Closed for Thanksgiving

Privacy for Cops will be closed on Thanksgiving Day, so that our staff can spend time with their family and friends. We will have limited service availability during the week of Thanksgiving and ask for your patience during this time.

We will return to normal business hours on Monday, December 2.

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Information Sharing Websites Targeting Officers and Officials

There are many potential dangers when it comes to using the internet. And while many of us are familiar with the term identity theft, doxing is another hazard that has evolved over its short history. It is the act of researching and posting personally identifiable information about a personal without their permission.

The information is gathered from social media sites and other legitimate sites who are posting addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, and other information. The information is then posted on information sharing websites with details as to why you should be targeted.

Law Enforcement Officers and Public Officials are at an increased risk of being targeted or hacked by information sharing websites. By posting images of yourself online wearing a uniform that displays a name tag or listing your police department or agency, further exposes the safety of you and your family.

While eliminating your information from every online source is nearly impossible, there are steps that can be taken to minimize your risk in the event that you are targeted.

  • Beware of suspicious text messages, phone calls, or emails from people phishing for information or pretending to know you. This is an extremely effective method that is used to trick you into divulging confidential information.
  • Turn on all privacy settings on social media sites and refrain from showing images of your affiliation with law enforcement.
  • Be aware of your home computers and the settings setup on your wireless networks.
  • Contact the Department of Motor Vehicle to restrict your driver’s license and vehicle registration information.
  • Contact your local county and request that real estate and personal property records be blocked or restricted from their online database
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Privacy for Cops Sends Well Wishes to California Families

As fires continue to burn across California, Privacy for Cops would like to extend our thoughts and prayers to the families who are affected by these dangerous conditions. Please stay safe.

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Stop Police Suicides

Police Officers are always giving help to other people. And they need to know that it is okay to get help for themselves. Think about the stress and the cumulative trauma that they see on a daily basis. From shooting scenes, to murder scenes, to interviewing sexual assault victims. It’s shocking! And no one really talks about it.

Just about a week ago, a New York City Officer took his own life, bringing the total death by suicide in the NYPD to a record 10 active duty officers this year.

What are police departments doing about this?

The New York Police Department (NYPD), who has the nation’s largest police force, are  working with a world renowned medical center to offer help to their Officers. The mental health program that has been implemented, will allow an officer to call (anonymously) and get help without it being recorded in their file. It’s confidential and at no cost to the officer. A database will be kept from an outside source (not affiliated with the agency), so they won’t know who anyone is, rather just the number of people who are going through the program.

Internally there seems to be a stigma from Officers who need help and are considering taking their own lives. This tragedy reaches far beyond NYC and is a national crisis. According to an organization called Blue Help, at least 184 officers have taken their own lives this year. The organization tracks nationally the number of officer suicides.

When our officers suffer, we all suffer.

Sidelining any officers who do reach out for help and needs counseling would be an outright heartbreak. No one’s career needs to be destroyed because they need support.

For everyone out there and anyone reading this who might know of an Officer who needs support, please seek help!

Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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What Your Cell Phone Apps are Sharing About You

Cell phone apps can invade your privacy. Think about it. Our smart phones seem to always be within reach. We use them to map out directions, order food, buy groceries, get movie tickets, make reservations, look up reviews, and so much more. This information can be used for more than just advertising. And there is a surprising level of information that your cell phone apps are sharing about you with companies you have probably never even heard of!

Did you know that even when you are not actively using your phone, the apps on your phone are using YOU? They are sending out information that can be used to spam your email, send you robo-calls, and follow your every move online.

What can the apps on your phone access?
• Your cell phone number
• Your email address
• Your location (in real-time)
• Your Gender
• Even Your Motion

Why would apps need this information?
They are tracking information about you to build a profile. While many apps don’t sell your information, some allow third party companies to get extra data from your device even though you didn’t authorize it.

A few helpful tips:
1. Delete apps you are not using – just get rid of them!
2. Create an alternate name that you use for games. Apps don’t need to know your real name or your real email.
3. Don’t sign in with Google or Facebook. Create a separate account. Once you use the app to sign in, you are giving these companies authorization to use your information.

Can you do anything to fight back against trackers?
Absolutely, yes. In the end, be smart and be vigilant in making sure that you know the apps you are installing. Don’t just do it because everyone else has it. Don’t just do it, because it’s cool. Your privacy is on the line and the information is so lightly regulated that once these companies collect your data, they can do almost anything with it.

The only way to ultimately control what happens with your information is to limit what you share!

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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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