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Staying Safer in a Broken World

by David Peel on July 17, 2013

post1As a Christian and an injury lawyer, I see the effects everyday of this broken world that the Bible variously characterizes as “corrupt” and “under a curse.”

I was confronted recently with a surprising new example of how the corrupt world is changing our lives.  I was visiting someone in Germantown, one of our most affluent areas, when I noticed a security car sitting in a driveway.  I asked a neighbor why the fellow was sitting in the car. The neighbor causally replied, “They have a funeral today.”

I stood there, trying to understand how the fact of a funeral that day had anything to do with a security guard. They explained, as if I was from a foreign land, that in Germantown when a funeral, or even a wedding announcement, is made in the paper, security is posted at the families addresses as criminals know no one will be home.

I was surprised. Turns out, I should not have been. Funeral announcements, I have since learned, are a treasure trove for thieves. They get the address of the deceased that will be vacant now, and the names of local close family members that will be at the funeral at a given time!

It gets worse. They can steal from you without even being in your state.  Any internet-connected computer or phone can look up any obituary anywhere, and obtain details like the mother’s maiden name of the deceased. Then, these criminals can open credit and spend money online in the deceased name for the week or two it takes to be notified of the death.

So what to do?  Some people have stopped listing much in the way of detail in obituaries, while others even invite people to attend the service online. Some post family or friends at the house, hire house sitters, or at least park lots of cars in the driveway. When we travel, we always have missionary families or others stay at our home, so it’s never empty.

Thieves online can gain all kinds of information about your location from you. Most of us have location services on our phones. Also, many folks’ postings on Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter list their location or post photographs (“I’m on a two-week cruise! Be back on the 28th”). This is an announcement to the world that their home is unoccupied and an easy mark for a burglar.

Newspapers being put on hold for a week is another thing people to do protect themselves so their home looks occupied. However, that can even backfire if the employees use that information to know you are gone. Cruise line employees have arranged to have folks break into the vacant home of those sailing with their line.

It’s a broken world with a lot of broken people. Being aware of the problem is the first step to staying safer.

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