Press Report on Local Scams by Dadeville Police Investigator Lt. David Barbour
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Don't be taken in by COUNTERFEIT MONEY
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Worried about security? Aren't we all? Crime and cybercrime have reached new levels in the digital, modern era. This collection of our 75 best security tips goes the distance from personal and home security safeguards to smartphone safety, top Internet security tips and even car security. Follow these easy steps to make your life safer, both online and off.
Shell out for an anti-virus software subscription There's plenty of decent free anti-virus software for PCs, but it's worth paying a bit to really be protected against phishing scams and drive-by downloads. Here's our guide to the best you can find for Windows.
Stop using Internet Explorer 6 Microsoft's most successful browser is a decade old, yet millions of people are still surfing the Web with it. They shouldn't be. IE6 is slow, buggy and full of holes, and even Microsoft wants it to die. Windows XP users can upgrade to IE8; Vista and Windows 7 users will want IE9.
Encrypt your hard drive Got something on your PC you really want to hide? Full-disk encryption software will put your entire hard drive out of reach of anyone who doesn't have your password. This method works so well that government investigators have been complaining they can't crack it.
Keep valuables in a safe Even if a burglar breaks into your home, your valuables such as jewelry or important documents can still be protected if you've locked them in a safe. Make sure the safe is anchored into the floor or mounted into a permanent shelf so a thief can't run off with it. And just as you would with your email, use a strong, difficult-to-guess combination or passcode.
Clear your browser cookies Cookies remember that you've registered with certain websites, which is nice, but also often log you right into shopping sites that might not have the best security. Don't let other people get into your retail accounts; toss your cookies when you close the browser.
Read up on classic scams and cons Many of today's high-tech swindles, such as the Nigerian-millions or the stranded-in-London scams, are just updated versions of classic cons from the pre-Internet era. Protect yourself from flim-flam artists by familiarizing yourself with the work of their predecessors.
Install Windows Defender If you're using Windows XP, download Windows Defender, Microsoft's free antispyware tool. It comes standard with Vista and Windows 7, but XP users can get it here.
Don't rely on Android Face Unlock Google's Android 4.0 Smartphone operating system, now on consumer models, has a nifty feature that lets the user unlock the handset just by putting his face in front of the camera. But it turns out that a photo of the user will work just as well. Save this one for party tricks.
Turn off Bluetooth when you're not using it Many laptops and Smartphone’s have Bluetooth turned on by default, but that exposes you to any crafty hacker within 30 feet. Only turn on Bluetooth when you're using it, such as with a headset or car kit.
Meet online sellers and buyers in busy public places It's a classic scam, made easier by Craigslist: Lure a potential buyer or seller to an isolated private property or deserted area, then rob him - or worse. Avoid this scenario and instead set up one-time business meetings in crowded cafes or bustling shopping-mall parking lots.
Turn off your browser 'auto-fill' feature Letting your browser fill in personal and financial data on shopping sites is handy, but dangerous if someone else were to access your computer. Spend an extra minute typing in your name, address and credit-card number each time you buy online. The security benefits will be worth it.
Make your next Android phone a 'flagship' model Cellular carriers weaken security by loading up Smartphone’s with "bloatware" and waiting months to push out Android updates. Only "flagship" models that Google itself develops, such as the Nexus One, Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus, are free of bloatware and get immediate updates.
Don't use a debit card for online purchases Credit-card users are on the hook for only the first $50 of fraudulent charges if their card numbers are stolen, but debit-card customers have to report the theft within 48 hours to get the same protection. After that period, if you're a debit-card holder, you're pretty much on your own.
Get out of the taxi on the sidewalk side Don't lose your cool when you're in a hurry. Make sure to check which side of the street you're on before getting out of the cab, and then exit onto the sidewalk instead of into oncoming traffic.
Don't use Google Wallet just yet It'd be nice to pay for things by waving your cell phone at the cash register, but no one's really yet sure just how secure Google Wallet is. Verizon Wireless recently said it would delay putting the software on its newest phones, which ought to be a warning.
Clear your browser history Most modern browsers will remember the sites you've visited going back, well, forever. So if you don't want your parents, your spouse or your boss to find out you've been looking at lingerie models, clear your history when you exit the browser.
Keep your Smartphone close to you in public Apple iPhones are this season's item of choice for New York City and San Francisco muggers. Don't make it easy for thieves - watch who's around you as you gaze into your Smartphone, and make sure it's pressed against your body when subway or bus doors open.
Protect your home with an alarm system We're careful to run anti-virus security software on our computers, so it should stand to reason that we'd protect our homes as well. Buy a security system for your home, and display that system's logo prominently on your door and elsewhere on your property.
Install deadbolts on all your doors Your doors stand between burglars and your home, so make sure each door is secured with a strong deadbolt. You can pop a spring-latch with a credit card, and you can open a pin-tumbler lock with a "bump" key, but it'll take serious physical force to open a dead bolted door.
Turn on Data Execution Prevention Last year's devastating hack of security company RSA could have been prevented by an anti-malware feature called Data Execution Prevention, which is disabled by default in Windows XP (but not in Vista or Windows 7). If you're using XP, here's how to turn it on.
Have a friend take in your mail when you're out of town Mail and other deliveries piling up is a sure sign you're away, and an open invitation to burglars. Have a friend or neighbor come by a few times per week to pick up your mail, newspapers, flyers and anything else left on your doorstep.
Designate Kindles meant for other people as gifts Attention holiday shoppers! By default, Amazon Kindle Fires ship pre-registered to the Amazon account of whomever paid for it. If you plan to give one as a gift, make sure you check the "This is a gift" box during the purchasing process. Otherwise, the lucky recipient will be making all his or her purchases on your dime.
Don't donate to fake charity websites Cybercriminals often create fake online donation websites following natural disasters. If you want to give to a charity, contact the group on the phone, or type the organization's URL into the browser bar. Don't navigate to a charity site from an email or social-networking link.
Change your Wi-Fi network name to avoid Google Maps listing If you're concerned about privacy, go into the administrative settings for your home wireless router and add "_nomap" to the network's name (its "SSID," technically speaking). That way Google Maps won't include it in its global database of Wi-Fi networks.
Put a male voice on your voicemail If you're a woman, having a deep male voice read the outgoing message on your voicemail or answering machine can go a long way toward scaring off stalkers and creeps.
Be picky about installing Facebook apps Facebook has built up a huge app library the old-fashioned way: It lets anyone create an app, and it doesn't examine apps before they're released. Be very careful about which Facebook apps you install. If you have questions about one, ask your online friends or Google it.
Don't fill out online surveys Online scammers often make completing a survey the final step before you can win a supposed "prize," such as an iPad. But the surveys are almost always fake and you won't win anything - except potential identity theft at the hands of the scammers.
Double-check your spelling in your browser bar "Typo squatting" is when scammers create a phony website with a name that's almost identical to a popular site, such as facebok.com, twitr.com or craiglist.com. Make sure the URL of the website you want to go to is spelled correctly in your browser bar. The half-second you spend verifying your spelling could save you from tons of computer trouble.
Un-tag yourself from Facebook images It's important to have control over what you share online, and who sees it. If you find yourself tagged in a friend's picture and you didn't ask to be, un-tag yourself. Even better, ask that friend to remove the picture if it makes you uncomfortable.
Stop writing account numbers on checks Your credit-card company may ask that you write the card number on the monthly payment check. Ignore that request. It'll just make things easier for identity thieves should the check get lost in the mail. Similarly, don't write your Social Security number on a check unless you're paying income taxes.
Don't scan every QR code with your Smartphone QR codes are tiny stamp-sized tags that, with a quick scan, take Smartphone’s to product websites. They're often found on shampoo bottles and in magazine ads. But don't scan QR codes you see on lampposts, subway posters or on the sides of buildings -- they may take your phone to websites loaded with malware.
Run all email attachments through a virus scan Online criminals and cyberspies have broken into dozens of major corporations simply by forcing the right people to open email attachments. Don't be as dumb as the Fortune 500 - have your anti-virus software check every attachment, even if it's from someone you know.
Clean up your Facebook account For identity thieves, Facebook is a gold mine of personally identifying information. Make sure you're not easy pickings: Go into your account settings and delete your birthdate, your home town, your phone numbers and the names and ages of your children and parents. Your real friends already know that stuff.
Turn on your computer's firewall All modern computers have built-in software firewalls, but they're usually not turned on by default. Make sure yours is - it'll go a long way toward screening out worms and other self-propelled malware.
Encrypt your cloud file storage If you've got files stored with Dropbox, Mozy or similar online services, they're vulnerable to software flaws or government inspection. Limit your exposure by using a free encryption tool so that only you can read them.
Keep your software fully patched Malware writers work full-time to find holes in popular applications, and those applications' makers keep up with regular patches to those holes. Make sure you're up to date by installing something such as Secunia's free Personal Software Inspector, which scans your software and alerts you to vulnerabilities.
Check your credit once a year You've seen plenty of catchy ads, but there's only one site authorized by the Federal Trade Commission to handle the free annual credit reports from the three major credit-reporting companies: www.annualcreditreport.com. Generate the reports every year on your birthday.
Create a separate Administrator account for your computer Malware does the most damage when it has the most ability, so limit your exposure by running your computer as a limited user who can't install software. Use the Administrator account only when you need to make changes.
Watch what the checkout cashier does with your card Identity-theft gangs pay off cash-register operators to "skim" credit and debit cards so that they can "clone" your card and clean out your account. Make sure your card stays in sight at all times, and if the cashier dips your card below the countertop for even a second, ask to see the manager.
Update your browser plug-ins and extensions Your browser is your gateway to the Internet - and malware's gateway into your computer. Make sure your browser has the latest software patches to keep yourself as protected as possible. Qualys' BrowserCheck software offers one easy way to do so.
Upgrade Adobe Reader One of your computer's biggest weak spots is Adobe's free PDF reader. Fortunately, the company has taken a much more aggressive stance lately toward beefing up its software against attackers. Go to http://get.adobe.com/reader/ and install the latest version.
Run all downloads through a virus scan Millions of malicious websites pretend to be something they're not, and offer "free" or cheap software that's really viruses or Trojans ready to infect you. Good anti-virus software will detect such malware, so apply an anti-virus scan to every download before you install it.
Install a LoJack system on your car Car theft is a common crime, but a LoJack or a similar security system will greatly increase the chances of recovering a stolen vehicle. LoJack includes a hidden radio frequency transmitter that emits an inaudible signal the police can track.
Sign up for credit-card alerts Identity thieves "bust out" stolen credit card accounts with huge purchases soon after they've gotten hold of them. Contact your bank or credit-card issuer and ask about alert notifications in case of unusual card-usage activity.
Turn on encrypted social-media connections One year ago, it was easy for cyberspies to sit in cafes and snoop on other people's social-networking posts. Today, Facebook, Twitter and Google+ all let you change your settings so that encrypted ("https") connections are always on, locking out the creeps.
Upgrade to Windows 7 If you're running Windows XP on a computer that's no more than 5 years old, you can probably upgrade to Windows 7, which is much more secure and elegant. Download the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor here to be sure.
Don't download pirated movies, music or software Apart from the legal and moral issues involved, it's not a good idea to download "warez" from the Web. You don't know where that bootleg song, movie clip or copy of Photoshop came from, and it could easily be riddled with hidden malware.
Check the ATM vestibule before you enter it Always look around the ATM vestibule as you step through the door. Creeps and muggers like to lurk in the corners. And while you're at the machine, stay aware of anyone behind you; the rounded mirror atop some ATMs will help with that.
Don't jailbreak your iPhone or iPad Unless you really know what you're doing, never "jailbreak" your Apple iOS device to run unauthorized apps. Doing so opens up your device to malware and exploits that a regularly configured iPhone or iPad user doesn't have to worry about.
Keep an eye on other drivers A big part of good driving is predicting what other drivers do. Train yourself to watch and learn driving patterns. That way you won't be surprised when a sports car zooming up in the right lane tries to cut you off, or a guy fishtailing a hundred yards ahead suddenly spins out.
Don't use public Wi-Fi networks Unencrypted Wi-Fi networks in public places, such as parks or cafes, are prime hunting grounds for cyber thieves who silently monitor Facebook postings, email and online banking. And if you can find a free Wi-Fi network in an airport, it may have been set up by a scammer.
Check ATMs for skimmers Crafty crooks make custom attachments that fit onto card slots in bank ATMs to capture your card's magnetic-stripe data. Tiny pinhole cameras can film you typing in your PIN. Look over an ATM before you use it; if anything looks funny, let the bank know.
Keep your Smartphone with you You wouldn't leave your computer unattended. Do the same with your Smartphone. It's a pocket computer, capable of doing nearly everything a laptop can - including giving whoever finds it a wealth of personal data. When you're in a public place, take your Smartphone with you when you step away from your seat.
Dedicate a PC to online banking If your small business banks online, set aside a PC for only that purpose - no email, no Web browsing, no office work - and put heavy-duty anti-virus software on it. Cybercriminals know that small businesses don't have IT departments to monitor online transactions, and banks don't have to refund commercial customers if accounts are cleaned out.
Don't use "off-brand" ATMs That ATM in the supermarket or convenience store is handy, but who really controls it? Don't use a stand-alone ATM unless you know the name of the bank it's affiliated with - and especially avoid an ATM that's parked out on the sidewalk, with a cable leading back into a store you'd never go into.
Upgrade your Adobe Flash Player If you're still running Adobe Flash Player 9 or earlier, upgrade it now. The browser plug-in, used for YouTube and online games, has a long history of malware exploits. Check which version you have here, and don't download upgrades from anywhere other than the Adobe website.
Install anti-virus software on your Mac Think Macs are immune from viruses? Far from it. There have been three major Trojans targeting Macs in the past six months, and Steve Jobs' creations are just as susceptible to malware as are Windows machines.
Don't give out your Social Security number Does the doctor's office want your Social Security number? Too bad. They don't need it, and they should know better. Your Social Security number is the bedrock of your financial identity, and the only people who need it are you, your employer and the IRS.
Avoid suspicious Smartphone apps Steer clear of unofficial online stores offering cheaper versions of your favorite Smartphone apps. Cybercriminals seed third-party websites with malicious apps that are loaded with malware. Stick to trusted app stores like the iTunes Store and the Android Market, and read the user comments to see if the app has a bad reputation.
Encrypt your USB flash drives They're cheap, they're everywhere, they're often given out for free. USB flash drives are also easily lost. If you have any flash drives containing information that you'd rather not strangers see, encrypt them with free or inexpensive encryption software.
Keep a low credit balance on your iTunes account Account hijackings on iTunes are more common than you'd think. Hundreds of users have had their credit balances wiped out by scammers who racked up big charges on apps, movies and music. (In most cases, Apple has refunded the credit.)
Don't post vacation photos until you get back Facebook and Flicker are handy for relatives and friends to see your vacation photos. They're also handy for burglars who check the date on each photo to see if you're still away. Turn off auto-posting of photos on your Smartphone, and wait until you're back home to post those frisky beach snaps.
Lock your computer's screen When you step away from your desk, make sure no one can browse your machine. On a PC, hit the Windows key and "L" on the keyboard. On a Mac, go into System Preferences, then Security & Privacy, and check "Require password immediately after sleep or screen saver begins." Put the Mac to sleep, or activate its screen saver, as you step away.
Don't put your kids' names on their backpacks Embroidering "Timmy" or "Suzie" on a backpack just makes it easier for creeps and perverts to address your child by name at the bus stop. Your child already knows his or her own name; strangers don't need to know as well.
Create a PIN lock for your voicemail No passcode for your voicemail? Then anyone with phone-number "spoofing" software can call your carrier's voicemail number and get right into your account. Enable the passcode, and don't stick with the carrier's default PIN, such as "1234" or "9999" - hackers and creeps already know those.
Test your smoke alarms Your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms can save your life, but like any other battery-operated devices, they need to be kept in working order. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission suggests checking the batteries once a month, and replacing the batteries once a year.
Put a screen lock on your Smartphone Your Smartphone may be valuable, but even more valuable is all the personal information you've got on it. To make sure anyone who finds or steals it can't see your data, enable the screen lock, which asks for a PIN or pattern before the phone can be used. (The phone can still be answered if it rings.)
Don't write your address on your keychain If you found a set of keys in the street with a tag that read "1313 Mockingbird Lane, Dubuque, Iowa" on it, you'd track down the owner, right? Not if you're a thief. In that case, you'd go right to the house and rob it. Attach a cellphone number to your keys instead of an address - and don't include your name.
Don't re-use passwords When you create a new online account, create a new password. That way, if a hacker or identity thief gets hold of the password to one of your accounts, he won't have the password to all the other online accounts you have.
Have a store employee walk you to your car If you're leaving a store late at night and there aren't a lot of cars in the parking lot, have a store employee walk you to your car. Would-be thieves are looking for vulnerable targets, and you are in much less danger if you're not alone.
Enable wireless encryption Most home wireless routers are set by default to transmit signals unencrypted. But that lets anyone snoop on your Internet traffic. Set your router to encrypt its transmissions, and pick a strong password so that only those machines you permit can access it.
Create a strong password Passwords such as "1234" are easy to remember, but they're also easy to guess. Create a strong password by using a long word or phrase (at least eight characters) that's not in the dictionary and mixing in capital letters, numbers and punctuation marks. For example, "wassup dude" could become "wA55uPd00d3!" It would take a very long time to crack that.
Don't "friend" people you don't know On social networking sites, it's often tempting to expand your circle of acquaintances. But do you REALLY need to "friend" your cousin's brother-in-law's work buddy? People on your "friends" list have access to personal information about you that you might not want the world to see. If you don't really know them, don't friend them.
Install anti-virus software on your Smartphone Every iPhone, BlackBerry, Android or Windows phone is actually a mini-computer, one that needs anti-virus software just as urgently as a regular PC. With both free and paid AV apps available for each platform, there's no excuse not to get one.
IDENTITY THEFTA rising crime problem - read how to prevent it from happening to you!
Alabama Department of Revenue Warns Taxpayers of E-Mail Scam *Montgomery**â€”*The Alabama Department of Revenue (ADOR) alerted taxpayers
today of an e-mail scam in which taxpayers are reportedly advised by the
ADOR that they are due an Alabama income tax refund. In the e-mail
communication, taxpayers are asked to click on a link provided in the e-mail
and complete a "refund form."
The ADOR advises that if you receive an e-mail from someone claiming to
represent the ADOR and seeking personal or financial information do not
reply. *The Alabama Department of Revenue does not initiate taxpayer
communications through e-mail.*
Taxpayers are strongly cautioned not to open any suspicious e-mails or open
any links. Links or attachments contained in the suspicious e-mail could
contain malicious code that would infect the taxpayers' computers. Do not
open any attachments, do not click on any links, and most important of all,
do not provide any personal or financial information such as bank account
numbers, credit card PIN numbers, or account passwords.
"Taxpayers should always use extreme caution when they receive unsolicited
e-mails, from any source, especially those seeking any type of personal or
financial information," warned State Revenue Commissioner Tim Russell.
Alabama Department of Revenue Warns Taxpayers of E-Mail Scam
*Montgomery**â€”*The Alabama Department of Revenue (ADOR) alerted taxpayers today of an e-mail scam in which taxpayers are reportedly advised by the ADOR that they are due an Alabama income tax refund. In the e-mail communication, taxpayers are asked to click on a link provided in the e-mail and complete a "refund form."
The ADOR advises that if you receive an e-mail from someone claiming to represent the ADOR and seeking personal or financial information do not reply. *The Alabama Department of Revenue does not initiate taxpayer communications through e-mail.*
Taxpayers are strongly cautioned not to open any suspicious e-mails or open any links. Links or attachments contained in the suspicious e-mail could contain malicious code that would infect the taxpayers' computers. Do not open any attachments, do not click on any links, and most important of all, do not provide any personal or financial information such as bank account numbers, credit card PIN numbers, or account passwords.
"Taxpayers should always use extreme caution when they receive unsolicited e-mails, from any source, especially those seeking any type of personal or financial information," warned State Revenue Commissioner Tim Russell.