Safeguarding Yourself From Scams – Don’t become a victim! Part 2: What You Can Do To Safeguard Your Information

Safeguarding Yourself From Scams – Don’t become a victim!

Part 2: What You Can Do To Safeguard Your Information

Online Security Protection Internet Safety Guard Lock Concept

1.) Don’t share your passwords, credit card numbers, social security numbers or any other pertinent information with anyone.

2.) Don’t write your passwords down anywhere someone could stumble upon them. It’s best if you don’t keep written records of your passwords, but with the amount of passwords people need now, it’s getting a bit more complicated to keep track of them all without writing them down.

3.) Keep your computer’s spyware and antivirus software up to date and scan your computer regularly.

4.) Make sure you have firewalls up and running at all times. Whether it’s the built-in Windows firewall, your router’s firewall or a 3rd party firewall software; or all of them in combination if you really want to make sure they are working.

5.) Always be wary of emails asking for your personal or financial information. Don’t click on links or open emails that seem suspicious to you at all. Even one simple click can open your computer up to a criminal – installing malicious software and stealing your information. Never click on links in emails or links on web sites that you don’t know or don’t trust. If you get an email from “your bank” saying you need to log into your account right away for any reason, but you aren’t sure the email is actually coming from your bank then don’t click on any links in that email. Open a new internet browser, type in the URL yourself and then log in to your account and make sure everything is as it should be. If a link doesn’t feel right, don’t click it.

6.) Keep an eye on your assets and your credit and check on everything on a regular basis. Make sure to report any odd or suspicious activity immediately. Switch over to paperless billing and statements. Pretty much everyone now-a-days offers paperless statements… banks, credit cards, house-hold billing companies. Having them all delivered to your email inbox instead of your physical address saves paper, postage and also eliminates the possibility of someone stealing your mail.

7.) Never write your full account numbers on your checks when you pay your bills, especially when paying credit card bills, just write in the last four digits of your account number.

8.) Always shred documents you do not need, don’t just throw them in the trash. Criminals do sift through your trash looking for pertinent documents.

9.) Don’t broadcast that you are leaving town, or that you are out of town, on social networking sites. That is sort of like putting up a flashing neon sign over your house that says “no one is home and no one will be home for a while, so come on in and take what you want.” Wait until you return home from your trip to talk about it.

 

If Your ID Is Stolen:
Immediately file a fraud alert on your credit report by calling Equifax (888-766-0008), TransUnion (800-680-7289) or Experian (888-397-3742). After you have filed your report, call the issuers of any credit cards that may have been affected.

 

Basically the gist of everything I’ve written is: be careful with the personal information that you give out.
We all do a lot of shopping online which means we are all typing our credit card numbers into lots of different company websites. Make sure the company you purchase from is reputable. If something seems too good to be true, it is. There is nothing free in life. Massive discounts on normally very expensive items from shady online stores are more often than not going to cost you a lot more than you think.

 

A Few Tips For Kids:

staying_safe_online_large

 

Do you need any assistance? Want a professional to check your computer security? Contact TeCHS today!

~Your TeCHS

~~**~~**~~

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Online Safety, Part 3

Before I start this article I would like to share a personal experience about fraud and my grandparents.

Last year my grandfather received a phone call from a man who claimed to be a lawyer in Virginia who told him that his grandson was in that state at a wedding, that he got drunk, drove, was arrested and needed $3,000 for bail money. My grandfather did exactly what any other caring family member would – he raced to a Western Union office to send the money.

My grandmother thought it was a bit odd and decided to call me and ask if my brother had traveled out of state to a wedding. He had not. My brother was safe at work in Ventura. I told them to get back in the car and get back over to the Western Union office to put a stop on the wire transfer. Thank goodness they called me in time and got back to the Western Union office in time. We were very fortunate and happened to get their money back.

Very scary!

So how can you protect yourself from crafty digital-age criminals?

Thieves are always looking for new ways to catch people unawares and take advantage of them. A lot of the technology you use everyday can leave you open for a possible attack. There is no guarantee that anyone’s information is 100% safe, no matter how careful you are, but there are a few small things you can do to reduce your risks of becoming a victim.

Phones and home valuables.

When it is possible, try to keep your private conversations private. In order to ensure that private conversations are not being spied on, sensitive conversations should be done in person and in a private location.

Cell phones are less secure than landline telephones and with the right technology your cell phone signal can be intercepted. It is best to keep your cell phone password protected and all of the information backed up. There is quite a lot of personal information stored on your cell phone that you may or may not know about:

  • Your social security number
  • Your full name
  • Your address
  • Your bank account numbers
  • Your credit card numbers
  • Other miscellaneous account numbers

Living in a gated community offers you excellent advantages such as:

  • Secure locked mail boxes
  • Flood lights
  • Controlled entry
  • Security patrols

There are additional safety measures that you can take. Always keep valuables hidden in your home; don’t leave things like jewelry boxes sitting on top of dressers in plain sight. Small portable fire safes are great for keeping your valuables safe from fire… but if a criminal finds one in your home, you saved them the trouble of having to collect your valuables in one place. If you need a fire-proof safe install one that is large enough that it cannot easily be lifted by one person and make sure it is bolted securely into concrete.

Don’t broadcast that you are leaving town, or that you are out of town, on social networking sites. That is sort of like putting up a flashing neon sign over your house that says “no one is home and no one will be home for a while, so come on in and take what you want.” Wait until you return home from your trip to share it with everyone.

Computers, spyware and deleting files.

Your personal computers contain a wealth of your most personal and valuable information as well as a venue for exploitation and theft by savvy criminals. The easiest way for a criminal to steal information off of your computer is to physically steal the computer. Laptops are prime targets for theft and you should never leave one unattended. Never leave them in your car, do not stow them in overhead bins while traveling and when you are at home, store them some place that they are not easily seen.

Also:

  • Secure your computers with passwords that are not easily guessed.
    • It is best to use alphanumeric passwords if you can remember them.
    • Or use an odd sentence that makes sense to you.
    • Keep in mind that the longer your password is, the more characters it contains, the harder it will be to guess.
    • Don’t write your passwords down anywhere someone could stumble upon them. It’s best if you don’t keep written records of your passwords.
  • Make sure that you have good virus protection installed on your computer.
  • Never click on any links in emails or online that you do not recognize or that you are even slightly are unsure about… even if it comes from a friend or family member.

Truly deleting digital files is not as easy as it sounds. You may think that once you delete something from your computer that it is gone forever, but a lot of times that is not the case. Physically destroying old hard drives that you no longer need is the best way to make sure no one will retrieve any of your sensitive data.

We all do a lot of shopping online which means we are all typing our credit card numbers into lots of different websites. Make sure the company you purchase from is reputable. If something seems too good to be true, it is! Massive discounts on normally very expensive items from shady online stores are going to cost you a lot more than you think.

Medical records, credit reports, junk mail and documents.

Your medical records contain your entire family history as well as your personal contact information. It details your relationships (husband, wife, children, etc.), your sexual behavior, any illnesses, diagnosis, treatments, prescriptions, you name it! Unfortunately even these records aren’t that difficult for a savvy criminal to obtain, especially since medical providers now keep their patient records digitally. You can keep an eye on your records by visiting the Medical Information Bureau’s web site at http://www.mib.com or by calling them at 1-866-692-6901.

Also, always keep an eye on your credit reports. You are entitled to a free credit report once a year thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act. You can obtain your free yearly report by visiting http://www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228. Never assume that your credit report is accurate! Human beings enter the data into these reports and errors happen. You can also visit http://www.fdic.gov for more information on Consumer Protection.

Never write your full account numbers on your checks when you pay your bills, especially when paying credit card bills, just write in the last four digits of your account number.

When you need to dispose of bills or bank statements – never simply throw them in the trash! Criminals frequently “dumpster dive” for these documents. Shred everything. Everything! Credit card statements, bills, old debit or credit cards, bank statements, old pay stubs, anything of that nature. Cross-cut shredders are very inexpensive and can save you a lot of hassle.

Switch over to paperless billing and statements. Pretty much everyone now-a-days offers paperless statements… banks, credit cards, house-hold billing companies. Having them all delivered to your email inbox instead of your physical address saves paper, postage and also eliminates the possibility of someone stealing your mail.

Do not fill in any personal information that you do not absolutely have to when filling out documents. If the fill-in box states that it is optional – keep it to yourself. If you must fill in something, keep it as brief as possible. For example, don’t fill in your full legal name – use your initials. A lot of junk mail comes from people filling in all of their personal data when they really did not have to.

You can also include your name in the Do Not Call Registry (http://www.donotcall.gov) to cut down on the amount of telemarketers calling you. I suggest adding both your home telephone and cellular numbers to the registry.

Protecting yourself from victimization truly is in your hands. Making small changes in your life and keeping an eye on your assets, your information and your technology can keep you and your family from identity theft or other problems.

We hope we have enlightened and not frightened you. TeCHS serves all of Ventura County, California… and a few of the surrounding cities as well. If we can assist you in any way we can be reached by phone at (800) 669-2022 or online at http://www.ezdigitallife.com.

 

~Your TeCHS

~~**~~**~~

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Your Digital Life Simplified!

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Online Safety, Part 1 – Links

I write a lot about staying safe online but in our world this subject is incredibly important. Over the next few months I will be writing about general online safety tips.

links

LINKS : If it looks suspicious, even a tiny bit, don’t click on it. Just don’t. Resist the urge. Close the browser or delete the email and DO NOT CLICK!

Your bank (or PayPal, or eBay, or ETSY, etc) WILL NEVER email you asking for your bank account number, your social security number, a credit card number, etc. If you get an email that looks like it is from a legitimate company asking you to log in to your account for any reason (like those listed above), delete the email. If you think it is real, delete the email anyhow – NEVER CLICK A LINK IN THESE TYPES OF EMAILS. You can always type the company’s web address into your browser yourself to get to their real website and check on your accounts. Never ever click the links.

A lot of link-related scams come in emails from what looks like your friends and family. Check the email address (you can usually see the address it came from by hovering your mouse over the sender’s name) – you will see that the email address is not your loved one’s email. The scammers are simply using their name to get you to click the link they sent and grab all of your contacts as well.

There are so many scams out there right now that phish for your information like this. Once you click the link – they have you! Sometimes all they get are your contacts, sometimes they take over your entire computer… and if you happen to click on one that infects your computer with ransomware you may lose all of your data, or a big chunk of your money trying to salvage your data.

~Your TeCHS

~~**~~**~~

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Your Digital Life Simplified!

www.ezDigitalLife.com | (800) 669-2022

 

 

The risks of TV tip-overs

I recently read an article I want to share with all of you… it was titled “Tune in to the risk of TV tip-overs.”

Source : Safe Kids Worldwide.

 

Parents take great care to protect their kids – car seats when they’re young, helmets when they’re riding their bikes. However, many moms, dads, grandparents, and others do not think about another potential problem : TV tip-overs.

 

The statistics are enough to make any adult put down the remote and take action!

-Every 3 weeks a child dies from a television tipping over.

-For the past 10 years, a tipped-over TV has sent a child to the emergency room every 45 minutes, on average.

 

tv1 tv2

 

Keep your family safe and strap down your TVs.

 

Need help securing your TV?

Contact TeCHS.

 

~Seth & Kim Ralph, TeCHS

~~**~~**~~

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Safeguarding yourself, your identity and your loved ones in our digital age : Part 3 of 3 : Medical records, credit reports, junk mail and documents.

Safeguarding yourself, your identity and your loved ones in our digital age.

Part 3 of 3 : Medical records, credit reports, junk mail and documents.

Your medical records contain your entire family history as well as your personal contact information. It details your relationships (husband, wife, children, etc.), your sexual behavior, any illnesses, diagnosis, treatments, prescriptions, you name it! Unfortunately even these records aren’t that difficult for a savvy criminal to obtain, especially since medical providers now keep their patient records digitally. You can keep an eye on your records by visiting the Medical Information Bureau’s web site at www.mib.com or by calling them at 1-866-692-6901.

Also, always keep an eye on your credit reports. You are entitled to a free credit report once a year thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act. You can obtain your free yearly report by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228. Never assume that your credit report is accurate! Human beings enter the data into these reports and errors happen. You can also visit www.fdic.gov for more information on Consumer Protection.

Never write your full account numbers on your checks when you pay your bills, especially when paying credit card bills, just write in the last four digits of your account number.

When you need to dispose of bills or bank statements – never simply throw them in the trash! Criminals frequently “dumpster dive” for these documents. Shred everything. Everything! Credit card statements, bills, old debit or credit cards, bank statements, old pay stubs, anything of that nature. Cross-cut shredders are very inexpensive and can save you a lot of hassle.

Switch over to paperless billing and statements. Pretty much everyone now-a-days offers paperless statements… banks, credit cards, house-hold billing companies. Having them all delivered to your email inbox instead of your physical address saves paper, postage and also eliminates the possibility of someone stealing your mail.

Do not fill in any personal information that you do not absolutely have to when filling out documents. If the fill-in box states that it is optional – keep it to yourself. If you must fill in something, keep it as brief as possible. For example, don’t fill in your full legal name – use your initials. A lot of junk mail comes from people filling in all of their personal data when they really did not have to.

You can also include your name in the Do Not Call Registry (www.donotcall.gov) to cut down on the amount of telemarketers calling you. I suggest adding both your home telephone and cellular numbers to the registry.

Protecting yourself from victimization truly is in your hands. Making small changes in your life and keeping an eye on your assets, your information and your technology can keep you and your family from identity theft or other problems.

We hope we have enlightened and not frightened you. TeCHS serves all over Ventura County, California. If we can assist you in any way we can be reached by phone at (800) 669-2022 or by email at info@ezdigitallife.com.

~Seth & Kim Ralph, TeCHS

~~**~~**~~

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Safeguarding yourself, your identity and your loved ones in our digital age : Part 2 of 3 : Computers, spyware and deleting files.

Safeguarding yourself, your identity and your loved ones in our digital age.

Part 2 of 3 : Computers, spyware and deleting files.

Your personal computers contain a wealth of your most personal and valuable information as well as a venue for exploitation and theft by savvy criminals. The easiest way for a criminal to steal information off of your computer is to physically steal the computer. Laptops are prime targets for theft and you should never leave one unattended. Never leave them in your car, do not stow them in overhead bins while traveling and when you are at home, store them some place that they are not easily seen.

Also:

  • Secure your computers with passwords that are not easily guessed.
  • It is best to use alphanumeric passwords if you can remember them.
  • Or use an odd sentence that makes sense to you.
  • Keep in mind that the longer your password is, the more characters it contains, the harder it will be to guess.
  • Don’t write your passwords down anywhere someone could stumble upon them. It’s best if you don’t keep written records of your passwords.
  • Make sure that you have good virus protection installed on your computer.
  • Never click on any links in emails or online that you do not recognize or that you are even slightly are unsure about… even if it comes from a friend or family member.

Truly deleting digital files is not as easy as it sounds. You may think that once you delete something from your computer that it is gone forever, but a lot of times that is not the case. Physically destroying old hard drives that you no longer need is the best way to make sure no one will retrieve any of your sensitive data.

We all do a lot of shopping online which means we are all typing our credit card numbers into lots of different websites. Make sure the company you purchase from is reputable. If something seems too good to be true, it is! Massive discounts on normally very expensive items from shady online stores are going to cost you a lot more than you think.

Next week : Part 3 : Medical records, credit reports, junk mail and documents.

~Seth & Kim Ralph, TeCHS

~~**~~**~~

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Your Digital Life Simplified!

Safeguarding yourself, your identity and your loved ones in our digital age : Part 1 of 3 : Phones and home valuables.

Safeguarding yourself, your identity and your loved ones in our digital age.

Part 1 of 3 : Phones and home valuables.

 

Before I start this article I would like to share a personal experience about fraud and my grandparents.

Last year my grandfather received a phone call from a man who claimed to be a lawyer in Virginia who told him that his grandson was in that state at a wedding, that he got drunk, drove, was arrested and needed $3,000 for bail money. My grandfather did exactly what any other caring family member would – he raced to a Western Union office to send the money.

My grandmother thought it was a bit odd and decided to call me and ask if my brother had travelled out of state to a wedding. He had not. My brother was safe at work in Ventura. I told them to get back in the car and get back over to the Western Union office to put a stop on the wire transfer. Thank goodness they called me in time and got back to the Western Union office in time. We were very fortunate and happened to get their money back.

Very scary!

 

This scam is very common right now and these criminals target grandparents specifically.

 

So how can you protect yourself from crafty digital-age criminals?

Thieves are always looking for new ways to catch people unawares and take advantage of them. A lot of the technology you use everyday can leave you open for a possible attack. There is no guarantee that anyone’s information is 100% safe, no matter how careful you are, but there are a few small things you can do to reduce your risks of becoming a victim.

 

Phones and home valuables.

When it is possible, try to keep your private conversations private. In order to ensure that private conversations are not being spied on, sensitive conversations should be done in person and in a private location.

Cell phones are less secure than landline telephones and with the right technology your cell phone signal can be intercepted. It is best to keep your cell phone password protected and all of the information backed up. There is quite a lot of personal information stored on your cell phone that you may or may not know about:

  • Your social security number
  • Your full name
  • Your address
  • Your bank account numbers
  • Your credit card numbers
  • Other miscellaneous account numbers

Living in a gated community offers you excellent advantages such as:

  • Secure locked mail boxes
  • Flood lights
  • Controlled entry
  • Security patrols

There are additional safety measures that you can take. Always keep valuables hidden in your home; don’t leave things like jewelry boxes sitting on top of dressers in plain sight. Small portable fire safes are great for keeping your valuables safe from fire… but if a criminal finds one in your home, you saved them the trouble of having to collect your valuables in one place. If you need a fire-proof safe install one that is large enough that it cannot easily be lifted by one person and make sure it is bolted securely into concrete.

Don’t broadcast that you are leaving town, or that you are out of town, on social networking sites. That is sort of like putting up a flashing neon sign over your house that says “no one is home and no one will be home for a while, so come on in and take what you want.” Wait until you return home from your trip to share it with everyone.

Next week : Part 2 : Computers, spyware and deleting files.

~Seth & Kim Ralph, TeCHS

~~**~~**~~

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Airport Security

The TSA (Transportation Security Administration) has been working hard to make air travel safer for everyone. Yet most people seem very upset with the changes they have implemented. One used to be able to get to the airport minutes before their flight, running through the terminals to slap their ticket on the counter just as the stewardesses were giving their speech on flight safety. Since horrific incidents such as the airplane hijackings on September 11, 2001, things have dramatically changed.

Airport Security

Now to fly anywhere you must arrive at the airport and be checked into your flight hours prior to your departure time. You cannot carry a vast array of items in your carry-on baggage. You cannot take food or drinks with you from outside of the airport. You must pass through rigorous screening from x-rays to pat-downs to complete searches of all of your baggage.

If you really think about it, is all of this extra security really such a bad thing? Airport security features serve multiple purposes; they protect the airport from attacks and crime, they protect the air crafts themselves and they protect and reassure the general public traveling that they are safe.

Large numbers of people pass through airports and these places are huge targets for terrorism and other crimes since there are so many people packed into such a small space. Airports employ a police force, metal detectors, x-ray machines, explosive device detection and so many more security features to keep people safe.

If these security features prevent would-be attackers from getting weapons and bombs into the terminals and onto planes, isn’t that worth a little bit of an inconvenience to your trip?

~ K. McMillan-Ralph, TeCHS

~~**~~**~~

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Young Drivers and Safety On The Road

Drivers have always had things distracting them from driving safely all of the time. Now-a-days with the addition of in-car DVD-players, cell phones and MP3 players, drivers have even more things to draw their attention away from the road. Those who have been driving for a long time have learned to ignore these distractions while we are driving and focus on the road, but new drivers have a very hard time doing this.

Young drivers between the ages of 17-24 years old are more likely to be involved in traffic accidents than any other drivers on the road. Every new driver must go through training and certification before being issued a driver’s license, as we all know; and although the education and real-world training help prepare young drivers, once they are out on their own and being distracted by their car full of friends and electronic devices, problems very often occur.

Intensive research has gone into trying to keep new drivers focused on driving and nothing else; from changing the laws on age, how many people can be in the car with a new driver and the addition of the cell phone regulations. The next step may be to include GPS devices to allow parents to more closely monitor their young driver on the road.

Integrating vehicles with things like GPS-enabled cameras can transmit the speed and location of a car and the young driver to allow parents to monitor what their child is doing. People can also use these “car black boxes” to monitor and analyze their own driving habits to help eliminate their own road mistakes. Plus, in the event of an accident the information gathered by the system can resolve any issue fairly and impartially.

Integrating our roadways with intelligent vehicles and intelligent roads will make everyone’s commute easier, safer and better.

~Seth & Kim Ralph, TeCHS

~~**~~**~~

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Fooling Facial Recognition Software

Last week I wrote a blog about the technology of facial recognition systems and not long after it posted a few articles were presented to me about a pretty simple and effective way to fool these systems. Makeup. By putting dark blocks of makeup in strategic places on your face you can fool any facial recognition software. The blocks don’t even have to be very large; it’s more a matter of where the makeup is on the face. Granted, the makeup required to fool these systems will sort of make you look like you stepped out of an 80’s hair metal band music video but some people just might do it anyhow.

fooling-face

Some of the other ways to fool these systems are even easier and much less conspicuous than copious amounts of silly makeup. They include wearing a pair of glasses to hide your eyes, hiding your ears with long hair or a hat, facial jewelry, massive amounts of facial hair and even gaining weight can keep you from being recognized.

Even the security features used to lock down sensitive information isn’t immune to flaws. In another blog I mentioned that it is possible for criminals to crack biometric security systems forcibly but if the system relies solely on facial recognition, the system can be fooled with a simple photograph of the computer’s owner.

This sort of technology has come a long way but it looks like it needs a bit more work before it can truly be relied upon to safeguard important things.

~Seth & Kim Ralph, TeCHS

~~**~~**~~

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