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Identity Theft is No Laughing Matter
The latest box-office hit is "Identity Thief," earning more than $36 million in its opening weekend to become the No. 1 movie in the country. But when identity theft occurs in real life, it costs American families billions of dollars and is the No. 1 consumer complaint in the U.S.
Protect Yourself from Financial Crime
"This movie offers a humorous portrayal of an identity theft victim who takes matters into his own hands and hunts down the con artist who has stolen his identity. Moviegoers will find this scenario hilarious, but the crime of identity theft itself is no laughing matter," says Patricia Seaman, senior director with the Denver-based National Endowment for Financial EducationÃ�Â® (NEFEÃ�Â®). "But this is a teachable moment to understand the consequences of identity theft. Becoming a victim of fraud by having your identity misused can wipe out years of savings and assets and threaten your future security."
During the two hours it takes to sit through the movie, more than 2,000 Americans will be victimized by criminals who steal bits and pieces of their personal data for financial gain estimates Identity Theft 911, an identity-fraud management firm based in Scottsdale, Ariz. And the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that identity theft has been the top consumer complaint for the past 12 years in a row. In 2001, the FTC logged 86,250 complaints from those victimized by identity theft. By 2011, the number of complainants had risen to 279,156, a 224 percent increase in 10 years.
How ID Theft Happens
The crime of identity theft occurs when someone steals personal information and uses it without permission. It can devastate household finances, credit history and reputation< as well as take time, money and patience to resolve. Identity thieves may gain access to your private information by:
* Claiming to be a representative of your financial institution.
* Sifting through your trash for discarded papers.
* Stealing newly issued items such as credit cards, checks, utility bills, insurance statements and benefits documents from your unsecured mailbox.
* Looking over your shoulder at the ATM to capture your personal identification number (PIN).
Thieves also may use more sophisticated tactics such as:
* Phishing: Identity thieves send emails pretending to be financial institutions or other legitimate businesses, requesting your personal information to avoid an account closure or suspension.
* Skimming: Thieves use a special storage device that steals credit or debit card numbers, which they then use to process transactions with your account.
* Malware use: Scammers use malware's malicious software that affects computers to obtain your personal information via the Internet.
With access to your name, address, Social Security number, bank or credit card statements, or other personal information, identity thieves can open fraudulent bank, credit card, cellphone or other service accounts in your name; change your account information, such as your billing address and logins and passwords; or even secure loans in your name.
Additional measures of protection include:
* Using a different PIN or password for each personal account, and changing them frequently.
* Being aware of phishing tactics, where an email looks like it is from a real financial institution or store but is meant to trick you into supplying personal data. Instead of clicking links in the email, contact the business by phone or in person.
* Installing firewalls and anti-spyware on your computer to prevent viruses or downloads designed to steal your personal information.
* Leaving your Social Security card, bank account numbers, passwords and PINs at home instead of storing them in your wallet.
* Shredding papers that have account numbers or other personal details on them.
* Stopping junk mail and credit card offers from being delivered to your home by calling 888-5OPT-OUT, or online at www.optoutprescreen.com.
"People who see the "Identity Thief" movie should enjoy the cinematic experience, but remember that this is not a realistic depiction of what happens when this crime occurs," says Seaman. "Everyone should take the time to understand how identity theft happens and take the steps necessary to protect themselves. This is an essential part of personal finance."
Learn more about how to protect your personal information and prevent identity theft by visiting www.smartaboutmoney.org/Hot-Topics/Identity-Theft.
About the National Endowment for Financial Education
NEFE is an independent nonprofit organization committed to educating Americans about personal finance and empowering them to make positive and sound decisions to reach financial goals. For more information, visit www.nefe.org.
For more information on minimizing your risk of identity theft, visit the following websites or call the toll-free numbers.
Federal Trade Commission
IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit
Identity Theft Resource Center
How securely are you storing your personal information? Take this quiz to find out:
Emerge joins NYBiohud Valley and the Hudson Valley Food and Beverage Alliance
Emerge, a leadership and team development consultancy with expertise in helping companies enhance the effectiveness of their leaders and employees, has joined the Hudson Valley Food & Beverage Alliance and NY BioHud Valley.
Emerge helps companies find permanent solutions to recurring personnel issues that plague companies worldwide. It helps employers avoid issues that cost organizations valuable time, money and energy by focusing on the notoriously hard-to-train skills which bring out the best in people. Its coaching philosophy, based on three principles: Emotional Intelligence (EQ), Intelligent Communication and Team Bonding, is demonstrated in engaging, interactive programs that help bring out the best in people and allow profitability, engagement and efficiency to naturally emerge.
Emerge works with a number of fast-growing organizations across the region, including food and beverage companies such as Heineken USA, Pernod Ricard and Sabra Dipping Company.
"We are thrilled to join the efforts of both the Food & Beverage Alliance and NY BioHud Valley, as they are doing some tremendous things to ensure an economically vibrant future for the Hudson Valley in the years to come," said Chris Sabido, Co-Founder of Emerge. 'As part of our membership, we intend to help companies strengthen the effectiveness of their leaders and teams so that they can produce exceptional results more consistently.'
The Food & Beverage Alliance focuses on helping food and beverage companies in the area work together as strong partners and market their products all over the United States. Launched by the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corp. (HVEDC), the organization includes food businesses, farmers, vegetable growers, beverage makers, distributors and other organizations in the industry.
NY BioHud Valley, also launched by the HVEDC, acts as a partner to county, state and federal governments in fostering an environment that allows businesses in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries to expand, while also attracting new companies to the Hudson Valley. The organization engages in pro-business advocacy designed to reduce legislative burdens, promotes collaboration between businesses and educational institutions and assists companies with access to venture capital.
"Emerge has helped companies across the Hudson Valley improve their internal leadership and team-based structures, and we are proud to welcome them to the Food & Beverage Alliance and NY BioHud Valley," said Mike Oates, President and CEO of the HVEDC. "We believe that Emerge will help our members build the leadership and teams they need for long-term, sustained success."
Emerge's unique workshops and retreats allow participants to implement sound leadership practices into their teams immediately and effectively. The company's personalized coaching services help people permanently change the way they handle difficult workplace issues that impede success. This gives organizations the ability to gain the ultimate competitive advantage and the elimination of wasted resources on lost productivity due to poor teamwork.
"Cluster development initiatives are only as strong as your founding members and the unique skillsets these individual firms bring to the table," said Laurence Gottlieb, Director of Economic Development for Westchester County and co-founder of NY BioHud Valley and the Hudson Valley Food & Beverage Alliance. "The fact that Emerge will apply its wealth of leadership coaching and consulting experience to the regional biotech industry, as well as food and beverage companies, reflects the high-quality resources we are connecting in true partnership between Westchester County and the greater Hudson Valley business community. They are an outstanding addition to the team."
About Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation (HVEDC): HVEDC represents seven counties in Hudson Valley. This public-private partnership markets the region as a prime business location to corporate executives, site selection consultants and real estate brokers. HVEDC also helped start the branding and promotional effort for NY BioHud Valley. For more information on Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation or to review available business sites, visit http://www.HVEDC.com or call CEO Mike Oates at 845-220-2244.
About Emerge: Emerge is a Westchester, New York, based human resources consulting firm that helps companies find permanent solutions to recurring personnel issues that plague companies worldwide. Its coaching philosophy, based on three principles: Emotional Intelligence (EQ), Intelligent Communication and Team Bonding, is demonstrated in engaging, interactive programs that help bring out the best in people and allow profitability, engagement and efficiency to naturally emerge. The firm has tackled challenging people issues and established permanent solutions for global brands, nonprofits and leadership institutes. For more information on Emerge's unique approach to leadership training, visit www.emerge-newyork.com.
You're hearing, but are you listening?
By Judy Lewis
Listening is an art that will net many rewards Silly as it may sound, most of us can hear, but not as many of us truly know how to listen. If you can learn the art of listening, it will invaluable in both your professional and personal life. Why is that so? It's because, no one has ever taught us how to do so.
The technique is fairly simple, but learning it takes lots and lots of practice. Simply defined, you can learn to listen if you can learn to allow yourself to be interrupted. You'll discover that there is no way for you not to listen, if you let the other person interrupt you. Unfortunately, as simplistic as this sounds, it's quite difficult to put into practice. It's not easy leaning to be quiet. Especially when you are selling something, you feel obligated to keep selling which you do so by filling every pause in the conversation. Research has proven that when you do so, you decrease rather than increase the possibility of making a sale.
There are several tips that will get you closer to becoming a good listener. The first is to breathe between sentences. In doing so, you add credibility to each of your sentences. It keeps you from speaking too quickly and it gives your customer time to absorb what you are saying. Consequently, it also allows the customer to interject his, or her thoughts and it forces you to listen.
The second tip toward learning to be a good listener is to pause within your sentences. These pauses give additional emphasis to what you are saying. They build excitement and anticipation and get your customer to listen more intently to what you are saying. The mid-sentence pauses also serve to give the customer even greater opportunity to interject. We may not like to admit it to ourselves, but what the customer has to say is by far more important in the sales process than what we have to say.
Using this next tip requires you to unlearn behavior that is second nature in our personal lives to most of us. It requires us to never complete a customer's sentences, or to ever step on his or her words. When you do so, you will be amazed as to how the behavior draws the customer's to you. If you refrain from stopping the customer's train of thought, you quite possibly will be getting valuable information that may make the difference between closing and losing a sale. The corollary is also true. You will also need to learn to allow the customer to interrupt you and/or to step on your words. Your cue to stop talking comes as soon as your customer starts talking, even if you are in mid-sentence.
Don't be discouraged. When you begin the process of learning to be a good listener, you will find it difficult not to backslide, but practice will make perfect. It will be easier to implement good listening if you try to do so not only in your professional life, but also in your personal one. When asked the qualities that make a good friend, one of the top responses is that he or she is a good listener. Over time your efforts will pay off by building a tighter connection for you with customers and, by extension, with your social circle as well.
Judy Lewis is the owner of HudsonValleyWeddings.com, online since 1996. The site includes a free, extensive, online Wedding Guide containing information about every aspect of planning a wedding, hundreds of regional wedding-related businesses, AVendor Promotions,@ a Regional Bridal Show Schedule, Wed Shop and a portal to both wedding and non-wedding-related resources and money-saving web sites. HudsonValleyWeddings.com is a complete resource for couples planning a wedding in the Hudson Valley. Call 845-336-4705, or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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