Editorial by Chris Faulknor, Publisher
The world is a scary place. The story of the three little pigs comes to mind. The wolf kept coming after the pigs, and the cycle began.
The pigs built a bigger and stronger house and the wolf blew just a little harder.
That’s how the world feels to me sometimes, and that feeling hasn’t gone away since I’ve become a parent.
It seems like every single day, the wolves just get smarter, and my biggest fear is that the moment we stop building stronger houses, we’ll get eaten.
That feeling got a little worse this week.
We started hearing from folks in our community getting suspicious phone calls.
My mother, in fact, was among them.
People call with official designations on their caller ID: Internal Revenue Service, State of Michigan, Chase Bank, and more.
They sound legitimate and concerned.
In fact, they sound like they know you are on a sinking ship and their greatest wish is to get you to safety.
And so they offer to fix whatever problem they say exists.
All they need is your checking account information or social security number, or credit card number.
They’ve gotten smarter.
These aren’t people obviously speaking English as a second language from a call center with a million other voices in the background.
These are often well-spoken individuals who have become very convincing.
So I am here to make two pleas.
The first is to all of you: Please don’t fall for it.
The IRS will never call you.
No, seriously, they won’t.
You can call them, but they will only initiate communication in writing.
Your bank already has your account number and access to any cards you may have with them.
Please don’t fall for this, because every time someone does, it only encourages them.
My second plea might be a little bit more difficult.
Legislators, I’m talking to you. Both State and Federal. Make this a bigger deal.
Make it a priority to find these people and companies.
Make the fines and penalties so harsh that being caught in acts of fraud such as this make it hard to survive.
Make it so getting caught hurts enough to put these operations out of business.
Only then will they stop, give up, and get a normal job.
Only then will they stop paying people to take advantage of our people.
Identity theft is terrifying.
It’s a mess that takes more than a broom and dustpan to put back in its box.
It takes your dollars and cents, but that’s not even the worst of it.
Through their actions, they destroy your credit.
They make you look like an irresponsible shopper who bought an iPad on credit when you couldn’t pay your bills.
They make you appear to be, on paper, unable to be trusted with money.
And then, a year down the road, your car breaks down and no bank will give you a loan even when you’ve never missed a payment in your life.
The damage these companies do is astronomical.
And they don’t target untrusting tech-savvy people like myself either.
No, they’d prefer to target the eighty-year-old grandmother who can barely check her e-mail … let alone check her credit score.
They call the lonely widower in his 70s who is so grateful to hear a human voice on the other end of the phone that he doesn’t stop to think that they’re anything but kind.
Folks, this has gotta stop.
We have to make this business painful to be in.
It starts with us being cautious and killing their profit margins, and ends with each of us lobbying our legislators.
Tell your State Representatives, Congressmen, and Senators that the laws need to change and that the punishment for these crimes should hurt.
But, more importantly, tell your friends, relatives, neighbors, employees, and fellow Northern Michiganders to watch their backs.