Do you know how to spot a spoof social media account?

Be careful which social media accounts you follow, because the person on the other end may not be who you think they are! Imposters are getting more and more savvy, and creating knock off pages claiming to be legit brands, influencers, or maybe even one of your friends. But, once you click, they get your personal information and even connect with your followers.

We’ve all been tempted. You see an offer for a discount or a giveaway. They appear to come from brands that we are familiar with, such as Nike, Gap, Adidas, Sephora, Ulta, Amazon, and more. But these accounts are fake – and so are the giveaways.

Imposters are spoofing accounts and claiming to be a business or in many cases, an individual that you know. The imposter then contacts a person, says they won a contest, and that in order to get the prize, they needed to go to a web page and input certain information. Experts say that’s the scam! Crooks take pictures from the real page (because its easy to copy and paste a logo), and then they create a site that looks almost identical.

Actions you can take to stay safe online and avoid being ripped off!

  • Pay attention to the URL. If it looks foggy or has an extra letter or symbol added to it, it’s likely an imposter page claiming to be the real thing.
  • Before accepting a friend request or responding to a direct message, compare connections. Who are their friends?
  • Check to see that you’re not already to connected to someone who starts following you (or wants to follow you).
  • Looks at posts from the friend request. Are they recent?
  • If it’s a popular brand or a celebrity, look for a blue checkmark. That means that they have been certified by the social media site.
  • If you spot a fake account, report it to the site immediately.
  • If you do fall victim to a social media scam, contact your bank immediately and try to stop payment or freeze the account.
  • Report it to the FBI. If you act quickly, there is a good chance you can get your money back.

What are imposters looking for?

They want your personal information. They want to steal your identity, your phone number, your credit cards, and any information that they can use.

Reports from the FBI say that people have lost hundreds of millions of dollars to imposter social media scams. Be vigilant, educate yourself, and protect your information.

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You’ve probably signed up for credit card alerts and bank notifications, so that you can keep tabs on your financial information. Well, now the bad guys are tapping into that technology to rip you off. They are tricking you and designing links and websites that look just like the real thing, so that you receive scary looking warnings on your phone about locked accounts and abnormal activity.

What is Smishing?

SMS Phishing, also known as Smishing, is a text messaging scam. It’s when a hacker tries to trick you into clicking a link. When you click on the link, it takes you to a website that looks legitimate. In order to gain access to your information, the site then asks you for pertinent information, such as your full name, account number, and social security number. And just like that, you’ve just given a criminal access to your bank account information and more!

What you need to know!

1. Pause before you react! Take the time to actually login to your account and see if everything is okay. Use your bank mobile app or login from your laptop or desktop computer, but DO NOT click any links.
2. Never ever, ever give out your bank account number (especially via text).
3. Don’t give out your social security number or even your zip code.
4. When in doubt, pick up the phone and call your bank or financial institution or if you really get nervous, drive there, and check it out for yourself.
5. If you do give out your information, immediately call your bank, tell them which information you gave out, and ask them to put a temporary hold on all your accounts.
6. Stolen money is required to be refunded per federal law. It might take some time to get your money back, but you WILL get it, so be persistent.

Why are we seeing an increase in texting scams?

All of us have cell phones. And since companies are looking to be more accessible for their clients, they have also opened the window for scammers to take advantage of technology. These cyber-crooks are stealing money and data, and even more scary, they can find out who you are, where you live, where you work, who your family members are, and much worse.

Stay alert, be vigilant, and pause before clicking any links.

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Stay Ahead of Trending Scams and Know the Red Flags

The most common types of scams will target you through texting, emails, phone calls, and letters in the mail. But, nowadays scammers are getting scary clever and showing up at our homes. Early morning, late at night, they don’t care. They are willing to do whatever it takes to make a buck or rip you off.

Know the red flags:

  • Did someone on the phone tell you to buy gift cards and give them the codes as a form of payment?
  • Are you being pressured to send money to someone that you don’t know?
  • Have you been asked to do a wire transfer through Zelle or a similar service?
  • Is someone threatening you by saying they will send law enforcement to get you?

These are all signs that you are being targeted by a scammer. Don’t let them win. Be smarter than they are and don’t fall victim:

  • Hang up the phone
  • Don’t click on unfamiliar links
  • Don’t give out personal information about you or your family members
  • Just DON’T

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Minimize Your Off-Duty Exposure and Avoid Being Tracked Down at Home

As we all know, law enforcement officers face daily dangers. And not just while they are working, but off duty as well. The idea of being followed, harassed, or even stalked at their personal homes, is a terrifying thought. While you wouldn’t think it happens often – sadly it does happen. And it seems to be a growing concern.

Recently, an officer in Selma, Alabama was stalked and harassed at his home by members of a cult that he had been investigating. Here are eight basic tips to help keep you and your family safe:

1. Don’t put your name on your mailbox or a nameplate on your house. It’s not necessary and it makes it easier for someone who might be looking for you to identify your house.

2. Don’t fill out warranty cards. Many people think that they have to fill out a warranty card, but its not necessary. Most products already come with a manufacturers warranty, so by filling out that card and sending it in, just gives ammunition to marketing companies who want to contact you to try and sell you more products.

3. Vary your routes to and from work. Don’t be predictable. This will help decrease the possibility that someone can calculate where you will be during your commute. Taking these varied routes can also help you more easily identify a vehicle that may be following you.

4. Stay alert! Easier said than done, but remember situational awareness when getting in and out of your car. Look around. Many officers tend to let their guard down, after work and drive home mindlessly. This can be dangerous. Remember to look in your rearview mirror and make note of the vehicles you’re seeing. Is there a particular car that always seems to be behind you? Is the guy in the car beside you noticeably looking at you? Is there a vehicle that takes every turn you do?

5. Don’t use your real name on paper subscriptions. Put newspaper, magazine and subscriptions that are delivered to your home under a name other than your own. Consider your spouse’s first and maiden name. You don’t want a newspaper with your name on it lying in your driveway where someone could easily pick it up and identify who lives there.

6. Secure your home. Maintain good lighting in and around your home. Secure your property with an alarm, front – rear – and side cameras, along with motion detectors at night. Don’t have any large bushes where someone could easily hide behind them lurking to attack you or a family member.

7. Be careful where you gather. If you typically hang out to talk after your shift, considering going somewhere other than the department parking lot. Consider an indoor location or a more secluded place that doesn’t draw attention to your group.

8. Shred paperwork! Seems obvious, but you really need to shred most papers that have your name, address, phone number, and other pertinent information on them. This includes billing statements and receipts. It would be too easy for a bad guy to track you down at home only be gain easy access to your trash can on the street that could hold some personal information about you.

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Is the buying and selling of others’ personal information online illegal?

The short answer – yes! At least it is in the United States. Buying and selling any kind of personal information online is illegal. But the same isn’t true for other countries. They don’t necessarily have the same laws that we do as it relates to cyber-crimes. In fact, United States regulatory agencies have no jurisdiction to prosecute fraudsters acting on websites and chat rooms located in other countries.

As of 2020, a privacy law that gives people more control over how websites track and sell their personal information has gone into effect. It’s called the California Consumer Privacy Act, and currently only applies to the state of California.

This means that companies are legally obligated to give California residents the opportunity to not only see how their online information is being tracked, but also how its being sold (name, address, purchasing history, browsing history, etc.) and most importantly how to opt-out.

It’s not as easy as it sounds, and many websites will give pushback before finally taking down information. It takes a lot of time, persistence, and patience. And of course there are is our company, Privacy for Cops, which takes the hassle out of the whole process and does it for you. More information about us can be found on our website at

In the meantime, several other states are working on similar bills, so be on the lookout for them in the near future.

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Happy Independence Day!

The Public Safety Assistance Foundation wishes you all a fun and memorable 4th of July. We will be closed on Monday, July 5, so that our staff can spend time celebrating with their families.

Stay Safe!

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Tips to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Only carry essential cards with you.
Unless you are traveling or have an appointment for something specific, you usually don’t need to show your Social Security Card or Birth Certificate, so avoid carrying them. Also avoid carrying extra credit cards. A good rule of thumb is to only carry one or two max.

Protect your Social Security Number
Only a few organizations such as motor vehicle departments, tax departments and welfare departments have the right to ask to see your social security number. In addition, employers, banks and other financial institutions, can require your SSN, but for all other instances, ask if they will accept an alternative proof of identification.

Have your checks delivered via certified mail
If you are going to have checks delivered to your house, make sure you sign for them or have them delivered during a time when you are going to be home. You can also opt to pick up your checks at the bank instead of having them sent to your home. This makes it harder for your checks to be stolen, altered and cashed by identity thieves. Lastly, keep your information private. There is absolutely no need to include your drivers license on your checks.

NEVER give out personal information over the phone
Identity thieves may call you, posing as banks or government agencies. Do not give out personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call. Register your phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry to avoid all calls from telemarketers trying to get your information over the phone. Visit

Shred as much as possible!
Shred your receipts, credit card offers, expired credit cards, bank statements, returned checks and any other sensitive information. All it takes is one thief to get into your trash can on the street to take as much information as they can.

Use a credit monitoring service
The three nationwide credit reporting agencies have set up a central website through which you can order your free annual credit report. You can also request that you only receive credit card statements through your online card account to avoid sensitive information being transmitted through the mail.

Keep a list of account numbers
Being able to quickly alert your creditors is key to prevent others from using your personal information or bank and credit cards if these items ever become stolen.

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Memorial Day 2021

Today and always, the Public Safety Assistance Foundation honors our military personnel who fought and died for this country. Whether you visited a cemetery, made your own memorial, or simply stayed home and barbequed with your family, we hope you took time to remember and reflect on why we celebrate this day. Especially after what we have all been through this past year due to COVID-19.

Be grateful. Be aware. And don’t sweat the small stuff.

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Grandchild in Jail Scam! Don’t Fall Victim

The phone rings, your grandparent answers, and the caller on the other end of the line shocks them by saying that their grandson has been arrested and is in jail. The caller knows their name, the name of their grandson, where they live, and even gives them some other minor details, such as the state their grandson lives in. Imagine the fear and concern they would feel knowing that he needs help.

The caller proceeds to tell your grandparent that if they want to help their grandson, he will need an attorney and he’ll need to pay fines in order to be released. The caller continues by stating that your grandson will need a minimum of $6,000 to post bail. The caller gives your grandparent a case number and even a return phone number (866#), so that they can call back and get further instructions as to how to submit payment. Of course, they would want to help – right? The caller sounds legit.

Not so fast! The caller is a professional scammer.

Red flag #1 – The call came from an 866-phone number and not a local landline. Don’t answer these types of calls. If you don’t know whose calling, just let it go to voice mail. If its real, you can choose to call back or block the number.

Red flag #2 – The caller sounded like they were in a different country. Listen to the sounds in the background. Do they sound like they are outside or inside? If it feels off, just hang up the phone.

Red flag #3 – The caller pressures you for the money and threatens the life of your grandson. A normal police station calling should never threaten you.

Scary Fact – In the U.S., grandparent scams are on the rise, with nearly $41 million dollars in reported losses.

Before this ordeal is over, the grandparent will continue to receive tons of calls demanding thousands of dollars, while the caller threatens their grandson. Targeting seniors and preying on their devotion to their families is wrong is so many ways.

If you have a senior that you care about, talk to them about the dangers of phone scams, in-person scams, email scams, work-at-home scams, and all the others that come to mind. The best thing we can do to help is educate our loved ones, so that they don’t fall victim.

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Scammers Targeting Small Businesses

Scammer #1
A man named “Ed” wanted a landscaping quote for a paver driveway. He contacted a business by phone and said he would text the address, so that they could go out to the property and provide a free quote.

The homeowner tells the business that he wasn’t going to be at the property, but instead provided pictures of sample pavers that he wanted to use. He then asks the business to send the quote by email. The business sends over the quote (over $40k) and the “homeowner” says he wants to book them for the job.

When the business discusses the contract and deposit that was needed before they could start the work, the scammer says that he was out of town and having treatment for lung cancer. He requested to pay the deposit remotely. The business informs the scammer that he could email everything and pay using PayPal or through their accounting services invoicing.

“Ed” tells the business that he had filed disuptes with both PayPal and Square, so his account was locked. He then asks the business for the name of their bank or if they had a credit card terminal that they could manually enter the credit card information, which thankfully they declined to give out.

You can probably sense where this is going. But keep reading, because it gets better.

Scammer #2
The same night, the exact same business is finalizing a second quote for “Ronald” who also lives in the area. This guy gives the business his address, so that they can go over and look at the property and provide a quote. The quote comes back at $13,000 worth of landscaping.

When the business calls the scammer, he answered the phone and says he got held up at work. But, he wants to proceed with the work. When the business tries to setup a meeting to sign the contract “Ronald” says he is out of town due to his wife being sick with “lung cancer.” He also requests the contract be emailed. And also says he has been locked out of his PayPal account.

These red flags prompted the business to look up the addresses online. And sure enough, both properties were listed for sale on the MLS website. Neither had been purchased and neither were in contract. So the business contacted the listing agents on both properties only to find out that neither “Ed” or “Ronald” were the owners of the properties.

This is reminder to never give out your bank information to anyone. Screen potential clients as carefully as possible and pay attention to your sixth sense. If something seems off, it probably is.

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