Thursday, October 25, 2007

Cruisin' In The Rain

Well, it's finally raining in Charlotte. It's not going to be for forty days and forty nights which we need but it will be lingering around till at least the weekend.

So, here's a top tip that used to pop up in emails -- you know the ones, forward this to all your friends -- that actually turns out to be true.


What happens is that you can hit a patch of water (hydroplaning) and the loss of traction causes the system to misread the speed the wheels are turning. All sorts of bad things can then happen and before you know it you've crashed.

The proper technique for being caught in a skid caused by hydroplaning is to IMMEDIATELY reduce power by taking your foot off the gas (and no braking right). However, to cut the cruise control off you have to tap the brakes or fiddle round and find the on off button on the dash or control column. By the time you've done either of those two it's too late.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Some Quick Updates

I know, I know, I've been promising to get back to the Bug In Bag contents and I will but a couple of quick mentions...

One. I was handing out flyers in a neighborhood the other day for my real job and I noticed quite a few people had their flags up on their letterboxes (for my non-US readers that is something you do here to indicate to the mailman that you have outgoing mail in the box. They collect it here thus saving you the trip to the post office). That, folks, is a big no no. Enterprising ID thieves drive around in the morning and look specifically for mail boxes thus flagged.

They take the outgoing mail and look for anything with names and account numbers on that they can use/sell for the false ID and or checks going to pay bills that they "wash" (a technique whereby they use certain chemicals to wash away the ink you've written in your details with and then re-write it with their name in the "pay to the order of" column and an amount they'd like to receive from you.)

DO NOT, EVER, leave your mail in the box for the postman to pick up. Take it yourself and drop it at the local post office. Half of all ID theft would stop tomorrow if people started doing that one simple step.

PS: I mentioned taxes. Let me just tell you I think I'm one of the only people I've ever met who enjoys paying them. Think about it for a minute though...we live in a society that is a goose that lays the golden egg. We have our trash picked up, sewer systems, running water, firemen that will come and take care of your burning house, policemen who'll be there when needed, roads and highways, and soldiers who are out in some god forsaken place dying so you can go about your day in peace. Just how much do you think a battleship or an F-16 costs? Most, if not all of the aforementioned, comes from money raised by taxes. If I'm contributing in any way shape or form to that then I'm happy to do so.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sometimes...despite all you do

Last night I came out of the bookstore and, as I headed for my truck, noticed a car and driver that just didn't seem to fit in. The shopping center contained a book store, a men's clothing shop that sells suits for $3k and up, a nail salon, an art gallery and a planner store. The car was about ten years old with peeling paint, the guy driving was dressed like a thug (wife beater and bling) and he and the car just screamed "We do not belong here" as he drove past. I didn't think any more of it until I got to my truck, noticed the contents of the center console over the front seat and the glove box open.

I immediately assumed it was the guy mentioned above. Whether it was or not is a moot point but some mongrel had been in my car looking for something of value to swipe. I thought he/she must have been after cash as they'd left cds and sun glasses everywhere as well as a suit jacket and a training bag.

Now, readers of my blog know I always stress locking the car even if it's only for seconds so I began to beat myself up. No broken windows must have meant I left the door open inadvertently by not making sure my remote door lock actually engaged.

At this point, figuring nothing was stolen, and no windows etc broken, I put it down to lesson learned and headed for home.

I was about a 1/4 mile down the road when it suddenly hit me. I'd taken my briefcase to a meeting with some investors earlier and hidden it behind my driver's seat...I reached back, and sure enough it was gone.

I returned to the store and went through the motions of checking dumpsters (sometimes they'll ditch the contents), and bushes etc, asking store owners and customers if they'd seen anything and trying to ascertain whether or not any security cameras might have picked the bad guy(s) up.

After a fruitless fifteen minutes I called it in to the non-emergency number and filed my police report which would be necessary for any subsequent insurance claim.

During the call I discovered something frustrating and interesting at the same time. I was telling the officer I must have screwed up and not locked the door and she said "check the lock on the driver's side door hon, it's probably been poked in."

Sure enough to bright new scratches around the key hole and my lock is punched.

Now, I know all about car thieves and their lock punching tricks but, what I did not know, is that on most cars - especially domestics - that trick on the door DOESN'T TRIGGER THE ALARM. The car assumes when the lock turns it must be the owner with the key and disengages it. In other words, despite having an alarm, locking the door and hiding your valuables, the bad guys still might get your stuff.

Afterwards, I answered some voice mails and a good Samaritan called to let me know she found my briefcase about a mile away, broken open and the contents strewn for about a hundred yards down the road. She gathered it all up, found my name and phone number inside (never put your address by the way - reasons why tomorrow) and called to let me know she'd found it.

The morons who'd swiped it were apparently looking for lap tops which, according to the crime incident officer, is the hot ticket item right now. (So be hyper vigilant if you have one). Even more indicative of the fact these clowns had the IQ of a salad bar was that they took a screw driver to the latches which weren't even locked thus destroying the case.

So, lessons learned;

Locking the door and having an alarm may not be enough
Trucks are being hit at a disproportionate rate (apparently the assume there are guns and/or lap tops in trucks)
Domestics are targeted over foreign due to their pathetic alarm/security system
If you have a lap top be hyper vigilant (their are an array of devices for securing them and I may review some of them here some time)
Car insurance doesn't cover contents of the car (unless they're bolted in) Make sure your property such as lap tops, briefcases etc is on your home owner's policy which will cover it in such an event.
Dumb crooks dont' realize that Hartmann briefcases, Mont Blanc pens, and leather planners are actually worth more than your average lap top and/or gun.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Warnings & Updates

Alright, I know, I'm supposed to be writing about stuff to go in your Bug In Bag but I've been getting my taxes sorted. (More on that in the next post) I did think it prudent though to get the following out in the meantime...

Here's two latest scams to be aware of with regards to your credit cards.

1) The waiter/service person will use their cell phone camera to take a picture of your card. They're also doing this while your card sits on the counter (remember surfing) while ostensibly making a phone call.

2) They take your card, swipe it under the counter and give you back an expired card belonging to someone else.

The defense for the former is be very aware of cell phones in your presence when you use your card. I even know a female Secret Service Agent at the forefront of ID theft etc who refuses to give her card when in restaurants. She gets cash from an ATM beforehand and pays in cash. She should know, she deals with thousands of victims every week.

The defense for number two is simple...religiously check your card every time it's given back to you.