FEELING PIQUED? – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Pique

Pique is such a cute little word. It’s the right word, mind you, but it doesn’t really cover the territory.

I am in a life and death struggle with AT&T, which is interesting because I’ve closed my account with them. Apparently, for the privilege of not working with them, you have to pay for that, too. In their system, if you call them, you have to pay them for “an upgrade” even if you don’t upgrade. Even if you were talking about it, decided not to and hung up. They will still bill you between $70 and $90 (assuming you didn’t buy a phone … more if you actually bought anything at all) for having talked to them.

That’s a hefty bill when you’ve actually done nothing at all except discuss what plans are available. I have concluded — and not lightly or without serious thought — that anything they tell you via customer service is a lie. Either it’s an outright lie intended to just shut you up and get you off the phone, or it’s something they made up just to get you off the phone. I call that “making it up as you go along” but perhaps you can come up with a more colorful name.

To get “make it up as you go along” service, you need a manager. They will even send you “the deal” in writing and no one else will have heard of it. They will give you long and complicated case numbers, but no one will do anything about them. If you are working with my bank, they will tell you they’ve taken care of it and if you call back, you’ll discover no one did anything at all. They completely ignored you.

That’s the third part: completely ignoring you while pleasantly agreeing with everything you say.

Why is customer service like this? It wasn’t always like this. There was a time when customers were valued. For that matter, when workers were valued. Now, no one is valued unless they own the company or run a major piece of it.

The important thing to remember is:

Trying to find peace with customer service

They will tell you they understand your frustration. They do not comprehend the difference between “pique,” “frustration,” and “lethal rage.” They don’t realize that 9 or 10 pointless conversations with customer service don’t make you a bit frustrated. They make you angry enough to want to strangle whoever is on the other end of the line.

Pity you can’t reach through and grab them by the throat, isn’t it?

I’m feeling a little bit “piqued” at AT&T. Just a bit of pique. Nothing serious.

HOW PUBLIC? – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Public

Having been hacked and fortunately gotten off relatively lightly, I’m wary about information being given away online. You can’t protect yourself entirely, especially as a blogger. No matter what you do, anyone with the will and interest can find out whatever they want about it … but within the limits of our abilities, I try to make sure I don’t leave the barn door open.

The lock might not be the best in town, but considering that the U.S. Government has been hacked and my bank has been hacked twice, as well as Adobe, Lands’ End, Equifax, Facebook … and who knows how many more have been taken down by hackers, I’m pretty sure I don’t have anything in my arsenal that would stop a determined hacker.

The requirements of writing mean that you are going to get at least a little bit personal. The question always remains, “HOW personal?” At what point does “personal” mean too much?

It doesn’t help that the stores, banks, and agencies we work with online appear to be easily hacked. In my case, material that got hacked on Facebook was sold or given (I suspect sold) to Cambridge Analytica who then sold my personal material to any hacker with the money to pay for their list. Of course, there was the recent international round of router hackers. I got a new router, but who knows if the new one has any more stopping power than the original? As far as protecting ourselves from people who hack people and steal their money for a living, we are relatively helpless.

All of this hacking stuff is some version of identity theft and short of not using any online stuff, which these days is nigh unto impossible, there’s no way we can prevent identity theft.

You do your best, but compared to the pros in the field, we don’t have a lot of power to protect ourselves. As soon as they invent a new “protection,” hackers figure out a way to tear it down.

So how public do we dare be? Most of us are already public, there’s not much to hide.

Whether you are a blogger or merely connect to accomplish normal business with banks and other organizations — like, say, the Motor Vehicles Department — we will always be a few steps behind the people who do it because that’s how they make a living.

I always wonder if the damage they do bothers them … or are they simply without any kind of conscience? I’m betting the latter.

In a more perfect world, we would have made sure everyone was well protected before we offered online service, but this is far from a perfect world. And apparently, getting less perfect minute-by-minute.

COMMOTION, CHAOS, HACKING, AND HOW MUCH DO I HATE FACEBOOK? Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Commotion


It started, though I didn’t know it, when Facebook released my personal data to Cambridge Analytica. Eventually, they sold the data to who-knows-who in the hacking world and two credit cards and a money-account got hacked.

I thought this had been sorted out. Police reports. Lots of emails. Far too many conversations on telephones with fraud investigators and a complete reinstallation of my operating system because, not content with stealing my money, they also destroyed my computer.

Lucky there were other computers in the house.

Yesterday, I got a note saying that Synchrony Bank decided I must have “given away my account information.” I couldn’t prove that the hackers were hackers. And, after all, they had my name, address and phone number (thank you, Facebook!), so it must be my fault.

But those transactions never occurred. They were canceled so the “recipients” never actually got anything, but according to their computer, these transactions — or at least one of them — did end up on the bank’s computer. Walmart, whose card it was and PayPal, the paymaster in this all agree there was no transaction, but Synchrony Bank, who owns the computer, is sure it did. I’ve talked to various Wal-Mart divisions (and there are many) and I have paperwork from PayPal (also Synchrony Bank), all of which agree the transactions didn’t happen, but Synchrony wants me to pay for a transaction that never happened and apparently, the release of my name and other personal information by sleazeball Zuckerstump doesn’t count.

You’d think these guys would actually talk to each other.

First, the released my data to Cambridge Analytica. That led to having my identity stolen and my computer hacked. How many new ways can they find to become worthless?

I’m at the end of my wits. This commotion has gone on intermittently since last May. I’m tired and frustrated beyond belief. Just about ready to swallow a handful of tranquilizers and sleep for the rest of my life.

Commotion? You want to know about commotion?

If we weren’t so poor, I’m pretty sure I could have my lawyer call their lawyer and it would be fixed in a split second. We don’t have a lawyer on tap … or the money to get one. So on and on it goes.

Commotion, yeah. Also chaos and a certain amount of misery.

SHAKEN, NOT STIRRED – Marilyn Armstrong

We are shaken, but not stirred

I read all the James Bond books before they made it into the movies. I loved the books and for me, the movies were more like parodies than anything to do with Ian Fleming’s writing. The whole martini thing about “Shaken, not stirred,” always struck me as weird.

Why would it make a difference? Not being a drinker of any kind, much less a martini drinker, I’m probably the wrong one to ask.

Nonetheless, we are personally shaken even if not fully stirred.

Garry at the Police station in Uxbridge

In the course of a month and a half, we’ve been the victim of an intended more than $7000 in credit card theft. Yesterday, I realized for the first time (I can be a little slow on the uptake) that this started at least three weeks before I realized anything was happening and continued after I was sure it was fixed.

I think it’s fixed now. I hope so because I have done absolutely everything I was supposed to do. We are lucky we didn’t lose any of our so-called money. The credit card companies are less lucky and have spanked us thoroughly on our credit ratings. Not that I can blame them. They’ve taken the entire hit leaving us shaken and fearful. Feeling incredibly vulnerable. But no poorer than we were before.

Main street in late June

I didn’t know how bad it was until I looked at my monthly credit report. Credit Karma is free. They track your credit, the amounts you’ve spent, suggest cheaper cards or loans … and they are really free. If you are not a member, I suggest you sign up. If I hadn’t looked at the report, I would not have known what was happening.

One card leaped off the screen at me, a card on which I knew I had used less than $1000 in credit and suddenly, a $5000 bill was staring at me. I called the company. Because the card had already been declared as damaged — involved in a fraud attempt — it was closed. I couldn’t actually get to any information online and had no idea about how much money had been taken. It looked like much more than I had thought.

Back to the post office to file the reports. Round two. Hopefully the final round.

The guy at the bank gave me a list — down to the penny — of all the hits. I felt sick. Until I saw that report, I had no idea something had been going on. There were no flare guns, no strange packages, nothing to alert me. It had been going on since the beginning of May, more than 3 weeks before I knew there was a problem. A week more before I realized the extent of the problem. The day before yesterday, I got it.

“This is considered identity theft, ” the bank manager said. This was confirmed by the guy at the police station because we had to go back with all this additional information. Previously, all I knew about attempted thefts. This was the real deal. The took the money and laughed all the way to the shops where they bought stuff.

Truck parts. Lots of truck parts. I didn’t know truck parts could cost so much money, but I suppose when you steal them for free, whatever you get for them on the market is “free money” for you. Not for me or the bank, but a hop, skip, plus a little jump, made some thief happy.

A quick trip to the grocery. Frozen pizza for dinner. I was in no mood for cooking.

I assume big parts of our own private military hackers are on top of this stuff. Even though nothing is reported in the press, I would imagine this doesn’t get a lot of press coverage. All it would do is warn the targets.

The brightest — and funniest — moment of the day is when Garry called me from the police station and when I looked at the phone, it said “Interview Room 3.” It was a very NCIS moment.

I have alerted the police, all three credit monitoring agencies, filed reports with everyone. Deleted embedded copies of my credit cards from anywhere I knew they existed. Each time I use a shop, I will have to replace the card numbers then and as soon as the transaction is complete, delete it.

No matter what anyone says, if they are keeping your credit card information, your data is NOT secure.

These days, I’m not sure what secure even means.

NOTORIOUS HACKERS – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Notorious

The day after I got hacked, it hit the TV headlines. Every network news station had the information at the top of the hour: REBOOT YOUR ROUTER. Apparently, millions of home users had already been whacked in Europe. Now The Notorious Gang was here, hacking home routers and stealing credit card information.

It turns out they are the same Russian-funded group connected to Cambridge Analytica — Steve Bannon’s babies — and of course, you-know-who, the guy who occupies the White House. And it all started with Facebook. The social media site I only use as PR for my blog.

Speaking of notorious, these thieves have been known to rake in billions of dollars in a single day, probably mostly from people like me who really can’t afford it.

I didn’t even know that this particular card had been hacked and only found out when the card wouldn’t go through because it kept saying the address was wrong. I finally called the company and the address they had was nothing to do with mine.

I’d like to say I have no idea how they manage to hack our cards, but it isn’t that difficult. I’m no hacker, but I understand the rudiments — and that three-digit code on the back of your card? You realize that any routine number-running mini-application could track it down in about 2 seconds. Maybe less.

I still have to look it up, but thieves — NOTORIOUS hackers — don’t bother. They just push a key. A program runs. They find the number and are charging thousands of dollars to your accounts a minute later.

I’ve gotten everything back, though I have a lot of closed accounts at the moment. My credit score took a hit too. Fraud apparently makes credit companies wary of extending credit. Who can blame them?

What a pity they didn’t announce the notorious router hacking crew until the day AFTER they hacked me. What a pity that Facebook gave out my personal information to hackers, no doubt for a fee.

How notorious does something need to be before we notice it’s happening to us? Apparently pretty damned notorious!

FRAUD – IT JUST KEEPS GETTING WORSE

FRAUD – IT NEVER STOPS


So this time, here is a list of posts about fraud. Fraud done to us, to parents. Fraud by people you thought you knew. It’s everywhere. What are they thinking when they steal a few thousand dollars from people who are barely scraping by? Do they care? Do they feel a twinge of bad karma?

I don’t think. That’s the conclusion I’ve reached:

ELDER FRAUD: THE LONG CON PLAYED ON MY MOM – BY ELLIN CURLEY

SCAMMED AGAIN — LEARNING THE HARD WAY

THE SOCIOPATHIC BUILDER – BY ELLIN CURLEY

GENEROSITY. MY FIRST MISTAKE.

There’s a lot more. Scams by banks and credit cards. Scams by politicians, bosses, and co-workers. Everyone seems to be trying to get “what they deserve” out of the system because they are all sure that the rest of us can afford to give them our money … however little we happen to have. Elder scam, medical scams, surgical scams. Scams that land people homeless and without a penny to live on.

That’s the world we are living in … and with the way things are going, it’s just going to get worse.

NOT ANOTHER DIME – MARILYN ARMSTRONG WITH BEN TAYLOR

I am a Democrat. A liberal, but Democrat is close enough.

I currently get about 20 emails a day asking me to contribute to someone’s campaign or just to the party coffers for some good cause or other. I support many of these causes, but I’ll never give a penny to any political party. Why? Am I a fervent advocate of campaign corruption reform? Do I harbor an idealistic — and irrational — belief that change will come to the system? Yes and no, but that’s not why I won’t give any money to anything political.

72-Lost-Dutchman-newer-GAR-Superstition-011316_186
Not my donkey, but a nice donkey

In 2012, I donated three dollars to Obama.

As a thank you, I got spammed. Every Democrat running for office no matter where they lived, sent me endless emails every week. It kept getting worse. A new cause, a few hundred more emails. Every email predicted the immediate end of the world should I fail to dip into my wallet right now! It reached an insane crescendo. One day, I spent an entire day, morning to evening, unsubscribing to what seemed to be every politician and cause looking for money. The incoming mail dropped to an almost bearable level.

It seemed that each time I signed a petition or went online to read a political post, I was automatically — without notification or permission — subscribed to the site and its multiple mailing lists. I was a piece of data being mined.

That’s wrong. It’s spam. It’s offensive.

Uncle sam political cartoon 1899

The Democratic Party — all political parties, their candidates and causes (I found myself on the Conservative Republican mailing list because I read an article and they signed me up, too) — are on my “not one red cent” list. Because a $3 dollar donation got me spammed. By the way, if you are naïve enough to provide your phone number to any political group, expect never-ending intrusive phone calls on your home or cell phone asking for donations.

If they want my opinion, they can pay for it.

The political funding system needs reformation. Equally in need of reform is the way all political groups feel free to use your personal information for their own purposes. They will subscribe you to their mailing  and calling lists because you tried to read their literature. Which, in theory, is what they want you to do. Participating in politics — trying to be a good citizen — will get you bombarded with propaganda until you declare a plague on all their houses.

By: politicalavenue-com

It’s not okay. Really, it’s not. It’s intrusive and sneaky. It is a massive abuse of my right to privacy. I did not agree to let everyone in the world use my personal data for their own agenda. Visiting a web site does not imply permission to invade my privacy. I do not know how other people handle this sort of thing, but it means that I will never donate a penny to anyone running for office — or support of any of their causes. Ever.

A friend of mine wrote the following letter and sent me a copy. He thought I might make want to use it. Sure enough. Nice to know it isn’t just me!


Author: BEN TAYLOR 

We elect you — our representatives — to… uh… represent us. You are paid healthy salaries. You enjoy the best health care in the country and even draw a salary after retirement, even though you’ve been voted out of office. What a great job you’ve got! But that’s not enough. You continuously ask us for more money — from those of us who have little more to give than an opinion.

So, what do you think about maybe doing the job you were elected to do? Without us having to cough up additional contributions — for which there seem to be endless requests?

What gives corporations the right to make big donations and project opinions that may not be shared by its employees? Employees who, for fear loss of job, are hesitant to express an opposite opinion to the handful of upper management?

Wouldn’t that donation money be better spent by passing it on to the employee salaries, not to mention the huge bonuses given to executives who really don’t need it since their already enormous salaries ought to cover any living expenses they would incur?

So, the rich guys need tax breaks? I don’t think so! 

We as average citizens don’t ask you to contribute to our lives by donating money to our household budget funds or maybe helping us pay off our mortgages or car loans. All we ask is that we are allowed to take care of ourselves with dignity. That you prevent the rich, who can already pay for anything they possibly could use or want out-of-pocket from taking away the little we depend on to scrape out an existence.

Just think of what kind of country we’ll have if we are all poor. Is this what is meant by “making America great again?” Impoverishing
everyone who isn’t already rich? Ignoring science while destroying the planet for the advantage of the few who might profit? Employing social media to carry on petty quibbling, racial, religious and other ethnic injustices while great, and potentially greater, disasters occur all around us?

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!!!
​ ​
NO! NOT ANOTHER DIME!


They — both parties, all parties, all the pols — have done it to themselves.  Before pointing fingers at “the system,” they need to admit that they are the system. They are the abusers.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I know there is no way I’m giving anything to anybody. Ever. Not even when I wish I could. Because I know if I give a couple of bucks to one person, every single politician will have their hand out and bomb me with letters of upcoming catastrophes. This has got to stop somewhere.

How about now?