Is the buying and selling of others’ personal information online illegal?

The short answer – yes! At least it is in the United States. Buying and selling any kind of personal information online is illegal. But the same isn’t true for other countries. They don’t necessarily have the same laws that we do as it relates to cyber-crimes. In fact, United States regulatory agencies have no jurisdiction to prosecute fraudsters acting on websites and chat rooms located in other countries.

As of 2020, a privacy law that gives people more control over how websites track and sell their personal information has gone into effect. It’s called the California Consumer Privacy Act, and currently only applies to the state of California.

This means that companies are legally obligated to give California residents the opportunity to not only see how their online information is being tracked, but also how its being sold (name, address, purchasing history, browsing history, etc.) and most importantly how to opt-out.

It’s not as easy as it sounds, and many websites will give pushback before finally taking down information. It takes a lot of time, persistence, and patience. And of course there are is our company, Privacy for Cops, which takes the hassle out of the whole process and does it for you. More information about us can be found on our website at https://privacyforcops.org.

In the meantime, several other states are working on similar bills, so be on the lookout for them in the near future.

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Happy Independence Day!

The Public Safety Assistance Foundation wishes you all a fun and memorable 4th of July. We will be closed on Monday, July 5, so that our staff can spend time celebrating with their families.

Stay Safe!

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Tips to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Only carry essential cards with you.
Unless you are traveling or have an appointment for something specific, you usually don’t need to show your Social Security Card or Birth Certificate, so avoid carrying them. Also avoid carrying extra credit cards. A good rule of thumb is to only carry one or two max.

Protect your Social Security Number
Only a few organizations such as motor vehicle departments, tax departments and welfare departments have the right to ask to see your social security number. In addition, employers, banks and other financial institutions, can require your SSN, but for all other instances, ask if they will accept an alternative proof of identification.

Have your checks delivered via certified mail
If you are going to have checks delivered to your house, make sure you sign for them or have them delivered during a time when you are going to be home. You can also opt to pick up your checks at the bank instead of having them sent to your home. This makes it harder for your checks to be stolen, altered and cashed by identity thieves. Lastly, keep your information private. There is absolutely no need to include your drivers license on your checks.

NEVER give out personal information over the phone
Identity thieves may call you, posing as banks or government agencies. Do not give out personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call. Register your phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry to avoid all calls from telemarketers trying to get your information over the phone. Visit www.donotcall.gov.

Shred as much as possible!
Shred your receipts, credit card offers, expired credit cards, bank statements, returned checks and any other sensitive information. All it takes is one thief to get into your trash can on the street to take as much information as they can.

Use a credit monitoring service
The three nationwide credit reporting agencies have set up a central website through which you can order your free annual credit report. You can also request that you only receive credit card statements through your online card account to avoid sensitive information being transmitted through the mail.

Keep a list of account numbers
Being able to quickly alert your creditors is key to prevent others from using your personal information or bank and credit cards if these items ever become stolen.


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Memorial Day 2021

Today and always, the Public Safety Assistance Foundation honors our military personnel who fought and died for this country. Whether you visited a cemetery, made your own memorial, or simply stayed home and barbequed with your family, we hope you took time to remember and reflect on why we celebrate this day. Especially after what we have all been through this past year due to COVID-19.

Be grateful. Be aware. And don’t sweat the small stuff.

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Grandchild in Jail Scam! Don’t Fall Victim

The phone rings, your grandparent answers, and the caller on the other end of the line shocks them by saying that their grandson has been arrested and is in jail. The caller knows their name, the name of their grandson, where they live, and even gives them some other minor details, such as the state their grandson lives in. Imagine the fear and concern they would feel knowing that he needs help.

The caller proceeds to tell your grandparent that if they want to help their grandson, he will need an attorney and he’ll need to pay fines in order to be released. The caller continues by stating that your grandson will need a minimum of $6,000 to post bail. The caller gives your grandparent a case number and even a return phone number (866#), so that they can call back and get further instructions as to how to submit payment. Of course, they would want to help – right? The caller sounds legit.

Not so fast! The caller is a professional scammer.

Red flag #1 – The call came from an 866-phone number and not a local landline. Don’t answer these types of calls. If you don’t know whose calling, just let it go to voice mail. If its real, you can choose to call back or block the number.

Red flag #2 – The caller sounded like they were in a different country. Listen to the sounds in the background. Do they sound like they are outside or inside? If it feels off, just hang up the phone.

Red flag #3 – The caller pressures you for the money and threatens the life of your grandson. A normal police station calling should never threaten you.

Scary Fact – In the U.S., grandparent scams are on the rise, with nearly $41 million dollars in reported losses.

Before this ordeal is over, the grandparent will continue to receive tons of calls demanding thousands of dollars, while the caller threatens their grandson. Targeting seniors and preying on their devotion to their families is wrong is so many ways.

If you have a senior that you care about, talk to them about the dangers of phone scams, in-person scams, email scams, work-at-home scams, and all the others that come to mind. The best thing we can do to help is educate our loved ones, so that they don’t fall victim.

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Scammers Targeting Small Businesses

Scammer #1
A man named “Ed” wanted a landscaping quote for a paver driveway. He contacted a business by phone and said he would text the address, so that they could go out to the property and provide a free quote.

The homeowner tells the business that he wasn’t going to be at the property, but instead provided pictures of sample pavers that he wanted to use. He then asks the business to send the quote by email. The business sends over the quote (over $40k) and the “homeowner” says he wants to book them for the job.

When the business discusses the contract and deposit that was needed before they could start the work, the scammer says that he was out of town and having treatment for lung cancer. He requested to pay the deposit remotely. The business informs the scammer that he could email everything and pay using PayPal or through their accounting services invoicing.

“Ed” tells the business that he had filed disuptes with both PayPal and Square, so his account was locked. He then asks the business for the name of their bank or if they had a credit card terminal that they could manually enter the credit card information, which thankfully they declined to give out.

You can probably sense where this is going. But keep reading, because it gets better.

Scammer #2
The same night, the exact same business is finalizing a second quote for “Ronald” who also lives in the area. This guy gives the business his address, so that they can go over and look at the property and provide a quote. The quote comes back at $13,000 worth of landscaping.

When the business calls the scammer, he answered the phone and says he got held up at work. But, he wants to proceed with the work. When the business tries to setup a meeting to sign the contract “Ronald” says he is out of town due to his wife being sick with “lung cancer.” He also requests the contract be emailed. And also says he has been locked out of his PayPal account.

These red flags prompted the business to look up the addresses online. And sure enough, both properties were listed for sale on the MLS website. Neither had been purchased and neither were in contract. So the business contacted the listing agents on both properties only to find out that neither “Ed” or “Ronald” were the owners of the properties.

This is reminder to never give out your bank information to anyone. Screen potential clients as carefully as possible and pay attention to your sixth sense. If something seems off, it probably is.

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Your Information is VITAL to a Scammer

Scammers target people in many different ways. Most of them find you through the mail, phony emails, text messages, phone calls, or even come to your house and show up at your door.

  • Never be pressured to send money to anyone!
  • If a stranger asks you to wire money or make a transfer, don’t do it.
  • Don’t buy gift cards or provide PIN numbers or give codes to strangers.
  • Be careful with Wi-Fi on the go (airports, hotels, and mall’s)
  • Don’t be fooled into a threat from scammer who says they’ll send the police to arrest you.
  • If you authorize a transfer or send money to a scammer, there’s not much that can be done to get your money back.

Scammers live off your information. The more secure you are, the more insecure they will be.

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Obituaries are prime hunting ground for scammers

Scammers have no shame. They will try to cash in during your bereavement any way they can. It’s hard enough losing a loved one such as a spouse, parent, or child. Sadly, obituaries are prime hunting ground for scammers, who learn the names of vulnerable widows, and yes, even children, or grandchildren.

There have been many cases where a scammer calls a person’s home within just a couple of days of a death in the family. They say that they are very sorry for your loss and might even sound compassionate. BUT, they definitely don’t care.

They then go on to say that there is a problem with a credit card or your bank account. Or even that someone is trying to open a new credit card in the deceased person’s name. So, people sadly end up giving out bank account information and other personal details.

Don’t be pressured. Don’t be fooled.

Especially when a scammer calls or reaches out to you by email identifying themselves as a phony insurance company stating that they are able to reinstate expired life insurance. That won’t happen. They just want your money. They want to steal your identity and try to gain access to your information and that of the deceased relative.

Be smart about how much information you divulge in an obituary.

Scammers are paying attention. They are lurking and hoping you provide so many personal facts that it will be easy for them to rip you off.

  • Only list your loved ones age. Their birth year isn’t necessary to post.
  • NEVER list your home address
  • NEVER list the birth place of the deceased
  • Leave out the mother’s maiden name.
  • Be cautious about listing the names of family survivors. Listing just a first name is a better option than the full names.

In this difficult time of grief it might be wise to enlist the help of a trusted family member or friend to help get you through all the days ahead. Particularly when it comes to your financial future and protecting your online identity. Protect yourself and take your time.

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Be Aware of New COVID-19 Scams!

Scammers are continuing to take advantage of the current environment to try and obtain your personal financial information.

Here are the top COVID-19 scams to be aware of:

Vaccine scams: Be alert when requested to send information or money for a promise to receive a vaccine. Scammers claim to be able to provide a vaccine sooner than expected for a fee.

Stimulus scams: You will never be asked to provide personal information in order to receive stimulus funds. Scammers ask for personal and financial information claiming it is needed to send you your stimulus payment.

Imposter scams: Don’t click on links from unknown sources. Scammers send phishing emails pretending to be an official organization such as the CDC and WHO. Clicking on links may download malware or allow access to information on your device.

Charity scams: Before donating, do your research. Scammers will reach out asking you to donate to a charity, but the charity is fake. Make sure you validate the request prior to sending money.

Employment scams: Scammers will make employment opportunities attractive by sending a fake check to purchase job-related supplies, often asking for funds to be returned.

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Recognize Fraud BEFORE it Happens

Sophisticated scammers. Yep – they exist! They are getting smarter and continually looking for ways to get you to trust them.

Scammers want access

No matter what any scammer says on the phone, no matter what any scammer texts, and no matter how much time a scammer gives you – all they really want is access. Access to YOUR money. And access to your personal information.

Pay attention to red flags and follow these tips to recognize fraud before it happens.

  • Never let anyone pressure you into sending money
  • If a scammer tells you to purchase gift cards as payment, don’t do it.
  • Scammers will try to threaten to send law enforcement to your house – never true.
  • Don’t wire or transfer money or send a check as payment to anyone you don’t know.
  • Never trust a buyer or seller who refuses to talk on the phone or in person.
  • If you don’t remember entering a contest, but you get notified by text or email that you won, it’s too good to be true. Use common sense and just ignore it. Don’t click any links!

Monitor all your accounts frequently and use automated alerts, so that you get notified about any suspicious activity.

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