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!

    Glossary of Twitter Terms:

    Here we go on the Twitter terms…

    There are so many kinds of words in Twitter, but let me first break them down into three kinds of words. The first group are words that REFER to things. For example we refer to the platform as Twitter and what people “do” on Twitter is they Tweet. They are simply words that you need to know. The second group of words are actually SHORTENINGS for something, for example DM is short for Direct Messaging (sending someone else on Twitter a private message). The third group of words actually DO something. When you use these words within a Tweet, they create links to other things. Sound confusing? Sorry, bear with me here:

    1. Words that simply REFER to things:

    • Tweet: Is Twitter’s name for “posting a comment”, or “making a post”. A Tweet has a maximum of 140 characters and that includes each letter, space, number, everything that you put on there.
    • Twitter Handle: When you sign up for Twitter, you have 2 names. The idea behind this is that there are a gazillion John Smiths in the world but to make each one unique, they each need to have a name that is different to every other person on Twitter. But they have had to become so diverse that no one knows that many of them are their John Smith. So the first name that they have can still be John Smith. There are no doubt thousands of John Smiths on Twitter. But the second name, which has an @ at the beginning, needs to be unique. I tried to fit Jennifer Peacock-Smith as my name but it is too long, so I went with JPeaSmith. Then when it was time to make my handle there was no @JPeaSmith taken already so my name and my handle are both the same (although my handle has an @ at the beginning). If another Jennifer Peacock-Smith joins Twitter she can also have her name on there or call herself whatever she likes, but she can’t have the handle @JPeaSmith. So while you can have multiple people with the same name, your Twitter Handle is your identity
    • This is a super plain jane tweet: The top row is standard for each person, and is not counted in the 140 characters. At the top left is my profile picture, next to it is my name, (which includes a writing icon) and then next to that is my Twitter Handle, followed lastly by the date that I Tweeted it. This is followed by exactly 140 characters of in a Tweet.screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-7-04-39-pm At the bottom of the Tweet there are 4 grey icons. From left to right they are:
    • Reply (the arrow to the left). If I was not JPeaSmith and I saw this tweet and I wanted to respond to it, I would press that arrow and it would open up a Tweet box and I would then write a normal tweet that will answer JPeaSmith’s question about whether or not she is a bad person for going round the bend listening to the neighbour’s waling song.
    • Retweet (the double arrows). If I simply like what someone says, in other words I want to repeat or endorse what they are saying, I would click this second icon. When I click on it I am given 2 options. The fast option is to click a retweet and that is all it does (retweet it as is, giving the original person credit), or to add my own 140 characters to it. Here I have retweeted Pamela Sutherland’s tweet. She still gets full credit but I appear above her. You can see that I was one of 8 people who retweeted this tweet.screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-7-14-19-pm
    • Like (the heart shaped grey icon) is a simple “like” click of affirmation. You can see that 14 people liked her tweet.
    • More (the three dots). If you click on this a drop down appears giving you all kinds of options to do with the person who tweeted: Block them if you find their tweet offensive, mute them so that you still “follow” them but don’t see their tweets appear in your feed etc.

    2. Words  that are SHORTENINGS for something:

    • DM: As I said before, this is short for Direct Message and is simply how you write to someone privately.
    • RT is short for Retweet.

    3. Words that actually DO something

    • Tag (&Tagging or “copying”). The @ sign is used to copy, tag, alert or mention (all meaning the same thing really) someone’s Twitter account, linking it to their profile by their  as well as yours. By using the @ and someone’s username you create a link to their account. Here I have Tweeted my blog post where I mentioned Rachel Thompson and Alexander Fuller who are both brilliant authors and who’s books inspired my blog. I wanted them to know that I appreciated their books and loved reading them, so I used their usernames. Both of them liked my tweet and retweeted it as did two others.Screen Shot 2016-10-27 at 7.22.05 PM.png
    • Hashtag (#) is a different kind of tagging but instead of tagging a twitter account, we use this to tag a key word or phrase. By using the # symbol, you create a link in your tweet to all the places that that word (or grouped word) appears. So if I want to see who else is #amwriting or writing a #memoir all I have to do is click on or look up that hashtag and see what others are using the same tag. They could potentially really interest me.screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-7-29-01-pm

    For a truly comprehensive list of Twitter Lingo you can check out this post on Mashable, but quite honestly, there is soooo much on there and most of it you won’t need to know for a long while, so by all means check them out but if you don’t want to become overwhelmed then I suggest sticking with these few for now🙂

    Till next time…

    Break in writing…

    image1 2It is exactly 6 weeks since I last wrote.

    Writing your own story when it is a traumatic one is hard. The words flow and it is too long already, but it is emotionally draining, it causes nightmares, and I am not a nice person to have around when it weighs heavily on my soul as I write about it…

    But I need to tell it as it is first before I start chopping bits out to make it “sellable” and in the right package… and I need to immerse myself in it in order to tell it well.

    It is 6 weeks since my last blog post too, because when you aren’t writing you can’t blog either, there is nothing to say and I can’t keep repeating the same thing: that there is too much busyness, too many interruptions, too many things that are spoiling the flow… down to stupid things like the day after we returned home from the writing time away the pipe burst in the bathroom which led to another, then another and yet another problem ….and builders in my house for the last 3 weeks straight. And builders make noise, and mess, and ask a gazillion really important questions that they need to ask… it isn’t their fault and I am thrilled with all the things that were fixed and all the other things that needed doing anyway that are now done. My house is a better place to in … and a better place to write in. I am thrilled…

    So now I am hoping that this is it… that the things taking me away are coming to an end and that I can start again! Oh I hope so!!! Sleeping aids are ready to hopefully stop the nightmares, time is set aside, dog is willing and able and cross with me for abandoning her, and we are ready to go!!!

    Is the Choice REALLY mine???

    warning: major rant!

    Sometimes things in life tick me off. I’m pretty sure that I am not the only person who gets ticked off in life; not much in life is easy or fair, and not that much goes our own way… but that is the reality that we live in, and there is so much beauty in diversity and difference and if we stop and complain about everything that rubs up against us in ways that we don’t like, then we can make ourselves pretty miserable. So I try to not let things get to me, especially in an era where we can skim our social media so easily and filter out anything that we don’t like…

    But now and then something comes along and I am a bit like a dog with a bone over, and as I was nodding off to sleep I came across this picture (minus everything in red which I added to it afterwards!! … am I allowed to do that? does that infringe copyright laws?) … and I knew that I would spend the next hour or so stewing over it … so I thought rather get this off my chest instead!

    Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 4.53.56 PM

    REALLY????? Is the choice REALLY mine to make? It is bad enough that the world media uses sex to sell everything from women’s things to cars, machinery to sport, and everything else in between (it’s late, I couldn’t come up with better examples sorry!), but if ain’t bad enough that we are told what we have to look like when we are young, now women are being told what they need to look like when they are old?!?!?!?!

    Even worse are the photos where they say “What’s your excuse?” (as if I have no excuse!!!)

    Let’s call the lady on the left Lefticia, and the lady on the right Rightlyn, just to make it easy, ….and let me make a few things abundantly clear before I go any further: Lefticia is clearly beautiful, hard working, and committed, as well as healthy, is probably pretty determined, and has a whole lot of very admirable work ethics, and other wonderful attributes. Also there is NOTHING wrong with being inspired by women who are able to do all kinds of great things … inspire away … just don’t use it as a guilt trip to others!!!!

    Rightlyn on the other hand certainly also looks physically unfit… but that is where it ends for me. The photo on the right comes from only one of two sources: It is either staged (and therefore she could well be older than 74, the lighting used accentuate her wrinkles … blah blah blah…. ) or it is a genuine photo pf someone at 74, who really is like that … and then I have a MASSIVE problem with them using this picture as a comparison: At a very basic level, they are showing Lefticia at her very best, and Rightlyn at her very worst! … I think you get the picture and I don’t want this rant to be about how I struggle with the photo ethically…

    The point that I want to make here is more about the WORDING!!!! Let me try and make this somewhat brief:

    1: I know 74 year olds who work as hard as Lefticia and are as fit and healthy as her, but at 74 their bodies have suffered the ravages of disease (cancer, polio, etc), serious wounds (including burns, surgery, cuts, accidents etc), had their skin stretched and damaged due to carrying many or few, large or small babies but their skin or abdominal muscles became and remained stretched, scarred, broken …. These ravages and scars tell a thousand tales of misery, torture, triumph, failure, loss, agony, heartache, joy … and no matter what they do, these women DO NOT have a choice, and they will NEVER EVER EVER have a body like this!!!!

    2: I know 74 year olds who work as hard as Lefticia and are as fit and healthy as her, but because their genes mean that they are stunted and short, or have tiny rib cages or wide strong ones, they have ligaments and muscles that don’t work properly and are not strong enough to carry their own meal to the table much less enough weights to produce those muscles, who work at physio waaaay more hours than Lefticia has put in to a life time, just so they can FUNCTION, let alone be toned or strong, … and so the list of genetic limitations are endless, that mean that no matter what they do, they DO NOT have a choice, and they will NEVER EVER EVER have a body like this!!!!

    3: I know plenty of women half this age who’s bodies have been struck by diseases and illnesses, which mean that they may well look whole, but due to paralysis, EDS, MS, and an almost endless list of other life altering conditions and complications, mean that they will never walk again, or run again, or swim again, or carry their children or grandchildren again, that mean that no matter what they do, they DO NOT have a choice, and they will NEVER EVER EVER have a body like Lefticia’s!!!!

    4: I know 72 year olds who worked as hard as Lefticia and are as fit and healthy as her, and even looked somewhat like this (I don’t know many, I have to say, but I do have a couple of family members who have worked VERY hard for this), but they pushed themselves too far, and beyond their limits because of this kind of pressure, that at 72 one snapped an Achilles tendon, could not walk for 6 months, and when they were strong enough their shoulder went and as they recovered from shoulder surgery their knee went and they are now waiting for their first knee replacement and they are not yet 74… they were on track to be Leftictia at 74, but at 73, they are permanently pretty immobile, they DO NOT have a choice, and they will NEVER EVER EVER have a body like this again!!!!

    5: On the other hand, I also know plenty of 74 years olds who look a lot like Rightlyn. But those wrinkles have been hard earned! They have never been lazy a day in their lives! Slaving over hot stoves and factory jobs to support children with no help from a husband, putting children through school and sleeping four or five hours a night for over half a century! They started hard work at 17 and at 74 this is what is left!! Through absolutely no fault of their own, they DO NOT have a choice, and they will NEVER EVER EVER have a body like Lefticia!!!! They would not even know where to start, and nor do they want to, they are in dire need of REST REST REST … and for many of them, they might LOOK like that, but they have a right to carry such a burden and look back on a life that almost barely had a chance at anything else, and you want to rub Lefticia in their faces and say why do you not choose this?

    6: I also know plenty of 74 years olds who look a lot like Rightlyn…. and they have beautiful smiles when they turn around and look at me, and they are rich beyond belief in all the things that ACTUALLY count! They are loved by many, they are wise, they are strong as an ox !!… Who cares what their hair style, clothes choice or skin looks like? To their friends, and loved ones, even their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren if they have any, they smell and feel and simply “are” everything that is safe, secure, constant, loyal, sweet, tasty, …. and above all everything that is right about the world! … they have CHOSEN to invest their precious time and energy into the things of the world that make the most difference, they CHOOSE not to be Lefticia and for them and all who are loved by them, it is the best choice!

    7: This is an obvious one … who does Mother Theresa look more like? Lefticia or Rightlyn?

    Come on world … inspire by all means, but stop giving false hope, false guilt, rubbing loss in people’s faces, forcing some values way above others, … do we REALLY need this?????