Making Money from Your Information

Online Scams

 

People must protect themselves from scammers; those who steal information from innocent people to make money. They make money in several ways, from getting you to buy things to stealing and selling your information on the dark web. They send fake emails, making phone calls, and hacking computers. The ones that make money through spam email may make the most money.

Phishing

The spammers use “phishing,” or finding ways to get your personal information so it can be sold. Spammers may work for legitimate companies; however, they must abide by the laws regarding sending spam emails. Emails must contain a link or instructions on how to be removed from their list. If telemarketers or scammers call you on the phone, you can opt out by signing up on the National Do Not Call list, along with blocking the phone number. Since scammers use many different numbers, the only way to stop the calls is by turning off the phone.

Making Bank

Email spammers make money in different ways. The spammers have a large list of emails to contact and use as targets. Some spammers send out more than a million emails or text messages per day. Spammers that make the most money often create scams that convince people to buy their products. The items rarely, if ever, arrive. Many people forget about small purchases, so the scammer keeps the money. The amount of mail sent to victims means that money adds up fast. The most infamous spammers have made many millions of dollars before they got caught.

Recent reports show that spammers and Internet thieves make more money than drug dealers since they have less chance of getting caught. Most use email services like Gmail and fake Internet phone numbers that can’t be traced. Spammers who use specialized systems, charge as much as $700 or more per hour.

Selling Information

Spammers also make money by selling personal information. Some spammers steal credit card numbers, bank account information and social security numbers by phishing. They pretend to work for a real company or a government agency, like the IRS. They send emails with links that ask for information such as your username, password or credit card information.

After you click on the link, your computer is automatically infected with spyware or a virus. The spyware or virus is almost impossible to detect, even with professional software. The system may have to be reset to its original state.

Protect Yourself

People still trust messages they receive, if they look remotely legitimate. You should act as if every phone call, text message or email you receive could be a scam. Never click on links or fill out forms from your email. Type information into your browser. If you receive any messages that seem like they might be fake, delete them immediately from your phone or computer. Don’t give out personal information to anyone you don’t know. Also, you should update your anti-virus, browser, spyware and malware programs on a routine basis.

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Internet Safety for Children

Online Games

Parents give children phones at a younger age than ever before. Along with the ability to stay in touch with their parents, kids love to play games and interact with each other through social media, including games and chat programs. Experts debate the use of cell phones by children, claiming that it places them at greater risk for harm due to predators and cyberbullying. Parents often seek solutions to give their children the best opportunities while protecting them. Currently, parents are the number one users of tracking and other apps that provide parental controls.

The Stats

Statistics show that despite parents’ best efforts, children are still being targeted online. In 2017, analysts reviewed data from over 500 million emails, social media posts, and text messages. The report claimed that 57 percent of tweens and 66 percent of teens were involved in cyberbullying. 53 percent of tweens and 72 percent of teens received content containing nudity or messages of a sexual nature; 11 percent of tweens and 18 percent of teens were involved in self-harm or suicidal situations.

Do You Need an App?

Consumer Advocate shows how parental control apps  can help parents to regulate their children’s phone use. Apps can track the location of your child, and also view online activity. Many phones feature built-in parental controls and systems. Phone apps take it one step further, adding blocks and the ability to trace unknown callers on your iPhone or Android or perform a reverse phone number search to identify who is calling  your child’s phone.

Parents may search their children’s phones for inappropriate messages, photos and profiles to no avail. Kids are typically smarter than their parents when it comes to tech and can easily hide those messages. Photos and files can be hidden in the cloud using various platforms such as Google Drive or iCloud. Anyone can own an account. The files can be opened on any device with an Internet connection. Apps use algorithms to dig out the information and are more effective.

Monitoring Internet Activity

Parents can block adult or harmful content on their children’s phones. Monitored activity can include cyberbullying, signs of depression, threats of violence, suicidal behavior, and messages from online predators. The apps use specific algorithms to scan and track social media networks, email, video sites, text messages, and more.

Phones Aren’t the Only Problem

Kids use cell phones most often, but parents should be cautious about devices such as tablets, computers, and laptops.

Discuss the Issue

Monitoring your child’s Internet activity may cause an issue regarding the child’s privacy. Kids may see it as punishment or as an invasion of privacy. This can cause resentment. Parents should talk to their kids and explain that is it necessary for their safety. The kids may not agree but parents should hold firm. Someday, the children may understand the need for the action and thank you for protecting them from harm.

 

 

 

 

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New FTC Phone Scams

Say NO To Phone Scams

Consumers know the Federal Trade Commission as the government agency that tracks and prosecutes scammers and protects consumers.  The agency was created in 1914 to protect consumers and prevent forced business monopolies.

The New Scams

Scammers have begun to use the name of the FTC as a way to target new victims. Thieves pose as representatives of the FTC and call random people, telling them that they’ve won prizes in a phony sweepstakes or lottery. They often give names and phone numbers of real agency workers. The scammers are convincing and always ask for personal information and money. The FTC is currently running a campaign to inform consumers to stop the scams. The agency never runs sweepstakes or other contests, nor do they ask for money. Their sole job is to investigate fraud and protect consumers.

Reported Scams

Fake representatives may also tell you that you owe money to the government. Be aware of any caller that claims to be an employee or representative of the agency. The call is a scam and you should hang up immediately. The FTC has published tips on identifying these calls and how to avoid becoming a victim.

Common Scams:

  • You’ve won a prize in a sweepstakes or lottery but must send money to receive the prize.
  • The caller offers to help recover money you’ve lost in a scam.
  • You owe back taxes or other government fees or fines. These fees must be paid, or you will go to jail.
  • Your bank account has been frozen, and you must pay a debt to unfreeze your assets.

What to Do if a Scammer Calls You

Hang up without responding. Do not press a button to be removed from a list or give any personal information. The caller may become threatening, but do not respond. You can block calls on your iPhone or Android to prevent that number from calling back. Callers use many different numbers to contact targets, so stay aware.

Notify local law enforcement if the caller makes any type of threats. Next, report the call at ftc.gov/complaint. Include the following information:

  • Date and time of the call. Did the caller use your landline or cell phone number? Were there any text messages?
  • Give the name of the agency the caller used.
  • If a prize was offered, note the amount of the prize amount, how much money you were asked to send, and the requested payment method.
  • List the caller’s phone number. Scammers can use internet phone numbers that cannot be traced or spoof a legitimate phone number that is linked to the government agency. While the numbers aren’t legitimate, law enforcement may be able to identify the caller by using a tracking system.
  • Note any other details from the call. Be as specific as possible.

Getting Your Money Back

Unfortunately, the FTC is not able to fix individual consumer complaints, but they have suggestions on how you might be able to get your money back.

 

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Why is Phishing Dangerous?

Scammers use phishing to steal information

 

Phishing is the act of gaining your trust by acting as a representative of a reputable organization. Scammers might pose as someone who works for a software company like Apple, a government agency like the Social Security Administration, or a lawyer from a prestigious law firm. They send electronic communication such as email, website links or text messages. The goal is to get a response so that they can access personal information such as passwords, usernames, credit card information so that they can access your accounts.

Fake Websites

The fraudsters often send email or an instant message directing its target to a website. The website appears legitimate, but is designed to gain access to information. It may also infect your system with spyware, malware or a Trojan virus. Consumers may not be able to tell one of these websites from the real thing, however, the website address is usually misspelled. For example, you may think that you are being directed to www.ticketmaster.com, when in fact the address is www.ticketnaster.com. The scammers take the information and charge your account. The funds are rarely, if ever, returned. Hopefully your bank or credit card company will not hold you liable for the charge.

Text Messages

Vishing is making contact through phone contact, such as a phone call or text message. Text messages can be deceiving, and it doesn’t seem that any harm can come from clicking a link to a website to claim a prize or sign up for a shopping service. The website engineers can cleverly attach to your phone, gaining personal information including email addresses, phone contacts, and payment details. If you receive a text message from an unknown person, do not click the link or reply; delete it immediately. You can use a reverse phone search to look up the number that sent the message. You are able to block the number from your phone to prevent further contact. If you suspect that your phone has been hacked, contact your service provider. You can also report the incident to the Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

Safety Tips

There are several phone safety tips you can use to protect your information from hackers. The best way is to password protect any sensitive information on your phone or computer. You should be protective of phone numbers, payment information, bank account numbers, passwords, etc.

Update Software

It’s important to ensure that your spyware, malware, and antivirus software is up to date. Hackers find new ways every day to infiltrate systems and the software is the best way to block them.

Links and Attachments

Do not click on links or open attachments from an unknown source. If you suspect it might be legit, contact the sender before opening to ensure safety.

Too Good to be True?

Lastly, you may receive communication claiming that you’ve won an exotic vacation, iPhone, lottery or other lavish gift. These communications are almost always a scam. Remember, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

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Getting Revenge on Scammers

Using Answer Bot

 

Legitimate businesses have used automated systems for many years. The systems are designed to reduce or eliminate the need for human operators and tech support personnel. Many websites feature systems in the form of conversational bots, i.e., robots or “bots” that answer questions based on keywords and phrases. For example, if you log on to Microsoft and ask a question about making your computer faster, the bot will give you a list of links to follow that may answer your question. Businesses use it as a time saving device. One report shows that these bots can answer 29% of a customer’s questions, saving 44% of time that would be otherwise used with live support.

Calling Systems

Automated systems are a part of every day life. They are used when you call a company for information so that you are directed to the right department. They can be annoying for the caller but in other ways, efficient. Another automated system that is popular is the ability to block or blacklist certain phone numbers that call unsuspecting people. Most apps blacklist phone numbers based on the number of people they call. If a phone number is used to call 1000 people, it is obviously a robocaller and, therefore, should be blocked. These systems tend to be relatively effective.

Telemarketers and Scammers

Telemarketers and scammers waste our time and, in many cases, want to get our hard-earned money. You can download apps that will help you to trace unknown callers on your iPhone to ensure the caller is legitimate and will also block calls and texts. Users love the apps because they save time and prevent annoying people from calling. However, there is a new trend that takes it one step further. Robokiller has introduced a feature on their platform known as Answer Bot. Not only does it block unwanted calls, it plays a pre-recorded message to keep scammers and telemarketers on the phone.

Getting Revenge

We’ve all wanted to get revenge on scammers at one time. We learn to avoid saying “yes” and other things that can get us into trouble, but scammers are clever and relentless. Answer Bot blocks unwanted calls and allows users to play a pre-recorded message for the person being blocked. For example, a scammer calls your phone. Answer Bot blocks the number, so you are not disturbed. While you go on about your day, the scammer hears a recorded message that sounds like a regular conversation. The caller is engaged in the conversation, thereby wasting his or her time.

The Result

Many scammers and telemarketers are not permitted to hang up on a potential target, so they are forced to stay on the line. Robokiller reports that Answer Bot has prevented the scammers from making approximately 300 calls. The longest call recorded to date lasted 45 minutes. Users enjoy the app because many of the pre-recorded messages are hilarious and have gone viral. People have begun to compete to see who can get the best revenge, opening the doors to similar apps to protect consumers.

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Can Social Security Be Suspended?

Social Security Scams

The Social Security Administration (SSA) shows a rise in phone scams relating to suspended accounts. Callers claim that citizens are having their social security numbers suspended due to criminal activity or taxes being owed to the government. Scammers target senior citizens and convince them to pay fines to correct the problem, while others ask for verification of personal information. The Federal Trade Commission states that the caller pretends to be an agent with the SSA trying to clear up a problem or to protect citizens from scams. The truth is that the call is the scam. People should know that the SSA does not call people, nor does it ever suspend social security numbers for any reason. The SSA doesn’t require people to reapply, either. Anyone requesting information or saying otherwise is a fraud.

If you get a call from someone claiming to be an SSA representative, hang up. You can use a free reverse phone search to verify the number before accepting another call or giving any information. Some scammers spoof the SSA’s main or customer service number — 1-800-772-1213 — to convince the person on the other end of the phone that the scam is real.

SSA Issues Warning

Gale Stallworth Stone, the Acting Inspector General of the Social Security Administration, says, “Unfortunately, scammers will try anything to mislead and harm innocent people, including scaring them into thinking that something is wrong with their Social Security account and they might be arrested. I encourage everyone to remain watchful of these schemes and to alert family members and friends of their prevalence.  We will continue to track these scams and warn citizens so that they can stay several steps ahead of these thieves.”

Protect Yourself

  • Know the way the SSA operates. The SSA rarely, if ever, calls people on the phone. Instead, they communicate only by mail.
  • The SSA will not make threats or demand payment.
  • Refuse to give out bank account or credit card information.
  • Don’t give out your Social Security number.
  • Ignore robocalls.
  • Never give or confirm any personal information.
  • Don’t assume the call, text, or email you receive is legitimate. Offer to call back.
  • Check all suspicious phone numbers using an iPhone reverse cell search app.
  • Do not engage in conversation with the person on the phone.

Staying Safe

  • Block phone numbers you suspect to be fake.
  • Contact government agencies in person, using verified phone numbers, or through their website.
  • Contact government agencies directly, in person or by using telephone numbers and website addresses you know to be legitimate.
  • If someone has tried to steal your private information by claiming to be from the government, report it to the FTC. Also, report any potential scams to the SSA’s Office of the Inspector General  online or call 1-800-269-0271.

 

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Avoiding Common Phone Scams

Avoiding phone scams

Avoiding phone scams can be difficult. Scammers trick users so they can get access to your information. It is more difficult than ever to detect phone scams by the phone number. Criminals often use VoIP or Internet phone numbers to seem as if they are local. The numbers are untraceable. Cell phone users can avoid most scams by using caller ID or an iPhone reverse phone number lookup to check the numbers of unknown callers.

Types of Scams

The types of phone scams increase every day, making it harder to detect or avoid the scammers. Criminals find new ways of getting money and information from users. They may use intimidation, scare tactics or guilt to get what they want from the victims. A common scam involves the IRS calling about an overdue tax bill. You should know that the IRS NEVER calls anyone; they send letters in the mail.

Another common trick involves getting the victim to say “yes.” The scammer will ask questions trying to get an agreement. Don’t fall for it.

The following are popular scams:

Online Orders

A representative claims your company ordered a product and requires payment. The call works because the person ordering the products is not always the person that pays the bills.

Unpaid Utility Bill

The caller says your utilities will be cut off unless you make a payment immediately.

Medical Coverage

This scam usually targets seniors. Caller scares victims into thinking their coverage is insufficient or lapsed.

Jury Duty

Target is told he must appear for jury duty and is required to verify information.

Government Agency Impersonator

The caller claims to be from the Social Security Administration, IRS, or other agency.

Immigration Programs

Caller promises to help immigrants with documents or citizenship.

Credit Card Services

The caller claims to be from “card services.” He wants to explain offers, suspicious charges, or lower interest rates. The caller requests verification of information.

Tech Support

The scammer claims to be from Microsoft or Apple Tech Support. He reports a serious issue on your computer and offers to fix the problem for a fee. You should report the calls to the company the caller claims to represent.

Prize Winner

The caller tells the victim he has won a lottery, prize, or free vacation.

Reporting Scammers

Reporting calls can seem pointless yet it is important. Reports can cut down on activity and help other victims.

Internet-based scams, including government, dating and tech support scams, should be reported online at the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. Supply as much information as possible.

Consumer-related fraud should be reported online via the Federal Trade Commission’s Complaint Assistant. Consumer-related fraud includes a prize, vacation, lottery and sweepstakes scams, utility company scams, credit card scams, tech support scams, calls from debt collectors, fake charities, and telemarketers that violate the National Do Not Call Registry.

 

 

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Cash Advances Can Spell Trouble

Cash Advance Request Form

A cash advance can help you in times in need, but can also be a way to get you into deeper trouble. This can easily happen if the person or company offering the cash advance isn’t honest. There are many ads and commercials for car title loans and payday loans, many of which are legal but charge big fees and interest. If you choose to go that way, be sure to read the fine print and understand exactly what you’re signing up for, what fees are involved, and the deadline for payment.

Is it Legal?

Some states, such as Georgia and North Carolina, have banned cash advance or payday loans. In some states, they are legal but cap high-interest rates. Others permit payday loans but have failed to close the loophole which prevents high interest rates. In other words, there is no cap on the interest you will pay for quick cash.

States Banning Loans

Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and West Virginia have never permitted payday loans. The District of Columbia has reversed its payday law.

Interest Regulated States

  • Arkansas – 17%
  • New York – 25%
  • Maine – 30%
  • New Jersey – 30%
  • Montana – 36%
  • New Hampshire – 36%
  • Oregon – 36%
  • South Dakota – 36%
  • Colorado – 45%

States with No Interest Caps

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • California
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Online Services

Caution

The following are six things that you should be aware of when applying for a cash advance loan, in person or online.

  1. The lender doesn’t request payment history, pay stubs or proof of creditworthiness.
  2. The lender isn’t registered in your state. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires registration for all lenders and loan brokers in the state(s) they do business.
  3. The lender requires a prepaid debit card. Some sites will ask for a prepaid card as collateral or insurance. Prepaid cards can’t be traced. They are also nonrefundable, so the scammers keep the money free and clear.
  4.  Their website isn’t secure.
  5. The lender does not have an address or the address is out of the country.
  6. The lender demands action. Don’t fall for limited time offers.
  7. The lender’s phone number is not listed. Use a white pages iPhone app to find out if the number is legit.

If you think you have been scammed or want to report a lender, contact the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

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Is Sexting Really Dangerous?

app for unknown look ups

If we have learned anything about sexting, we know it’s fun but foolish and potentially dangerous. Politicians and celebrities are often in the news because of sexting. Some have experienced ruined careers and/or ruined relationships. They tell the media they were caught up in the moment or meant no harm. In the end, the fun was not worth the consequence.

The act is particularly dangerous for youths. Kids are often drawn into sexting with strangers; people who aren’t who they claim to be. The result may be dangerous or even fatal. Even the most diligent parents can’t be on alert 24/7. Educating children is vital to their safety.

What is Sexting?

Sexting is sending or receiving nude pictures or sexually suggestive text messages through a mobile phone. Teenagers engage in sexting to prove an attraction or to keep a mate. Statistics show that 1 in 7 teens sends sext messages; 1 in 4 receives messages. It’s common for a person to receive a message containing a nude photo or sexual suggestion. If that happens, the child should report it to a parent immediately. The parent can use an app for unknown number look ups to find out who owns the number and report it to authorities.


Sexting Statistics

Teens and politicians aren’t the only ones sending the messages:

  • 12% to 16% of youths ages 10 to 19 have sent nude or semi-nude images via their mobile phones.
  • 15% of teens have received a sexually explicit image through text or social media.
  • 40% of 18 to 34 year-olds admitted to sexting
  • 10% of people 55 years old and over admitted to sending sexts.
  • Sexts are sent almost equally between male and females.

Sextortion

It’s just like it sounds. Sextortion is a form of extortion or blackmail using sexually elated  messages or photos against the person that sent them. It is most common among teens or couples that have recently ended a relationship. It happens between friends who are fighting. Also referred to as “revenge porn,” sextortion can easily embarrass the persons joining in the conversation. It may cause animosity, embarrassment, or worse. Teens can be outcast, expelled or denied access into college. People put themselves at risk, including their future careers and relationships. People need to remember that once a photo or message is on the Internet, it is there forever. You can’t get it back.

Additionally, sexting carries legal issues. The person taking or sending the picture can face fines or even jail for distributing pornography, even if that person is a minor.

Protect Yourself

First, you need to educate yourself about sexting, including the dangers and consequences.

To avoid the embarrassment and possible legal problems from sexting, simply refuse. Do not take nude or compromising pictures. Do not engage in sexual conversations.

Lastly, avoid keeping inappropriate photos and videos on your computer. At the least, computers can be hacked and private photos can be leaked to social media sites.

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Performing Background Checks

As technology moves forward, more people are using search engines and reverse phone lookups on iPhone apps to run background checks on family members, friends, possible love interests, and employees. People can search the internet for phone numbers, work history, criminal history, and relationship status. Employers take steps to gain information about hires if they are going to be placed in a job where security was important. Now anyone can dig into public and private information with just a few clicks of the mouse.

The Reason for Background Checks

Employers often do background checks on people as a part of the job screening process. This was common when someone applied for a job in a secure facility such as a courthouse, airport, financial institution, hospital, school, or government agency. Likewise, they are required for anyone getting a license for real estate, insurance, or another job where the employee must show credibility.

Originally, checks were usually conducted when someone applied for a job. Similarly, background checks are run on companies, politicians, and individuals for a variety of reasons. The information can be invaluable.

Current statistics show that background checks give employers a heads up on potential employees.

  • 57% of employers say background checks lead to better hires.
  • 85% of employers report finding inaccurate information on resumes and/or job applications.
  • 77% of employers have uncovered issues that would have gone unnoticed.

Types of Searches

Some jobs may require certain information, but most background searches are general. People can do searches for personal use on private individuals. Common types of screening include:

Criminal and Sex Offender Records

There are websites that show sex offender lists, but criminal checks may not be easy to come by. Some companies offer to research criminal history for a fee, but usually run a check of public records. Third party agencies can give more detailed information, but will not guarantee that the information is correct. The only way to get truly accurate information is to search county or state databases.

Citizenship Status

Employing undocumented workers is illegal and can spell trouble for the employer. Since the formation of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division of the Department of Homeland Security, employers are required to supply proof of citizenship for its workers.

Court Records

Getting information on court records is important for personal and employment reasons. It’s important to know if a future relationship or employee has been in court. It can attest to the person’s character.

Driving Records

Employees required to drive at their jobs must have clean records for insurance and safety reasons. Employers can contact their state’s Department of Motor Vehicles and/or the Department of Transportation for information.

Education records

Records verify educational qualifications including a high school diploma, college degree, graduate degree or license.

Employment records

Employers often check job history to check a person’s skill set, performance, attendance, and relationship with employers and coworkers.

Financial information

Reports may include a person’s credit history, civil judgments, tax information or bankruptcy. This is crucial information to have for a relationship or employer working in a financial space.

Social Security Number

A person’s social security number shows where a person has lived and worked. People who give out a false SSN may be guilty of identity theft or could be illegal.

Who Would Run a Background Check on Me?

The most common reason for a background check is employment screening. Now someone can run a background for creditworthiness or for personal reasons. While some information is public, digging deeper is going to cost. Deep checks can be expensive. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) created rules regarding the information accessed by potential employers. Anyone using a third-party service must state the reason for the search.

Employers cannot refuse to hire someone based on the information of an unofficial search.

Incorrect Information

One important step many people miss is running their own background check. People found old information contained in databases. Running your own background check enables you to review information others can see about you. Incorrect information can cost you a job or a relationship. You can report incorrect information to the issuing agency. You can also learn how to remove information from your report.

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