Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Beware of Trial by Media

The distressing case of the murder of Tracy girl Sandra Cantu, is getting more distressing by all the media coverage, speculation, and the invitations by Kron 4 and others for people to share their views. I'm obviously a huge free speech advocate, but I also believe in our judicial process. The more we stir up a lynch mob, the less and less chance that her accused killer (look it up if you must) is going to get a fair trial anywhere outside of a mountaintop monastery in Tibet.

We all have a right to our opinion, but we do not have the right to try and convict her accused killer especially even before the wheels of justice have even started to turn. Take a breath, slow down and let those in charge do their jobs. Rushing to judgment is not going to bring Sandra Cantu back, nor is her killer any less guilty, and if it turns out the wrong person has been arrested then the real killer might get away with it.

Maybe we have been watching too many cop shows and want it all tied up within the hour.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Perhaps Not the Safest Place to Be on the High Seas

So just to stay semi-current on geo-political events I looked up where Somalia's location is. They are the eastern-most tip of Africa located on the Gulf of Aden right near where the Suez Canal lets out, which is seriously prime real estate if you're in the business of commandeering loaded merchant ships.

And who is on the other side of this not so quiet body of water? The nice calm (not), and nearly completely lawless country of Yemen. Yikes - Can you say shooting gallery? Trouble is, if you need to go from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean then the Suez Canal is just about the only practical way to go which makes the whole adventure a not so welcome crap shoot.

This newscast says that a 10th of the world's cargo travels through there.

What's really surprising to me is the size of the ships especially the ones described here:

I was thinking that the best defense is not to stop and some have out run them, but some how they are able to catch the ships. And now the pirates have rocket launchers. Eek.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Dealing with Fraudulent Charges - Getting Worse

(this is Part 2 - Part 1 is below)

The day I discovered the Wal Mart charges. I checked pretty much everything financial having to do with me. I looked at all my bank accounts, and pulled all of my credit reports. Everything looked fine so it appears that the problem is isolated to a stolen checking account number.

That same day because I wanted to cover some outstanding checks and I didn't want my friends to have to deal with returned checks (my fees will be refunded but I can't say the same thing about there's), I transferred $ to cover those checks. Today I took a look and the number looked similar but there was a minus sign in front of it. Uh oh, that'll teach me to put more money in a questionable account. Looking at the account detail reveals that two more checks have come in and these are actual checks:

[I will put the images here once I edit them]

Looking at them shows the person didn't even try to match my signature and a coworker tells me that what the store is looking for is a match to a drivers license signature. That implies that they have a driver's license with my name on it which is a little scary and makes me wonder if I should get a new one - however they're using a different number so that won't help. And I just love the high end places they're going. $800 and $400 at Nordstrom Rack? How the heck do you spend $1200 at Nordstrom Rack? What kind of clothes horse are we dealling with here? A not very bright one or a desperate one as the checks are stamped with the time, date, and cash register number and these places have cameras. Maybe she (let's be sexist and assume she - there's a large home depot just down the street from that store) is wearing a large hat or something. And she is able to print off new checks (I really wish that wasn't possible), and get a hold of a fake driver's license.

So the recommendation now is to close and freeze the account, and open a new one. I've done that, but now I'm in a 2 week poor house holding pattern while I wait for them to return the $2000+ to me. I do have some money in the house account that I can use and there's Bank of Terri and my work has graciously offered to help out if I need it.

So the question is how did this happen and what can I do to avoid it in the future. It's clear that I need to use cash and avoid checks for lower amounts to buisinesses I don't know which is a royal pain, I hate cash more as it disappears so easily, so I'm going to have to treat cash like a check and write it down in the register. As far as what happened to the check, number one suspect is a large dr's office where I'm not a regular customer. Most of my checks are to friends and to well known agility organizations who I trust. I almost always use my debit card for retail situations. Ironically it's the house accout that's more vulnerable since more large checks go through it, but so far it's been ok.

It would be cool to have an account that stipulates the checks have to look a certain way and only that way. I'd put my photo on a check if it would help.

I sent email to those folks that had outstanding checks, saying that while I had told the bank about their checks that it would probably be better if they destroyed that check and I could write them new one.

So I wait.... (tick tick tick)

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Dealing with Fraudulent Charges - the Start of the Story

(Good grief, this is the 301st entry of this blog - how'd that happen?)

I logged in this morning to find an overdraft alert email from my bank. First concern is - is it a legit email, but the language looked correct and more importantly they quote the correct last 3-4 digits of the account number.

I log into the account online (what did we ever do before the internet?), and what do I find? Two different charges from Wal Mart (where I never shop fortunately) totaling over $800. Yikes, to the phone I go to call my bank (after grabbing the checkbook so I have the account number).

The person helping said that these were ACH "checks" which is a paper check converted to an electronic check. She also pointed out that the check number of the original check is listed there. The number was just a little ahead of my current check number, and she asked if I had that check number with me. Fortunately I did and assured her I was looking at my own version of that check number.

She explained to me that they were going to investigate to see whether or not it was a simple mistake (like a digit transposition), or actual fraud. I had to answer some formal questions and got an incident number. Because there were two charges we had to do it twice and I noticed that the second number was 13 above the first. I asked "you mean that it's possible that 12 other cases were filed in the last 2 minutes?" She assured me that given the call center size that it was more than possible. Yikes.

Because it's not clear if it's fraud or not they weren't suggesting closing the account just yet, so we're leaving it open for now.

The plot thickens in the next entry...

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

That One Missing Set of Photos

Likes a lot of folks I take a lot of photos, and like for many folks they are a challenge to organize but I had a reasonably working system where I file them by date in drawers that can hold photo envelopes. (Digital photos now actually make this a while lot easier, but I digress.)

And like most everyone else there are always some photos that don't quite make it into the drawer or at least right away. I know this because I come across them from time to time, flip through them, "ha ha look at that," and often as not, instead of filing them, just put them back down right where they were. This can go on for years.

Then some knucklehead invented Facebook, and friends from 28 years ago are now gathering and trying to figure out who is in what photo. A set of the pick up and set down photos I have are of these folks. Some really funny ones. And guess what? I CAN'T FIND THEM!!! These photos have an audience awaiting - how often does that happen? They want to see them right now and the moment will lose its relevancy in a few weeks or months. The time for these very silly photos is NOW. #@!#@!$!!! Sigh. It just figures. I've gone through 100s of photos and they're not there. This means that they are sitting around somewhere. Somewhere close like within 20 feet of where the rest of the photos live. I have seen the photos in my house even though the photos are older than the time I've owned my house. They exist as I'm not the type to toss photos. If they could only talk. Well I guess it's just as well they can't.

This calls for major unearthing of long standing stacks of paper which is a small mountain of distractions so staying focused on the original goal is a challenge. I'm fairly organized except for paper which is my downfalling and I struggle with it. I'm shifting over to paperless which helps with the incoming things, but I'm not going backwards on that so I'm just going to have to do it. In my spare time of course.

I did find the photos. In a photo album. The rest are still missing, but the best ones are of course in the album and I've scanned them and posted them to Facebook much to my friends' delight and horror.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Sorting out the "G"s

Pretty much ever time you hear the news you hear something about G-some-number. I finally couldn't take it anymore as they were all running together in my head, so I had to at least try to parse it out some.

G stands for "Group" - they really need to think of something more original.

There are
G7 (formerly G6)

The G7 ("Group of 7" Yes, really.) are the finance ministers of seven industrialized nations:
France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, United States, and now Canada

The G8 (you can just guess what that stand for) also includes Russia and particularly focuses on the Northern Hemisphere and is a more general "heads of state" and has several subgroupings.

With the G20 we're back to finance ministers and government banker types of these governments:
The current G20 meeting is in London and the UK is also suffering a major recession which is why they're getting some very angry protesters.