2020 Voting – How to keep your online information safe

Election security has become a hot topic recently. And with election day less than five months away, the COVID-19 pandemic has made the task of protecting the election from cyber-attacks even more challenging.

Increasing the risk of a potential technical malfunction, voters are also required to a lot of things remotely that would normally be able to do in person:

• Register to vote at a government office
• Request an absentee ballot
• Renew a driver’s license

Since many election officials are required to work from home right now, there is a heightened awareness regarding the risk for people to become victims of a voting phishing campaign.

So, what features ensure online voting is safe and secure?
• Single-vote verification – Technical term for preventing duplicate votes
• Secure nomination and election sites for American citizens
• Ballot tracking and data privacy – Voting in real time.
• 24/7 monitoring – Firewalls, back-up generators, and server failures.
Anything is possible!

Whether your personal or professional life, data privacy is important. Elections are crucial, so get out there and vote. It’s imperative our personal information is protected.

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Violence Against Police Growing

It’s an extremely difficult time for police officers. Violence against them seems to be escalating and is raising fears among civilians. It’s escalating to the point where we have anti-police state politicians promoting messages of hate, standing on lawns, threatening neighbors, and calling people racists. They are facing reasonable criticism for using unnecessary force. And their physical safety and the conditions under which they are being required to work is terrifying.

Is this really how we want to treat our heroes on the frontlines?
On one hand, officers are cheered for kneeling and marching with protesters. Then on the other hand, they are denounced for using force against rogue protesters. Officers are being shot, targeted with rocks and fireworks, and even struck by cars. Is this how we want to treat our law enforcement – our heroes on the frontlines? The people who are sworn to serve and protect our communities. The people who are there for us when the bad guys come knocking. No way!

Protests are leading to riots and one tragedy is leading to another. But, contrary to popular beliefs, peaceful protesters are not trying to evoke violence or destroy property. Rather they are trying to spread positive messages of hope and bring awareness to problem issues.

We need our law enforcement officers
The potential for an increased amount of violence is worrisome. The longer this goes on, and no solutions are made, the more we will see both sides escalating. Let’s all hope the tone will shift and the violence and hateful messages stop. We need our LEOs and our communities wouldn’t be the same without them.

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Latest Twist on SSN Scams

In the latest twist on a scam related to social security numbers, scammers pretend to be from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and try to get your social security number.

The scammers claim that your SSN has been suspended due to suspicious activity and that had to cancel the card. The scammer then wants you to confirm your SSN to reactivate it. It’s yet another attempt by con artists to frighten people into returning ‘robocall’ voicemails and its growing rapidly.

Signs of the Scam!
• The caller tells you that you have to pay in order to keep your SSN active.
• The caller demands that you pay using a prepaid gift card, such as iTunes.
• The caller says you have to wire the funds immediately or you will lose your house and your assets will be frozen.
• The caller threatens that the police is going to come to your house and arrest you.

Be on the lookout for new variations of scam. The phone number that shows up on your caller ID often shows the real SSA phone number. YIKES! But, the scammers are able to fake the number and re-route it.

So, if you receive a call that threatens you if you don’t pay, just hang up and block the call. The law requires the IRS to use private agencies to collect certain outstanding tax debts. Never give out your SSN to anyone who contacts you.


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Protests and Officer Safety

After a recent shooting in Covina, California (Los Angeles County), protesters showed up at the residence of the police officer involved, demanding that he be charged for the fatal shooting of Andrew Guardado. The incident is an unfortunate loss of life. And the investigation is still ongoing. But it begs the question – how did the protesters know where he lived? Seems nowadays, anyone can find you by running a simple online search.

Protesters connect in new ways using the internet and mobile technology

Internet activism (also known as online organizing and electronic advocacy – as defined on Wikipedia.com) is the use of electronic communication technologies. Social media, email, and podcasts to name a few, are helping activists achieve their objectives more readily and with speed and accuracy.

Assuming the protesters were able to find the officers home address online is frightful. When you show up to a private residence, it is no longer just about the officer, but puts the safety of the family in jeopardy as well. Imagine the fear of the officer and his family. What if he had children and they were outside playing in the yard? What if his mother lives with him and she was arriving home? So many things could go wrong.

Protect our communities

Protected by the First Amendment, the right to peacefully protest is one thing, but showing up to a law enforcement officers home seems to be taking things too far. It puts the lives of the officer and their families in danger.

One would hope that people think of their own families in such times and respect private homes and the communities in which they live.

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Common Tax Scam Warnings

It’s tax season! And this year, just like every year, criminals are out there online looking for ways to trick you and take your money. They can spoof caller ID numbers that appear to be anywhere in the country. They can even spoof an IRS office phone number or the numbers of various local, state, or federal agencies. It’s scary!

On the Rise – Economic Impact Payment Scams

  • Criminals are stealing and cashing economic checks.
  • Fake at-home test kits are being sold.
  • Fake cures, vaccines, and pills are selling, along with advice on unproven treatments for COVID-19.

Criminals are even setting up phony websites to sell products that they don’t have and producing fake social media accounts and email addresses. It would be horrible to order something that you think is going to help save your life or the life of a loved one, only to never receive the product and discover that you’ve been duped.

Things the IRS will NEVER do by Phone:

  • Leave pre-recorded, urgent or threatening messages.
  • Threaten to deport you.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying taxes.
  • Call to demand immediate payment in the form of a gift card, prepaid debit card, wire transfer, or a check.

If you owe money to the IRS, they will reach out to you first by mail in the form of a bill/letter. They do not contact you by email to request personal or financial information. So, if you receive something by email that looks like its from the IRS – it’s a scam. Don’t click on anything. Don’t reply. Delete it or move it to your junk box.

Report suspicious online or email activity to the IRS. Simply send an email to phishing@irs.gov.

It’s sad that scammers are taking advantage of our most vulnerable times and our most vulnerable populations. Educate yourself and don’t fall victim to these schemes.

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Contact Tracing Scam

With COVID cases spiking, contact tracers may be more important than ever – and the scammers know it! The Federal Trade Commission put out an official warning to beware of fake tracers who are posing as government employees. These scammers are trying to scare you into exposing your personal and financial information.

You would be surprised how many smart people fall for this scam.

You probably think to yourself – I would NEVER fall for that. I would never give out my personal information to some stranger on the phone. But what if they told you were exposed to the Coronavirus? Or what if they told you that you might have been exposed on a recent visit that you made to your local grocery store or when you stopped to get gas? Kind of changes your outlook a bit doesn’t it!

So, how can you tell the difference between what is legit and what is a scam?

A REAL contact tracer, would NEVER ask for your financial information, social security number, or address. And when it comes to fake emails (that look very real), don’t click on anything. Once you click on the link for more information, malware is installed on your device. You just opened the door and gave a criminal access to everything that you do on that device, including checking your bank account balances, communicating with friends and family through text messages, social media access – everything!

Here’s the thing, a state contract tracer might reach out to you. And you shouldn’t hesitate to talk to them. But they will only ask you for your name and date of birth. If they ask for anything else, it’s a red flag.

Don’t fall for it!

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Happy Birthday America!

While many traditional gathering, fireworks, picnics, and parades have been canceled, today we celebrate our freedom.

In observance of the 4th of July holiday, we will be closed so that our staff can spend time with their families.

We wish you a safe and enjoyable Independence Day.

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Facial Recognition Software

For years, activists have been worried that facial recognition software could end up putting the wrong people in jail.

In October 2018, someone stole nearly $4,000 in watches from a Detroit jewelry store. A Detroit man (who had no criminal record) was wrongly arrested on his front lawn in front of his wife and children.

Why?
Because of an algorithm. Police fed one blurry image through a facial recognition system and it suggested a likely match with the accused’s drivers license photo. The man was later released, and charges were dropped, but the incident begs the question, is the software putting Black Americans at risk?

A few things to note:
1. Facial recognition is NOT probable cause to arrest.
2. Certain images should never be submitted for search.
3. Warranty standards must be up to par with normal legal requirements.

Does the technology amplify bias rather than fight it?
Researches have concluded that facial recognition algorithms often mis-identify more black faces than white faces. So, maybe the use of facial recognition software should be limited to violent crimes and home invasions. And it should certainly require that more than one experienced examiner review and agree with the results.

Cities like San Francisco and Boston have banned the use of companies from being able to sell facial recognition software to the police. The stakes of being under the scrutiny of the police are so high, its just not clear that you can create any kind of system that can be fair and un-bias.

Fierce Debate
Bottom line, there should never be a rush to judgement on guilt or innocence when using facial recognition software. Mis-identification of an arrest is humiliating. It can lead to a permanent arrest record, failed background checks, and much worse.

And there seems to be fierce debate among the people who study facial recognition. Whether you can somehow make the technology reliable enough that bias won’t play into it, or if facial recognition by its nature, it will always reflect the unfair treatment of Black Americans.

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Law Enforcement Continuing to Respond During the Pandemic

The world is facing the toughest battle many of us have ever seen in our lifetime. And even during the unfortunate situation of encountering a COVID-19 related death, Police and Law Enforcement Officers are continuing to respond and serve their communities on the front lines.

From public safety issues, to crime, to not always having the proper equipment, to officer stress, the impact of the Coronavirus on officers has been tremendous. Yet they keep coming back day in and day out to do their jobs.

Why?
Those who take the oath to serve and protect our communities are not in it for financial gain – but to make a difference, because they are passionate about the work. It’s not a career meant for everyone. And it’s important to remember that public safety has, and will continue to be, the number one priority for law enforcement officers.

If you are a law enforcement officer, here are some ways to protect yourself from COVID-19:

• Disinfect all of your gear, including your duty belt
• Wear a mask and be sure you know how to properly use and dispose of it.
• Keep extra masks on hand. One on your person, one in your car, and one in the office
• Use disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer on duty
• Sanitize your phone, your laptop, and your clipboard. Infected droplets might be able to live on any surface.
• Wipe down your patrol car, including your steering wheel, dispatch radio, door handles and modules.

Rest assured, law enforcement officers are continuing to patrol and respond to crimes in progress and emergencies. We need them.

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Beware of a New Email Tracking Scam

There is a new email tracking scheme going on and one that you want to know about. The scheme attempts to install a remote access tool on your smart device by tricking you into opening an email attachment.

To make matters worse, the email claims to come from a very well-known business— John Hopkins Medical Center (known as John Hopkins Hospital). How scary is that?! If the recipient attempts to open the attachment (which is an Excel file), it will open and show a graph of the supposed number of COVID-19 cases in the United States. But, the file is obviously a scam. If you open it, and allow the file to run on your device, a Windows tool called NetSupport Manager will download.

While NetSupport Manager is a legitimate remove access tool, it is commonly known for being abused by hackers, so that they gain access to your personal information and compromise your device. Once a computer system is compromised, the NetSupport Manager will connect to a command-and-control server, which allows the hackers to send other commands.

What NOT To Do:

  • Don’t click on any links that you receive from an unknown source
  • Don’t open any attachments or download anything (even if it looks legit)
  • Don’t ever give anyone your passwords or login information
  • Suspicious emails are real. Scammers are real. Beware of suspicious messages that you receive and don’t let these guys get the best of you.

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