Fraud is on the rise – Ways to help prevent it.

The safety and security of your online personal information should always be a priority. Ever since COVID-19 began, criminals started using these difficult times to come up with schemes to gain access to our very private and personal information. They impose themselves on our daily lives by making fraudulent phone calls, sending fake emails with links that cause spyware to be installed on our devices, and even send hard copy mail in an attempt to get us to give them any spark of information.

So, how can you protect yourself from fraud?

  1. Be wary of fake voter calls and registration websites claiming to be part of a political campaign. Don’t donate to them. Don’t give them the time of day.
  2. Stay alert. Don’t give out your social security number, don’t give out your credit card number, don’t give out your driver’s license number, don’t give your date of birth, JUST DON’T.
  3. Don’t click on links in emails or text messages that you don’t recognize.
  4. Don’t respond to text messages from people that you don’t know. Block the number and delete it.
  5. Hang up on robo-calls!
  6. Ensure your laptop and cell phone are updated with the latest software.
  7. Use two-step verification, which requires a unique security code each time you access your accounts.

Stay vigilant and don’t fall into the trap of giving unnecessary information about your self to a stranger. It’s too risky and times are uncertain. Better to be safe and protect your identity.

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Keeping your data safe should be a top priority!

On October 10, 2020, Barnes & Noble was the victim of a cybersecurity data breach, which resulted in criminals gaining access to customer email addresses’, billing and shipping address, telephone numbers, and transaction histories.

Although not worth much to hackers on their own, personally identifying data are valuable on the black market. It can be combined with other information, including credit card stats and social security numbers. Hackers can use that information to steal identities, money, and more.

Recent online reports indicate that U.S. companies have seen a significant increase in cyber-attacks since the start of the pandemic. This threatens the safety of communities and puts the most vulnerable populations at risk.
Now that your details might be in the hands of hackers, be wary of unsolicited emails.

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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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