Ask Dr. Job’s chief contributor, Sandra Pesmen, is a member of the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame and author of “DR. JOB’s Complete Career Guide.”

Winner of several journalism awards, Pesmen is a graduate of the University of Illinois Media College at Urbana, and is listed in several Who’s Who editions. She also has been Corporate Features Editor of Crain Communications Inc., founding Features Editor of Crain’s Chicago Business and a reporter/features writer for The Chicago Daily News.

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DR.JOB Q.and A: IRS Joins Identity Theft Battle

(Q.1)  I WAS EMBARRASSED WHEN I went to the counter to pay my $30 bill for an oil change and my credit card wouldn't go through. We tried again and finally called Visa to see what was going on. They put a "hold" on the card because someone (I suspect in a restaurant I visited) stole my number and bought an expensive item that caught Visa Security's eye. Hurrah for them!!! They couldn't reach me right away, so I did make two other purchases that day, but when they stopped me in the afternoon, they told me they would pay that bill, but nothing more and I should tear up my card and a new one would arrive by UPS the next day and it did. It was a hassle because I had to go on line and change all my automatic pay for business bills online, but worth it to avoid further identity theft problems. Do you know any way to avoid this in the future? It scared me to think what the thief could have done if Visa hadn't caught this.

(A) EVEN THE GOVERNMENT CAN'T SEEM TO STOP identity theft, but there are promising protections in the works. The Internal Revenue Service has a new nationwide expansion of its program designed to help law enforcement obtain tax return data vital to their local efforts in investigating and prosecuting specific cases of identity theft. IRIS Acting Commissioner Steven T. Miller feels the results of this pilot helps pursue tough identity theft situations, and it's an effective way for law enforcement and the IRS to work together to nail the thieves and protect us. Meanwhile, try and eat in reputable establishments and use caution when putting your information online when making purchases. Check the site for security policies. All this is a start, but there's so much more work to be done.

(Q. 2) I'VE BEEN JOB HUNTING SINCE I lost my middle management position a year ago and now I'm thinking about applying for lower level, lower paying jobs that I'm sure I'm overqualified for because I'm getting desperate. But I'm nervous that all these bright young kids coming out of college will get in line in front of me because they're less expensive, easier to train, and give the company a more "youthful brand" than a 55-year-old like me. How do I convince companies to consider me against that competition?

(A) STRESS THAT YOU ARE WILLING to bring experience and proven success in the business world that will increase their profits and improve their service. That's what every company is looking for. List those qualities with examples on top of the resume and be ready to talk about them immediately in all interviews. Also consider your appearance. There's no need to dye your hair, but get a haircut, clean and trim your nails, get your weight as near normal as possible, wear a serious business suit. The first impression comes only once. Then dismiss y our fears of age discrimination. True, it is there, and some bigots will hold that against you, but keep trying until you meet a decent employer who wants the qualities you offer and realizes you will be a bargain at entry level on day one, since he won't get those from a new grad.

(Q.3) THIS IS KIND OF LIKE "The Lady or the Tiger" story. My wife and I each worked most of our lives and each have a substantial 401K retirement package. As we approach retirement, we're wondering which is the best estate plan for our families since we both have children from first marriages. One plan suggested is to form two estates, with both going to whoever is the survivor after one death. After the second death, the estates will separate, mine goes to my kids, hers to her kids. The second plan we've been told about is to set up two separate estates now, and when one dies, that estate immediately goes to that person's children, because the survivor will have more than enough to live on alone. Which do you think is the best plan.

(A) EITHER CHOICE MAY BE  "The TIGER" guess. Our advisors say that if the relationships between all the children and parents are loving, warm, and trusting, that first choice may work because all the kids will feel free to approach the survivor for financial help if they have an emergency and you normally would do that for your own. On the other hand, since there usually is some difference in feelings among step relations, having each family receive their share upon their parent's death sounds more fair. Also, if everyone knows they will be inheriting their family's money eventually, you can both remain generous to everyone, and assume they will continue to pray for your good health.

Q.4 MY INDUSTRY HOLDS A TRADE SHOW every year and we used to attend all of them because it was important to be seen and to meet colleagues and potential suppliers and even customers. It was also a time to bring along the family and have a lot of fun that we could write off as a business expense. Then the recession hit. Most of us stopped going-we just didn't have that excess cash to spend or write off anywhere. Then the shows were cancelled. Now things are looking better and the trade shows are starting again as is our business. We'd like to participate but it will have to be on a less extravagant scale. How do we manage that best?

(A) PUT TOGETHER A TRADE SHOW BUDGET by reading the fine print about all the activities and choosing your priorities. Mari Sokolowski, writing in Franchising World, suggests targeting shows that will provide  the best exposure to your priority markets and realize you'll learn a significant amount just by being there-and others will learn about  you. Since most of the sessions are free, attend those, but consider paying for those that will really help your business. Also consider the hidden costs, she says. Beyond registration and hotel fees, there are costs like printed materials, shipping, advertising, premium items and even furniture. (That might include a "conversation table' where you can sit and chat with potential customers who drop by.) In all, if you can afford to do it, even modestly, a really effective tradeshow is worth attending. In some cases, you can't afford not to.


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