The Danger Of Wealth – Organised Criminal Organisations Target Rich People


January 23m 2016

Source: fa-mag

Facing the end of his athletic career, a famous sports figure decided to try his hand at movies. He had a good shot at some lead roles and everything seemed to be going his way-but his personal life.

A security firm he’d hired found out his girlfriend was not all she claimed to be. She’d been a prostitute, had a substance abuse problem, and those were just the issues they knew about. Feeling he wasn’t in love with her, the actor decided to sever ties.

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But his girlfriend wasn’t going to go that easy. She warned him that if he dumped her, she’d run to the tabloids claiming he was drunk and abusive. The fact that it wasn’t true was irrelevant. He saw his promising movie career being jeopardized. He decided to offer her a monetary settlement. He and his attorney invited the woman to lunch in a public place, with his security detail in tow.

The attorney offered the woman $500,000 to $1 million if she would sign a cease-and-desist contract and walk away. She suddenly stood up, refused the offer, became irate and started to leave. As the attorney tried to calm her, she grabbed a steak knife and lunged at her ex-boyfriend, slashing the knife in the air near his face.

The attorney intervened and was slashed across the arm before the security detail could grab her. She was booked for assault with a deadly weapon. She eventually agreed to a settlement and the actor dropped the charges.

“The attorney earned his keep. And so did we. But it’s an example of how things can really get out of hand,” says Alon Stivi, whose firm, Direct Measures International, provided the sports star’s security.

Stivi, who counts Warren Buffett among his former clients, says he’s dealt with wealthy individuals for almost 20 years, and the biggest challenge for them is knowing whom to trust.

“Us regular people don’t have to worry about that. But once you become ultra-wealthy, especially if you made a fortune or got an inheritance or you invented something, people come out of the woodwork pretending to be your long lost friend, and it can become a serious problem,” Stivi says.

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The wealthy walk a minefield, security experts say. From needy relatives and parasitic partners to unstable individuals or employees with ulterior motives (such as a nanny who takes the job to infiltrate their home), the rich are constantly surrounded by people who have the potential to do them harm. And that harm can include everything from identity theft to extortion, even kidnapping.

“Most prominent people, at one time or another-whether they’re from the entertainment or business community or politics-are going to attract the attention of someone who will focus on them more than they would the average person, simply because of their wealth,” says William Besse, an executive director with the security firm Andrews International.

“Money has its advantages. But it also attracts an element who may intend to do wealthy people some harm, to take advantage of that celebrity or wealth.”
While affluent people need security, they don’t always need men with dark suits and earpieces standing vigil. What they do need is to screen more and reveal less personal information, according to experts.

One of the biggest leaks in a wealthy family’s security is their children’s Facebook accounts, experts say. Highly sophisticated criminals will prowl the Internet for any information they can get about their target, and Facebook pages are ripe with things like vacation photos and people’s dates of birth. So while the parents in a wealthy family may have a heavy security detail around them, their children may unknowingly be their weakest link.

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“A lot of clients don’t really think they’re vulnerable until we actually point things out,” says Dorothy Sarna, senior vice president of Risk Management Services for the Private Client Group at Chartis, which insures one third of the Forbes 400.

Whom To Trust?
It takes time for the wealthy to be able to decipher who is trustworthy and who is not, Stivi says. Some fall back on childhood friends, thinking they can trust the people who knew them before they were rich. But those relationships can sour when the wealthy individual hires a security firm that vets all of her friends and intimate partners. Many clients are reluctant to do background checks on their friends for just that reason, Stivi says.

“They feel that by doing that to another human being, it removes the personal touch. It feels like a business transaction,” he says.

But it’s essential, he says.

“It’s either that or they wind up settling out of court with some dirtbag who meant them no good. And all of that could have been avoided if they were properly screened,” Stivi says.

And that may be the best-case scenario. Kidnapping is actually one of the greatest risks the wealthy face, and it’s often perpetrated by someone they know-someone who has intimate knowledge of their comings and goings. Abductions often occur in locations where the victims feel most secure. About 90% of kidnappings occur within view of the victim’s home or office.
“The people who are closest to them and get to know their routines present their greatest vulnerability, says William Besse, an executive director at Andrews International, a security firm based in Valencia, Calif. “If it’s a high-profile criminal act, a burglary or robbery or kidnapping, the people involved are going to place that target under surveillance, and they’re going to try to learn as much as they can about this person.”

Exxon executive Sidney Reso was abducted from his own driveway in wealthy Morris Township, N.J., in 1992. Tuxedo manufacturer Harvey J. Weinstein was kidnapped in 1993 by a man who worked for Weinstein as a collar maker.

Weinstein had just finished his customary breakfast at his favorite diner when he was forced into a car and whisked away. In 2003, billionaire hedge fund manager Eddie Lampert was kidnapped at gunpoint while leaving work. They nabbed Lampert, who at the time owned the $9 billion private investment fund ESL Investments Inc., at his office after seeing that he went in every Saturday and parked in the same spot-the one with his name on it.

“A bunch of guys went onto the Internet to find out who the wealthy people in the area were. Lampert wasn’t at the top of the list, but whoever was had security measures in place, and they felt Lampert was an easier target,” says Frank Rodman, president and COO of Truefort, a New York-based security advisory firm that exclusively services the wealthy.

David Letterman’s painter hatched a plan to kidnap Letterman’s son, a plan that might have come to fruition had the painter’s accomplice not told police about it.

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“He had the access and the opportunity. He also happened to have a criminal record that a basic due diligence at the front end might have found,” Rodman says.

Security experts say sophisticated criminals, from kidnappers to ex-KGB agents who are now unemployed and freelancing, use people like domestic help to infiltrate the lives and businesses of wealthy people. Kidnapping isn’t the only crime in which they’ve been involved. Some steal credit card numbers and bank account information, as well as other personal information that allows them to commit identity theft or fraud.

While kidnappings in the U.S. are rare, they are not beyond the realm of possibility, so wealthy individuals should prepare for those as well, security firms say.

“The success ratio of kidnap ransom in the U.S. is very low. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have a few idiots out there wanting to try,” says Ron Williams, a former Secret Service agent who has protected former U.S. presidents from Nixon to Clinton, and now owns his own security firm.

Home invasions are more frequent in the U.S. than kidnappings, Williams says. Over the last two years, Beverly Hills and Bel Air, Calif., have seen a rise in crimes in which wealthy women who have been shopping near their homes are followed back to their houses by gang members, who slip in the gate right behind them. They then rob them in their own garage or driveway and leave.

“They’ll see a woman wearing a Rolex, driving a Mercedes, and they’ll follow her home,” Williams says.

Williams advises his affluent clients to keep a low profile when they go out. People of substantial means should fly under the radar screen-meld into the environment, he says. Drive a Prius instead of a Rolls-Royce and leave the Rolex home, Williams advises.

Kidnapping is actually a greater risk for the wealthy when they travel abroad. Kidnapping rates, internationally, are on the rise, experts say, and it’s being perpetrated across the globe, from organized criminals in Brazil and Russia to drug lords in Mexico, where kidnapping has become a lucrative sideline to the drug business.

In Mexico, Colombia, and Venezuela, there’s also been a rash of so-called “express kidnappings” in the last two years, wherein a taxi driver spots a wealthy individual-perhaps because of her expensive jewelry or shoes-picks her up, but then instead of driving her to her destination, takes her to a remote location where his associates are waiting.

The tourist is then forced to go to several ATMs and take money out of her accounts. Some kidnappings are done close to midnight so if the ATM has a daily cash limit, the abductors can wait until after midnight and get another bite at the apple. Afterward, their victims are usually let go.
“It’s pretty easy for the kidnappers. It’s not as much work as having to hold someone for ransom,” says Tim Gaspar, CEO of Gaspar Insurance Services in Encino, Calif.

“Kidnap and ransom” insurers say they are getting as many as two claims a month for express kidnappings, Gaspar says.
Some wealthy individuals have purchased special GPS devices so that if they’re abducted, authorities can track down their signal and find them. BrickHouse Security sells a product called Spark Nano, which is a GPS tracker with a panic button that, if pressed, sends an instant alert to a security company monitoring the device.  It sells for $99, plus a monthly fee of about $30 to $40.

Another product is Executrac, which is basically just an app for a BlackBerry smartphone that turns the phone into a GPS device. It also includes a panic button. There’s no monthly fee, outside of the fees already charged by the person’s cell phone carrier.
“We’ve definitely seen an increased interest in the panic button feature,” says Todd Morris, president of BrickHouse Security in New York. “People are traveling internationally, leaving their children behind. They want to know that when they’re gone in Europe, if their kids have trouble, they can push a button and get help.”

Practically speaking, the Spark Nano makes more sense, Morris says, because the first thing a kidnapper does is throw his victim’s cell phone away. The Spark Nano device, on the other hand, is a tiny device that can be easily hidden. One can keep it in his or her pocket and depress the panic button without anyone noticing. Also, the battery lasts five to seven days.

Plugging Leaks
In general, security experts say the less public information out there about an individual, the less vulnerable he is. That’s why they recommend that wealthy people do not register their homes, cars, boats, planes or any other significant assets in their own name, or under their home or company address.

A good security firm will do a Google search on its client to see how much and what type of information comes up. The firm can then contact the disseminators of the information to make sure it is removed from public view.

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If the client has an airplane, for example, it should not be named something that would easily identify the aircraft’s owner, experts say. If you’re Oprah Winfrey, you don’t register your airplane under the name “Harpo, Inc.” Anyone looking at an airplane’s aviation records can tell which planes are coming and going from the small airports, and with that information they can determine who is likely to be flying in and out.

Most security firms will do a basic risk assessment of their client to determine where the holes are. They look at the individual’s public profile: the level of his public prominence, the issues surrounding him in the public domain, the likelihood he will attract unwarranted attention.

Those working in the financial sector, for instance, are vulnerable these days because so many people have lost their jobs, while those on Wall Street seem to be doing fairly well. Indeed, Dick Fuld, the former CEO of Lehman Brothers, was punched in the face while working out at Lehman Brothers’ gym, just after the firm announced it was going bankrupt. AIG executives had protesters picketing outside their homes after their bonuses were announced.

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A corporate communications employee at one financial firm says she spent half a day on the telephone pleading with The Wall Street Journal not to publish a photo of one of the firm’s bankers if the paper was also going to publicly reveal the amount of his bonus. Some fear the fallout if New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo makes good on his threat to release bankers’ bonus amounts if he is elected governor.

“There could be laid off employees, because of the poor practices of a particular company, and yet employees see the heads of those companies getting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses. That can make those people who received bonuses potential targets,” says Philip Farina, CEO of Farina and Associates, a Miami-based security firm that specializes in travel and hospitality. It’s changed the mentality on Wall Street. Where some in the financial sector used to strut their accomplishments and wealth, many would now rather lay low, security sources say.

It’s not just executives in financial services who are potential targets. Farina knew a corporate officer at a non-financial services company who began receiving death threats at her home from a disgruntled employee who’d been let go years earlier. The employee was identified before he was able to carry out those threats.

“Some people just wake up one day and say, ‘This is the day I’m going to do something,’ ” Farina says. 

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Panic Rooms – How a Panic Room Works


Source: Howstuffworks.com

When you hear the words “panic room,” you might think of the 2002 flick in which Jodie Foster hides in a fortified room in a Manhattan town house. Foster’s character has a bevy of surveillance equipment and supplies, but thieves terrorize her and attack the room until she is forced to come out and confront them.

But panic rooms are generally less dangerous and exciting than they sound. For one, they’re usually called “safe rooms,” which makes them seem a little less dramatic. We can also trace their origins much further back than any Jodie Foster movie. Medieval feudal lords, for example, used safe rooms as protection from siege. But how close does Hollywood come to capturing a real panic room?

Today’s panic rooms can be extremely high-tech. Most security experts say that with basic communication equipment, occupants should have to hole up in the room for only an hour or two in case of a home invasion.

To understand the panic room, we have to understand why people want them. The most advanced fortresses come with hefty price tags, so only the wealthy can typically afford them. But in the wake of increased terror alerts and weather-related catastrophes in the United States, basic panic rooms are becoming more popular. They’re constructed of weather-resistant materials and are stocked with gas masks and potassium iodine tablets to protect against biological and nuclear attacks. And some manufacturers claim their rooms can accommodate families for an extended stay — even as long as a month.

Besides basic provisions and a good lock, panic rooms can include any number of features, from a battery of artillery to a fully stocked wet bar. But details are hard to come by — because people are paying for privacy, most panic-room builders are unwilling to disclose much information. In this article we will enter the panic room. We’ll explore what real panic rooms are like and how they came into existence. Should you get one? Where do you get one? And what makes them safer than any other room in your home?

Purpose of Panic Rooms

Think of a panic room as a vault for people. In a country of gated communities, panic rooms are designed to be the ultimate in security. They range from simple rooms with reinforced doors to elaborate mini-fortresses that protect their occupants against biological and nuclear attacks, hurricanestornadoes and home invasions. High-end panic rooms, made with the most advanced materials, are more like luxury dens than bleak storm cellars.

Most panic rooms have keyless entry for extra security.

Because of the Jodie Foster movie, many people associate panic rooms with home invasions, but this is actually not their most common purpose. As we mentioned, rooms built to withstand hurricane- and tornado-force winds have become more popular. These panic rooms are usually ground-floor closets or bathrooms whose foundations have been reinforced with steel and concrete.

Many people who build panic rooms are trying to protect things, not people. Panic rooms can hide computer hard drives or permanently house artwork, rare books and other collections. You can make your panic room into a custom-designed safe that stores your delicate artwork in an airtight, climate-controlled environment. Your computer files can be safely hidden but accessible via an exterior generator.

Depending on how much safety you want and money you have, panic rooms have a wide range of safety features. You can reinforce a closet and throw in a few emergency supplies or build a house within your house.

Walls

A panic room, at the most basic level, is a box with an opening. So all six sides of the box — walls, ceiling and floor — must be fortified. You can reinforce a closet with plywood if you want a storm shelter, but it won’t provide protection from invaders. The next step up is chicken wire or steel mesh, and blastproof Kevlar panels provide the ultimate protection. A cement-reinforced foundation can provide a stable base, and a steel ceiling, with optional Kevlar panels, will thwart invaders from bottom to top.

Most builders of modern panic rooms rely on lightweight Kevlar and plastics, allowing them to more easily build panic rooms on second floors — off of the master bedroom, for instance. However, the ground floor is still the safest place for protection against natural catastrophes like hurricanes and tornadoes.

Entry
Panic rooms are designed to hide their occupants, so one of the best defenses is the invisible entrance. Bookcase entries and hidden pocket doors are popular choices.

The door is the one weak point of the fortified box, so its reinforcements are critical. Even if your walls aren’t reinforced with steel, you might want to splurge on a solid steel door. Mortise locks, which are built into rather than attached to the door, provide another level of security, as do steel hinges and bolts. Steel doorjambs make it impossible for an intruder to kick in the door. High-end panic rooms often have keypad-controlled electromagnetic locks, which use magnetic forces to maintain the bond between a frame-mounted magnet and door-mounted hardware.

Most panic rooms do not have standard keys because they can be misplaced or fall into the wrong hands. Instead, doors might feature interior deadbolts, combination keypads or retinal or fingerprint-scanning devices.

Panic Room Features

Communication
It’s a good idea to leave a cell phone or ham radio in your panic room in case you need to communicate with the outside world. But if your panic room is too isolated or reinforced for reliable cell phone service, you can always install a buried phone line, an intercom system or an alarm button directly connected to a police or security team.

You’ll also want to keep your communication secret from intruders. Soundproofing the panic room prevents an intruder from hearing your conversations with law enforcement. And if the invaders do discover that you’re in the room, they won’t be able to taunt you verbally.

Surveillance
You might remember that Jodie Foster’s panic room had a wall of monitors that dramatically displayed each corner of the house. The typical panic room — if it does have surveillance — has one monitor connected to a number of hidden cameras. High-end panic rooms can also utilize heat-sensing cameras, so if the home is attacked at night, you can covertly check out who’s in the house.

Power
Most panic rooms are powered by generators. You have to be careful about ventilation, though, and always be mindful of carbon monoxide poisoning. Generators must be self-contained in the panic rooms, which necessitates more room — and more money. In the most basic panic rooms, battery-powered or hand-cranked lights and phones may be sufficient.

Air circulation
The most elaborate and expensive panic rooms are airtight, temperature- and humidity-controlled chambers. They can have separate air-filtration systems that protect from biohazards, and dummy vents to throw off invaders. And as a last resort, high-end panic rooms can include oxygen masks.

Plumbing 

Again, depending on how much you want to spend, plumbing can be as basic as a portable toilet — or you can install separate plumbing and a septic tank. Of course, you’ll want to stock the room with water(a gallon per person per day is a general guideline).

Supplies
This is where people can get a little crazy, depending on how much they’re willing to spend. The supplies are what help the occupants survive an attack — like food, water and first aid equipment.

Supplies for the über-wealthy can go way beyond the basics — to keep the masters of the house preoccupied with thoughts other than who’s stealing the good silverware, panic rooms can become luxurious dens with beds, wet bars and entertainment systems. Some owners even build two panic rooms: one for the parents and one for the kids. High-end panic rooms often include items like chemical washbasins — to rinse off biohazards — and gas masks.

Weapons
If you built your panic room to protect your family from hurricanes, stocking the room with weapons will probably not be a priority. But if you think you might have to defend your estate from armed terrorists, you’ll probably want an arsenal. Pepper spray comes in on the low end, and the sky is pretty much the limit on the high end: You can arm each member of the household with a gun, for example, or install high-voltage stun devices under the carpet in case an intruder makes it into the room.

Panic Room Construction and Costs

The easiest and most cost-effective way to install a panic room is during construction of a new home. You can work with an architect specializing in secure facilities or bring in a security firm during the blueprint stage. You’ll probably want to tell as few people as possible about the panic room, so the designer often does not tell the contractor about it. It might be called a “mechanical room” on the blueprint, and then you’d bring in a security team after the contractors leave. You’ll want to have the architectural and security firms sign confidentiality agreements to protect the secret room.

In existing homes, bathrooms, closets and wine cellars often get made over into panic rooms. A security firm can advise you on how to fortify a particular room so that it is easily accessible to you but not to intruders. Some companies also mass-produce personal safe rooms.

The big decisions depend on the purpose of the panic room. If you’re worried about safety from intruders, most experts say the room needs to hold long enough for the police to arrive, usually 30 minutes to a couple of hours. For protection from weather-related catastrophes, placement is the most important factor. The ground floor or basement is safest against a tornado, but high ground offers better protection against floods. Supplies and stability are critical.

For safety from nuclear or biological attacks, long-term protection is necessary. The Department of Justice Emergency Preparedness manual states, “Ten square feet of floor space per person will provide sufficient air to prevent the buildup of carbon dioxide for up to five hours”

. If you want to be able to hide out for even longer, check out fallout shelters: One German company, ABC Guard, claims it has made a portable fallout shelter that can house seven people for up to a month.

Panic Room Costs
Panic rooms are pretty expensive, but since they are mostly marketed to the very wealthy, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Construction of a high-end panic room typically starts at $50,000 and can reach beyond $500,000, depending on amenities.

On the low end, converting a closet or extra room into a panic room usually starts around $3,000. Plywood reinforcements for a closet cost about $2,500, and bullet-resistant electronic doors start at $22,000. Add another $3,000 to $10,000 if it’s professionally designed.

According to one estimate on Bankrate.com, adding bullet-resistant Kevlar, a dedicated phone line, backup generator and keyless entry to an existing room can cost $40,000 to $60,000.

Panic Room Popularity

Panic rooms are mostly for high-level executives, politicians and celebrities, although corporations do install them to protect execs from disgruntled employees.

According to some estimates, nearly every new mansion in Los Angeles has a panic room, as do many Manhattan executive suites and town houses. Others say the panic room is mostly an urban legend. The exact numbers are difficult to pin down because the point of the panic room is to be a secret hideout. In fact, most homeowners will not show the room to a buyer until the home is already in escrow — or they tear down the room before selling.

Since Sept. 11, more middle-income families have been investing in panic rooms. And abuse victims are increasingly utilizing panic rooms instead of fleeing their homes (see sidebar).

FEMA is encouraging people to share their ideas for weather-resistant panic rooms. Additionally, the agency — along with some cities and school districts — is considering safe rooms in hurricane-prone areas to protect emergency responders and to store important documents.

Internationally, panic rooms have grown in popularity. Embassies have used safe rooms for at least 25 years to protect government officials and important documents during attacks. Since the 1980s, every U.S. embassy has had a panic room with bullet-resistant glass. In Israel, all new buildings and apartments have been required since 1992 to include bullet- and fire-resistant rooms. In Mexico, where kidnappings for ransom are common, many people use safe rooms as an alternative (or an addition) to bodyguards.

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