Have you been hacked?

With all the leaks of emails that you hear.. here’s a site that you should absolutely use to see whether your email has been sold or stolen.

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I found this really great sight while I was reading one of the daily emails I get.

Check if you have an account that has been compromised in a data breach

Just key in your email address, the system will tell you whether you email has been pawned off. Unfortunately for me.. my email was pawned in 2015..

I’m always changing my passwords so I’m safe for now..

Enjoy!

 

2016 – New Beginnings

2015-16

Today is the first day of 2016 and I could not be happier that it is finally 2016. For Dad, 2015 was a mixed bag of good, bad and absolutely ugly. I can honestly say that regardless of the issues I faced (and I won’t go into them here), I forged ahead and dealt with the issues and tried to maintain some semblance of sanity in my life.. It was definitely not easy.. but I tried.

Yet, that’s not the reason, I’m writing today’s blog. I’m writing to encourage everyone to start 2016 as a fresh start.. How often can you take the opportunity to take a “hard reset” of life to look forward? Perhaps I’m being too optimistic, but from where I stand, using the first day of the new year to do a hard reset of life, is a good thing”

The start of every new year is an opportunity to start anew. Do something good! Both for yourself and the society you live in! Yes it may seem like a daunting task, but even if you do one thing, you can make difference!

At the start of every new year. Your prior year’s slate (and baggage) is (unofficially) cleared and you are starting a new year with a blank slate. Of course you will have baggage from the prior year that (ahem)  that you will bring forward, but deal with each peace of baggage on a one by one basis.. but on the whole starting a new year gives you the opportunity to improve yourself emotionally, physically and at the financial level.

I know that I will be taking this opportunity to “live in the moment, and look forward”.  I know I have a tendency to look back and be retrospective, but now I’m going to focus on the positive things in my life and build on that. How about you?

Look at the calendar below and what do you see? Well what I see is the opportunity to look forward and be a happier person. I also see this year as an opportunity to achieve a sense of inner peace.. This is something that everyone wants. How do you get to this point? Well look around and make a note of all the good things that exist in your life!

For me:

  • I have good health (well I can afford to lose a few pounds, but hey that’s an on-going battle of the bulge)
  • I have amazing friends – My friends are always there for me. In my darkest hours, I can turn to my friends for support and they are they when I need them.. Which is of course quite often.
  • I have great kids – I’m so proud of my kids, they can be annoying at times, but without my kids, my life is empty. They amuse me, they keep me on my toes and they challenge me to be a better father.
  • I have a good job – My job enables me enjoy the good things in life. You know the saying: “I owe, I owe, so off to work I go!”
  • Tennis – For me being “tennis fanatic” allows me to get to a state of Zen and when I’m on the court, all I see is the ball and my slate is clean and I’m  to focus just on the ball and winning the next point!
  • Walking – This year I became an avid walker. I walked 3 to 4 miles almost every day.. and I found that when I was walking and listening to music, I was in a refresh mode for the day..
  • Good Food– I continue search out good food in NJ.. yes.. I Yelp a lot!

So take the first day to not just make resolution that you know you cannot keep, but take the new year as an opportunity to find inner peace and be grateful for what you have!

Remember happiness is what you make of it. Always look within your self for self actualization.

Don’t get me wrong.. Dad is not always successful in being happy, but in retrospect, happiness is a state of mind! For every month below, choose one week/day, that you will use to make your self happy.

2016_yearly_calendar

Scam Alert: Fix My PC

scamalertOver the past few weeks, I’ve gotten a few calls from a notorious scammer from 800.843.0000. (DO NOT CALL THIS NUMBER IT IS A SCAM)

Now this scammer thinks I’m going to go over to my computer and give him access so he can steal my financial information. I don’t think so!

When I ask him for more information, he just repeats the same thing over and over again (as do I!)

blah_blah

Sir, please go to your computer, so I can help you remove the virus from your computer“.

So I ask him: “Which computer?”, to which he replies.. “Your personal computer“..

So I tell him “I have multiple computers, which one?”..

he replies “the one you are in front of

I say: “But I’m on my phone and not in front of my computer

He says: “Sir this is deep support (no relation to deep throat I assume), and we have noticed that your computer has a virus and we would like to help you”.

I say: “which computer???”

We volley back and forth for a few minutes and finally I just hang up on the creep!

I’ve hung up on this guy a few times already.. but he just seems to love to call Dad’s Taxi and waste my time when I’m busy..

So next time, I’m going to have some fun and ask him to let me log into his computer so I can help him remove the virus on his machine? What do you think of that plan?

Since I have an evil streak: Next time they call me, I’ll tell the scammer  that I”ve been testing some nasty viruses on my machine and them calling me might have infected their computer via the SIP protocol (thank to my friend Mark W. for this one). Continue and harass them and reverse the call on them to ask if their computer has slowed down and they need to remove these nasty viruses simultaneously. otherwise their disk will crash!.. Won’t that be fun!

Ok.. so how do you defend yourself from these scammer’s and spammers?

  • Be alert.. No “Geek team” or “high tier support” will call you without proper knowledge.
  • Do not cooperate even if you think you do have malware or a virus on any of your computers.. If you have a Mac you are inherently protected.
  • Hang up.
  • List all your phone numbers  on the National Do Not Call Registry (Register All your numbers: Mobile/VOIP, etc..). You will have to provide an email address for verification purposes.
  • Follow the directions (You will have to certify your numbers with a valid email)

Just for jollies see how many others have been calling with the same numbers with the various variations on the scam by calling who is calling me via the directory of unlisted callers (NO this will not give you a virus or malware.. it’s a legitimate site!)

You will see that there are various spins on these scam calls. I particularly love the “IRS” one.. that is bound to work on the elderly.. or the ones that are gullible.

irscamNow excuse me as I just got a call  I need to get back to that guy who has issued a warrant for my arrest and is from the IRS. Because I really don’t want to get arrested by the Sheriff for being stupid and being scammed.. right?

Don’t get scammed! always be alert!

Irrational Morality

I was talking to a friend of mine a few weeks ago and we were discussing the issue of morality.

Of course I had an opinion (as I always do) about this, and I came up with two words that describe the way I think.

Moral Brain

Irrational Morality – My definition of this is when you do the right thing for the wrong reason. This could mean doing something for your spouse, children, friends for the wrong reason.. Now what exactly does that mean? Let’s talk of a few examples and of course you are free to chime in with your feedback if you have any.

Here are my thoughts and examples on Irrational Morality

  • If you are single you stop seeing someone because they are too good for you. The person you are seeing is perfect and loves you unconditionally. Even with your flaws and questionable emotional, or psychological patterns of behavior.
  • Getting married for the sake of getting married. You know you are marrying the wrong person, but you say to yourself: “There does not seem to be anyone else better, so might as well settle for the person with you are with“.
    • Now why is this irrational morality? You are getting married for the wrong reason yet you think you are doing the right thing morally by marrying someone that you know will not make YOU happy, but THEY will be happy to be married to YOU
  • To know the difference between right and wrong is important, but to be able to make the right decision for the right decision is key. When you make the wrong decision (i.e. Divorce) because you think you will be happier and more “independent” being single, is a classic case. Divorce is death.. Death of a relationship and it takes a few years to rebuild your life, and even then you are walking a fine line between sanity and insanity. h
    • A friend of mine related this to me.. and this guy was married for over 20 years! I know this guy better than anyone and he’s one of the most balanced guys I know.
      • When I asked him about “irrational morality”.. he got it right away: He said: “I can attest to this as I’ve gone through this “process” over the past two years and let met tell you I had totally underestimated the total impact of divorcing to do the right thing (morally)”
      • “I figured being divorced would be easy, so I gave up and went through the “process”. My Ex felt that being not-married to me would give her independence but she is more dependent on me than ever.”
      • “Thanks to the legal system, alimony and child support guarantees me unhappiness and the the sole responsibility of child care guarantees her unhappiness. So we divorced and now we lead two separate lives and and half the financial stability. The kids will now grow older with a broken home, because we irrationally felt divorce would solve our problems!”

Do you have any examples of irrational morality? If you do I’d like to hear about it.

Spring Forward 2013: Beginnings of Debt Free life

Lessons I learned about debt from my father. Now I just have to apply them in my life to remain debt free.

Wipe our Debt
Wipe our Debt (Photo credit: Images_of_Money)

So this is the spring of 2013. Yet when I go outside, it still feels like Winter of 2013. The temperature is still hovering in the mid 30’s and I’m cold.

To me this spring is always the start of something new. This year, it’s the end of a burden and the start of a fresh start for something that I’ve written about in many of my postings. This topic of course is the ugly head of debt.

For the first time in over 20 years, I can truly say that I have zero credit card debt. Unfortunately, I was able to achieve this success not due to my ability to save money and pay off debts but due to the passing of my elderly father and his ability to save money for his children, so they can have the fruits of his love. The art of being frugal and saving.

I tell you, to have this burden of debt lifted off my shoulders is like having this huge elephant (that has been following me around for so many years), disappear. Now the task that remains for me is to make sure that I NEVER EVER get into this situation.

Here are some of the things my dad taught me that I didn’t learn till after he left us:

  • Live below your means. This doesn’t mean you have to live like a miser, but if you have things that work, why discard them for the latest greatest thing? For so many years, he lived with a 25-year-old 19 inch tube TV which was not even cable ready. Not until, did the picture fade, did he allow me to get him a new television. Once I got him the new flat screen, he did realize what he was missing, but he still said, “I could have lived with the old TV”. This may sound crazy to most but it makes sense to me now: This is how he lived. He didn’t need the latest greatest gadgets. He lived in a very modest apartment and to him, he had everything he needed. A sofa, recliner and his TV. He was happy with this so he could watch his beloved Yankees. Till the day he passed on, he didn’t even own a cell phone!
  • Don’t incur debts you can’t pay off – My dad, lived debt free for all his life. He never, ever had a credit card debt. As a matter of fact, he didn’t even use an ATM. If he spent $1 on credit card, he immediately wrote a check for $1 to the credit card company. I remember when he got me my first credit card when I graduated from college. He said to me: “If you can’t pay off what you buy, don’t buy it”. Now I get it.
  • Live to save for tomorrow, for tomorrow you may not have anything to save: Savings and self-preservation were the two of the mantra’s my dad lived with every day of life. He felt he would lose everything and would not be able to live independent. He didn’t want to be a burden on his kids, so he saved, saved and saved every day. I was always on his case to live a little, but he would just shake his head and say “one day you will understand”.. Well Baba, I get it now.. Thank you. 
  • Live Frugally: My dad, was so frugal that he didn’t need to buy new clothes. Ask yourself, how often do you buy new clothes, when your clothes in your closet will do just fine? Every aspect of his life defined frugality. He owned a car that was over 10 years old, everything in his home was things he had acquired from people who left stuff behind when they left the complex he lived in. He lived with the bare necessities and didn’t need much more. 
  • Vacations – Are a luxury not a necessity. When we were growing up in NYC, my dad took us on vacations, yet he only took us to places that he could afford. It was not a democracy. He worked for the airlines and we traveled by air for free and stayed in budget motels. No 3 or 4 stars for us. To me, I love vacations, but vacations always added to my debt.. I was taking vacations that I could not afford! So basically my taking 2 vacations per year put me in a deeper and deeper hole.. 

Living in debt was part of my every day life and I was (am still) obsessive/compulsive about it. I wanted to defeat it.. on my own terms.. I failed miserably. To me debt was always a moving target that no matter what strategy I tried, I could not defeat.

Today, as I look forward, living debt free is not just my goal, it is my passion. The lessons I didn’t learn over the past 20+ years will be etched in my memories. I never ever want to go backwards into that hole of despair.

I guess that’s what spring time is for, as the seasons change, so must I and grow.

The Professor – EOY musings

Read the professor to get a perspective on life

A friend of mine sent me the following in an email. It put many things in perspective for me as I go through a rough patch in my life.. I hope it helps you as much it helped me!

The Professor

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full.. The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes.’

The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand.The students laughed..

‘Now,’ said the professor as the laughter subsided, ‘I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things—your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions—and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.. The sand is everything else—the small stuff.

‘If you put the sand into the jar first,’ he continued, ‘there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life.
If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.
Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn.

Take care of the golf balls first—the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the Beer represented. The professor smiled and said, ‘I’m glad you asked.’ The Beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of Beers with a friend.
 
Happy New Year!

Difficult People

Are you a difficult Person? Or as I say “Welcome to My World”!

In my line of work, I work with a dynamic team and many of these people have their unique personalities. Some are introverted, some are extroverted, some are passive/aggressive and many of them are good team players. This blog entry is not about the team players. It’s about the difficult people in your life and how to deal with them.

I was reading one of my favorite blogs Dumb little man – Tips for life and came across a great article that everyone should read. The blog posting hits it on the nail on the types of difficult people and how to deal with them.

In my daily life, my own family has stated many times, that Dad is indeed one of those difficult people both at work and at home.. Initially I didn’t want to admit it, but as I get older I realize that my DNA and tendencies to tend to swing towards the sarcastic and the difficult side. I tend to have rather sharp sense of humor which can be construed as being difficult, but most of the time, being direct can also be construed as being difficult. I guess that in a nutshell wraps up my personality.

I personally think that you are a product of your environment be it from your childhood (a huge factor in my case) as well as the levels of dysfunction that surrounds you.

In retrospective, if I didn’t utilize my unique brand of humor, I’m certain that:

  • I’d be in a insane asylum – Many think that I belong there anyway
  • I’d be totally introverted – Actually growing up, I was introverted, but after my teenage years and after I graduated from college, this introverted nature took a back seat to me just “going with the flow and enjoying msyelf”.  Many don’t believe how really introverted I was as most of my current life is as a leader and prolific communicator both at work and at home.
  • My defense mechanisms would be totally shot and I’d be in years and years of deep psychotherapy – Trusty me, I’ve already gone down this road mildly over the past few years!
  • I’d be single and never be married with great kids and be referred to as Dad’s Taxi!

My question to each one you is, what makes a person difficult? DNA or environment or just self preservation? Personally I think it’s a percentage of both. In my case I can say that it’s all of these 3 for certain!

As I read the article that I linked to below, one thing that struck me is that you have to understand the following factors of acknowledging difficult people:

  • Recognize Difficult People – this is tough..Do you know your personal type and are you aware of what is your personality type? Are you passive or are you aggressive. Are you in synch with your own personality and what are your tendencies to handle confrontation? What’s your tendency? “Fight or Flight?”Many difficult also people hide be thin veils of armor that are not apparent till you really get to know them. Some are easily seen after a few encounters, and of course some are readily visible after the first meeting.
  • Communications– What is your style of communications? Are you direct, opaque or do you communicate with a clarity? What is your tone and body language when you deal with a difficult. I know for me.. My tone of voice can be construed as being difficult a majority of times when I’m dealing with what I define as others being difficult. Is that convoluted enough for you? Do you believe in building relationships or alliances even with the most obstinent person? From what I’ve seen, you need to walk the fine line an and find out what exactly makes this person tick. What is their motivation?Consider how you can communicate verbally and through body language in the most effective way with these different types of people to build rapport and make them feel understood. I find that many difficult people just are so opaque and cannot communicate with clarity, because of the fear they have of being understood for what they really are.. difficult!
  • Triggers – Be proactive once we know who we have conflict with on a regular basis. What this means is if you know you are dealing with a difficult person, don’t be receptacle to their angst emotional upheaval. Think about this.. I guess this equates to “Talk to the hand theory” of problem solving.
  • Focus on Strengths and Positives–  I find that if I try to find the good in a person, the most difficult person can be a great ally in the long-term. Of course the initial displeasure this person brings to the table has to be dealt with first before you as the recipient can “accentuate the positive, to eliminate the negative”.  I find that if I give compliments and recognize them with genuine accolades to a difficult person, they are more likely to let their guard down and build a positive relationship with you. So basically, here I’m advising to build a persons worth instead going full nuclear on a negative person, is a much easier strategy for dealing with a difficult person.   Doing this also allows both of you to exert a positive influence on each other via your interaction.As I write this, I’m thinking: Even if you use the tips that I read about, there is no guarantee that a “difficult person” in your life will be any easier to deal with. I think that applying the ideas above, it will make it easy for you to exist and exude some control and rationality in your life!

One of the most important things that I’m learning every day is that I cannot “control my environment” but I can control my own behavior and I try to take baby steps in this direction every day.. I may not succeed every day, but I do move in that direction!

One of the post important lessons I learned was when I watched the 2006 DVD “the Secret”. This DVD taught me that for every ounce of positive energy you exude, the universe will give you back the same dosage and more!

How do you deal with difficult people? I’d like to know as I continue on the path of road of life and figure out myself how to deal with the cards that I work with every day!

Personal Finance – Spreadsheets

Personal finance spreadsheets

u10018241Here’s  a topic that I haven’t written about in a long time. Personal Finance.

I was reading about personal finance and paying off debt (credit card especially) and I came across a site that’s really great if you are into data analysis and are looking to utilize  spreadsheets to manage your personal finances.

Even though this posting at Get Rich Slowly is from 2006, the listed sites and spreadsheets are excellent and allow you to figure out financially where you are and where you want to be.

Excel spreadsheets are useful because:

  • You can modify the fields and formats to meet your own needs,
  • You can create “what-if” scenarios by making copies of a sheet, and
  • You can save the data for later use.
  • Truly learn to harness the power of Excel to do personal finance and what-if calculations.

You can also go to Microsoft to get templates for personal finance.  Of course you will need Excel to utilize these spreadsheets. workstation

On a more humorous note, I learned a new word today. Sploggers (Sites that act as SPAM in the form of blogging).  To give an idea of this, I googled “free personal finance spreadsheets” and came across many of these sites.

I personally utilize Quicken to do most of my financial analysis. On this site I especially liked the personal finance calculators.

Identity Theft

Identity Theft and precautions you must take!

Protecting your Identity On-line

As  a follow up on my last post about YOUR credit report, I found another site that is tremendously useful in protecting your identity.  I was reading Clark Howard’s site when I came across this site about identity theft.

Karen Lodrick had her identity stolen and she fought back. Her site has been featured on  many media sites and television shows

On her site, you will see pages dedicated to educating yourself and protecting yourself against identy theft.

To round out Karen’s site, I recommend you read her blog it’s truly a must read!

I will be using the one site that I need right now: Opting out of those pesky credit card offers which state how pre-qualified I am.  Sometimes, I’ll get 2 or 3 of them from the same company on the same day.

In these tough times, your credit and name need to be protected!

Thanks to Karen for writing such an excellent tutorial and sharing her experience!

Scambusters

Scammers and Web Based insects which attack. How to fight these attacks.

Today with the way technology is proceeding at a breakneck speed, we are all inundated with offers either via email, telephone or by on-line malware. This post talks about some tips to avoid being scammed. In today’s of technology overload, you are your own last line of defense against spam, phishing, malware, virus’s, and any web born aggrevation.

Hmm, do I sound like someone who has gone down this path?

To battle the scourge of being scammed or having your identity stolen, here are a couple of really good sites which help you follow up on this ageless motto:

“If it sounds too good to be true, it absolutely is”.

  1. Scambusters – Check out questionable offers
  2. Scam – On-line community forums

Some tips to avoid being scammed or having your identity stolen (my list of on-line NO-NO’s):

  • Don’t open ANY emails that look suspicious (No you have not won $5M in the European Union’s lottery that you never entered)
  • Don’t confirm any personal information via email – NO valid financial institution will ask you for your pin code to “confirm” your identity.
  • Never ever give your credit card number to anyone on the phone, if you have any doubt of  who the caller is. I encountered this when I kept on getting “restricted” calls from the Policemen’s fund raiser on my home phone. As soon as you ask for proof of identity or email confirmation, the phone line mysteriously goes dead….
  • Make sure your Antivirus, hardware/software firewall, spyware blocker, anti-phishing (browser) addons for Firefox or IE are updated. If this sounds like I’m over-protected, I’m not. Even with all of the above, I’ve seen many of these villans attack my machines at home. So in order to protect yourself, you need to have a combinations. I’ve used both McAfee and Norton. These days I lean towards McAfee, only because, it’s provided free by most web providers (Comcast, Optimum, etc…). I’v also stopped using IE all together and only use Firefox on all my machines.
  • Make sure you disable Pop-Ups (this is how how I caught the dreaded “Your machine has a virus, you need to purchase ….”  virus). You can always enable or override with simple keystrokes.
  • Do not accept any invitation/messages  from anyone that you do not know on social networking sites.  Yes that means me, a noted Facebook and LinkedIn fanatic.
  • Do not accept an invitation : When you get an invite from someone that you have no clue to be your “friend” on your instant messager client (cindyfunxx38  is not your friend)

Overall, I can safely say: “If you encounter stangers bearing gifts, you can almost be assured that you will be given a gift that will last for a lifetime”.

If you know of any additional scambuster sites, leave me a comment.