Tropical Storm Philippe: Downgraded to a Remnant

Good News! According to the National Hurricane Center, Philippe has been downgraded and has dissipated over the Western Atlantic. The remnant has been absorbed by a frontal system and is moving NNE at 46 MPH as of 5:00 PM EDT. The location is about 290 miles South of Cape Hatteras, NC. Maximum central pressure is 991 mb with maximum sustained wins of 60 MPH with gusts up to 69 MPH. The storm is expected to stay off the coast and no landfall will be expected. Tropical force winds will extend out up to 230 miles from its center. This storm will produce rough seas. Small craft warnings are in effect.

Identity Theft: A Growing Epidemic in the United States

I am a victim of identity theft. You can say that I have become an expert in how to salvage the fallout once the theft has been discovered. My name and Social Security Number was stolen in 2016 and it has literally taken months to lock down everything. Most likely, my information was compromised through a data breach. As a victim, my story comes to you first hand. I have even assisted the police in the investigation of my own theft. The picture posted above is an actual surveillance picture of the suspect that attempted to obtain a credit card in my name at Target in Wake Forest, North Carolina.

Identity theft is a growing epidemic in the United States. Identity theft involves anyone who steals your personal information from your name and Social Security Number to your credit card numbers. This is a faceless crime but has serious ramifications against the victim. An identity thief can attempt to steal your credit, money, Social Security benefits, Medicare benefits, IRS Tax Refunds, obtain a drivers license in your name, and the list goes on. These thieves can literally destroy your life and they have no conscience in what they are doing.

Legislation needs to be placed in force to make it a felony to steal another’s identity regardless of the amount of money involved. Thieves should receive stiff jail sentences when they commit these crimes.

Not only are these thieves local, but also international identity thieves have set up call centers overseas to scam people out of their money. Many times, these overseas call centers call on a spoofed telephone number. Calling on a spoofed number means that they call a legitimate telephone number and then they capture that number. When they make outbound calls, they disguise their own number with the legitimate number, making the person called believe that it was from a local cell phone or business. Many of these calls are coming from Russia, China, Nigeria, Costa Rico, and other Caribbean countries.

Last year, a Hispanic male attempted to obtain a credit card in my name at Target in Wake Forest, NC. I am fortunate because I had credit monitoring with my bank. The fraud was detected and then I was notified. Then came the daunting task of filing all the reports as well as contacting the Virginia Attorney General’s Office, The Federal Trade Commission, The Internal Revenue Service, The Social Security Administration, all of the credit bureaus, my local police department, and the Wake Forest Police Department.

My recommendation is that when you discover that you are a victim of identity theft, call the police department first and file a report. Often times, these departments are inundated with these types of crimes and many times they may take an informational report. I have even heard where some officers will not even take a report. If this occurs, you must politely insist and ask for a supervisor. A police report must be taken if the crime occurred in Virginia or if you are a resident of Virginia. In my particular case, since I live in Virginia and the initial crime occurred in North Carolina, I had to report the crime to an officer in Wake Forest, NC. I then filed a report with my local police department for informational purposes. This, in turn, established the fact that a crime had occurred against me. Once I filed these reports, I contacted the Virginia Attorney General’s Office with the appropriate paperwork and obtained an Identity Theft Passport, which means that I now have an extra layer of protection indicating that I am a victim of identity theft and fraud.

The next step was to file an Identity Theft report to the Federal Trade Commission, which in turns notifies the IRS, Social Security Administration, and Medicare. The next step is to notify the Credit Bureaus. Once one letter is sent to any bureau along with copies of your police reports and credit reports, the receiving bureau will notify the remaining two bureaus of your identity theft. You may request a lock be placed on your credit. If anyone attempts to obtain credit in your name, the creditor is required to call you to verify. If they do not and the creditor is defrauded, the creditor has no recourse against you according to the credit bureaus.

While all of these procedures are good at resolving the destruction the thieves have caused against you, please understand that you will need to be your own advocate. The crime is so frequent; you will need to insist on police reports. You will be the one making the contacts to get your identity put back into place. You may have identity theft protection in your homeowners’ insurance policy; make sure that you read the policy. Your coverage may only reimburse, but you are the one who must do all the work.

There is another type of identity theft known as credit card theft or fraud. Most recently, someone got a hold of my VISA Card number, expiration date, and three-digit code on the back. They went into a Food Lion and attempted to purchase items with my card number. The sale did not go through because the suspect did not have any identification. Once this transaction occurred, my card company contacted me and wanted to know if I was in Food Lion in another city. I was not. They immediately closed the card and reissued it. We have a picture of the suspect. I rarely use this card, so we can narrow it down to a few places that I used it in the last month. The police believe that the thief was someone who works at a store in which I used my card. They apparently skimmed my card and then made a card with my name, card number, expiration date, and three digit-code. These thieves are good at stealing so trust no one with your information.

Here is my advice as to how you can protect yourself from identity theft. The first is to never carry your Social Security Card with you. If you lost your wallet or purse, someone has your Social Security Number. Second, if visiting a doctor’s office, at check-in, they may ask for your Social Security Number. The Attorney General’s Office in Virginia tells every victim to NEVER disclose his or her Social Security Number to a doctor’s office or any other office. If they insist, ask to speak to a manager and advise them that they have your insurance and drivers license. They do not need your Social Security Number. Third, when paying for a meal at a restaurant, follow the server to the register. Don’t be so trusting of strangers with your financial information. Fourth, NEVER use your debit cards in any stores, restaurants, gas pumps, or merchant; especially if they are walking away with your card. You do not know if they are taking a picture of your card or skimming it to steal your money. Once your money is stolen right out of your bank account, it may take days or even weeks to have it placed back in from your fraud claim. This will tie up your hard earned money. The fifth and final thought is to not use a debit card EVER online. Use a credit card. You will have the protection of VISA or Mastercard if you do. It’s easier to replace a credit card than to replace stolen money from your checking account.

If the police are fortunate enough to catch the identity thief, be prepared to prosecute them. Be willing to press charges. These people need to be brought to justice and be punished for stealing. Their theft can destroy the lives of hard-working Americans who are just trying to make it from payday to payday.

Joseph T. Lee, © October 29, 2017, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC

Tropical Storm Philippe Has Formed: Heavy Rains & Flooding Expected

A new tropical storm has formed and is moving through the Straights of Florida tonight and into Southern Florida. As of 8:00 PM EDT, Tropical Storm Philippe was moving N at about 28 MPH with a wind speed of 40 MPH. The pressure was at 1002 mb.  The location of this tropical storm was about 50 miles north of Havana Cuba. According to the National Hurricane Center, Philippe was a tropical depression and had recently strengthened to a tropical storm. Although the storm is moving North, it is expected to turn Northeast, crossing the Everglades and stay in the southernmost parts of Florida. It is expected to move towards the Bahamas and then be well off the coast of the Carolinas by Sunday evening. Once it hits the cold waters of the Atlantic, it is expected to dissipate or be absorbed by another system. Heavy rainfall can be expected regardless of the track. Tropical force winds are expected across southern Florida tonight and tomorrow. Expect heavy rains and flooding as well. The history of this storm has caused severe flooding in Cuba.

Joseph T. Lee © October 28, 2017, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC

Deer In The Headlight

Most recently, I had an encounter with a young man who said he wants what his girlfriend has. As I was speaking with him, I asked him if he had any spiritual beliefs? He said that he did. He said that he was a Christian. Then I asked him a point-blank question to determine if he really was or was saying it because he wanted me to think that he was. I asked him “How did you become a Christian?” What did you have to do to become a Christian?” His response was almost priceless as he stared at me and could not even move his lips. He looked as if he were a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck! He could not respond because he had no clue of how he became a Christian. As I delved a bit further, he still did not comprehend the actions one must take before they become a Christ Follower.

His first response was that he met his girlfriend and he decided to go to church with her. Therefore, his first response was “salvation by association.” Unfortunately, no one can become a Christian by association. It does not work that way. Then after many analogies given by my wife, he stated that he was “interested” and wanted to believe. But he still could not tell me the three simple steps of becoming a Christian. Unfortunately, we are seeing this all over the United States because these young people do not know the simple steps of coming to Christ. With the great number of churches in America, why aren’t we doing a better job in sharing our faith? Is it because of the politically correct and not wanting to “offend” anyone? I would rather not be popular and tell someone about the saving grace of Jesus than to find out they were killed driving down the road and having the guilt of never saying anything to them!

As born again Christians, our faith is not private. Our Christ died a very public torture and crucifixion and suffered greatly for our sins. How can we remain silent and not share the most precious gift with another human being? Therefore, to share the three simple steps in becoming a Christian, one must know the steps themselves. The Bible is very clear on this. These are the three simple steps: Believe, Confess, and Ask Forgiveness of one’s sins. One is to believe and then confess their wrongs and their sins to God. Then they are to pray and ask Jesus to forgive you and to come into your life. And once one does these three simple steps of faith, He will send His Spirit to dwell in the person and guide them in their walk with Christ. Three simple steps: Believe, Confess, and Ask Forgiveness.

Let’s review some Scriptures that substantiate this requirement.

  1. Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
  2. Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death (hell), but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
  3. John 3:3 – “In reply Jesus declared, ‘I tell you the truth, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
  4. John 14:6 – “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”
  5. Romans 10:9-11 – “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”
  6. 2 Corinthians 5:15 – “And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.”
  7. Revelation 3:20 – “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”

If you believe these scriptures and confess with your mouth that Jesus is the Son of God and has risen from the dead, you will be saved. You must acknowledge that you are a sinner. You must ask forgiveness of your sins. Are you willing to surrender your life to Jesus Christ and invite Him into your heart? If you are, then pray this prayer:

“Dear Heavenly Father, I have sinned against you. I want forgiveness for all my sins. I believe that Jesus died on the cross for me and rose again. Father, I give you my life to do with as you wish. I want Jesus Christ to come into my life and into my heart. This I ask in Jesus name. Amen.”

I hope that those who do not really know Christ as their savior asks Him in. You cannot get to heaven on your Grandmothers, Parents, or your Girlfriends coat tails. If you have never prayed a prayer like this, and never have had a heart change, according to scriptures, you are not saved and not a true Christian. I pray that those who are not will make a commitment to come to know and accept the saving grace of Jesus!

(Subject matter and prayer taken from William Fay’s “Share Jesus Without Fear.”)

If we never take the time out and ask people what they had to do to become a Christian, then are we really showing the love of Christ to them? Are we loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind? Are we loving our neighbor as our self? If we never ask people about how they came to know Christ, then we are not doing what Jesus asked us to do. We are not loving our neighbor, our loved ones, and our friends. Then there will be millions that have the “Deer in the Headlight” look!

Bibliography

Fay, William, and Linda Evans Shepherd. Share Jesus Without Fear. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 1999.

Joseph T. Lee © 2017, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC