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A New Season

Thanksgiving is over, the beautiful fall colors have been replaced with red and green and twinkling lights. We have entered a new season, the season of Christ’s birth.

The namesake of this holiday is so often forgotten, pushed aside or replaced by a jolly old man in a red suit, congested malls and holiday specials you can’t afford to miss.

We are bombarded with ringing bells asking for donations, food bank requests and impersonal checks made out to special organizations.

But wait – Christmas is more than mulled wine or eggnog flavored with nutmeg and cinnamon. It is more than concerts and festivities and Christmas shopping.

Reaching Out

Perhaps more important than anything, Christmas is a time when we can make a special effort to reach out in more personal ways to those who are hurting. A few minutes time, a empathetic listening ear and understanding can be huge to those who may be suffering from a loss or rejection, illness or disastrous financial downturn.

 

When I was closing my son’s affairs after his death, I had an unexpected conversation with a member of a small bank where my son had an account. After the shock of learning that my son had died, she shared with me a time when my son had reached out to her when she was going through a tough time.

Sensitive to the needs of others, he was aware of the sadness and unhappiness that couldn’t be hidden. A few moments of time, a caring and listening exchange of words that offered understanding, hope and encouragement had made a huge benefit at a time when she needed it the most.

We never know the impact we leave on the lives of others when we reach out with compassion, caring and understanding.

Reaching out can be as simple as acknowledging how someone is doing. “You look like you are having a tough day.” Sometimes, it is simply taking a few minutes to listen without judgment, preconceived assumptions or emotional platitudes. A simple touch on shoulder or arm, or squeeze of the hand can be incredibly uplifting. An invitation for coffee or to join with others in group activities can make us feel we are important in the scheme of things.

Whether during the holidays, or mid-year, reaching out can have both immediate and long term benefits. It is not just for the Christmas season. When you reach out be genuine and sincere.  Honor and respect another’s privacy. People don’t always want to talk about their pain. Make it clear they do not need to respond – you are simply acknowledging an awareness. Whether individuals return conversation or not, what is important is that you showed in some small way that you cared. It is telling them they are not alone and opens the door for sharing if they choose.

I believe when we are sensitive to others and reach out, even in tiny ways, we are blessed as well.  It takes so little time – so little effort and yet can be so profound.

Marlene Anderson

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Life in the Fast Track

Tires hit hard on the tarmac as Flight 460 lands at LAX, gradually slowing as it turns toward its assigned gate. Debarking, I become part of the melee of jostling people who are hurrying to grab their luggage off the carousal. Re-positioning my shoulder bag, I hurry to join the fray at the curb jostling to hail a cab.

Welcome to Los Angeles – the city of angels – and life in the fast track.

But there is another fast track few are aware of and no one wants to encounter. It isn’t the race track or the board room of high stakes businesses, but the ambulance entrance to the ER. This Fast Track gets fast attention from the medical staff. This is the fast track I am headed towards.

My unexpected and unplanned flight brought me into the world of hospitals, CT Scans and an unwanted diagnosis. Within 24 hours my days had shifted from a usual work day to sitting beside the bed of my son well into the night after he was admitted to the hospital. His flu-like symptoms had turned into something more sinister – an aggressive Stage IV pancreatic cancer. I had moved from the Fast Track to the slow, methodical world of testing and waiting.

But then life returned to the fast track as treatments were scheduled, friends helping, and early morning trips to the medical center where treatments began. But the cancer was too aggressive, and after a week he was re-admitted to the hospital and from there to a hospice care facility. Once again, this time with my older son by my side, I sat beside a loved one who was dying.

It was thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving – a time to remember and give thanks. And regardless of losses, I give thanks for my remaining family: a beautiful daughter, a bright son and his wonderful wife and 4 delightful  grandchildren. I give thanks for the many wonderful years I had with my husband. And I give thanks that I had the privilege to raise my creative and talented artistic son Don who left a huge imprint of joy on all who knew him.

As I celebrate my family and the love we share, I encourage you to celebrate yours.  Celebrate the loved ones that death has taken away. Celebrate the ones that remain. Celebrate the many blessings given to us every minute of the day. Heap those kernels of gratitude and blessings on your thanksgiving table and thank God who continues to love, strengthen and comfort us in times of joy and sorrow. And may each of you experience a blessed Thanksgiving.

True Blue

by (c) (c) David Abramson, Feb. 6th, 2010 for Don Anderson

In memory of my son who died November, 2009 I share again a song written for him after he died by his good friend David Abramson, entitled True Blue.  The song in  many ways represent the feelings of his many friends in California where he worked and lived, who loved him as we his family did.

 

Marlene Anderson

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Unenforceable Rules

We are governed by laws and rules. Speed and you can get a ticket. Steal and you can go to jail. As children we were given rules to obey or be punished. As adults we put in place personal rules to manage our lives but then insist everyone else must follow those rules as well.

 

Unenforceable rules are often at the center of most of our relationship problems. Within these rules we find the words, should, must, or ought to. “You should send your mother a birthday card. You ought to give your wife flowers on her birthday. We have to spend all holidays with family.” We expect others to treat people as we do. We assume our neighbors will take care of their yards and pets as we would.

 

Marriages often suffer the most from unenforceable rules. Each partner brings their bag full of expectations that are never discussed and we assume the other should automatically know. They involve how we parent, how we deal with in-laws, finances, how we express love and concern for one another, etc. “If you really loved me, you would….”

 

When conflicts occur, individuals involved are often unaware that they have set up rules that have not been expressed or discussed.

 

When we assume others should automatically know what is expected of them and they don’t do it, we will be disappointed, hurt and angry.

 

When we live by unenforceable rules we often end up bitter and resentful.

 

How do you know if you are living with unenforceable rules?

 

  • You will be irritated when people aren’t doing what you think they should be doing
  • You assume everyone thinks and believes as you do and if they don’t you are surprised and sometimes offended
  • You blame others and the world for how you feel
  • You take someone else’s behavior personally – what they do or don’t do is a personal attack on you
  • A difference of opinion is seen as an insult to you

 

Our emotional response will tell us if we are trying to enforce an unenforceable rule; how we feel is directly attributed to what someone else is doing or not doing.

 

Taking ownership of our emotions and responses allows us to look for solutions instead of nursing resentments. Taking ownership of our attitudes and responses to life enable us to find solutions to differences of opinion.

 

We can address unacceptable behaviors without trying to manipulate or change the other person. We don’t have to like someone to accept them.

 

Trying to force something you cannot control is an exercise in futility.  You will end up angry, frustrated and disappointed.

 

When we take responsibility for our emotional responses to all things, we will find ways to negotiate and resolve disagreements. We can live by our principles and allow others the same privilege.

Marlene Anderson

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In the Darkness of the Night

This can’t be happening.  There was no warning; no time to prepare.  When we look around at the carnage that remains, we are numb, our mind is reeling and we ask, Why? Why has this happened?

And we are left to struggle in the darkness of the night with the tremendous loss that has smashed into our existence.  We were not prepared.

But is there ever a way to prepare for the tragedies that occur – that snatches away a loved one before their time or turns our world upside down and inside out leaving us feel as though we have fallen into the surreal world of Alice in Wonderland.

Throughout our lifetime there will be moments of despair when we look at the remains of a life we have worked hard to construct that has been destroyed by a senseless act, an unexpected accident on the freeway, or an act of violence that took the life of a loved one. Perhaps we have been told our child has an untreatable condition, or that our spouse has an aggressive cancer, or a troubled family member has taken their life.  Perhaps we hear the words, I want a divorce, or our finances have been wiped out.  The list goes on and on. The world as we knew it has come to an end.

 

And in the darkness of the night we struggle to believe and understand. Why?  Why Lord? It doesn’t make sense.

 

And like Job, we angrily confront God because we believed we had done all the things we were supposed to do and feel that life with all its unfairness has targeted us with undeserved and unjustified pain and suffering.

 

And in the darkness of the night we lay awake and wrestle with our doubts and fears. Are you real God?  And if you are, do you really care? We struggle to believe as our mind is assaulted with unanswerable questions.

 

And a darkness creeps into our soul and stains the values and core beliefs we have about God and life in general.

 

The Challenge of Pain and Loss

It is there in the darkness of our soul where we realize we  have a choice: we can either push God away or run into His comforting arms.  It is here, when assaulted with fears and doubts, that we can recognize our need for Him as never before.  In our surrender we will find His comfort, love and peace and we begin to understand the love of a Heavenly Father who sacrificed His only Son to die for us on the cross.  Does He understand pain?  Oh I think so.

 

It is in the darkness of the night, in the middle of the struggle, in our turning to God that we will be able reconcile, find peace and recover. It is here we gain new strength and resolve and our lives will be enriched as never before.

 

We live in a fallen world where the unthinkable happens – where there are no easy answers.  But in ending the conflict of trying to have all the answers, we can move forward in the comfort of God’s grace and love.

When we have wrestled with our pain and accepted the fact that there are no easy answers, healing and recovery can take root. In our surrender to God, our brokenness can be healed; where we receive new resolve, strength and hope and can begin again.

Working through pain is never easy. But it is where we find healing and recovery.

Marlene Anderson

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Mind the Gap

In London’s underground stations you hear a mechanized voice say, “Mind the Gap”, as you board a tube train. That “gap” between platform and train is usually quite small and as a tourist, after the novelty wears off, you take for granted the need to watch your step and the recording simply becomes one of those endearing facets of the London experience.

Neil Gaiman, in his book, “Neverwhere,” artfully creates a more sinister reason for “minding the gap” in his fantasy story about London above ground and the London below.

The “gap” no longer is a small precautionary hazard but one of lethal danger as an invisible cloud-like “black smoke” rises out of the crack, wrapping around the ankles of its targeted, unwary traveler, ready to drag him into oblivion.

Gaps in our Lives

It is easy to overlook the “gaps” that occur in our lives because most of them are simply little daily obstacles we step over. But sometimes, those gaps take on the proportions of huge chasms, larger than life and so threatening that we remain rooted in place and stranded on the station platform while the train moves out.

The “gap” then becomes an insurmountable obstacle; a hollow place empty of inspiration and motivation; a place that threatens to swallow us up in mediocrity and depression.

Recognizing Your Gaps

What creates the gaps we easily step over and those that literally suck away our confidence and energy? Usually it is our interpretation of what we see and experience. A small gap to one person can seem like a gigantic gap to another.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches us that in order to change our emotional and behavioral responses to life, we need to be able to challenge irrational or unreasonable thoughts and beliefs. When you feel overwhelmed, anxious and fearful, find and challenge that connecting thought and belief attached. Often we will find patterns of thinking that prevent us from moving forward because we believe the “gap” is too large to cross.

Maybe the “gap” that trips you up is the “all or nothing” thinking that locks you into an “either/or” way of looking at the world – inflexible and rigid. When all we see is gaps too large to cross, we often give up without exploring other options.

Distorted beliefs about one’s ability to find solutions usually focus instead on exaggerated failures from our past that minimize any accomplishments. As possibilities and opportunities are filtered out, we no longer see a minor gap, but an impossible chasm.

We use our interpretations of the past to predict the future. When unrealistic expectations about what we can and cannot do are held, we believe everything that happens is our fault and we beat ourselves up or become a victim.

We choose how we respond to “gaps” in our lives

We have the ability to choose our thoughts and beliefs and therefore our corresponding emotional responses. We can choose to accept setbacks and seemingly impossible obstacles and then consciously explore other options. We are not the center of the universe and cannot predict the future, but we can make new choices.

We can give ourselves grace to fail and start over again. Without challenging our thoughts and beliefs, our feelings direct our behaviors. If we feel it is impossible, it becomes impossible. But if we can accept the fact that we do not need to be perfect we can learn from each experience and find new choices and new options.

Marlene Anderson

 

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To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself,  fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.  I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

 

Just say No

We live in a world of high power marketing. Technical advances have been rapid and we struggle to keep up with the changes. We are told, covertly or otherwise, that we cannot live without the latest gadget – in fact if we aren’t using all these modern “conveniences”, we are living in the dark ages.

Many technology advances have made life easier with instant access to information and connections. But is it prudent to keep purchasing the latest and most advanced gadget that does everything except bake a cake when you are struggling to make ends meet?

Separate wants from needs.

Put on hold tantalizing wants and shop carefully for what you need.  Become a wise consumer. Let the fun stuff go until you have a firm budget in place.

It is critical to take into consideration our future and preparing for unexpected changes. Do I have a savings account established?  Do I have an easily accessible reserve account should I need funds quickly? With an uncertain market place, have I updated my resume?  Have I adjusted my budget to include rising costs? We not only need prudent spending habits for today, but also how today’s spending habits can affect our future.

In reviewing your spending habits, consider the following:

  • Marketing ads make us believe we can’t live without their product. “You will be happy when you have this new car, this new phone, this huge house, etc.” But research and wisdom from the past confirm that “things” don’t make us happy. We quickly habituate to all the things we “have to have” and then need something new to get the same emotional high.

 

  • Don’t shop without a purpose. If you can’t resist that latest technical toy or that dress on sale, stay away from the malls. How many times have you purchased things on the spur of the moment that only end up cluttering your closets and garages? Sometimes we even rent storage units to store all the stuff that we “might” someday need. Take advantage of sales, but purchase for the right reasons. Remember things in and of themselves do not make us happy.

 

  • Cut up or lock up your credit cards. I know – they are the greatest invention on God’s green earth. When spending becomes so easy we no longer think of how we will pay it off, we are setting ourselves up for disaster.Unless you are able to be ruthless in self discipline, leave the credit cards at home and remove some of the easy spending apps on your phone.

 

  • Learn to say “No” to your kids as well as saying “No” to yourself. You are modeling behavior for your them. If you are a compulsive spender, you are teaching them it is okay to spend when you feel like it. When you become a disciplined spender, your kids learn they do not need the latest toy to be happy. You will hear lots of moaning and tantrums about how their lives will be ruined forever, but when you say No to your kids you are teaching them how to live a productive life. Part of raising children is teaching them how to make good decisions and knowing their are always consequences of some kind for their decisions.

 

  • Work together with your spouse on common goals.  You will be amazed at how easy it is to have the really important things in life when you work together.

It may be painful at first to analyze your spending habits, but when you begin to reap the benefits you will be energized.  And you will find the things you do purchase will have so much more meaning.

Marlene Anderson

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A New Perspective

Years ago I worked for a company contracted to help injured workers in chronic pain recover and re-enter the workplace. Some had been injured on the job even with all the safety precautions.

As part of their rehabilitation and recovery program, they attended a two week all day class. Most were not happy to be there; in fact some were downright hostile.

Yet after one week, we began to see a transformation of attitudes, mind-set and way of thinking.

It was always amazing to watch this metamorphous from hopelessness, despondency and despair to one of possibility, hope and motivation.

Some didn’t let go of what had happened to them. They were angry at the injustice of it all and did not want to hear about ways they could re-frame their circumstances. They hung onto their grievance and left with the same bitterness they were generating when they arrived. But they were in the minority.

But, it was those who took the information presented and applied it that humbled and encouraged me.

While there were many people who I came to admire, one lady in particular resonated with me. Her injury left her unable to continue in her job. She would have to be retrained in some other line of work. Her benefits would soon run out. She was a single Mom living in a tiny one-bedroom house and the enormity of her losses was severe. Life seemed pretty grim and hopeless.

After the first week, she returned to class from the weekend off, glowing. She was not the same person who left on Friday. She shared with the class what had happened to change her outlook.

She went home and thought about all the information we had taught them and decided to apply it to her situation.

The first thing she did was “re-frame” how she looked at her current existence. She went through her tiny cramped house, room by room, looking at it with a new perspective.

There was only one tiny bedroom. She decided to give that room to her children and make the living room her bedroom. During the day it was a living room, but at night it became a cozy, spacious bedroom.

She positioned the sofa bed in front of the fireplace, and when she crawled into her “bed” that night, she lit a small fire in the fireplace and snuggled down to watch the flames and thought to herself, how many people do I know who have a fireplace in their bedroom. She helped her children make her old bedroom into their special space. They were happy and she was happy. In fact, she told us she slept soundly for the first time in years.

What had changed? Only her perspective.

During the remainder of that last week in class, she actively sought out information about re-training and potential jobs. She was excited about the possibility of a new job from a re-training program that paid more than her previous job.

Was she going to have to struggle? Yes. Would it take hard work? Yes. Would she still have to live with limiting conditions? Yes. But she would be bringing into that space a new outlook – a new perspective – that held possibility, options and renewed energy.

The world we live in today has drastically changed. We are challenged as never before to be innovative, creative and flexible. The beliefs we hold about ourselves can seriously impact our ability to move forward.

We may experience events that seem catastrophic, limiting and hopeless.

But within each of us is the ability to take what we have and create something new from it.

Out of the ashes of one disaster we can create the promise of a new beginning, if we are willing to re-invent ourselves, grow and change.

©2012 Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC

 

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To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself,  fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.  I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

Lessons we learn from the Bible

Once again, as so often in history, the world seems to be rising up in violence and protest. The struggle between freedom and domination has always been evident in the lives of men, so while it is not new, it seems to have become more consuming and prominent.

Maybe it’s because technology puts world events on center stage with the flick of a button. So we witness violence and revolts as they happen from the comfort of our homes as though it were a movie.

Central to this world chaos seems to be religion. So wouldn’t we want to stay away from religions and instead rely on our own intellect and reason?

Beliefs and Character

Central to character development is examining our beliefs. But answers for developing character are not found in religious practices, but in the principles and truths that religions focus on.

If you believe that destruction and chaos will serve who you follow, your life will demonstrate that. If you follow reason and intellect, which philosopher, humanist or current enlightened culture will give you the answers that endure over time?

 

At some point, we are faced with our fallibility and shortcomings. Do we continue to rely on man’s intellect and power, or reach beyond ourselves to a higher source of knowledge and power? Until we recognize that we are sinners, we won’t recognize our need for God.

 

Within the pages of the Bible, we find people just like you and me who struggled to live. Their lives were not perfect. Consider the following:

 

  • Noah had a drinking problem
  • Cain was jealous and murdered his brother
  • Jacob was a liar and conniver
  • Joseph became a victim of jealousy and hatred
  • Gideon was afraid
  • Samson was a womanizer and his lifestyle had disastrous results
  • Rahab was a prostitute
  • David had an affair and his adultery led to murder
  • Samuel, a faithful servant of God, was a terrible parent
  • Elijah had depression
  • Jonah ran from God and had a bad temper
  • Job lost everything and was taunted by his religious friends
  • Peter denied Christ
  • The Disciples fell asleep while Jesus asked them to pray

 

Within these stories we find ourselves. They were not perfect and neither are we. But we also find throughout the bible, redemption and forgiveness and the precepts to live principled lives. And even more important, we find a God who reaches down to us. We find a God who sent His Son to die for us. His love is that great.

 

Feb 28, 2011 – Marlene Anderson

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Freedom – The Ability to Make Choices

“What alone remains is the ‘last of human freedoms’ – the ability to ‘choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.’” Victor Frankl

 

It is easy to talk about hope and offer suggestions as to what we can do to offset difficult times. But when we can’t put food on the table or pay the rent, maintaining a positive attitude is difficult to do. Unfortunately, the alternative is usually anxiety, fear, resentment or anger that soon leads to depression and a sense of hopelessness.

This may be the most challenging moment in your life. You may be faced with downsizing or giving up everything you have worked so hard to gain. Yet, as difficult and nonsensical as it sounds, with any situation we find ourselves, we still have the ability to choose how we will respond. We can meet the new day with plodding resignation or with a mindset of possibility.

In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl wrote,

“To live is to suffer; to survive is to find meaning in the suffering.”

As a psychiatrist and Jew, Victor Frankl survived the tortuous years of confinement in Auschwitz concentration camp during the Second World War. In those unbelievable years of torture, death and humiliation, where all the members of his family died, Victor Frankl was witness to how people responded to this inhumanity:

“And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity to become molded into the form of the typical inmate.”

When I have faced what has seemed like insurmountable obstacles or events in my life, I am not only reminded that God is with me through these times, but also that others have had to face far worse situations. We are all required to meet life’s challenges. My resolve is strengthened as I read the stories of others who have met their challenges.

As this year draws to a close, we have the opportunity to once again determine how we will meet the challenges life puts before us. Perhaps it means starting over – again. Perhaps it is allowing others to help us or asking for the help and support we need. Perhaps it is making a personal sacrifice to reach out and help others who are also struggling. Perhaps it is making a commitment to replace a negative lifestyle with a more self-disciplined positive one.

Change occurs all the time. We struggle against it because we don’t like the anxiety of the unknown.   Follow this month’s blogs as together we explore ways we can meet the challenges of change. Fear and anxiety can be used to motivate us to find new possibilities and options. It is often in adversity where we discover the worst or best of ourselves.

©2012 Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC

 

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To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself,  fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.  I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

 

Protecting Your Identity

For those who follow me on a regular basis, I offer information and training on strategies to empower your life.

As a therapist, I have written on the themes of communication, relationships, marriage, turning stress into productive energy, taking charge of your life and ways to grow emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Two other themes I have addressed is time management and financial responsibility.  On this last, I have invited Maya Sullivan to share ways to prevent identity theft.

This is her expertise and I think you will enjoy the information she has to share, information pertinent to the age and time we live in. At the bottom of the post you will find links to Maya’s website where you will be able to read her blog and find a list of her upcoming seminars.

10 Tips to Prevent Identity Theft

By Maya Sullivan

Identity theft is a serious crime that affects millions of Americans each year.

-Ben Bernanke

Identity theft is a popular occupation. New and ingenious ways are being created daily to compromise a person’s identity and good credit. Potential victims include children, teens and adults.

When a thief steals one’s identity, they can get new credit cards, a driver’s license, rent a condo, borrow money and a multitude of other things.

Many large organizations have had their computer systems hacked resulting in the theft of customer information.

It is wise to do what one can to prevent being a victim of identity theft.

1. Fraud Alerts

When you place a fraud alert on your credit report it helps protect you from someone getting credit in your name. You can still obtain credit by listing your phone number so potential creditors can phone you to verify you are the real person.

When you place an alert at any of the three major credit bureaus, they notify the other two. This also allows you to obtain a free credit report at the time.

The three credit bureaus are:

  1. www.Experian.com
  2. www.Equifax.com
  3. www.TransUnion.com

The fraud alerts and their duration are:

  • Fraud alert – 90 days (You can do this even if you have not experienced identity theft.)
  • Military active duty alert – 1 year
  • Extended fraud victim alert – 7 years

Some scammers have been known to place fraud alerts–using their own phone number–on targeted victims.  Then when a creditor calls to verify identify, they are actually calling the thief!

2. Security Freezes

These are similar to fraud alerts but block any creditor from viewing your credit report. You can temporarily lift it when you apply for credit but it may cause delays in processing credit applications.

You can add a security freeze to a minor’s credit report. Children are also targets of identity theft.

Security freezes need to be added to each credit bureau—Experian.com, Equifax.com and TransUnion.com. It is not automatic as with a fraud alert.

3. Review Credit Reports

It is wise to review your credit reports at each of the three credit bureaus annually. You can do this for free at www.annualcreditreport.com/

Be aware that there are many sites offering free credit reports. The only official one is AnnualCreditReports.com.

Experian offers a free monthly credit report and they send emails if there are any changes.

All three credit bureaus offer additional identity theft protection services for a fee.

4. Credit Alerts

These are helpful tools to place on bank accounts and credit cards. When a transaction is made on your accounts you will notified by text, email or both.

When someone made a $400 charge on my credit card, I received an alert within 60 seconds.

5. Don’t Give Personal Information Over the Phone or in Emails

Scammers may call or send emails representing a legitimate company and asking for information about your account. Call your bank or credit card provider to see if they are trying to contact you.

6. Review Bank & Credit Card Accounts and Statements

Signup for online statements and review them as soon as they become available for any unauthorized charges. It is prudent to go online weekly to view all your accounts with an organization.

Sham accounts. A major bank has received much unfavorable publicity about some of their practices. Bank employees allegedly opened an estimated 3.5 million unauthorized accounts in customer names.

It is wise to go online checking bank and credit card accounts weekly. Many banks list all a person’s accounts on one page. Then each account can be selected to reveal more details.

7. Passwords

Use different passwords for your accounts. Include special symbols and numbers to make them more difficult to decipher.

8. Shred all Documents

Personal information appears on receipts, junk mail and a variety of documents. Shred anything that includes your address, phone number, account numbers and other personal information.

I knew a stockbroker who dumpster dived in a bank’s trash container. He grabbed computer reports of customer certificates of deposit (CDs) that were coming up for renewal. Personal information and the amount of the CD were listed.

9. Pay Bills Online

Paying bills online limits the number of people who see your checks. An easy way to do this is set automatic payments on utilities and other regular payments by charging them to your credit card. You will receive an email when a payment posts to your account. Review your credit card statement monthly.

10. Scam Alerts

Many swindles have been around for some time and new ones are created daily. Scams are a way for person to obtain personal information and money.

A few examples include:

  • A call from a grandchild impersonator saying they are stranded somewhere or in jail and need the grandparent to wire money.
  • A police officer calling saying there is a warrant for your arrest. You can avoid being arrested by paying him money.
  • An IRS agent calls demanding money. (The IRS only contacts people through the mail).
  • Employment offers even though you never contacted the company. I recently received one of these. It was supposedly, Seattle’s HR Director yet the sender had an obscure email address in Romania.
  • Computer virus cons involve calls from someone claiming they are from a well-known company such as Microsoft and that they have detected a virus on your computer. They offer to remove the virus by taking over control of your computer and then stealing personal information. They forget to mention the thieving part of the deal!
  • W-2 information thieves pose as being from a person’s real employer requesting information.
  • Phantom debt collectors—some posing as attorneys—are another popular trick that is spreading.

This is a small sampling of the hoaxes that already exist.

Thieves sometimes steal a person’s identity and wait months, even years before acting on it.

3 Things to Do If Identity Theft Happens

  1. Report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) www.ftc.gov.
  2. File a report with your local police department.
  3. Contact the fraud department of companies where you have accounts and notify them that your accounts have been compromised.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

-Benjamin Franklin

To follow Maya on her website and learn more about what she does and upcoming September and October seminars, go to the following website links:  http://www.mayasullivan.com/ and http://www.daretobeyourownboss.net/

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