Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Identity Theft: Is your information at risk?

It can happen to anyone. You pull up to the drive thru window at your bank and find out from the teller that your account is overdrawn. Or maybe you receive a credit card statement with numerous charges you know you didn’t make. Or, worse still, your loan application is denied because your credit score which, up to 3 months ago was perfect is now in the high risk category. You feel blind-sided and frustrated. You are a victim of identity theft.

Even if you think you’ve taken the necessary precautions to safeguard your identity and personal information you could be at risk! Identity theft is when someone obtains personal or financial information about you with the intent to commit fraud. The scariest part is that everyone is at risk. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security just because you think no one would want your personal information or that you are not in a high risk group.

In 2003 over 300,000 people in the United States had their identities or personal information stolen. And that number has increased steadily every year. Some sources report that identity fraud or theft has cost companies and individuals $50 billion in the past 5 years. It is estimated that one in six people will have their personal information stolen this year. These are scary numbers and need to be taken seriously, but there are some things you can do to protect yourself from becoming victim to the fastest growing crime of the decade.

How does someone steal your personal information?
Most of us are pretty trusting people. We hold ourselves to a certain standard of behavior and we expect that others will too. Most of us think that stealing is wrong and we wouldn’t dream of trying to open a bank account or apply for a credit card with fake information. Unfortunately for us, there are people out there who not only want to steal your information; they want to assume your financial identity.

These identity thieves can be big time professionals in the business of forging identity papers for illegal immigrants or other criminals or they can be small time con-artists trying to swindle you out of your hard earned money. Either way there are many ways a thief can obtain information about you. They can sift through your recycle bin, your garbage, your mail, and sometimes even hack into your computer to get your passwords and log-in Id’s.

We’ve become easy targets for identity thieves through our use of technology. Today we don’t think twice about Internet banking or shopping, but one careless move could put us at risk. It may be convenient to bank or shop online, but more and more identity theft is happening in the cyber world and that places anyone who uses a computer in jeopardy.

How can you protect yourself from identity theft?
The good news is that protecting yourself from identity theft is simple and there are many effective ways to protect your financial and personal information from falling into the wrong hands.
  • Keep your vital records like bank statements, birth certificates, social security numbers and other personal information in a safe place. Using a locking file cabinet or fire safe is one way to protect your records at home. Either of these solutions is economical when you consider the cost and inconvenience of losing your identity.
  • Consider leasing a safe deposit box at your bank. The fees are usually low and if you have an account already some of the fees might be waived. A safe deposit box is the place to keep your will, or power of attorney, or other important records.
  • Be sure that your mailbox is lockable. Statistics show that having your mail delivered to a locked mail box discourages thieves. If you can’t have your mail delivered to a locked box at your home consider using a post office box. The cost is small and you’ll feel more secure knowing that your mail and your personal information is not at risk.
  • And while we’re talking about mail; be sure to shred any mail that has your name, address, account numbers, or other personal information on it. Especially if it’s an offer for credit, home loans, or bank services. These documents are gold to a thief and need to be shredded immediately if you aren’t going to take advantage of the offer. A shredder for your home or office is an inexpensive alternative to hiring a document shredding company for your business.
  • Use common sense when you shop or bank online. Never shop with a vendor that doesn’t offer a secure payment method. Never respond to emails that ask for personal information, even if they appear to be from your bank or financial institution. And never give out your passwords or log-in information.

Protecting yourself from identity thieves might seem like too much trouble or too much work, but once you get in the habit of taking these few steps you’ll rest secure knowing that you’ve done everything you could to protect yourself. Don’t become another statistic; take the appropriate steps to protect your personal information today. There are many resources available to you. Check with your bank or financial institution on their policies regarding identity theft. Visit the bookstore or library for information on what steps you can take at home. Contact the Better Business Bureau or your local Chamber of Commerce to see what information they might have on how you can fight identity theft and of course you can visit the many sites online. One good website is;

Get more free tips and reports!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

King County Home Values Continue To Drop

Seattle area home prices dropped 16.4% in March compared to last year at the same time according to the Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller Home Price Index.

Just between February 09 and March 09 home prices dropped 2%.

In July 2008, research for the National Housing Federation claimed the downturn would be over by 2010 with home prices rising 25% in the 5 years following. It predicts a rise of 5.2 per cent in 2012 and 9 per cent in each of the following two years.

Thank you to KIRO.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New SR 519 Construction

WSDOT is improving connections for traffic heading to the Port of Seattle terminals, Colman Dock ferry terminal, central waterfront area and sports stadiums and destinations in Seattle's SODO neighborhood. SR 519 improvements will separate car, freight, pedestrian and rail traffic to help improve mobility, pedestrian safety and reduce the risk of collisions. The entire project is scheduled to be completed by June 2010, in time for the start of construction to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct between S Holgate and S King streets.

Closure Information:
-Royal Brougham Way is closed to through traffic between Occidental Avenue and Fourth Avenue on non-event days until further notice.
-Third Avenue S. will be fully closed until early spring 2010.
See weekly WSDOT closure information.

Thank you to WSDOT. See all the details on the new SR 519 Construction here.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Your Local Farmers Market

Spring has not quite sprung in Seattle but it's still a perfect time to hit you local Farmers Market. Not only is the produce and fresh flowers appealing to the eye and palate, it's easy on the wallet too!

According to the U-District Farmers Market website, Stacy Jones' 2008 fall quarter statistics class conducted a price comparison study between the U-District Farmers Market, Whole Foods and QFC. They summarized their report:
"According to the FDA, the average family should spend about $330 a month on groceries. At the Farmers Market, $330 will get you 152.25 pounds of organic produce; at Whole Foods you can get 131.80 pounds, and at QFC a mere 118.6 pounds for the same $330. I.e., the average price per pound is lowest at the farmers market."

A few Seattle Farmers Markets:
  • University District - Saturdays, 9am - 2pm, Year-round!
  • West Seattle - Sundays, 10am - 2pm, Year-round!
  • Broadway - Sundays, 11am - 3pm, May 10 - December 20
  • Columbia City - Wednesdays, 3pm-7pm, April 29 - October 21
  • Phinney - Fridays, 3pm - 7pm, May 29 - October 2
  • Lake City - Thursdays, 3pm - 7pm, June 4 - October 29
  • Magnolia - Saturdays, 10am - 2pm, May 23 - October 10

See full list of Washington State Farmers Market locations

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Alaskan Way Viaduct to be Replaced

Finally after much controversy on whether to rebuild, replace, or repair, Gov. Christine Gregoire will officially sign the bill at 2pm PST to have the Seattle Viaduct (pictured here) replaced.

The current elevated structure, which more than 100,000 vehicles travel per day, will be replaced by a tunnel running under the waterfront.

The state will pitch in $2 billion leaving another $2 billion or more to Seattle and King County.

Click here for a history of the Seattle Viaduct.

Free WIFI Locations - Seattle

Back in 2005, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels launched a free WIFI program in some areas of Seattle. Look for the sign in the photo picture above. You'll be able to connect by using seattlewifi for the ssid.

There's no commitment from the city on expanding this citywide but even with the limited locations it's still made a difference. Graduate Student KD, resident of Columbia City and mother to a small child loves the free WIFI adding "it allows me to work in cafes without having to worry about whether they provide Internet access, and I hope to work in the park when the weather is nice this summer."

The locations are:
Many of the Seattle Public Library branches, the Seattle Center "Center House", the City Hall lobby area.

The 4 Seattle parks are Occidental, Westlake, Victor Steinbrueck, and the north end of Freeway Park.

In the University District, coverage currently runs along University Way (The Ave) from 40th Street NE to approximately midway between 47th and 50th Streets NE. See the map.

In Columbia City coverage runs along Rainier Avenue South from Dawson Street northwards to South Alaska Street. See the map.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Progessive Rep Announces SAV-ON Winners

An Odd Day

Today is an Odd Day!

It's only one of 6 days in a century in which the date has consecutive odd numbers. Today is 5/7/09. According to, "This day marks the half-way point in this parade of Odd Days which began with 1/3/5. The previous stretch of six dates like this started with 1/3/1905---13 months after the Wright Brothers' flight."

They're also featuring a contest of $579 to be distributed amongst the winners.

SUV Drives into Restaurant

Also early this morning a woman in Marysville drove into a restaurant while trying to park. She thought she was hitting the brake but slammed on the gas and ran right through the large glass window at about 2:20am.

Michael Tran, the owner, was just glad that the customers had left about 45 minutes earlier.

The woman, in her 30s, was treated for minor injuries at a local hospital.

Thank you to KIRO.

Carnation, WA Home Burned to Ground

See more photos of Carnation House Fire.

A home located in Carnation, WA on the shore of Lake Joy burned to the ground this morning leaving only the "skeleton" behind.

The flames were so out of control that by the time firefighters arrived all they could do was try to control the fire. They're still putting out "hot-spots" now.

Fire officials will investigate what caused the fire once it's safe to enter.

Thank you to KIRO.

To Drive or Not To Drive!

To Drive or not to Drive!

And that really is the question! What age is the right age for a teenager to get their drivers license?

The age and requirements vary state-to-state and have varied laws concerning all aspects of when, where and how teens may drive.

We pose the question regarding readiness to the parents.
Even if the age to get a license in your state is 16, you must ask yourself is your teen mature enough and ready for the responsibility?

No parent wants to say no to their children but feelings and emotions involving things like peer pressure and the ability to impress their friends have no place behind the wheel of a car. Being that traffic deaths are the number 1 reason for high mortality rates in teenagers.

Let's face it, driving is all about responsibility. Are your kids good with following the rules, doing the chores, handling their emotional ups and downs sensibly? Only you know how your child will measure up to these questions.

Here are some ideas from another parent.

Many parents "basically cut their kids loose the minute they get their driver's license." That was not the case with the Cox family's oldest child, Rachel, who turned 16 in January and got her license in April. The decision to allow her to drive was tied to certain rules. Among them:

She's not allowed to use a cell phone while driving. Cox checks the itemized statement to ensure the rule is followed.

She's not permitted to have passengers (except for family) for at least a year. Cox sometimes bends this rule, depending on where her daughter is going and with whom.

Rachel must continue to drive with her parents on occasion, so they can observe. And she's required to enroll in a New Driver Car Control Clinic.

There was never any room for negotiation. Donna Cox has had the rules in mind since 1997, when she helped her best friend bury her 16-year-old son in Louisville. He had been driving just four days.

"His death notice and picture have hung on my kitchen cabinet for the last nine years," Cox says, "so it's a daily reminder."

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Swine Flu Update....

The Swine Flu is receiving significant international attention. Now, the World Health
Organization has raised the Pandemic Threat Level to 5 (out of 6!)

Symptoms are similar to regular human flu: fever and chills, a cough, sore throat, aching limbs, headaches, and general malaise. However, there are reports of swine flu also causing diarrhoea and vomiting. Pneumonia and respiratory failure can occur leading to death as also happens in regular human flu, which kills thousands of people every year.

And how are we preparing ourselves to battle this pandemic virus? It appears to many folks that we are spending a great deal of time scaring the pudding out of ourselves, lots of knee jerk reactions, and reports of an ominous nature.

But, this swine flu outbreak should wake us all up to either getting our acts together and begin to plan for the reality of many other pandemic possibilities. Businesses as well as our schools and homes should have a plan. I love this definition given in one of the many swine flu articles I've read: "Cyberchondria is an anxiety disorder related to hypochondria and brought on by reading too many tweets with the #swineflu tag, listening to conspiracy theorists, and viewing online news stories about diseases that scare the sheesh kebab out of you for no good reason." All you good scouts out there, be prepared.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Stephenie Sings

We've posted some fun videos of our commercials and just some fun around the office. Type of in "Stephenie Sings" on YouTube. Enjoy :)