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Living In Your Car, A New Twist

November 30, 2011

This article is not just republished information from my November 9, 2008 article, How to Live in Your Car – from wikiHow,  I want to add new and critical information.  There are more people, in America, using their cars as a shelter of last resort as recent as December 2011.  There are new threats to their safety not paid enough attention to. Plus, if you no longer have the address on your Drivers License or Voters Registration, you will have absolutely NO SAY during the next election.  Who wins the next election will determine if there will be any more resources for homeless and unemployed.  Any checks mailed to you will be returned to sender.

HISTORY:  The fallout from the unemployed who lost their struggle to save their homes, resembles the condition of Displaced Persons Syndrome of mass migration after WWII.  Refugees from war torn Europe were a huge demographic and economic nightmare for receiving communities.  Being displaced is a fact of life throughout world history. Natural and man made disasters have moved whole populations, dispersing them throughout the world in what is called Diasporas.  What makes today’s diaspora unique is this is happening in America, today, and the consequences are huge.  American politics is torn in half trying to deal with the crisis or totally deny the crisis as a personal problem.

Recent history for diaspora in America, is the migration of the Katrina evacuees.  Prior to that was the black diaspora to northern cities in the 1950s, and the migration of Dust Bowl evacuees to western states during the depression. Cultural anthropology is still collecting data on today’s American Economic Diaspora, because the numbers are still growing, we are in the middle of the event.

When “60 Minutes  featured the story “Hard Times Generation: Families living in cars“, I was inspired to share new research, as promised.  

We all understand that if you are living in your car, you have run out of options.  Families are no longer able to reintegrate their children, nieces, nephews or their elders. Most middle income families are struggling for their own survival.  Homelessness should be a temporary condition.  By temporary, I mean a few weeks at most.  Weeks without housing gives you minimum time to relocate to a safer place or a place with better options.

Factor in the homeless emotional condition of depression and hopelessness, and maybe even resentment, that can impair your ability to function productively or think rationally, when you have a serious personal crisis.  The 60 Minutes story was remarkable by showing how the featured family stayed together.  The story was a best case scenario for a displaced family, with the expectation for conventional happy ending.  But, the story had some very helpful points to make.

Here is a very good all inclusive resource for anyone finding themselves among the mobile homeless:   How to Live Safely in Your Car

The numbers of the so-called “mobile homeless” increase whenever there is a major downturn in the economy. The recession of 2008 is proof of this. While there are many reasons for homelessness, such as addiction and mental illness – which still make up a lot of cases, more and more people are being forced into mobile homelessness simply because of economic factors.Record numbers of Americans are faced with the possibility of loosing their homes and finding themselves in desperate situations without a place to live. With the massive worldwide economic crisis and number of Americans who lost their homes due to the predatory sub-prime mortgage crisis, more and more people are resorting to living in their last personal possession – their cars.

A car is a viable means of keeping yourself and your property safe until things turn around. One can live in a car for extended periods of time, provided one is careful. Not surprising with the growing erosion of many civil liberties in America today, many States are passing laws against living outdoors and homelessness.

What I need to add, is that the homeless and displaced population is especially vulnerable to Identity Theft; when someone, without your knowledge, acquires a piece of your personal information and uses it to commit fraud. That is only the simple answer. When you are homeless, you probably don’t have credit cards anymore and think no one wants your poor identity.  It is not just about credit cards anymore. Using someone else’s identity is really  impersonation.

WIKI:  Sources such as the non-profit Identity Theft Resource Center[6] sub-divide identity theft into five categories:

  • Criminal identity theft (posing as another person when apprehended for a crime)
  • Financial identity theft (using another’s identity to obtain credit, goods and services)
  • Identity cloning (using another’s information to assume his or her identity in daily life)
  • Medical identity theft (using another’s identity to obtain medical care or drugs)
  • Child identity theft.

Homeless and displaced people are especially vulnerable to Identity Theft because desperation can make quick fix opportunities more attractive. There is the old fashioned juice loan ,  “A loan at usurious interest rates, normally made by organised criminals”. Today’s economic crisis is a candy store for loan sharks who offer unsecured loans at illegally high interest rates to individuals, often enforcing repayment by blackmail or threats of violence.

Someone may tell you they need your Social Security number to process your request.  Please verify the credentials of the person asking for this information.  Identity Thieves are smart, cagey and very good con artists.  It is an ART.

Con:

Adjective  (Slang) confidence – a con man
Transitive Verb  Conned, Conning
  1. to swindle (a victim) by first gaining the person’s confidence
  2. to trick or fool, esp. by glib persuasion
Noun  (Slang) the act or instance of conning; swindle; trick

           Climate for a Con

The con artist sees and exploits individuals’ vulnerabilities. Likewise, he taps into points of weakness in his environment.

Identity Theft is an insidious crime, because once you are a victim, it just keeps on going.  Once one impersonator finishes using your identity, for whatever purpose, it can be sold to another thief.  The damage unfolds with every exchange of your information.

So, how does this effect someone living in their car with limited or no resources?  Try to get assistance or a job.  When you are stopped, detained or pulled over, you may have been accused of a crime someone else committed.  You will not be believed when you deny doing a crime … it will take time and research for authorities to believe you.  There are all kinds of scams being worked using borrowed identities.

One of the most common, high dollar tricks that is played on the desperate is instant cash, usually a few hundred dollars with the promise of more, is borrowing your identity to file a tax return.  Here’s how it works.

  1. Let me  me borrow your Social Security number, file a tax return and get a big refund for you.
  2. Let me borrow your kid’s Social Security number, here is a few hundred dollars in advance.
  3. You have more than 2 or 3 kids? You can only claim 3 kids anyway, let me borrow the extra kid’s Social Security number.
  4. You don’t claim your mother? brother? sister? niece? nephew? I can get you a bigger refund if you let  me borrow their Social Security number.
  5. You don’t have a job? I can get you a nice refund, just  let me borrow your Social Security number.
  6. Let me give you this “Pre-paid” debit card to hold your refund, since you have no bank account.

Con Artists will file a bogus tax return using your identity, claim you are self-employed, claim all the deductions and credits for you and/or your family and get a refund of $2,000 to $5,000 direct deposited into their own bank account. If you are lucky, they will share half or 2/3 of the refund with you, then disappear, poof, try and find them.  These fraudsters are borrowing someone else’s identity to pull of this con. You can’t find them.  

Here is what will happen to you.

  1. The IRS has a tax return with your identity on it, and determined it is fraudulent. This is a Federal Crime!
  2. The IRS will send you letters, about 4 the first year, then once a year if no refund was issued.
  3. The seriousness of the fraud depends on whether a refund was issued or not.
  4. If a refund was issued to the personal “anticipation loan” account or personal account of the fraudster, it will have been withdrawn right away, account closed down.
  5. IRS will tag your identity nationwide. When you finally start to get back on your feet, BOOM!  Your new job is notified that your wages will be garnished to pay your tax debt.  You will have a hard time getting housing and medical, because the applications are run through a federal data base to verify who you are.  The IRS has you listed for a Federal Crime!
  6. Getting back on your feet will require more energy than just getting a job and a place to live, you must exonerate your name.

Here is what you must do:

  1. Contact the IRS. What do I do if the IRS contacts me because of a tax issue that may have been created by an identity theft? IRS Identity Theft Affidavit – Form 14039
  2. Contact the Federal Trade Commission, Attorney General in the state you are in or the state you came from.
  3. Contact Social Security and have your earnings statement mailed to you, when you have a secure mailing address.  If you don’t have a secure mailing address, contact your post office to hold your mail until you pick it up.  At the beginning of each month, when Social Security checks and disability payments are delivered, a line of homeless people stretches outside the general delivery at main city Post Offices.  The U.S. Postal Service doesn’t track how many people get general delivery, but local mail officials say the general delivery lines have been getting longer in the past few years – and so are the stacks of mail for the service.
  4. Fill out numerous official forms alerting the government you are a victim:  FTC, ID Theft Complaint Form, but The FTC does not resolve individual consumer complaints.  to create an Identity Theft Report so law enforcement has a record you have been victimized, IRS Identity Theft Affidavit – Form 14039
  5. Did you lose your wallet or was it stolen? To protect yourself against identity theft, file a police report, cancel your credit cards, speak to the fraud department at each credit reporting agency and report a missing driver’s license to the state Department of Motor Vehicles. Learn more….
  6. Resolve your specific identity theft situation.
  7. Tax Scams – How to Recognize and Avoid Them
    To help the public recognize and avoid abusive tax schemes, the IRS offers an abundance of educational materials. Participating in an illegal scheme to avoid paying taxes can result in imprisonment and fines, as well as the repayment of taxes owed with penalties and interest. Education is the best way to avoid the pitfalls of these “too good to be true” tax scams.

Helpful IRS Publications

The IRS partners with the Federal Trade Commission, SSA and other federal agencies to combat identity theft and educate taxpayers on how to protect themselves.

Identify Theft – What is it and How do You Protect Yourself From it

How do identity thieves get personal information

While there is much in the media about internet based identity theft, there are lots of ways your personal information can be stolen, many of them much easier than internet theft.

-Stealing your wallet, purse, or checkbook.

-Removing mail from your mailbox, both incoming or outgoing.

-Going through your trash to find statements and receipts.

-Phishing – Obtaining information by email scams or fraudulent websites.

-Hacking – Illegally gaining access to a computer where personal information is stored.

-Social Engineering- Simply tricking the victim into giving out personal information

Who is an identity thief

Contrary to what many people think, identity thieves are not always sinister villains looking for victims. In fact, many studies show that a significant portion of identity theft actually occurs by people the victim knows and trusts.

-Opportunity criminals who ‘chance’ upon your personal information

-Organized criminals who actively seek victims

-Husbands and wives who use their spouse’s information to open accounts to take money

-Roommates

-A person you meet at a party who has lots of questions about your personal life

-Parents who use a child’s identity

-Children who use a parent’s identity

-Housekeepers, contractors or others who have access to your home

I also recommend Identity Theft: Surviving The Nightmare as a must read for everyone who has an identity, which does include everyone.

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