Internet Scams

Scams, especially Internet scams are on the rise and a novel method are being devised to trick people into losing out their moneys and in some cases their identity too, which could be used to commit frauds. Some of the most popular scams are listed below:

·    Chain Letters or Emails asking you send an email along with some money by mail to the top names on the list while adding your name to the bottom and thereby making millions when you receive back money from others. There are several variations to it.

·    Turn your computer into a money-making machine which asks you send some money and then you will be sent instructions on how to place ads and pull in suckers to "turn their computers into money-making machines”.

·    Typing At Home scam wherein after sending the fee to the scammer for more information, you receive a disk and printed information that tells you to place home typist ads and sell copies of the disk to the suckers who reply to you.

·    Call this 1-900 number for more information doesn’t require much time or money as these numbers cost money to call and the scammer makes all the money.

·    In the medical billing scam you pay $300-$900 for everything you need to start your own medical billing service at home when the real fact is that most medical clinics process their own bills or outsource the processing to firms and not individuals.

·    The Domain name registration scams tell a domain owner that in order to keep their domain listing they have to send a check for a certain amount where in fact these are usually registered for a year.

In fact, the Internet Scam Busters site  lists 10 top scams that are being circulated on the net with tips on how to avoid them.

The Truth About Identify Theft

You would hate to think that by ordering that new purse or buying that airline ticket for vacation might end up costing you your identity. While most websites are secure when it comes to transactions, your personal and financial information can be compromised. As a result, they can open credit cards, checking accounts, and even get an ID and purchase a new car with your personal information. As a result, you could end up owing thousands of dollars, as well as have to seek legal help which can cost even more money.

Credit Card Theft

Identify theft can unfortunately happen to anyone. Here is some information that might be helpful in recognizing it and preventing it to maintain your internet security.
Signs that Your Personal Information Might Be Compromised
1. You receive something that you did not order.
2. Unexplained things pop up on your credit report. You might not even notice this until you try to purchase something and you are declined due to your poor credit rating.
3. Unexplained purchases show up in your checking account or on your credit cards.
4. You receive calls from bill collectors for accounts that you did not open.
Preventing Identity Theft
1. Always shred any unwanted credit card offers or mail that might contain personal information such as your account number, social security number, checking account number, etc.
2. Stay up to date on the latest scams. There are several websites devoted to this.
3. use anti spam ware and ensure that your e-mail account has a spam filter on it to deposit unwanted emails into.
4. Check the privacy policy on a website that asks for personal information. Don’t submit anything if it doesn’t have one.
5. Don’t keep your personal or financial information on your computer. Likewise, don’t store your passwords on your computer either.
6. Don’t open an attachment if you receive an e-mail from someone that you don’t know. Use an anti-virus program to scan the e-mail first to make sure that it doesn’t contain any phishing or virus programs on it.
7. Keep your firewalls and anti-virus software up-to-date on all of your computers.
If you suspect that your security has been compromised, change all of your passwords, cancel your credit cards, close your bank account, and report it to the police. Also, report the activity at once to your financial institution and credit card company.

Dog Attack

Photo: Tudor

In the US alone, nearly 5 million people are attacked by dogs every year, and 1,000 people go to emergency rooms every day as a result of a dog attack. Most dog’s live up to the term “man’s best friend.” Others on the other hand, are dogs which belong to irresponsible owners who have neglected their dogs or who intentionally encourage aggressiveness can be truly dangerous. Even properly trained domestic pets can attack under certain conditions. Old dogs can be grouchy, females may be defensive about their litter, and others just do not fancy strangers and children. Some dogs might snap if subject to rough handling or play.

Dogs through millenniums of evolution are cunning, swift, agile, strong, territorial, and voracious predators despite domestication; even small ones have large, sharp teeth and claws and powerful muscles in their jaws and legs, and can inflict serious injuries. Large dogs can knock people down with the usual effects of falls from other causes.

If a dog does not have a connection to you as far as liking or respect or if the dog has been conditioned to be aggressive, or should you invade what the dog considers their territory, then the dog’s natural predatory instincts will come out.

Warning Signs of Attack

Here is description of canine body postures.

  • Fear Aggression – a fear aggressive dog will have a tucked tail between it’s legs, move stiffly, freeze still and have widely opened eyes.
  • Threat Aggression – this dog will growl, bark very much, raise their hackles (hair on back) to appear bigger, carry their tail low toward the ground diagonally or pointing it down vertically between it’s lags. These are all signs of a very unsure and unconfident dog. Leave this dog alone as it will likely bite you if you go closer.
  • Extreme Fear & Threat Aggression – this dog will attempt to appear smaller by crouching down, tucking it’s tail between it’s legs while growling, snarling* and barking. These dogs are extremely unsure and unconfident of the situation. They very likely to bite, if confronted further. *Snarling is a dog scared stiff with their mouth closed while it growls and the dog may pull up it’s lips, which makes a nose (snorting like) sound to the growling.
  • Moderate Fear & Threat Aggression – These dogs will also crouch down with barks and growling without any snarling. They aren’t as unsure and unconfident as the one above, but they are still very dangerous to approach.
  • Low Fear and Low Aggression – A dog which is trying to appear bigger by raising their hackle (hair on back) to appear bigger, and carry their tail high (level with their body or higher) with a slow wag. These dogs will not likely be a threat toward people. They will only appear to be threatening toward people. They are confident and very educated about human behavior. They will usually bark continuously with a monotone bark, stand their ground and will attack only when they are provoked by a stranger who shows threatening behavior with anger and/or hitting the dog. The high tail is a sign that this dog has confidence. If your dog doesn’t have a tail, you can only go by their constant bark with no growling.

How to Avoid an Attack

From, here are some excellent suggestions to deter or defend a dog attack.

  • Avoid eye contact with an aggressive dog.
  • If you are jogging, stop jogging and walk by the dog, avoiding eye contact and sudden movement. Avoid the temptation to rebuke the owner of an aggressive dog for allowing their menacing and unleashed dog to remain in your direct path. Aggressive dogs are often a reflection of their owner’s character. If you notice the aggressive dog unleashed again, contact the police with a good description of the dog, the owner and time of day. Try to remember the dog’s name if it was called during your presence.
  • If the dog runs towards you exhibiting aggressive behaviour (growling or barking), stand your ground without sudden movement. Brace yourself and command the dog as if you were its owner: “No!” “Down!” “Sit!” “Stay!” Do this repeatedly. Do not raise your hands in a fight stance prematurely as this may antagonize the dog and you might lose your one chance at stopping the attacking dog through commands.
  • If the dog is small and presents no danger for your neck area you may want to try to kick it. A good blow to the nose or to the body will stop most small dogs.
  • If a large dog attacks, take a fight stance with one leg in front of the other to maximize balance and protect your inner body. If you are athletic, you may want to use your foot as a primary weapon. This response could mean jeopardizing your balance. Should you fall, you lose your height advantage to a dog.
  • A large dog may lunge for your throat. Protect this area of your body first and foremost with your arm tucked into your throat as far as you can without pulling back.
  • Punch the dog on the nose as hard as you can. Twist or pull the dog’s ears. The dog’s eyes are another soft spot which you should attack if required to defend yourself. Another strategy is to kick the dog in the rib cage. This will wind it and could stun it enough to ward off any more attacks. Yell for help. Yell “Call 911, I am being attacked by a dog.”

Children and Dog Attacks

Normally children a child’s first best friend is often the family pet. Yet we often forget that dogs are natural pack animals that obey certain rules and expect others around them to follow the same rules. We have to teach children to follow certain rules around dogs.

First rule for adults to remember is to properly supervise children around dogs. Unsupervised children are far more vulnerable to a fatal dog attack. From Safety Around Dogs the reasons for attacks against unsupervised children:

  • Dogs are much less likely to attack a child in the presence of an adult, particularly in the presence of the owner.
  • In the event that a dog does attack a child in the presence of an adult, the intervention of the adult often prevents the attack from becoming a fatality.
  • Children, because of their small size, are usually not able to sustain an attack until help arrives. Many adults survived severe dog attacks simply by virtue of the fact that they were able to sustain and fend the dogs off to some degree until assistance arrived.
  • Children often engage in dangerous behavior (approaching too close to a chained dog or trying to hug/kiss an unfamiliar animal) that a supervising adult would have prevented.

Go over these rules from doggone safe with your children.

  • Do not hug a dog, put your face close to his face or lie on him. Do sit beside your dog, rub his chest or scratch him on the side of the neck.
  • Do not play chase-me games with a dog. Do play hide and seek – where the dog has to find you or an object that you hide.
  • Do not play tug-of-war games with a dog. Do play fetch with the dog – teach the dog to trade the object for a treat so he won’t try to tug.
  • Do not lean over or step over a dog. Do respect a dog’s resting place – go around him or ask an adult to move the dog.
  • Do not bother a dog who is sleeping, eating, has a toy or bone, is hurt or has puppies. Do wait for the dog to come to you for attention.
  • Do not dress a dog up in play clothes. Do dress up your stuffed animals.
  • Do not hit a dog or poke him with a stick. Do be gentle with dogs.
  • Do not pull a dog’s ears, tail or fur. Do scratch the dog’s chest or the side of her neck – most dogs enjoy this.
  • Do not stick fingers or hands into the dog’s crate. Do ask an adult to let the dog out of the crate if you want to pet her.
  • Do not play in the dog’s crate. Do play “in and out of the crate” with the dog – toss a treat in – dog goes in to get it – dog comes back out – toss another treat in etc (with adult supervision).

Download the AKC Handbook about Safety Around Dogs. It offers games and discussion topics that you can go over together with your children.

Man’s Best Friend

Dogs are truly man’s best friend. By some estimates there are over 52 million dogs in the United States and the majority are loyal, loving pets owned by responsible, caring owners. However we still have to remember that dogs are animals that operate with a different set of rules than we do.


Photo: Hazel Mote

There was a high profile violent carjacking locally lately. The carjackers led the police on wild chase, with one being killed in the crash and the other escaping on foot. It seems that there are almost daily reports of cases across the nation of carjackings.

Carjacking is really nothing new. Since the automobile came into existence, there were people who forcibly took the vehicle away from its driver. I watched the new Dillinger movie yesterday and there was a scene of Baby Face Nelson taking a car away from a FBI agent. You can imagine, it didn’t go well for the agent. What we call carjacking became noticeable in the 1980s after the media published stories of bizarre situations and the violence associated with the crime. There were cases of infants in the carjacked vehicle or the driver was abducted and either raped and or killed. The media coined the phrase “carjacking” and the crime of auto theft was elevated to something almost, I hate to say more hip. With this publicity, other criminals “copied” the crime of carjacking. Another reason carjacking has become more widespread, is that it is harder to steal a parked car. With auto alarms, wheel locking systems such as “club” type devices, and engine starter disabler, it has become far easier to wait until someone opens the car up and take it from them.

The Scout

As in most other crimes, there are two parts to the event. First the criminal is scouting for a victim. He is going to look for an easy target. The criminal is going to look for a lone victim, the car will probably be in a parking lot with a lot of coming and goings so there are plenty of victims to choose from, the lot will have an exit on a busy street. Being near a freeway ramp is also a good location. Sometimes they will stake out an intersection with a stop light as to go for the car when it is at the red light.

How to avoid being chosen as a victim

Wear a seat belt – Besides being good safety practice that will save your life in an accident, a seat belt makes it hard to pull you out of the car. For a carjacking to go smoothly, they want to get you out and them in as quickly as possible. A carjacker will go for someone not wearing a belt over someone with a belt because it is less hassle.

Immediately Lock Your Doors When You Get In Your Car – Once again, their aim is to get you out and them in as quickly as possible. If your door is locked this will maybe cause them to go onto someone else.

Look around before You Put the Key into the Lock – Always have a sense of presence around you, especially in the before mentioned high risk areas. Don’t park in isolated or visually obstructed areas near walls or heavy foliage. Make sure you can see around you when you park the car. If it is dark or will be dark when you return, make sure it is well lighted. If someone tries to approach, change direction or run to a busy store. As you enter the car, you are most vulnerable and that is when they will make their move. Watch out for young males loitering in the area (handing out flyers, etc). If there are people hanging around the area, go back to where you came from and ask for an escort.

Get In and Out of the Car Quickly – Make it your habit to always start your car and drive away immediately. Don’t be a target by turning your back while loading packages into the car. Don’t rearrange the packages in car. Put them in and go. Children tend to take awhile to get into the car. You should teach and practice with them, getting into the car quickly.

Drive with a Sense of Presence – In the city, always drive with your car doors locked and windows rolled up. Do not open the door or roll down the window to talk to anyone. There is nothing important that someone coming up on the street is going to tell you. If it seems to be an honest emergency, only roll down the window two inches. When stopping at a light or a stop sign, leave yourself maneuver room. A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to see the back tires of the car in front of you. This will give you enough room to pull away. You might need to go over the curb, but given the choice of a violent carjacking and driving over some lawns you should choose the lawns.

The Attack

If you are unfortunately are chosen by a criminal as a victim and he attacks you, you need to remember that this is not usually a professional, high brow criminal. These are violent predators that will do what it takes to get what they want. Your car is not your life and you should make every effort to get away. Let them have the car.

How to Minimize the Attack

Throw Your Car Keys – Make them choose between you and the car. Most of the time, they are after the car and will take it and go. If they are after you, at least this gives you the knowledge of their true motives and can shape your defense from that point on. It is best not to throw the keys at the attacker. First, it gives them the keys relatively easily. Secondly, you could anger them and even if they were originally only after the car, they could become violent towards you.

Beware of a Bump in Traffic – If you are bumped in traffic, by young males, be suspicious of the accident. If there is an accident, wave to follow, drive to a gas station or busy place before getting out.

If your car and belongs are taken – Immediately cancel your credit cards. Do not go home alone. Have people (more than one) accompany you home. Change the locks before doing anything else. Sign up for an Identify Theft watch service. Most of the criminals who steal cars are tied into identity theft rings and your belongings will go instantly into the hopper.

If it starts to go bad, by this I mean if they look like they are taking you, you first need to try to get away. Don’t threaten or attack them. They typically do not work alone and will in most cases be able to overpower you. Never agree to be kidnapped. Drop the cars keys and run and yell, “Call 911, I’ve been carjacked.” If you are taken and are forced to drive, consider crashing your car near a busy intersection to attract attention. Try to get away at every opportunity. Let bystanders know what is happening so they can come to your aid and call the police. . Once you get away, yell “Call 911, I’ve been carjacked.”

Hopefully, this has made you more aware and you will see a potential scene before it becomes one. The important piece to take way is to be aware of your surroundings and go with your gut if it feels wrong.

As a final item, carjackings do not always end badly. Below is a clip of an attempted carjacking where the victim was able to get away and summon help. In this case, it did not go well for the carjackers.

Keep Your Child Safe

There is a child missing in the local area. She left a friend’s house around eight in the evening for a short walk home. The search has been going on for a few days. I hope that she will be found safe, but as each day passes, hope fades. My son is beyond the age of worrying whether he could be adducted, but my wife and I tried to make him as a safe as possible while he was growing up. has some good steps for parents of younger children on keeping them safe:

· Know where your children are. Have your children tell you or ask permission before leaving the house and give them a time to check in or be home. When possible, have them leave a phone number of where they will be.

· Help children learn important phone numbers. Have your children practice reciting their home phone number and address, and your work and cell phone numbers. If they have trouble memorizing these, write them down on a card and have them carry it at all times. Tell your children where you will be and the best way to reach you.

· Set limits on where your children can go in your neighborhood. Do you want them crossing busy roads? Playing in alleys or abandoned buildings? Are there certain homes in your neighborhood that you don’t want your children to go to?

· Get to know your children’s friends. Meet their parents before letting your children to go to their home and keep a list of their phone numbers. If you can’t meet their parents, call and talk to them. Ask what your children might do at their house and if they will be supervised.

· Choose a safe house in your neighborhood. Pick a neighbor’s house where your children can go if they need help. Point out other places they can go for help, like stores, libraries, and police stations.

· Work together with your neighbors. Watch out for suspicious and unusual behavior in your neighborhood. Get to know your neighbors and their children so you can look out for one another.

The constant theme is to be involved in your child’s life, to know where they are at and take part in activities. Besides keeping them safer, it will pay dividends in the building your relationship with them.

If believe your child is missing, suggests these steps:

· If your child is missing from home, search the house checking closets, piles of laundry, in and under beds, inside old refrigerators—wherever a child may crawl or hide.

· If you still cannot find your child, immediately call your local law-enforcement agency.

· If your child disappears in a store, notify the store manager or security office. Then immediately call your local law-enforcement agency. Many stores have a Code Adam plan of action–if a child is missing in the store, employees immediately mobilize to look for the missing child.

· When you call law enforcement, provide your child’s name, date of birth, height, weight, and any other unique identifiers such as eyeglasses and braces. Tell them when you noticed that your child was missing and what clothing he or she was wearing.

· Request that your child’s name and identifying information be immediately entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Missing Person File.

· After you have reported your child missing to law enforcement, call the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children toll free 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).

Warriors of the Net

Warriors of the Net is a Swedish group that creates educational material in form of animations and illustrations that explains technical or abstract concepts. They have some excellent movies on how the Internet works. It is easier if you download the clips to your computer and watch them from there.

Voice Mail Telephone Fraud

Photo: higetiger

The FCC tells of an ongoing scam can hit people who don’t change the default password on their voicemail boxes. Most people receive a voicemail box when they sign up for phone service. Many times people leave the default password on the box instead of changing it.

The hackers call into voicemail systems and search for boxes with the default password or easily guessed ones like 1-2-3-4. They then change the greeting to something like – “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, operator, I will accept the charges.” Then, they places a collect call to the number. When the (automated) operator (which is usually programmed to “listen for” key words and phrases like “yes” or “I will accept the charges”) hears the outgoing “yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, operator, I will accept the charges” message, the collect call is connected.

The hacker then uses this connection for long periods of time to make international calls. Sometimes they take over the number completely and set up a forward to another number. This is usually targeted over weekends or holidays, when people don’t check their voicemails for long periods of time. Most of the calls go overseas and can rack up big charges.

To counter this:
To avoid falling prey to this scam, the FCC recommends voice mail users do the following:
· always change the default password from the one provided by the voice mail vendor;
· choose a complex voice mail password of at least six digits, making it more difficult for a hacker to detect;
· change your voice mail password frequently;
· don’t use obvious passwords such as an address, birth date, phone number, or repeating or successive numbers, i.e. 000000, 123456;
· check your recorded announcement regularly to ensure the greeting is indeed yours. Hackers tend to attack voice mailboxes at the start of weekends or holidays;
· consider blocking international calls, if possible; and
· consider disabling the remote notification, auto-attendant, call-forwarding, and out-paging capabilities of voice mail if these features are not used.

Kids Flying Solo

Photo: Ma1974

Rick Seaney has some excellent tips for kids flying by themselves. The airlines call the kids UM for Unaccompanied Minors (usually considered ages 5-11 or 5-14). There has been a rash of children being put on the wrong flight and ending up in the wrong city. Both of the recent cases involved Continental and were caused mainly by the airlines using the same gate for two different flights.

As Rick states to reduce the risk of having the airlines “losing “your child is not to have him or her fly alone. By having a family member fly with the child you reduce the probability of a loss occurring to zero.

However, this is not possible all of the time so here are some tips from Rick’s site to reduce the chance of a loss.

1. Cell Phone: Give your child a cell phone. Practice with them on how to use it. Have all important numbers preprogrammed inside. Make sure they have a charger with them in their carry on bag.

2. Write a Note: Have them carry a note with their name, telephone number, destination and flight number. Have them show it (but not give it) to any airline employee who asks. Rick suggests pinning a note on the shirt of younger ones stating that they are flying to “Hartford.” While I think this is okay, do not put their name on their shirt. This could be used to lure them by a predator.

3. Ask THE Question: Train them to ask if this is their flight to “Harford” or wherever they are going. They should ask their escort, the person at the gate and the attendant once they get on the airplane.

4. Don’t Wander: Train your child when they disembark from the airplane, they should go to the gate agent and tell them who they expect to meet. Tell them not to wander from the gate without an escort.

5. Strategic seating: Request a seat close to the galley so flight attendants are always within view.

Snooping on Keyboards

While I don’t consider a particular danger for the average person, I thought it might be interesting to see how powerful spy versus spy and business intelligence gathering capabilities are. Here is a study on detecting the electromagnetic waves that are emitted by wired and wireless keyboards.

They were able to retrieve keystrokes from keyboards up to 20 meters (sixty feet) away. They were even able to distinguish between different keyboards in the same room.

The reason I don’t believe that the average person has much risk is due to the specialized nature of the equipment necessary. A national espionage organization or a large business concern definitely would have access to such equipment. One scenario that I could think of is a setting up in a hotel room next door to the intended target.

Shred your Documents

It’s a good idea to shred any document that has your name or any other sensitive information on it. All the credit card applications that make it to my house go through the shredder before being thrown out. Simply ripping it in half is not good enough. Some credit card companies have accepted applications torn up and taped back together.

Invest in a decent machine. Cross cut shredders are far better than the cheap ones that only cut the paper into strips. It is possible to piece the long strips back together. Just ask the people from the US Embassy in Iran almost thirty years ago. I would also invest in a shredder stout enough to handle credit cards and CDs/DVDs. Office supply stores offer lubricating sheets that you run through every once in awhile to keep it in good working order.