Been away (again) for a while, just absolutely unable to attend to this blog due to personal issues that created a really nice perfect storm in my own life, in other words the crap hit and came at me from so many directions…sigh….from kids to family to money to work to my health…it is all settling down for the most part now and my head doesn’t need to be where my hands are so much today so I thought I would start sharing…which, by the way is something that all of need to do to help each other through storms, through sharing our own experiences we can learn from and help each other…

First and foremost, and probably the biggest lesson…don’t ever put all your eggs in one basket and don’t believe for one minute that you are ‘safe’ and can just go around without a worry because ‘they are taking care of it’. As I learned the HARD WAY, nothing is sacred, nothing is safe (no matter they tell you!) and when it comes right down to it, protecting yourself against financial calamity is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY up to and including being paranoid about things. I will be honest, I was a slackered when it came to finances. I became comfort, and got busy doing other, ‘more important’ things. I let my vigilance drop (first mistake). I trusted the system to work (second mistake)…ha! I know better now…

 I work for myself, have several streams of income, but over the past few months as things got really busy for me I didn’t pay too much attention to my paypal account that I use on a regular basis. In short, I got hacked…someone stole my debit card number and well, let’s just say that I LEARNED the hard way.

Financial institutions are on top of things (for the most part, after all, they HATE loosing money worse than we do) and honestly, very quick to notice unusual activity and then call you. They block activity that they feel is not in line with your typical usage (which can absolutely irritating when it is you). HOWEVER, as I discovered, the financial thieves of today are getting ahead of the curve…Paypal denied a transaction, cancelled my card and somehow the thieves were still able to force a payment through (I will not bother describing the financial hell that ensued but suffice to say, I spent days closing things down and having to redo a lot of things to fix the problem).

Now, I had become comfortable and trusting and ignored my first impulse when I first became aware of the situation which was to close everything down and start all over to protect myself…but I didn’t listen to myself and well, SHTF happened and here I sit, 2 weeks out still unraveling the mess.

As a note, and something else I became aware of during this time, thieves are actually able to steal your debt card numbers right from your wallet! Yep, that is right people, there is technology out there that allows them to read your card without having to have the card in hand. After talking to friends of mine this has happened to at least 3 people I know in the past 6 months. Mental note to self (and you too) get a metal wallet to carry your cards in if you have to take them with you…this is the only way to stop the scanning and stealing of your number.

LESSON LEARNED: Pay attention to your gut! If your first impulse is to do something then do it. I saw something that seemed a little off a few days before these jerks got into full swing, but I didn’t think much about it. I ignored that ‘little voice’ because I was busy and hurting physically and just didn’t want to deal with another hassle that evening (I should listen to myself more often!)… I learned that I need to stop accumulating large amounts of money in just one place (such as my paypal account). Typically I don’t do this but I became lax (actually comfortable and very busy)…you cannot let your guard down, especially as things become progressively worse economically. In fact, as suggested by many, keeping cash on hand is wise in the event you have thieves steal your financial information. I tell you, going one week without $$ was hell and they didn’t even get all my money…I just couldn’t get to it myself!

 And what does this have to do with SHTF? Truly and honestly, for a time money/cash will still be the way we do business. But if banks close down (and don’t for a minute believe that to stop panic they wouldn’t close their doors!) or the Feds decide to kill the internet (which btw is how most financial transactions occur) then you are SOL. If you watch the news, pay attention and get ‘a feeling’, don’t hesitate to yank your money out or leave just enough to cover the automatic drafts that occur and pull the rest. You can always put it back in.

Also of note, as things get worse financially (and it will, you can count on that) you may find it harder to find a working ATM or that safety using one is getting harder. Figure out where the out-of-the-way ones are and use those. Safety first!

Also, keep records and copies of EVERYTHING having to do with your financial information in a secure location (or even better, 2 or 3 places, just in case!) This means, bank statements, pictures of debit cards, credit cards, blank checks, etc. You may have to ‘prove’ one day what was where and when.

 I would also like to bring to your attention the possibility that 401k’s and IRA’s may become nationalized to prop up the stock market. (This up and down is not over and the trend that I am seeing is just down). IF you can find a way to make your savings accounts ‘untouchable’…tangibles, private banking accounts, etc. Now this may seem a little paranoid (and maybe I am) but with QE3 getting ready to roll out (inflation/deflation) the downgrade in the US credit rating, the volatility of the market and little return percentage wise on most 401ks and IRA’s (they are all tied into the stock market) and the biggest buyers right now being the very people who issue the stocks…well, a little paranoia might be wise. I am not saying to run right out like a chicken little right this moment…just BE AWARE and ready to move if you have to. I don’t wish the end of the world as we know it, but I want to survive as I am sure you do too and making changes or just even having a plan could be the key to this survival.

Things are changing, including the availability of funds, fees, length of time it takes to get things done when it comes to money, etc. I have to wait a MONTH before I will receive another paypal debit card (excuse me?) and 3 weeks for a new bank debit card and checks… I had to wait until every transaction went through before I could even begin the process of filing for fraud protection and even after THAT I had to WAIT before I received my money back even though it was obvious it was fraud. You may find yourself in a position where time is of the essence so that you can survive a SHTF scenario…even a hurricane can create financial hell…so be on top of things please! Don’t wait, don’t not listen to your gut instinct…and ignore the party ‘feel good line’ (if you are being handed that then you really KNOW something really isn’t right).

 These are times when we have to pay attention and be ready to act on gut instinct to protect ourselves, not only physically but financially too. THEY ARE OUT THERE (and by ‘they’ I mean those who absolutely could care less about YOU and your well-being) just waiting for the right moment to strike and steal from you what you have worked hard for in order to take care of themselves or their own interests. Am I paranoid? Nope, not one bit, but I am just very aware now of the possibilities.

Rarely do we think about banks, accounts and such, we depend upon their security to protect us, but as I learned, even the best security can be circumvented, even their best efforts to protect you can fail. And trust me when I tell you, their interests come before YOURS. They really don’t care about you, that is a veneer that is fading fast as things all over the world turn upside down.  The big boys will protect themselves first and you are on the bottom of the food chain when it comes to money.

Protect yourself please, get a plan, make changes now, because this happened to me so quickly and escalated beyond my span of control so quickly that I sit here blogging still without much access to my money (which is driving me bats). Better to loose a little than a lot…better to have to get a money order and mail a payment than have to try and explain to those you owe money to what happened (they don’t care and trust me when I tell you that your mortgage company really doesn’t care what happened, evidence those poor people down in Joplin, MO whose homes were destroyed and still had to pay the mortgage on time). Better to be offensive than have to react. Be PREPARED!

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