Tag Archives: social media

Celebrity Cyber Report – Tyler Perry, Drake

Filmmaker Tyler Perry is warning fans of a Facebook hoax claiming he is giving away money and other prizes.

In a Facebook video Perry said “I am not giving away anything on Facebook. I am not giving away any money. My team has to shut down these things every day.” According to Perry his team shuts down as many as 30 fake websites and social media pages daily.

The actor and film producer did not go into specifics but reiterated that unauthorized people were using his name for “giveaways.” Fans searching “Tyler Perry” on Facebook will find hundreds of fake accounts using the actor’s name. Fans are warned that his real pages are are verified by blue checkmarks.

Perry said he is a giver saying “In my life, I’m a giver. I give a lot of things to a lot of people, to a lot of employees, random things, cars, houses, I do.” But he drew the line at scams using his name. “But that is not true. The Facebook stuff. I’m not giving away anything. Stop it, devil.” Perry did however give comedienne Tiffany Haddish a new Tesla electric vehicle wrapped in a red bow. Perry explained why he gave her the car saying he understands how rising stars worry about money at the start of their careers.

Drake

Drake

Canadian rapper Drake shattered records with his new album which hit a billion streams in its first week.  The first album ever to do so. According to Billboard.com the album entitled “Scorpion” also broke the U.S. streaming record with 745.92 million streams in its first week. The new record easily topped Post Malone’s Beerbong & Bentleys streaming record of 431 million streams in its first week. 

In a stunning 24 hours “Scorpion” scored record breaking totals of 300 million streams on Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music. Billboard.com reported that Drake now owns four of the top 10 streaming weeks ever for an album. “Scorpion” is Drake’s eighth consecutive No. 1 album on the Billboard 200.

 

Fake Black Lives Matter Page Found on Facebook

Fake Black Lives Matter Facebook page

In the movie Malcom X, starring Denzel Washington, Washington’s character is preaching about how black people have been fooled. He say’s “We been hoodwinked, bam-boozled, flim-flammed, led astray…”  It seems that is exactly what has happen to African-Americans and the Black Lives Matter Movement (BLM).

The official Black Lives Matter Facebook page claims more than 300,000 ‘Likes.’ But according to CNN a fake BLM Facebook page has claimed over 700,000 ‘Likes.’ The phony page is allegedly linked to a Australian man by the name of Ian Mackay. Mackay has registered numerous sites related to black civil rights like blackpowerfist.com.

The page is suspected of raising over $100,000 for BLM causes via online fundraising.  Some of the money was instead transferred to Australian bank accounts.

When contacted by CNN MacKay claimed he didn’t run, but did own, a connected website which was registered under his name, but he “once bought the domain name only and sold it.”

Ian Mackay

Facebook suspended the site after Mackay was questioned about his involvement by a blogger, Jeremy Massler, last December. In an email to Mashable Massler said he was blocked from the fake Facebook page after questioning the site’s authenticity.  According to Massler he was not alone as others had commented about the site questioning its authenticity and expressing concerns about the page’s administrators. “I certainly wasn’t the first to notice,” said Massler. “The real hurdle seemed to be getting a response (or even an acknowledgment) from Facebook about the issue.”

CNN reported Facebook’s reluctance to remove the page when contacted. It took a week for Facebook to act after numerous emails and calls between CNN and Facebook.  But Facebook was notified about the site months ago. Founder of Black Lives Matter, Patrisse Cullors, told CNN she contacted Facebook months ago about shutting down the fake site. 

Cullors pointed out the damage done to the movement by fake fundraising saying that it devalues the movement’s work, and that it relies “on donors who believe in our work and our cause and that money will be used in a way that is respectful.”

According to CNN the people behind the Fake BLM page operated another hugely popular Facebook Group also titled ‘Black Lives Matter.’ The site has nearly 40,000 members. The site reportedly is the largest group on the platform professing to be supporting Black Lives Matter. Facebook Groups are similar to traditional discussion forums but  people have to request to join.

Mackay, a former official with Australia’s National Union of Workers, has been consistently linked to the fake sites and was suspended by the organization as it investigated his involvement. Mackay has since been fired from the organization. But Western Australian police have not begun any investigation. The police force said it was “not aware of any complaints” about the fake pages. A union spokesperson told the Guardian that officials were “very happy to cooperate with whoever the relevant authorities are”.

Mackay has registered dozens of websites focused on black rights. In 2015 Mackay registered blackpowerfist.com. Mackay’s name, email address, phone number and other details appeared in the registration records for the site until July 2015 when the website began allowing site owners to conceal their identities and contact information. MacKay also registered other websites such as blacklivesnews.com, blackkillingsmatter.com and blackfists.com, and 100 other site names in total.

The Facebook page continually generated traffic for other websites associated with blackpowerfist.com.  Internet archive records showed that Mackay was listed as the administrative and technical contact to blacklivesmatter.media. 

Facebook told CNN that Mackay registered blackpowerfist.com using an anonymous Facebook profile under the name ‘BP Parker’ and shared a link to the site. BP Parker was also named as an administrator of the “Black Lives Matter” Facebook page until that page was suspended. 

The people behind the websites and the fake Facebook pages were able to fool people into donating money using various online fundraising platforms, including Donorbox.

The groups Donorbox page read, “Our mission is to raise awareness about racism, bigotry, police brutality and hate crimes by exposing through social media locally and internationally stories that mainstream media don’t. We have built a following through hard work, dedication and the generosity of supporters like you that pitch in a what they can to help us promote or share our page and also pay to boost the stories the mainstream media try to suppress through paid ads.”

Black activist, DeRay Mckesson, told CNN. “The consequences of that is it hasn’t been easy to think about authenticity in the digital space.”

Facebook has deleted the site and told CNN that they have “developed several techniques to help detect and block inauthentic activity such as this,” and that the social network’s teams review reports of impersonators from the public.

 

Tax Season 2018 – The IRS is Checking Your Facebook Page

There are lot of ways that the IRS can figure out your income. In addition to your W-2 and 1099 the IRS also receives information from your bank and other financial institutions and your credit card company. 

According to Debt.com if something is not adding up then your information gets red flagged by a system called the Information Returns Processing system (IRP). This massive database can review  and compare your reported income against information from other third party sources. If there is a discrepancy the IRS is alerted for further investigation. Every year the IRS estimates the U.S. government misses out on hundreds of billions of tax dollars due to unreported income. With advances in technology they hope to collect at least some of that missing tax revenue. But did you know they gather information from Facebook, Twitter and your email?

Uncle Sam is checking Facebook.

People who love to post personal information to Facebook or Tweet may want to pay attention. These are rich sources of information and the IRS knows it. With all those billions going uncollected every year the IRS has stepped up its game and is now checking your social media accounts.  

The IRS started checking Facebook and Twitter pages in 2013 in order to gather information that could support a taxpayer audit. The IRS initially denied these reports.

In an interview with Inc.com Kevin P. McQuillan of  The McQuillan Group said the IRS has been quiet about checking social media. “When the IRS first mentioned utilizing social media, it created quite a stir, and in response to that, they came out and were very specific to say that they weren’t going to use emails without some authorization. However, they didn’t say anything about social media. The IRS has always had access to public information, such as what car you own, or what house you live in. In the past auditors have used the audit process to decide what information they will look into on a particular case. However, given recent cuts to the agency and the decreased number of auditors, they are now coming to audits with this information in hand.”

The IRS is using your Facebook posts to determine if you are lying to them about income or tax issues. For example did a businessman write off a family vacation as a business trip? Or is an employer spending lavishly while claiming his business is currently unprofitable? Its called over sharing and people do it all the time. The IRS is using online activity trackers to scan massive amounts of public Internet data for potentially incriminating information.

Businesses are not immune from the social media snooping by the IRS. If your company webpage shows off new equipment, vehicles, lavish parties or expounds on your growing business while at the same time being behind on payroll taxes or suspiciously claiming beneficial business write-offs you may have some questions to answer. Keep in mind that your employees may be sharing company information on Facebook or Twitter that reflects the state of your company’s finances. Historically the IRS has used tax returns to audit businesses.  Social media scanning shows that they are now becoming more sophisticated with its investigative tools. Be careful about over sharing on public and private platforms to avoid an nasty letter from Uncle Sam.

Is email private?

You’re thinking your emails are private right? The answer is probably not. In a 2017 report  Washington State University professors issued a report  on IRS data mining, The Use of Big Data Analytics by the IRS: Efficient Solutions or the End of Privacy as We Know It?,  found the IRS was reading taxpayer private emails without a warrant. According to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), IRS investigators can read everything in your email account except unopened emails or voicemails saved for 180 days or less. According to the report the 2011 IRS auditor’s training manual told investigators exactly how to do it. The IRS stopped this practice in response to a Senate Finance Committee request. However, the ECPA law has not been changed. So effectively the IRS has not broken the law nor is not barred from doing this again.

Now you know.

 

 

Tech Addiction is Real!

We have a problem. We are addicted to our technology. Its that feeling you get when you can’t find your cellphone? Or you can’t get your computer or tablet to connect to the Internet? Or when you have not checked your Facebook page in a few hours or days? Tech addiction is real!

Black parents make the mistake of permitting unsupervised use of technology by children and teens. Far too many parents, black and white, use phones and tablets to babysit young children and ignore a teenager who is constantly on his or her cellphone. That is the start of tech addiction in our children. According to Psychology Today troubling studies have connected delayed cognitive development in children with extended exposure to electronic media.

Apple, the most successful consumer tech company on earth is feeling the heat. Two of Apple’s biggest investors, controlling $2 billion in Apple shares, are pushing the company to curb growing smartphone addiction among children.   The California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalsTRS)  and Jana Partners LLC, sent an open letter to Apple urging the company to take a  “defining role” in turning the tech industry’s attention toward the health and development of the next generation of tech users. The group said the move is “both good business and the right thing to do.”  In the letter the group said, “There is a developing consensus around the world, including Silicon Valley, that the potential long-term consequences of new technologies needs to be factored in at the outset, and no company can outsource that responsibility.”

According to a report from Common Sense Media 50 percent of teens age, 12 to 18, reported feeling addicted to their mobile devices. Fifty-nine percent of parents agreed their teens were addicted. 

The is most frightening fact about tech addiction is that designers and software developers intentionally designed these products to be as addictive as possible. A model they may have picked up from cigarette makers.

Tech and social media addiction works very much like any other addictive drug on the brain. When using chemical drugs the brain’s pleasure centers are stimulated causing the user to want more until the body becomes dependent on the drug to feel normal. Researchers at the UCLA brain mapping center performed tests on teens using a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner to monitor brain activity when using social media. Researchers found certain regions of the brain became activated by “likes.” The fMRI scans revealed that the part of the brain known as the nucleus accumbens, or the brain’s reward circuitry, was especially stimulated when teens were shown that their photos received a high number of likes. Scientist believe that this could inspire them to use social media more often.

 

Apple’s chief design officer, Jony Ive, has admitted that using your iPhone too much could be considered “misuse.”

 

According to research by Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University, trends in teenage mental health began to appear in 2011 and 2012 as smartphones became  commonplace among teens.  “There was a doubling in the suicide rate and tripling in emergency room admissions of self-harm among young girls,” Twenge said. “And there was a 50 percent increase in the clinical depression rate.”

Social media addiction is another serious threat to mental health.  Tech executives and the people who practically invented social media have spoken out in recent months about the dangers and harmful effects of what has become an age of Internet junkies. This group of former Apple, Facebook and Google employees have banded together to form an anti-tech addiction coalition called the Center for Humane Technology.

Since 2014 the center has been working to raise awareness of tech addiction. Aptly named “The Truth About Tech,” the campaign is designed to educate parents, teachers and students about the harmful and addictive effects of technology. The coalition is especially focused on the endless hours teens and children spend with their eyes glued to a glowing screen. This obsession  can lead to to anxiety, depression, shortened attention spans, sleep deprivation and negatively affect a healthy social development of teens who are already in the grips of adolescent insecurity.

Social media addiction is not just a young person’s addiction. Far from it. Plenty of adults have become addicted to constant texting and wasting hours on Facebook. So much so that Facebook and social media has become a workplace issue. Employees have been found out and terminated for sexually harassing co-workers on social media, sharing company secrets or criticizing their supervisors. Not to mention wasting millions of hours annually.

According to research performed by CareerBuilder technology is the leading cause of lost productivity in the workplace. The poll revealed that 24 percent of workers admitted spending at least an hour a day on personal email, texts and personal calls. According to the poll the biggest time wasters are doing the following;

  • Talking on the cell phone and texting – 50%
  • Gossiping – 42%
  • On the Internet – 39%
  • On social media – 38%

Like all addictions it makes it way into the homes of those affected. According to Common Sense Media 36 percent of parents and teens argue about the use of technology. 

According to AddictionsExperts.com these are the symptoms of technology addiction;

  • The need to be on a piece of technology during all waking hours. An addict may even take a phone to bed at night, or use a mobile device while in the bathroom.
  • Talking incessantly about technology and spending copious amounts of money on the latest equipment. For technology addicts, having new technology is more important than paying the mortgage.
  • Using technology to avoid social situations. The technology addict may reduce the amount of time he or she deals with people by focusing on technology instead.
  • Playing games online for hours and hours, even if your family members and friends are begging you to stop. When you don’t play the games, you feel like you’re missing something.
  • Constantly checking social media pages for updates, as well as making updates about even mundane, day-to-day activities.
  • Feeling “left out” when technology isn’t available, and borrowing others’ devices to check in.

 

 

 

 

Blockchain – Breaking It Down

The hottest word in technology is blockchain. Whether you have heard of  it or not you will be affected by it, now or in the future. But what is it?  How will it change things?

What is Blockchain?

A block is a record or log of new transactions. This log can track things like the the creation of cryptocurrency, changes to medical records, product manufacturing from start to finish or banking transactions. After each block is completed it’s added to the chain, creating a chain of blocks, hence a blockchain.

Information on the blockchain is also available to everyone. A block chain is not hosted on a single computer or server. Because of this any changes or transactions are immediately visible to everyone. So, as you can see a blockchain is very hard to falsify because everybody can see the changes and immediately notice if something is wrong or fraudulent. Blockchains are simply a public ledger that makes everything  traceable.

Blockchain was invented in 2008 to support transactions using digital currency. If you buy something using a cryptocurrency, send some to a another person or sell it, your transaction is publicly visible on the blockchain. Other people may not know who you are but they can see exactly how much has been transferred from one person to another.

Blockchain and cryptocurrency like Bitcoin are growing as an alternative to traditional banking. Users do not need a bank to move money from one location to another or to verify the transaction. This is sometimes referred to as frictionless transactions. This means a transaction can be completed without a paying a fee to a bank or government.

How is Blockchain being used?

Although blockchain is not yet in widespread use it is expected to change industry and commerce in a revolutionary way. It is considered a disruptive technology that can easily turn the economy and society upside down. As such, it is being carefully examined and introduced.

Blockchain and your vote.

Blockchain technology can can make electronic vote counting un-hackable. Voter fraud can be eliminated by securing the system during voter registration. Blockchain can secure voter’s identification and prevent vote tampering. Blockchain creates a permanent and public ledger of votes cast and tallied that provides for more fair, secure and democratic elections around the world.

Follow My Vote is one new start up company that is trying to apply blockchain to our voting systems.

Blockchain and your identity.

Blockchain is expected to make major difference in securing your digital identity. Right now billions of dollars are being lost due to online fraud and identity theft. Using blockchain technologies will make tracking and managing digital identities secure and efficient. The result will mean a seamless sign-on and reduced fraud. This is vitally important when it comes to banking, healthcare, national security, citizenship documentation and e-commerce. 

Currently password based systems rule the Internet. Blockchain technology is based on identity verification using  public key cryptographyUsing blockchain identity authentication the only question is if the person has the correct private key. It is understood the key holder is the owner and the exact identity of the owner is irrelevant. The only drawback to this system is, as always, the human factor. People share passwords they may begin sharing encryption keys.

Blockchain identity verification can allow you to securely apply for jobs, file for medical and other various benefits, remotely open bank accounts, verify emails and social media activity and, as mentioned earlier, secure voting.

Blockchain for business.

Blockchain has the ability to make sure corporations are playing by the rules. Records stored using blockchain suddenly become difficult, if not impossible, to alter.This factor means that contracts between people or between corporations are far less open to interpretation of manipulation. These are know as smart contracts.

Smart contracts are legally binding, programmable digitized contracts entered on the blockchain. Programmers can create legal contracts as variables and statements that can release funds using the bitcoin network.

An example would be if one company wanted to pay another company a million dollars at a specific time when the preconditions of the contract are met. The conditions, payout, and details would be programmed into a smart contract. Once all conditions are satisfied the money would be sent to the appropriate party as terms of the contract dictates. Computer control over contracts can increase business efficiency and make the legal system more equitable.

Blockchain is coming to a grocer near you.

Companies in the agriculture industry are using blockchain  to track the movement of produce through the supply chain. This means the farmer can track his bell peppers from the time they leave the field to the time you leave the grocery store with them. Blockchain creates a direct link from the farmer to the grocer ensuring they are paid fairly for their produce and allowing grocers to verify that they are getting what they’ve paid for. Blockchain use in agriculture means you know exactly where your food came from and who handled it. Keep in mind food fraud is growing problem. Is that fruit really organic? Is that fish really sea bass or is this olive oil really olive oil? Blockchain makes sure you get what you think you are getting and paying for.

This technology can also increase food safety and security. Blockchain brings transparency to the supply chain allowing retailers, farmers and consumers to identify and remove bad actors and poor processes. Blockchain can determine the source of food born illnesses quickly in the event of a illness outbreak saving time, money, and lives.

Blockchain and transportation.

Another way blockchain will affect your life is transportation. Car makers are using blockchain to make sure the parts that go into your car meet their standards and come from a legitimate source. Counterfeit parts are a big problem on the secondary parts market. These parts could possibly end up in busses, trains and even aircraft endangering millions of lives. Parts can now be tracked from the manufacturer to the user eliminating any possible counterfeiting.

Now you know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Russians Fake and Manipulate Black Activism

#BlackLivesMatter and other groups have made themselves heard using social media. The Internet is an effective tool for Black voices to speak on issues important to our people.  But Black issues and causes have become caught up, subverted and even manipulated in the most  intense political storm this nation has even seen.

The Trump administration is being openly accused of collusion with Russia to manipulate the outcome of the recent the presidential election in Trump’s favor. Two of the Trump campaign’s closest advisors have already been indicted by the Bob Mueller investigation.

But, apparently the Russians did not stop at the presidential elections. According to recent news reports the “Blacktivist” website that was supposedly supporting African-American causes has been linked to the Russian government. The social media platform used both Facebook and Twitter  to instigate even more racial tensions in the U.S. during the recent presidential election.  The Twitter and Facebook account of “Blacktivist” has been handed over to Congress.

The “Blacktivist” Facebook account had 360,000 likes compared to only  301,000 likes for the verified #BlackLivesMatter account.

African-Americans following “Blacktivist,” were fed content that fueled the outrage over police encounters with Black motorists and police violence against African-Americans. The content used various techniques to stoke Black anger including video footage.

The manipulation of legitimate African-American anger also included promoting at least seven rallies and demonstrations in the U.S. in 2016.  These events included the 50th anniversary of the Black Panther Party and a protest march in Baltimore commemorating the death of Freddie Gray. Most events were legitimate protest rallies but the “Blacktivist” website worked to increase the turnout.

CNN reported one ad, and maybe more, were purchased by Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign. The ads referenced #BlackLivesMatter and targeted audiences in Ferguson, MO and Baltimore, MD. Both cities garnered worldwide attention for the large and violent protests after police shootings of Black men.

The “Blacktivist” Facebook account is included in over 470 Russian-linked accounts identified by Facebook and disclosed to Congress. The matching Twitter account, “@blacktivist,” was among another estimated 200 accounts Twitter identified with links to those found by Facebook.

But the Russian manipulation of African-American social and political issues went even further. According to Gizmodo.com a Russian news outlet, RBC, uncovered a scheme by the Kremlin to use Facebook to recruit Black activists in the U.S.

The scheme reportedly paid Black activist to organize #BlackLivesMatter rallies, self-defense classes and even produce content for Russian-owned sites denouncing police violence against Black citizens. The activist, contacted by Buzzfeed News, claim they were unaware they were being used and paid by the Russians.

Three Black activists were paid for activities that ended up on the BlackMatter US and Black Fist websites. Black activist Conrad James was contacted via a Facebook message from BlackMatters US last September. James was reportedly paid to organize two rallies in North Carolina. Omowale Adewale was also contacted this time through his Instagram account. Adewale, an MMA fighter, was recruited as a trainer for Black Fist. He was allegedly paid to teach self-defense classes to the black community. The Black Fist website touts the classes as organized  “By Black for Black.”

See also: These Americans Were Tricked Into Working For Russia. They Said They Had No Idea.

 

National Cyber Security Awareness Month – Children and Social Media

Social media is everywhere. Facebook alone has over two billion users. And the bottom line is that social media is how people in the world share their lives. Is that what you want your children to do? Share their lives with everybody in the world? Black people have a saying about this. Its called “putting your business in the street.”

Children and social media are a dangerous mix. Every year thousands of children and teens are contacted by sexual predators, marketers and information collectors of all sorts. These people are an extreme danger not only to your children but your household as well. Children can unwittingly give away your most sensitive information. Over sharing is a common problem on social media websites. And children can fall for social engineering where they are manipulated into revealing sensitive information. This information can seem harmless like “where do you go to school?” Or, “what time does mommy go to work?” To a child these questions may seem harmless but you can see how a predator can use this information. Other information revealed by a child or teen online add to the exploding  rate of child identity theft.

How do you protect your child on social media?

Black parents are warned that your child’s use of a computer, smartphone or tablet is not harmless. Especially if this activity is happening without your knowledge of supervision. Some parents think that children means your 8 and 10 year olds. But teens are especially vulnerable on social media. Teens are more secretive, especially black teens. So parents need to work harder to implement and enforce rules for their social media use.

  1. Learn about social media – As a parent of a child or teen you need to take the time to research and learn about the different social networks children and teens are using. Plenty of parents use Facebook or Twitter. But there are many other sites your child may be using you don’t know about. These include Instagram, Snapchat, Vine, YouTube, and Tumblr.  Two other websites that are about secrecy and anonymity are called Secret and Whisper. You can find the most popular teen social media websites here. Familiarize yourself with what teens are doing online and on social media. If you have a teen in the house you need to keep up with whats happening or be surprised by it. Doing the research will give you a better understanding of how each service works. You may wish to create your own profile on these sites and apps to understand how they work and what is happening. Monitoring your children for their own safety is a tough parenting skill. Spying can cause teens to withdraw further and become more secretive. Here is some information about talking to teens about social media.
  2. Establish some firm rules for social media useFirst set an age for social media use. Young children are enticed by children’s television programs to go online to connect with characters. You should be aware that this is often a marketing play to sell toys or children’s food products or gather information. As  such they should be closely supervised. Let your child know when they can use the computer and what age they can begin using social media websites. Most social media sites require users to be at least 13 years old to create an account. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) prevents companies from collecting personal information about children under the age of 13 without their parents’ permission. Set times and time limits for your child’s social media use. Parents should go online with their young children and teach them social media safety early. Remember, the same rules apply online as on the sidewalk. Don’t talk to strangers.
  3. Keep the computer in a pubic area of your homeAs I said before, teens are notoriously secretive. Your teenager may be re-treating to the privacy of their bedroom to go online. Its not uncommon but it is also something to worry about. For younger children its a good idea to have the computer in a location where you can monitor your child’s activity. As for your teenager, this is where parenting gets tricky. Make sure your teenager understands the dangers of being on social media. Ask questions about what they are doing and who they are in contact with. Spying is not always the best idea but education can certainly give you some peace of mind. “Check out Teens Guide to Social Media.” Here a re few things you can do to protect your teen.
    1. A key question to ask is if they are in touch with someone they have not met personally, in person? This could be a danger sign.
    2. Make sure your teen understands that sexual predators are online. Make sure they know not to share personal information or pictures with people they don’t know.
    3. Make sure your teen understands the concept of “over sharing”.
    4. Make sure they know to never “friend the friend of a friend.”
    5. Sexting is strictly forbidden.
    6. Establish trust and honesty. Never make your teen feel he or she can’t come to you with problems and ask for advice. Finally, perform regular checks of your child’s privacy settings. Make sure your child’s social media account is as secure as possible. Block advertisers, and name and profile searches. Restrict who can see your child’s pictures, personal information and how to contact them.

Now you know.

 

 

 

National Cyber Security Awareness Month

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM). In recognition the African-American Cyber Report will be participating with the Department of Homeland Security to promote awareness of cyber security issues and personal safety online.

Each week the AACR will publish articles that promote cyber security at home, at work and for your children. The AACR is dedicated to bringing the message of cyber security to African-Americans who use the Internet in their daily life. We are focused on protecting you, your home and your children from cyber fraud, hacking, viruses, malware, personal data theft and other cyber threats. 

African-Americans are full participants in the technology revolution from smartphones, to mobile banking to e-commerce to social media. As such we must become more aware of what is happening in cyberspace. We need to understand the dangers and the opportunities that the Internet presents. 

As part of NCSAM the Dept. of Homeland Security is offering all Americans the Stop.Think.Connect. Toolkit. The Toolkit is a series of information pamphlets designed to educate various audiences on cyber security awareness and online safety. The targeted audiences include;

  • Students K-8, 9-12, and Undergraduate
  • Parents and Educators
  • Young Professionals
  • Older Americans
  • Government
  • Industry
  • Small Business
  • Law Enforcement

The educational material covers 22 topic areas that include social media awareness, mobile banking, and educating children about going online. 

We invite you to join us as we focus on the safety and security of all people but especially our brothers and sisters who use the greatest communication technology ever invented, the Internet.

Back to School – Student Identity Theft

Identity theft is rampant. It it the fastest growing Internet crime and black college students should be aware of the vulnerability of their personal information.

According to the Better Business Bureau college students are prime targets because their credit records are usually clean.  College students are also more willing to share information in person and online. Visit any college campus, especially during the first week, and you will find numerous credit card companies offering their services to new and returning students. There are also other companies and marketers working to gather student information for their sales efforts. Students would be wise to avoid these information collectors. Be extremely careful what forms or surveys you fill out and what information you release to someone you really don’t know.

Combine that with the powerful urge to be social and you will find students sharing far too much information on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram and other campus forums.

Teach your student that not everyone on campus, student or not, is a friend. Half of all identity theft cases reported are executed by someone the victim knows. This is why it so important that all students, African-American especially, jealously guard their personal information.

The college dorm room is a vulnerability for careless students. BBB CEO Kelvin Collins said, “Protect your information. Don’t leave bank statements, credit card statements or your wallet just laying out for other people to find.”

Campus mailboxes are another vulnerability. Students should send sensitive mail to their permanent addresses. Students should also  check their financial statements often to look for suspicious activity or purchases.

Make sure you or your student are aware of the campus privacy policies. Ask questions about who the campus shares information with. You might be surprised. Some universities sell student SAT and ACT scores, their financial information such a student loan data and even what books they check out and classes they take.

There are steps that a student can take to protect their identity.

  1. Be aware of dumpster diving – Students receive a lot of offers through the mail. Don’t just throw these things away. Identity thieves are checking campus trash cans and will often find student’s personal information. They may find enough to apply for a credit card in the students name. This is really very common.  Make sure you use a shredder on all your unwanted mail. A good paper shredder can be as cheap as $10.00.  Make use of email delivered credit card bills or bank statements.
  2. Check you mailbox frequently – Breaking into student mailboxes is not uncommon.  Be alert, has your mail suddenly stopped?  An identity thief  may have filled out a change of address form against your address. Check with postal officials if something does not seem right.
  3. Monitor your identity…closely Make use of credit monitoring services. Check all your accounts at least once a month . This includes bank accounts, credit cards, and utility bills. Look for suspicious charges you didn’t authorize, no matter  how small.  Identity thieves will often test a charge account with a small purchase to see if they can use your identity. If they succeed they go on a spending spree.  Are you getting notifications in the mail or your e-mail about accounts you know nothing about?  Don’t just delete the notice, investigate. Calls from creditors or collection agencies may indicate you have already been victimized. Report this immediately to the police, your bank, your legitimate credit accounts and all the credit reporting agencies.  Get a yearly copy of your credit report. You can visit www.annualcreditreport.com, or call toll-free 877-322-8228 to receive your report.
  4. Know whats in your wallet or purseMost people, actually 95 percent, carry a wallet or purse with them at all times. But very few can tell you exactly what’s in it. The contents of your wallet or purse probably include your driver’s license, or social security card, extremely valuable forms of identification. These documents are the target of identity thieves. Guard your wallet or purse at all times. Don’t relax around you dorm roommates. Make a list of all identity documents and credit cards you carry with you. Write down your driver’s license number and other important numbers. And be prepared to take action if your wallet or purse is stolen. In the event your wallet or purse is stolen notify every agency responsible for the items on your list immediately. Don’t wait to see if it re-appears or if someone turns in to lost and found.  Being proactive will save you the headache of trying to remember what you have in your wallet and the agony of having your identity stolen. And never, ever, keep your social security number on you. A favorite move of an experienced identity thief is to steal your purse or wallet, copy the information and then turn it in to lost and found or return it to you. This has the affect of causing you to relax and not alert the proper officials. Keep that in mind.  Memorize your social security number and lock it away in a safe location.
  5. Phishing attacks/Social engineeringA professional scammer is an expert at convincing you that they are someone else. On the phone its sometimes called social engineering. Using email its called a phishing attacks. They do this to manipulate you into revealing information. This activity is frequently associated with online scams, often using email messages that look official or seem to be from someone you know. But not always.  Students need to be especially alert to this. Be on the lookout for these types of scams, especially in your e-mail. You may get an email that looks like its from a school official. For example, it may look like its from the school financial aid office. Do not click on any link or attachment in the e-mail. Don’t reply if you have any suspicion at all. Make sure you know the school policy for contacting students via email or what they can discussed on the phone.  Identity thieves that use phishing attacks and social engineering are very skilled at making any e-mail look very legitimate or sound official on the phone. Don’t just assume because it has the school logo on it it is safe. Emails can be easily duplicated and email addresses can be spoofed. Be cautious, this is your personal information we are talking about.

Identity theft is the fastest growing crime online because it is profitable. Students can be careless and relaxed around their friends and classmates. But, again, most identity theft is done by people you know. Be aware and be alert to how identity thieves works and save yourself some headaches this school year.

Now you know.