Our lives are becoming more complicated and this makes us vulnerable to predators and other dangers. Knowledge is the best defence. In short, we have to be streetwise. In this post, I highlight a few of the dangers facing us today.
It is appallingly easy to have your identity stolen and that can cause serious problems. A friend of mine discovered this the hard way. She acquired a criminal record when the criminal who stole her identity went before the courts to answer charges of fraud committed in her name. The incident was traumatic and took months to resolve.
- Don’t put documents that can be used to establish identity in the recycle bin. Shred or otherwise destroy rate notices, bank statements, electricity bills etc.
- Be exceedingly cautious when divulging sensitive information over the internet or telephone.
She is amazed that so much personal information is available through the social media. Amongst other things, people give birth dates and places of birth. These are the first things an identity thief will look for.
The world is full of John Does and Richard Roes. Some are very ordinary people. Others have special skills.
I recently learned of a medical centre who employed a doctor who lacked the necessary qualifications. He had the same name as a person whose name appeared on the graduation lists of an overseas university. Months went by before his deception was uncovered. His trick was to prescribe placebos to people with (seemingly) trivial complaints and refer the rest to specialists. Eventually, he sent too many people to the wrong specialist and was found out.
I worked as a journalist for several years, specialising in science and engineering. During that time, a leading newspaper decided to add a higher education supplement to its pages. They advertised for an editor and employed a fellow with a PhD in something or other. I met him. He was an entertaining guy and we got on well. But his newspaper job didn’t last. Someone took a look at his credentials and discovered that he was a graduate of a hitherto unknown American college. Further enquiries showed that he had set up the college and awarded himself its only degree. I found the incident amusing but hid my mirth. It was highly embarrassing to some very influential people and I didn’t want to ruffle their feathers.
1 By good luck, my wife was at hand to save me from disaster. Our internet connection was giving trouble and she had been talking to Telstra (Australia’s telecom) about the issue. So, when the phone rang and a man said he was from Telstra, I wasn’t suspicious. He said he needed to connect to my computer and run some tests. I called my wife and she knew the routine. You must ask for the man’s identification number then phone your telecom and check him out. The guy didn’t check out. If he had got into to my computer, he could have gained access to banking and other sensitive information.
2 You pick up your phone and a man says your line is about to be disconnected because a bill has not been paid. You say you paid by internet transfer and are told that the funds were not received; if you don’t pay immediately, the phone will be cut off and you will have to pay a hefty reconnection fee. However, this can be avoided by providing credit card details. You demand identification. The man says he can prove he is from telecom. “Please put down your phone and try to make a call. I will disconnect the line. When you find your phone is dead you will know I am genuine.”
You do as you are told and find the line is dead. A minute later, he calls back. If you are taken in by the scam, you will believe that only a telecom employee can disconnect the line. This is not true. All your caller had to do was press his mute button and leave his phone turned on.
3 You are working with your computer and a message appears: Your Computer is Running Slow. Don’t be taken in by this sort of scam. The people posting the message want to sell you software. They don’t know if your computer is going slow or not. What they do know is that all computers go slow if they get clogged with data. Computer operating systems have ways of dealing with the issue. Just go to your dashboard and follow the prompts. It won’t cost you anything.
1 Spiked drinks: Don’t accept drinks from people you can’t trust and don’t leave your glass unattended in bars and at office parties, etc. Don’t assume that the so-called “rape drug” is used exclusively for sex or that it is used exclusively against women. (Living With Danger, Chapter 3.1)
2 Mugging: If a thief demands something, give it to him. Don’t fight unless you are highly proficient in the martial arts. Even then, use caution. People have gone to jail for inflicting injuries on muggers. I’m personally aware of one case in which the legal fees far exceeded anything the mugger could have got from his victim. There are people who are paid to deal with muggers. They are called police and their advice is to throw the item (wallet etc.) in one direction and run in the other.
3 Fights: My karate instructor gave this advice: if attacked, fight your way out, run and make lots of noise … elbows, knees and feet can deliver powerful blows … biting and gouging are effective counter measures.
4 Vehicles (A): Don’t leave your car unlocked. Women have returned to their cars and driven off only to find a man hiding on the back seat. Gangs are reported to have initiation ceremonies in which the initiate kidnaps a woman and takes her back to the clubhouse.
5 Vehicles (B): Don’t leave children alone in cars. This is illegal in Australia where there is a serious risk of heat exhaustion. There is also a risk of kidnap. This poses problems for mothers with small children at filling stations. In a recent case (in the UK) a kidnap was averted when an observant staff member raised the alarm.
6 Vehicles (C): If you get in your car and see a piece of paper stuck to your rear window, be immediately suspicious. This technique is being used in the UK for carjacking. The aim is to get the driver out of the car with the keys still in the ignition. You can guess what happens next.
7 Vehicles (D): If you are driving along a remote country road and see a car pulled up with a forlorn looking woman and baby beside it, don’t stop to offer assistance unless you are the sort of person who can handle a group of men with iron bars. I first learnt of this frightening scam from friends who had been holidaying in Spain. It has since spread to other countries. If you have the slightest doubts about the woman’s predicament, drive on and use your phone to call the emergency services.
Rush of testosterone
In almost all societies, young males are far more likely to die violently than young females. Let’s face it guys, we want a bit of excitement in our lives and sometimes get more than is good for us.
1 A night-on-the-town can be an attractive proposition, particularly when you are away from home and unlikely to encounter anyone you might know. The bright lights beckon and you meet an uninhibited bunch of girls who share your desire to know one another better. Beware: things aren’t always what they seem (Living With Danger, Chapter 3.2).
2 You want an enjoyable evening with friends. A nightclub beckons and all goes well until fights break out and one of your party falls victim to an unprovoked attack. An alarming number of young men have been seriously injured, even killed, in mindless violence. In many countries, the danger period is when the clubs close in the early hours of the morning. If such things don’t happen where you live then you have nothing to worry about. Otherwise, heed the advice of the local authorities.
3 My karate instructor taught a way of dealing with attacks by a group intent on causing grievous bodily harm. He would pick one of us as the potential victim and get the rest of the class to mount an attack. If the victim got it right, he would identify a ringleader, grab him and use him as a human shield. His next trick was to tell the rest of the class that he would break the guy’s arm if we didn’t clear off. I’m prepared to believe that such tactics work but prefer to stay out of situations where they might be needed.
Learn how to deal with bullying. It has become a serious problem on social media sites. If necessary, seek expert advice. Never forget that bullies are SICK, SICK, SICK individuals who crave power. Your best defence is to ignore them. Privacy settings often enable you to shut bullies out. If they don’t work, click logoff and don’t log back on. Find nicer people to mix with.
Note to Readers
If you have advice of your own, send it to me and I’ll post it on my blog. I can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org