Tips to Protect Your Data While Traveling

Let’s be real. Scammers don’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. They will always be out there lurking for the next victim. And unfortunately, travelers are frequently targeted by scammers – particularly hackers. Your personal data is much more valuable than your personal items. But, with these simple steps, you can make it much harder for thieves to steal your information.

Seven Ways to Travel with Peace of Mind:

  1. Before you go on a trip, make sure your identification is up-to-date. The worse thing you want to have happen is to get to the airport, only to discover that your passport is expired.
  2. Update all of your electronic devices (cell phones, laptops, tablets, etc). Make sure the operating systems and anti-virus software are the latest versions.
  3. Disable any settings that automatically connect to open wi-fi networks, such as those found in airports, hotels, and coffee shops.
  4. Back up your data or transfer it to a storage device, such as an external hard drive.
  5. Avoid shopping online and checking your bank account balances in public. If you do have to check your bank account, use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN will route your online activity through an encrypted server.
  6. Don’t fall for phishing attempts that are sent to you by text or email. If you don’t recognize the sender, don’t click on any links.
  7. Finally, just to be safe, use your own portable charging station and bring your own chords. It’s fast and easy and will help you avoid becoming a victim.
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Gift Card Scams – What you need to know!

Let’s start with the basics. Gift cards are for gifts – not for payments. We buy gift cards to give to someone as a present. A birthday, a graduation, an anniversary, a holiday, a promotion, or other gift giving reasons. Never ever, under any circumstances, buy a gift card and then read the numbers to someone you don’t know over the phone. That has scam written all over it.

How Do Gift Card Scams Work?

Gift card scams usually begin with a call, text, email, or an instant message from a social media account. Scammers will tell you to go to a specific store and they will tell you what type of gift card to buy. They will then ask you for the card number and the pin number from the back of the card. Once they have this information, it gives them access to get the money that you just loaded on the card. They don’t need a physical card to get the money.

What Might Scammers Say to Trick You?

Scammers might say they are from the government, such as the IRS or Social Security Administration. They might say they are from tech support and that something is wrong with your computer. They could say you’ve won a prize. They might even use other more stringent tactics and tell you they are a family member who has an emergency. This is called impersonating. They will say anything. Don’t fall for it!

Tips for buying gift cards:

  • Buy from stores that you shop at regularly, such as a grocery store or department store.
  • Inspect the gift card before you buy it. The protective sticker on the card should not be tampered with or scraped off in any way. Also check the pin number. If you spot a problem, give it to the store manager.
  • Keep your gift card receipt and even take a picture of the gift card (both sides).

 Report Gift Cards Used in Scams to the FTC at

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Wishing you all a safe and happy holiday season!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Privacy for Cops! We are grateful for the work we get to do every day in helping to protect law enforcement officers, publicly appointed officials, and their families, from the exposure of their personal information online.

Support Options Limited During Holiday Hours

We will be closed December 25-26 and January 1, along with limited availability during these holiday weeks.

We appreciate your patience during this time and will reply to your messages as soon as we return.


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Thank you Veterans!

With respect, honor, and gratitude ~ Thank you to all those who served our beautiful country.

We see you.

We appreciate you.

We honor you.

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New Terms Hitting the Scam Market – Educate Yourself!

Have you heard of Smising? Porting? Sim Swap? Social Engineering? Man in the Middle Attack? These are just a handful of new terms hitting the scam market. And nowadays, it seems like there is a different swindle happening every other week.

Fraudsters are getting creative and finding loopholes around ways to gain access to your personal information. Read on to learn about the current scams, so you can protect yourself from becoming a victim of these horrible offenses.

Smishing gets its name from the term SMS (short messaging system), which is a text message. It is a mash up from the term phishing, which refers to a fraudster’s attempt to get you to reveal personal information that can be used to scam you.

Most of the time, a scammer will ask you for information via text that includes a link that they want you to click on. Or you might receive a phone call. An example might be when you receive an email or text that says you won a contest or maybe a message that looks like it came from your bank. If anyone asks for your birthdate, social security number, credit card number, name of the street you live on, or any other personal details, it’s most likely someone is trying to trick you.

Porting is when you change phone carriers, but you want to keep the same phone number. For example, your current cell number is with AT&T, but you want to switch Verizon. You want to take your number with you, which is super convenient.

This is the scary thing – If someone can impersonate you and port your number to a new carrier without you knowing about it, they can intercept messages coming in from your personal accounts, which mean they would even get authentication messages that are connected to your login details. You won’t even know it happened until your phone has lost service and try to gain access to your accounts.

Sim Swap
Sim refers to a SIM card. A SIM card is the small chip that usually goes in a tiny slot on the side of your cell phone. It connects you to your mobile network.

A fraudster can initiate a SIM swap by using your own personal information against you. Once they have your information, they could try to call your cell phone service. If they convince the provider rep that they are you, they will ask them to link your service to a SIM card that they own. This allows them to re-route all your calls and text messages to their device, which gives them access to authenticate and deactivate your phone.

Social Engineering
You probably know this one, you just didn’t know there was a term for it. Social Engineering is when a scammer tries to convince you that they are someone you know. They try to get you to reveal some personal information about that person that they can use against them. For example, a scammer might tell you that one of your family members (John, for example), is in jail and needs your help. They might say that John needs bail money to get out. They might say that they are willing to work with you and might even pretend to be kind and concerned for John.

Don’t fall for it. Hang up, don’t respond to social media messages, and don’t click on links.

Man in the Middle Attack
This type of attack happens when a fraudster puts themselves in the middle of your authentication process by attempting to get your code, so they can use it to impersonate you to the company that issued the code. It sounds a bit complicated, but it isn’t. Once a scammer has your login, they can trigger an authorization code and make changes to your account.

An authentication code is sent to you, then the scammer calls or texts you pretending to be the company, so they can complete their scam transaction. Once they have that code from you, they can change your password and lock you out of your account.

Cyber-attacks and scams are scary to think about, because they can happen through phone calls, text messages, social media, even regular mail. Continue to educate yourself and know the warning signs, so that you know what to do if a scammer tries to contact you.

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Location Sharing – Is it safe?

Location privacy is an important part of staying safe. Nowadays, cell phones and all kinds of apps, can not only track your location, but share your location too. The scary part is that this can happen even without your knowledge.


What’s good about location sharing?

• If you are worried about your kids getting to and from school, it could be a good idea for them to share their location with a parent. This way, you can see exactly where they are at all times.

• Location tools help increase safety with pets as well. If your dog or cat gets out of the house or the backyard, and you have a tracking device on them, it will make it easier for you to locate their exact location.

• For convenience, it’s nice to have the “find my” app readily available in case you lose your cell phone or air pods. Simply go to the website and locate it without even having the phone.

When should you turn off location tracking?

• If someone is stalking you or you are trying to get away from an abusive situation, disable all of your location features. You can also contact law enforcement or a national helpline to be connected with local resources.

• Trust your instincts! Perpetrators try to use location tracking to control victims. If it seems like a person knows too much about you, they might be accessing your online accounts or tracking your location using a small device that can easily fit in a bag or car without being detected.


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The Latest Scam – Digital Money Impersonations

Impersonation scams online have significantly increased. Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase, and Citibank to name a few, are the latest banks to be targeted. Scammers are fraudulently impersonating customers by using stolen identities, while also pretending to be representatives working on their behalf. Remember, financial industries such as these will never contact you to request money using Zelle or Wire Tranfer.

Stay Vigilant! Here are some tips to avoid being a target online:

Protect your credit or debit card and your PIN number. Make it hard for someone to guess and always cover it up when entering it in a store at the check out counter.
Don’t answer your phone if you don’t recognize the number. If it’s important, the person will leave you a message and you can decide whether to call them back or not.
Never disclose personal information until you verify that it’s from a reputable source. When in doubt, call the company directly using phone numbers you know are real.
Don’t let anyone threaten you. That goes for online, over the phone, or by texting. Remember, these entities should never do that to you. If they do, it’s a red flag.
If you think an account has been compromised, contact the institution, change your logins, and consider putting a fraud freeze on your card.


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Children’s Privacy Online – What Parent’s Should Know

With the rise in popularity among electronics, there have been a lot of recent concerns about the privacy of children, teenagers, and young adults alike. And although children under the age of 13 can legally give out personal information with their parents’ permission, many websites, particularly social media sites, can collect personal information about them, such as their name, birth date, and email address.

Twenty-five years ago, congress passed the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) wrote a rule implementing the law, which was revised in 2012. Here are some answers to questions about the COPPA that parents and caregivers should find helpful:

What does the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Do?

COPPA imposes certain requirements of websites that are directed to children under age 13. It also imposes requirements on operators of other websites that have actual knowledge that they are collecting personal information online from youth under 13 years old.

What rights do parents have under the COPPA Act?

COPPA puts parents in control of the collection of their child’s personal information online. It is designed to protect kids and teens through regulating websites and online services.

What are the benefits of the COPPA Act?

COPPA deters marketers from launching misleading campaigns and collection methods, such as tracking cookies that violate children’s privacy. In addition to removing existing PII, COPPA gives parents control over what operators do with their kids data.

What happens if a website violates the COPPA Act?

The FTC enforces COPPA violations! A court can hold operators who violate the Rule liable for civil penalties of up to $50,120 per violation. COPPA gives states and certain federal agencies authority to enforce compliance in their jurisdiction.

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Imposter Scams on the Rise. Take Steps to Verify!

What is an Imposter Scam?                  An imposter scam is when someone poses as your friend, a business, a romantic interest, a charity, or some other trusted source, and reaches out to you requesting money. The request looks real, but isn’t.

Classic Warning Signs:

  • A text or phone call from someone pretending to be a bank. Maybe they contact you about a recent transaction or maybe they ask if they can have remote access to your computer to “protect” your account. Don’t fall for it! It’s a scam.
  • Businesses claiming you owe them money. If they threaten you just hang up the phone.
  • Someone claiming to be from an internet service, such as AT&T or Comcast, suggesting that they have detected spyware on your device and that they need your credit card information in order to keep it from being shutoff.

Tips to Protect Yourself:

  • Don’t send money to someone you don’t know. Once you do, it will be hard to track and hard to reverse.
  • Verify information is real. Use the customer service phone number that is listed on one of your statements and call to verify that they were trying to reach you.
  • Hang up on unknown and unsolicited callers.
  • NEVER give out personal information, such as your credit card, where you bank, social security number or anything else.
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Keep yourself and your personal information safe from robocalls!

What is a robocall?
A robocall is a phone call that uses a computerized dialing service to deliver a pre-recorded message (like a robot – hence the word “robocall”). They are used to reach a lot of people at once and deliver the same message. Scammers use them, because they want to try and deceive as many victims as possible.

Are all robocalls illegal?
Not all robocalls are illegal. For example, a message from your child’s school might be sent to deliver a message about a school closure or a schedule change. This is completely acceptable. But, unsolicited calls that are trying to sell you something are illegal.

How to know if a robocall is a scam!
• Is there silence at the beginning of the call? If yes, it’s because the call system is waiting for you to speak.
• If the message is a pre-recorded sales ask, it’s likely a scam.
• If a call is about extending a warranty on your car, but you don’t have a warranty, it’s a scam.
• If the message seems a bit too urgent, it’s a scam. For example, the call says something like “we’ve been trying to reach you to let you know that your social security number has been compromised. Please call us back right away or press 1 now.”

If you don’t recognize a phone number:
1. Don’t answer!
2. Don’t respond!
3. Don’t click!
4. Don’t press any buttons!
5. Don’t say “yes.”
6. Don’t provide any personal information!
Added tips:
7. Screen your calls. Filter unknow senders
8. Silence unknown senders
9. Sign up for the national Do Not Call Registry.
10. Report phone numbers to the Federal Trade Commission. You can do this on the Do Not Call Registry website noted above.

Apps that can help deter robocalls:
• Nomorobos
• Mr. Number

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