Welcome to The Funny/Alerts Newsletter. Unless you're completely disconnected, you've probably already heard about the ID theft ring that the FBI busted. Hopefully, all of you have taken steps to prevent becoming one of those 30,000 victims! I know that I pound this drum quite frequently, but we live in the Information Age and (like it or not) every one of us has been reduced to just so much data. As Gordon Glantz says, "Each of us... are a sum of the numbers."
Bob Hartle appeared on CBS Evening News tonight. The person that stole his identity bought a house, three pick-up trucks and two motorcycles, among other things. "The business community and the law enforcement community had no interest in these kind of crimes AT ALL!" He and his wife had to hunt the perpetrator down themselves in order to put a stop to it. Now THAT's a scary proposition!
One girl at the University of Nevada, Reno, had her purse stolen more than three years ago and she's STILL dealing with the repercussions. The poor thing hadn't even started building her credit yet and it's already ruined!
I wish that I could send copies of FAN #010501, #010827 and #021029 to everyone that's every applied for credit. Today I'll be adding FAN #021126 to the list of soap-box standing, podium-pounding warnings about this threat to you, the average citizen. To quote Detective David Brooke, "I'd hate to say it's easy, but it's easy". If I can prevent you from being victimized then it was more than worth the effort. Don't make it easy for the perps, make it as hard as possible! If it's a little inconvenient for you, that's a small price to pay for being able to sleep at night. Something that 30,000 people AREN'T doing right now...

On a little brighter note (if you can call it that), I'm scheduled for surgery on Dec.18th. My doctor is, apparently, sure that I'll pass my tests. As badly as I need to get my stomach fixed, I must admit that I'm more than just a little scared. It's not the surgery that bothers me, but going under general anesthesia. This is actually the most dangerous part of getting worked on. Many people breeze through the operation without a hitch; the doctor(s) are pleased with how well it went and then... the patient doesn't wake up!
Not that I'm going to change my mind, but I just wish I didn't need surgery at all. I'm just tired of it. The almost daily pain. Unable to sleep through the night because of the acid reflux. Always being watchful about what I eat (except for Tuesday - that's my "fritter" day). The drugs have given me some relief, but they're just not cutting the mustard. If I could go back in time I'd never drink as much soda as I did... maybe none at all.
Fortunately for me, today we have laparoscopic surgery. The time spent in the hospital afterwards is only 2-3 days (depending on how I handle the anesthetic, of course) and complete recovery is only 2-3 weeks! 

Signed,
Co-Conspirator To Make The World A Better Place

http://www.detnews.com/2002/business/0211/26/a01-20819.htm

===
GRINS & GIGGLES:
Mornin', my little Man in Uniform

A police officer, though scheduled for all night duty at the station, was relieved of duty early and arrived home four hours ahead of schedule, at 2 in the morning.

Not wanting to wake his wife, he undressed in the dark, crept into the bedroom and started to climb into bed. Just then, his wife sleepily sat up and said, "Mike, dearest, would you go down to the all night drug store on the next block and get me some aspirin? I've got a splitting headache."

"Certainly, honey," he said, and feeling his way across the dark room, he got dressed and walked over to the drug store.

As he arrived, the pharmacist looked up in surprise, "Say," said the druggist, "I know you - aren't you a policeman? Officer Fenwick, right?"

"Yeah, so?" said the officer.

"Well what the heck are you doing all dressed up like the Fire Chief?"

---
AN UNCOMMON TOUCH: Michael Bessigano, 32, of Valparaiso, Ind., has been found guilty of animal abuse after stealing a chicken and taking it to a motel. The motel maid found the room strewn with blood and feathers and called police. When investigators asked Bessigano why he took the animal there, he said it was "to have sex with it." Because of similar earlier animal abuse convictions -- including one incident with a Rottweiler -- Bessigano was convicted as a habitual offender and sentenced to 10-1/2 years in prison. With time served taken into account, he could be released after as little as four more years of good behavior behind bars. (Times of Northwest Indiana) ...Don't let him work in the prison kitchen, then.

JUST PLAIN TOUCHED: Ross Watt, 33, has been caught having sex in the middle of the street in Edinburgh, Scotland -- with a traffic cone.
Police from the Gayfield district caught him in the ...uh... act after multiple passers-by called to report the incident. Despite an earlier offense involving a training shoe, Watt was given probation and a suspended jail sentence. (Edinburgh Evening News) ...What's the matter, Ross? Chicken?

RUNNER UP: Sandra Griep, 21, the reigning Miss East Germany, says she is disappointed in her title since it has brought her few job offers. She says she was promised plenty of jobs doing modeling, but "I've only had two local appearances and a photo shoot." What does she think is the problem? "It's probably down to my small breasts," she says. (PA) ...In other words, it's just a tempest in a B cup.

SECOND RUNNER UP: Steven Croteau, 16, of Lameque Island, N.B., Canada, was "crushed" at not being named Most Valuable Player in his local ice hockey league. The award is voted on by a group of nine coaches. So his father, Michael, sued the New Brunswick Bantam AAA league, demanding that the boy who won the trophy be forced to give it to Steven, that the league must award Steven the "play maker" award, and that his son be guaranteed a spot on the New Brunswick Canada Winter Games team. Oh, and an award of C$300,000 (US$189,700) in "psychological and punitive damages" would be nice too. "He was just humiliated" when he wasn't named MVP, Michael says. (Toronto Globe and Mail) ...Steven may not have won MVP but his father did -- Most Vexatious Parent.

SQUIRTING FLOWERS OPTIONAL: "Dutch Undertakers Hire Clown to Lighten the Mood" -- PA headline

---
It was in the Columbus Dispatch recently that one of the Ohio State University professors was notorious about preaching on the "evils of marijuana." So much so that the Dispatch sent one of their reporters to sit in one of the Professor's classes. 

Sure enough, that very day, the Professor got off the topic he was supposed to be teaching and started ranting about pot. "Used regularly, pot can cause psychic disorientation, sterility, cancer, and castration."

The reporter jumped up and interrupted the professor. "Sir, that's absurd. Castration? C'mon, that's ridiculous."

"Not at all, young man," the professor shot back. "Just suppose your girlfriend is a heavy user and one night she gets the munchies!"

---
Judi looked quite depressed. Monika said, "Judi, sweetie, what's the matter?"

Judi, "Well, you know that Viagra stuff is around now. I guess this means we girls can look forward, one day, to being with really old guys."

"Uh, well, yeah, I guess so. But what's the problem?"

Judi cried, "I can just see it now! They'll start hollering, 'Who's your granddaddy? Who's your granddaddy?'"

---
A big earthquake with the strength of 8.1 on the Richter scale hit Mexico City. 150,000 Mexicans have died and over a million are injured. The country is totally ruined and the government doesn't know where to start with providing help to rebuild.

The rest of the world is in shock. Canada is sending troops to help the Mexican army control the riots. The European community is sending food and money. The United States of America is sending 150,000 replacement Mexicans.

===
CYBERSPACE ALERT:
Consumers Seek Advice After Massive Fraud 
By LARRY NEUMEISTER 

NEW YORK (AP) Numerous consumers moved to try to protect their finances and credit lines Tuesday, a day after prosecutors warned that thousands of people were vulnerable to a high-tech assault on their identities after records were stolen from a software company. 

``It's just been a deluge,'' said Jay Foley, director of consumer and victims services at the Identity Theft Resource Center. The San Diego-based nonprofit organization, which helps victims of identity theft, was among several agencies nationwide swamped with calls Tuesday. 

Callers were worried they might be victims of a massive scheme to steal credit information from thousands of people. Losses from the scam were put at $2.7 million and could grow as more victims are identified. 

U.S. Attorney James B. Comey said Monday that prosecutors were still trying to learn how many people had their bank accounts drained, addresses changed, lines of credit opened and new credit cards opened without their approval. 

He said almost all the fraudulent charges and withdrawals would be covered by financial institutions. Prosecutors are sending letters to victims that can be used as proof to credit agencies and financial institutions. 

Claudia Farrell, a Federal Trade Commission spokeswoman in Washington, said calls to a hot line for people reporting identity fraud increased 33 percent Monday, while calls seeking information about identity theft doubled. 

``I think there's another up tick today,'' she said Tuesday. 

Authorities said the scheme began about three years ago when Philip Cummings, an employee at a Long Island software company, sold passwords and codes for downloading consumer credit reports to an unidentified person. 

Cummings, 33, of Cartersville, Ga., was released on $500,000 bond after a court appearance in Manhattan on Monday at which he did not speak. The FBI also charged two other men in the case. 

Officials credited the Ford Motor Credit Co., the world's largest automotive finance company, with discovering the fraud last winter. 

Personal information belonging to some 30,000 people was stolen, authorities said. Included were 15,000 credit reports stolen from Experian, a credit history bureau, using passwords belonging to Ford Motor Credit Corp., a finance arm of Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn, Mich., officials said. A message left with Experian was not immediately returned Tuesday. 

Melinda Wilson, a spokeswoman for the Ford credit company, said only a few Ford customers were affected and the company, a victim itself, went to authorities immediately. 

``We didn't know what we had at first. We just kept digging and digging and unraveling and pulling, trying to get to the bottom of it,'' she said. ``This was a breach that was made falsely in our name and, as such, it was deeply disturbing.'' 

Libby Hutchinson, a spokeswoman for the Washington Mutual Finance Co., said the company, based in Crossville, Tenn., had sent out 6,000 letters to warn people that its access codes had been stolen. 

``We're not aware of any amount of money that anyone has lost. Sadly, that might change,'' she said, noting an increase in inquiries by the public since Monday. 

Some people who got letters ``were concerned, actually thinking we were trying to scam them,'' she said. 

``We had to assure them it was legit and gave them contacts at the FBI and other law enforcement agencies,'' she said. 


Equifax 1-800-525-6285
Experian (formerly TRW) 1-800-301-7195 or 1-800-397-3742
Trans Union (Fraud Victim Assistance Department) 1-800-680-7289
Social Security Administrations (SSA Fraud Hotline) 1-800-269-0271
FTC identity theft site: http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft (phone 877-IDTHEFT)
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse: http://www.privacyrights.org 
Social Security identity theft site: http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/idtheft.htm 
Identity Theft Resource Center: http://www.idtheftcenter.org 

===
STREET ALERT:
Identity theft: It could happen to you
By: GORDON GLANTZ

Who are you?
While Pete Townsend and The Who posed the question in 1978, perhaps another classic rocker had the answer. That same year, Bob Seger belted out that he felt like a number. In 2002, the reality is that whether or not we feel like numbers, we are numbers. While many a psychoanalyst would long to tell us who we are at the core of our inner beings, the government and other institutions have already taken care of it.

Each of us, in the eyes of the anonymous real world, are a sum of the numbers - those listed on our Social Security cards, our driver's licenses, our credit cards, our bank accounts, and so on - assigned and attached to us. When an unsavory character lurking in the shadows of his or her computer screen or your trash dumpster gains access to these numbers, a change occurs. And then ... they are you.

In your name, they can run up mountains of debt and engage in illegal activity ranging from registering a vehicle to purchasing firearms. The act is called identity theft and it is a crime that has swept over the landscape with such ferocity that no one is immune. "It's the fastest-growing crime facing law enforcement today," said United States Attorney Patrick L. Meehan, who added that, nationally, between 700,000 and 1 million reports are received per year from victims of identity theft who, on the average, spend 175 hours and $108 to clear their names. "Identity theft is a nightmare for anybody caught up in it," said Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham.

For a victim, countless hours are wasted on sleepless nights and days taken off from work to sort out the mess a nameless and faceless person has created, without conscience. "Far more troubling is that this is an emotionally abusive crime because it's a repetitive crime," added Meehan. "You've been accused and you're guilty until proven innocent. It creates vulnerability. For many people, it's the first time they've been victimized."

Once upon a time, one could minimize the risk of being a victim of crime by avoiding dark alleys and bad neighborhoods at night. In the harsh reality of identity theft, you can be victimized by another with your identity countless times, sometimes over the span of years, while you sleep comfortably in your bed with your doors dead-bolted and your high-tech alarm system activated.

And although there are preventive measures to minimize the risk of an identity becoming compromised, they are far from foolproof. Just like on the roadways, where we lawfully buckle our seat belts and drive at safe speeds, we still cannot avoid a collision with a reckless driver determined on wreaking havoc. More sobering is the knowledge that most identity thieves are far from reckless. Those accused run the gamut from sophisticated pickpockets to computer hackers. "This is an alternative to sticking up a liquor store or selling crack on the corner," said Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. "This is a terrifically robust crime for a criminal," said Abraham. "You don't need a gun or a knife. You just need some quick thinking and a computer and you're in business."

What law enforcement has learned is that most identity thieves are calm, cool and calculating. "Some of them are brilliant," said Detective Steven E. Geckle of the Upper Merion Township Police Department. "Just when you think you've seen it all, there's something different." And what they are calculating, amid their calm and cool, is often staggering amounts of bad debt in your good name.

"For a victim of identity theft, it can sometimes be worse than a burglary or a robbery," said Detective David Brooke of the Norristown Police Department. "Somebody will get a hold of somebody else's identity and pass it along to somebody else."

Pass it along? The identity of a law-abiding citizen, whose name and address can be easily gleaned from a phone book and whose other vital data can be elicited from an inside source at a car dealership or any other outlet where credit has been applied for, can become a hot commodity.

"If you go down to 52nd and Market streets in West Philadelphia, you'll find people selling stuff (often purchased under false pretenses) right on the street," said Geckle, whose investigations have often led him into the city. "Many times, they are selling IDs. It's like a market in Rome." How it got as far as the establishment of identity sales on the street is largely through the ingenuity of the thieves. "These are people who wanted to commit a crime and this seemed like the easiest way," said Castor. "And guess what? They were right." "I'd hate to say it's easy, but it's easy," said Brooke.

According to a guidebook circulated by the Federal Trade Commission, there are numerous basic methods:
- Stealing wallets and purses containing vital identification cards, such as driver's licenses and Social Security cards, as well as credit and bank cards.
- Dumpster diving, which is the broad term used by law enforcement for the theft of mail. What the thieves are looking for are credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, telephone calling cards and tax information.
- Once a piece of mail is found, either in a mailbox or a trash receptacle, the thieves will complete a change-of-address form to divert mail sent to you to another address.

On the more sophisticated side, the thieves may do any of the following:
- Fraudulently obtain your credit report by posing as a landlord, an employer or anyone who may, on the surface, seem to have a "legitimate" need or a legal right to the information.
- Gain access to your business or personal records at work, find personal information in your home or use personal information you have shared on the Internet.
- Work in collaboration with inside sources at places, such as stores or car dealerships, where you have applied for credit.

Once the identity thieves are equipped, they begin to ply their trade. Often, particularly in cases in which an existing card is stolen, they will run up credit in your name on merchandise sent to their residence after doing something as simple as calling a credit card company and requesting a new mailing address. Under these circumstances, it is not uncommon for months or years to pass before the victim becomes aware of the activity.

When access is gained to a credit application in your name, usually by virtue of "dumpster diving," the thief will open the account in your name and, by not paying the bills, damage the victim's credit report. Other uses of personal information employed by the thieves include establishing phone or wireless service and/or opening a bank account and then writing bad checks in the name of the victim. In extreme cases, identity thieves can make purchases such as automobiles and file for bankruptcy in a victim's name. And on it goes.

"I don't know if I would describe it yet as an epidemic," said Brooke. "But identity theft is clearly the fastest-growing criminal activity. Sometimes it seems like it's all we do. Identity theft, by all means, is the crime of the future." 

===
Tips for avoiding identity theft
By The Associated Press

How can you tell if you are a victim of identity theft? 
U.S. Attorney James Comey, who announced charges Monday in New York in what could be the largest case of identity theft in the nation's history, said there are signs to watch for. 

If bank statements and credit card statements aren't showing up, Comey said, that could mean someone has stolen your identity. He warned consumers to watch their bank accounts closely, check their credit reports regularly and guard their personal information. Victims usually are not liable for fraudulent charges, but it can take time and money to undo damage. 

Mary Ann Avnet, vice president of Chubb Group of Insurers in Warren, N.J., suggested consumers order credit reports at least twice a year, more often if they have been victimized by identity fraud. Avnet also said people can require the use of identification whenever their credit cards are used. She cautioned consumers not to throw away items containing such personal information such as Social Security, driver's license and credit card numbers. [buy yourself a shredder! - DP]

"Be as careful with that information as you can. When choosing PIN numbers and ID numbers, make sure they are not easily replicated," she said. The need for vigilance was illustrated Monday as prosecutors said a dishonest computer software company worker opened the gates to the identities of more than 30,000 individuals nationwide. Some victims may not yet know they have been defrauded. 

Comey suggested consumers study how to protect themselves on the Federal Trade Commission's Web site at or by calling the toll-free phone number at 877-IDTHEFT. 

===
TRUE STORY:
Online Lifeline
by Phyllis L. Christian
Texas, USA

Books are precious to me; I have always been an avid reader. But my eyesight has failed to the point that I am now considered legally blind.
I am a 75-year-old widow, and I live alone. I have spent many weary hours consulting with eye specialists, but will probably never regain my sight.

In order to continue enjoying books, I subscribed to an online audio book service several years ago. Audio books let me enjoy nonfiction and literature alike without straining my eyes too much. But their books are encoded, so only certain electronic devices will accept their software, then read them out loud. I tried several, but had to load and reload the media to get through a book. Then they put the Iomega HipZip in their list of supported devices and I bought one.

When I received it, though, I could not set up the software. Between the HipZip's small screen, the number of on-screen instructions and the sequence of buttons I had to push, I could not read the screen fast enough to follow the steps. I tried over and over to install the software, to the point of total frustration. I am not usually defeated by something so minor, but I wanted to throw the HipZip across the room.

I described this exercise in futility to members of an online audio book list. Another member, named Georgia, tried several times to walk me through it. Over and over again I went through each of the steps, and every time got an error message telling me the installation was no good.

By that time, I imagine Georgia was as frustrated as I was. Then, out of the goodness of her heart, she told me to mail it to her. She had two of the devices herself, she said, and would do the installation for me.
She didn't know me and I didn't know her, but I jumped at her offer and sent it immediately with a prepaid return address label. (I didn't want her to have second thoughts!)

About a week later, I got it back. What mystical incantations she pronounced over it I will ever know, but it worked exactly as it was supposed to, and has been working ever since. If it hadn't been for Georgia, I wouldn't be able to use the HipZip. It would either be sitting collecting dust or stomped into little pieces.

Georgia's unexpected act of kindness was priceless to me. I felt as if she rescued me from a problem no one else could understand. She may not realize it, but Georgia gave me more than just technical support; she gave back my ability to enjoy books, one of the greatest pleasures in my life.

===
FUN SITE:
The America Project 

http://www.theamericaproject.org/ 

I used to listen to National Public Radio (NPR) all the time on my drive home. I still surf over to NPR whenever I am on a longer driving trip. One of the radio shows that I try to catch is "All Things Considered." One of the contributors to this show is Alix Spiegel and Alix is the person behind The America Project. This Web site is a place where you can listen to this public radio documentary series. All you have to do is click on the title of the documentary and click the listen button. Now you just lay back and enjoy. If you don't know whether you will like any of the documentaries, then click on the title and read a little excerpt. One downside is that you need RealPlayer to listen to the RealAudio feed, but that is a small price to pay for a good documentary.

===
GREAT UTIL:
Pawbrowse v1.0 [1.2M] W9x/2k/XP FREE 

http://www.pawsoft.co.uk/ 

Pawbrowse is a tool for image viewing, browsing, and management. It features a thumbnail browsing mode, favorites folders manager, a detached or docked file browser, recent files, full-screen mode, and more. You can also use the built-in image management features to move, copy, rename, or delete images via convenient keyboard shortcuts. Pawbrowse also includes a screen capture mode that allows you to take snapshots of your Desktop or the current window. Additional features include an option to set the image as wallpaper, support for external editing software, and more than 20 image effects.

===
HARDWARE:
TUALATIN, Ore.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Nov. 19, 2002--Picture This: A new credit card-sized digital camera - the world's slimmest digital still camera - is being launched by Oregon Scientific, Inc., it was announced today by company president, Jim Boyle. 

"We are extremely excited to introduce to the world the latest technological advancement in the world of digital cameras. The Oregon Scientific DS6618 camera revolutionizes the size and shape of picture taking for the average consumer. Thin is in at Oregon Scientific," Boyle said. The lean design of the new camera did not mean that Oregon Scientific trimmed features or fattened the price. The new dimension in picture taking employed by the DS6618 - at only 85.5 x 54 x 6mm -captures numerous features for a suggested price of $99.95. 

Among the exciting innovations of the DS6618 is the camera's Autobrite(tm) automatic brightness adaptive technology. The thin 1/4-inch size of the DS6618 is made possible by the award-winning design of the Ultra-Pocket(tm) digital camera, developed by SMaL Camera Technologies, which is featured in the Guinness World Records(tm) 2002 as the "thinnest camera ever." The DS6618 leverages SMaL's ultra-low power imager chip set, its optics, and its 0.8mm thin, USB-rechargeable, lithium polymer battery. By using SMaL's Autobrite(tm) technology, the DS6618 automatically adjusts the exposure so that details in both bright and dim areas of a picture are clear. Weighing in at a mere 1.2 ounces, the DS6618 packs 8MB of internal memory that stores approximately 26 fine quality photos at VGA (640x480) resolution (for small prints) or 101 basic quality shots at QVGA (320x240) resolution (ideal for web page publishing and e-mailing). The self-contained rechargeable 48mAH lithium polymer battery provides enough power to capture approximately 500 shots and recharges automatically while the DS6618 is connected to a PC or Mac. Users of the DS6618 never worry about or need to replace the battery. An audible tone can be silenced as per user discretion, and an option to delete photos as they are taken are part of a crisp LCD status screen that also reveals a "shots remaining" count. 

The DS6618 is PC and Mac compatible through USB connectivity (cable included), and comes with protective leather carrying sleeve, hand-strap, and ArcSoft(r) Photo-Impression CD-ROM bundled software. 

The "skinny" on the new digital camera is exceptional "exposure" for Oregon Scientific, a company long-known for its high quality craftsmanship, manufacturing and marketing of timing, weather, personal communication devices, sports and fitness products and educational learning products, which encompass the unparalleled expertise of its parent company, IDT, in manufacturing LCD screens integrated with microprocessors. 

Oregon Scientific, Inc. is a division of one of the world's premier electronics manufacturers, Integrated Display Technology, Ltd. (IDT), Hong Kong. For further information see the company website at www.oregonscientific.com 

Autobrite(tm) and Ultra-Pocket(tm) are Trademarks of SMaL Camera Technologies, Inc. of Cambridge, MA, USA, www.SMaLcamera.com. Guinness World Records(tm) is a Trademark of Guinness World Records. 

http://www.oregonscientific.com 

===
SOFTWARE:
AMP Font Viewer v3.0 [345k] W9x/2k/XP FREE 

http://www.ampsoft.net/ 

AMP Font Viewer is an easy-to-use, yet powerful font manager that allows you to obtain a quick view of all installed (and not installed fonts) on your system. You can also organize fonts into categories, print custom lists of fonts, install or uninstall fonts, and more. You can type text and have it displayed in different font styles, colors, and sizes, as well.

===
QUICK WIT:

People have been deluded into believing that the key to happiness lies in reforming their exterior. In fact, it is one's interior that holds the key
_