters:

    G is not in the actual picture, I have simply placed them at the bottom so I can explain the connections. G is someone I love. This is their story to tell, not mine, hence all the cloaks and daggers. If I had my way, I’d be shouting this from the rooftops!

    A is married to D (marriage circled in pink). (F is their granddaughter through C but I’ll leave her out for now).

    B is married to E (marriage circled in pink, I’ve left E out for now too).

    A & B are siblings (blue line).

    C is the adult child of D, stepchild of A, and parent of E. – C is also the older cousin to G.

    Supposedly, this is a run of the mill family Christmas photo, shared today with lots of news. “Innocent” in so many ways. But here is what it means to G when they see it (hopefully they haven’t and won’t).

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    Those thick orange lines are verifiable sexual abuse! We won’t even go into emotional abuse and other forms of control and manipulation within this family. But:

    • Siblings A & B each sexually abused their child and stepchild.
    • C (at 16) went on to abuse G (at 14) on a whole new level of physical sexual abuse.

    Those orange lines are from G‘s own personal experiences and knowledge. But we have no choice but to ask ourselves if A abused his stepchild (C), then why not his grandchildren as well? I can’t say. If C abused G, then which of the many other cousins did they also abuse? I have no idea.

    If 2 siblings sexually abused their own children, then did the other siblings in their generation also abuse? And if not sexually then in other ways. Were they also then abused themselves? Not all people who are abused go on to abuse as well, in fact, most don’t, but those who do abuse were abused one way or another themselves. Familial patterns like this one which popped up not 2 hours ago are scary!!

    I feel physically ill, and my blood is boiling. But the things that boggle my mind the most about this happy snap shared with the world today are the questions in my head; Do they pretend there is no abuse? Do they all just get together and act as though nothing ever happened? Has it even stopped? Or has it been passed down to another generation? Do the spouses know? What is it like to be these people? To be C and stay within the fold and face their abuser on a very regular basis? … I don’t get it, but I understand that many people risk their own healing for the sake of remaining within the tribe. It’s all in or all out. There is no middle road.

    has left from this equation entirely and at enormous cost, but it has been vital to their survival. They have never and will likely never confront this lot or the rest of the extended family. This has been the only way to stop the cycle and to protect their own children. It’s not worth taking on the whole tribe.

    Whether you have chosen to remain or leave, the cost is huge. And the photos going out there during and post-Christmas can have a massive impact on so many levels…

    If you too are struggling through this season of family secrets and nightmares, know you are not alone. I hear you!! If, however, you need some more than just a little encouragement right now, I highly recommend giving a shout out to Matt Pappas at “Beyond Your Past“! He’s a fabulous listener with incredible personal experience.

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    Where you can find and follow Jennifer:

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    @JPeaSmith

    Breaking The Two Thousand Barrier

    img_1139I had no idea how many books would sell, but twelve days in and we got the results from Kindle yesterday. Over two thousand books have been sold so far and we haven’t even been out 2 weeks yet! Most went on the free days of course, but the idea is to get it out there and help people with anxiety to get some real tools that they can do something with, so that is a massive start. Word is trickling out there and I have already been asked to speak to a group of counselors (I will let you know when that is firmed up).

    One of the hardest things about writing is wondering whether people will ever want to listen (read) what you have to say, and the feedback so far is something that I could only ever have wished for before now. I had been asked to speak about my techniques before but felt nervous and embarrassed and needed to get the words onto paper first. So I would always turn down the opportunities. But now that the book is out and receiving such rave reviews I am starting to feel a little braver. So it is time to put on my big girl pants and start saying yes! I need to get the practice and I need to get my nerves out on the smaller groups before I get to the bigger ones.

    It feels so much safer to stick to my friendly wonderful following and keep my neck inside my tortoise shell where I won’t get knocked around so much, but I know that if I want to get the next book out there and this one to more people to help them, then I have no option but to stick my neck out! So thank you all for giving me the encouragement and strength to do so!

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    Anxiety Champions Part 3:

    screen-shot-2017-01-06-at-1-13-19-pmPart three in my series on Anxiety Champions is also someone from Survivor Season 33 in my beloved Fiji Islands. Hannah Shapiro is hilarious, but there is also a really serious side to her, and she is very openly and visibly someone who suffers from anxiety. But more than that, during the show she has a full blown panic attack and many people have remarked about or remembered her infamous lines, “I can’t feel my hands!” and “don’t let me die!”.

    For me, this is such an incredibly vulnerable moment, where she totally forgets the cameras, she is utterly and completely consumed by her panic attack, and simply from the words she cries out, this is clearly extremely scary for her. This is the first time that I have witnessed a panic attack from the outside, and it was fascinating for me to watch. Having experienced hundreds of these myself, I have only seen them from the inside and I was shocked by how “normal” it looks from for an onlooker.

    Hannah I think is one of those people who not so much embraces her anxiety but she is learning to live with it and does not let it hold her back. She is clearly funny, articulate and very bright, so she is in no way defined by her anxiety, but she is a wonderful ambassador for what living with anxiety looks and feels like. Thank you, Hannah!

     

     

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