How Are Online Scammers Getting Your Info?

At some point, we have all received phony emails, phony text messages, phony mail, and more recently unruly robo-calls. The question is … how are these companies getting your information? How do they know so much about you? Where did they get this information? Why you?

Your Information Can Be Sold to Companies
It’s unfortunate, and it’s NOT legal, but it happens all the time. Marketing firms and criminals can learn a lot about you based solely on information you willingly provide.

Public Records
Did you know that public records are openly available? Voting records, media articles, and property information, for example, are not private. They are available at all levels (federal, state, city and county).

Survey’s and Online Contests
Marketing companies collect information about you through survey’s and contests. They will ask you things like your name, address, age, how much money you make a year, whether or not you have children in your house, and even where you like to travel.

Real Time Social Media Posts
More often than not, criminals are now turning to social media to gain insight about you. If you post on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook to name a few, you could be the target of a scam. So, be prudent. Don’t give criminals a heads up about your upcoming travel plans or let them know your whereabouts. Instead, share pics when you get back so the information that you share isn’t in real time.

Hard Copy Mail
Mail is a peek into your life. So, don’t just throw it out when you are done with it —SHRED it.

Unfortunately, we can’t control all of the way’s criminals can get their hands on our personal information. But, many of them are under our control. Be diligent about removing your personal information online and be skeptical of unwanted calls. Especially someone claiming to be calling from your bank, credit card, social security administration, IRS, or even your doctor’s office or insurance. When in doubt, hang up and don’t engage. Criminals and scammers are counting on you to interact.

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Six Steps to Help Minimize Your Social Media Footprint

With the recent call to actions for violence against law enforcement officers and public officials, we want to bring to your attention some steps you can take to minimize your social media footprint.

1. Remove or block any online information that might reference you as a law enforcement officer.

2. Remove or block any online information that might reference you socially, your spouse, your children, and/or your relatives.

3. Remove or hide online photos of you on the job.

4. Any postings in internet forums should be limited to the agency you are associated with. Any identifying information such as an email or phone number should not be viewable.

5. Limit access of your social media sites to only those people you trust.

6. If you own real estate property, contact your county assessor’s office to have your information blocked.

The more you can limit a person or groups targeting capability, the harder it is for them to find you online.

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What Can You Do To Protect Your Online Identity?

Respond quickly.

If you find your personal information online, act quickly. Hackers create a personal and public safety issue for Law Enforcement Officers and Public Officials.

Block as many records as possible.

Including social media networks that we all find so tempting to create. If you have them, close them. Or take advantage of the security features each site has and only allow close personal friends to view your page.

Block your Voter Information Data.

Even though this information is a public record, you can still contact your county and request that your information not be shared.

Do some extra leg work on your own.

You might need to go the extra mile and make phone calls or send emails to protect your name. It might seem ridiculous and tedious, but it works.

Bottom line – As Law Enforcement Officers and Public Officials, the need for anonymity is vital. When your personal information is displayed online, it creates real safety issues. Be proactive and take the necessary steps to protect yourself and your family members.

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Video Manipulation Technology Posing Growing Threat

Sometimes, it’s hard to tell the difference between a real video and a distorted one. And for law enforcement, their safety is threatened when images and video are manipulated to the point where the public perceives that what happened in an incident, is completely different from what actually happened. And this type of manipulation technology is posing a growing threat to safety.

What We Hear vs What Actually Happened

Lately, we have been hearing stories in the media about how police officers are negatively interacting with the community. People are recording incidents on their cell phones and tablets and then forwarding these incidents to news media and posting on their social media. And it seems like most people believe what they see. But, many times, these images and video don’t capture the full story. In some cases, it gets edited to actually eliminate what took place prior to what was actually captured.

For example, a video might only show how an officer used force to subdue a suspect, but not show what compelled the officer to use force. As a community, we are then left to make our own conclusions and a false narrative often erupts.

What Was Reported:

  • A man was “shot by the police, because of a burned-out tail light.”

What Actually Happened:

  • The vehicle was stopped, because the driver resembled an armed robbery suspect. When police engaged, he attempted to draw a gun, despite multiple warnings from the officer not to do so.

What Was Reported:

  • A man was shot by police while “simply sitting with his girlfriend and baby.”

What Actually Happened:

  • The suspect had been firing a pistol in an urban neighborhood. When the police saw him sitting on a curb with a gun in his hand, he fled, then turned and fired at the officers.

How Can We Educate Ourselves?

  1. Don’t believe everything you hear or everything you see. Get your news and information from a professional and reliable TV medium. They will report the full story and disclose why police responded the way they did.
  2. Do your research. The only way to know for certain, is to know the facts.
  3. Don’t rush to judge. There is usually more to the incident than what is reported.
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Suicide by Cop – Warning Signs

Law Enforcement. It’s one of the hardest jobs in the world. And most people don’t realize how difficult it is for a police officer to turn their brain off from work once they get home. It’s not just something they do. It’s who they are. So, when they are faced with having to deal with suicidal incidents, it can be emotionally draining on them.

Suicide by Cop
When an officer has to respond to suicidal subjects, it directly impacts safety. Safety of the officer, their community, and the families surrounding them. Here are some warning signs to be aware of that can help officers recognize when they might be facing a Suicide by Cop situation (reported by policeone.com):

• The subject is barricaded and refuses to negotiate
• The subject has just killed someone, particularly a close relative
• The subject says he has a life-threatening illness
• The subject has undergone a traumatic life change (divorce, etc.)
• Prior to the encounter, the subject gave away all of his money or possessions
• The subject has a record of assaults
• Subject says he will only surrender to the person in charge
• Has expressed interest in “going out in a big way”
• Subject expresses feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
• Subject demands to be killed

In the book Suicide by Cop, by Vivian B. Lord, it talks about the fact that if a subject wants to be killed, they might be willing to do anything to do it. Including shooting at an officer, just so they can be fired upon.

Resolving the situation as peacefully as possible is obviously the most desired outcome. But it definitely shouldn’t come at the expense of your own personal safety. You must remain aware and vigilant to the fact that a suicidal person might be preparing to die.

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Amazon Partnership with Law Enforcement

Amazon is targeting a new customer—Law Enforcement! The sales giant is partnering with police to help fight crime among new privacy concerns in our country.

And why not?
Seems like a great idea. Amazon can deliver a package to your doorstep within 24 hours. And also help catch the thief who tried to steal it. Amazon has been working with law enforcement using fake packages filled with GPS trackers to see who takes the bait. And its working, so many police departments are welcoming the effort.

Ring, which produces video doorbells and security cameras happens to be owned by none other than – you guessed it – Amazon. Their services have been a game changer in terms of helping people feel more comfortable in their neighborhoods, but also in terms of working together with police departments to help catch thieves in action. Not only can Ring capture live video footage of a crime, but it can also capture a perpetrators face and often times, their vehicle as well. All of this helps identify them that much quicker, which helps put safety and privacy concerns at ease.

If police need help solving a crime, they reach out to Ring with the time and location. Ring then contacts app users in the area seeking video. In Connecticut, the cameras have already solved several burglaries thanks to this service.

What about privacy concerns?
Amazon AND the police only have access to videos that users voluntarily share. And users remain anonymous. Aren’t we already giving up our faces and some privacy through social media anyway? This is just one more step using arguably one of the best forms of technology to help keep our communities safe.

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Are Bullet Proof Backpacks a Good Idea?

As kids, teenagers, and college students prepare to go back to school, manufactures are now offering bullet proof backpacks. You heard right – bullet proof backpacks! Sound a bit far-fetched, but in the state of our current culture and so many recent school shootings, the idea might not sound so bad. After all, safety is the number one priority at any school campus across the country. And maybe this will help. Or if anything, it could help a teen feel better about staying alive in the unfortunate event that something like this takes place at their school.

Who would have thought that a back to school supply list could look like this?
• College Lined Loose Leaf Paper
• Number 2 Pencils
• 1” Binder
• Bullet proof backpack
• Notebook
• Colored Pencils

But that is exactly what is happening. Several companies are now marketing these backpacks to parents who are desperate to protect their kids in an active shooter situation. They can wear them on their back like usual, flip it and wear it in front of their body, or simply hold it up in front of their head.

Necessary precaution or over the top?
Shootings this past week in Gilroy, California, El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio have us all on edge. It’s a sad and depressing fact that we now have to think about armored backpacks to help us feel safe and increase our chances of survival. And not just at schools, but everywhere—churches, malls, stores, and even movie theaters. Some stores are literally selling out of bullet proof backpacks which can range in price from $100-$200.

Buyer Beware
Parents should really do their research regarding the effectiveness of bullet proof backpacks. The standards are used at independent testing facilities, so the government itself does not certify or test them. Finally, consider that making your child wear one of these backpacks could in fact raise their fear level. It could be giving them (and you) a false sense of security.

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Mental Health Training for Police

Across the Sacramento, California area, police officers are learning how to handle people who have mental illness. Law enforcement from twenty-two different departments recently took part in what is considered a “train the trainer” course in which they learned de-escalation techniques. They talked about how to look for certain behaviors and how to distinguish between developmental disabilities, mental health issues, and substance abuse.

Ensuring Officers are Equipped to Handle Mental Illness

Training is another tool for police officers who now seem to be responding to more and more calls related to mental illness. You never know what is going to happen and mental illness can be scary and is hard for most of us to understand. Imagine how difficult it is for law enforcement officers. They don’t know if someone is genuinely suffering from mental illness and really needs help, or if they are acting or pretending with intentions to harm them or try to get away. Ensuring that officers are equipped to deal with the various things they come across on the street is so important.

Reality Check

In May this year, officers encountered a man who was threatening to jump off a highway overpass. Their training came into play and created a positive outcome in which they were able to stop the man from jumping. It could have turned out negatively if officers had not had this training and responded differently.

Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn reported that his department has seen a steady uptake in calls to the 911 center related to people with mental illness. More than 6,000 calls already this year. On average there are 35 mental health calls per day.

Bravo to the Departments Providing Training

With these types of statistics, it is apparent that mental illness is a complex issue with no single solution. And it seems that one of the biggest challenges for law enforcement is what to do with people once they have been identified. The best outcome is to resolve the situation without anyone being injured—including themselves. But realistically, this can’t always happen. So, the more informed and educated our officers are about this issue, the better off the communities they serve will be as a whole.

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Thousands of LAPD Police Officers Info Stolen in Data Breach

A recent data theft of approximately 2,500 officers from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) is being investigated after their personal information was compromised last week. This includes the names, birth dates, email addresses, partial employee serial numbers, and account passwords of these officers; along with thousands of more police officer applicant’s information that were reportedly compromised by the breach.

In today’s climate, online safety of our personal information is a serious concern. It is hard to conceptualize the impact that the data breach will have on these officers and their families over time. And hopefully, the breach doesn’t extend beyond what has been reported by the media.

The LAPD says it is “taking steps to ensure the department’s data is protected from any further intrusions,” and that “the employees and individuals who may have been affected by this incident have been notified.”

Thinking about how it would feel to be an officer and receive a notification that your personal information has been stolen (from your employers’ database) is an unsettling thought. We entrust that when we provide certain required information to our work place that it will be kept safe from discovery by outside individuals. Knowing that it could possibly be compromised would provide such an uneasy feeling and would definitely have us pausing before providing such personal and confidential information.

Recommendations:
• Monitor your financial accounts
• Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
• Look into credit monitoring services

Identity theft is on the rise. And since we don’t yet have any further information on how this happened, we recommend taking the steps above to help ensure the extend of the breach doesn’t get worse.

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Do Police Have the Right to Search Your Trash?

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. We’ve all heard that one before. And the way most laws currently read, we have no right to an expectation of privacy when it comes to our trash – especially trash that sits outside in front of our homes on the street. Law enforcement officers are well within their rights to rummage through our garbage at will.

What about important documents?

Important documents should be shredded in your home or taken to a facility that can shred and dispose of them for you. Other items can be taken directly to a disposal facility where they are rendered unidentifiable.

Your Fourth Amendment Rights

According to the Fourth Amendment, members of the public are protected from “unreasonable searches and seizures” without an officer having a search warrant issued and signed by a judge. In general, this means law enforcement officers at any level, including federal, state, local, and government cannot simply enter a person’s home or business without probable cause or a warrant. However, this protection does not apply to anything you put in the trash cans out by the curb.

Many people carry receipts, notes, pieces of paper, and any number of things they plan to dispose of at a later time in their pockets. According to the law, these items are also protected under the Fourth Amendment, meaning that law enforcement officers cannot legally search a person or seize any items in a person’s pocket or in sealed trash bags in the back of a parked car without a warrant or they risk being in violation of the person’s Fourth Amendment rights.

According to the law, your right to privacy on your property extends out to what is called a “curtilage” or the area the immediately surrounds your home. This so-called “curtilage” does not however extended as far as the curb where you routinely place your trash for pick up. Since federal courts have stated that a person does not have a “right to privacy” regarding trash left on the curb for pick up, law enforcement has free reign on rummaging through it without the need for probable cause or a warrant.

Once a person’s trash is placed at the curb for pick up, it is no longer protected from being searched by any member of law enforcement at any level. On top of this, anything found in that trash may be used as evidence if the person is charged with a crime.

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