Is Facebook following you everywhere you go online?

Facebook recently made yet another round of updates commonly referred to as f8 across the web, but so far most people I know have been referring to it by yet another f word, that I won’t repeat so as not to offend.  For many the update has made it more difficult to do many of the things that we loved about using this ever popular social networking site.  Supposedly the changes are “improvements” to make it easier to sync your information and contacts and to share information across the web.   As much as many users disliked the updates and upgrades, they would hate the thought that Facebook may be tracking their movements on the Internet, even after they have logged out.

Josh Wolford shares an article in Webpro News about wondering “Is Facebook Tracking Everywhere You Go Online?” and one writer shares, “Logging out doesn’t seem to help.”

Information from Australian hacker and writer Nik Cubrilovic, shows what information about his Internet use went to Facebook while he was logged in and then he did another test tracking information that went to Facebook while he was logged out.

Here is what he found;

The primary cookies that identify me as a user are still there (act is my account number), even though I am looking at a logged out page. Logged out requests still send nine different cookies, including the most important cookies that identify you as a user.”

This is not what ‘logout’ is supposed to mean – Facebook are only altering the state of the cookies instead of removing all of them when a user logs out.

This means if you visit a page that has a Facebook share button whether you are logged on or off that information is being sent to Facebook. After all, those ads on the side can’t all be targeted to you simply because of your social 0r business networking.

Apparently this is not news to Facebook, according to the Facebook Privacy Policy

We receive data whenever you visit a game, application, or website that uses Facebook Platform or visit a site with a Facebook feature (such as a social plugin). This may include the date and time you visit the site; the web address, or URL, you’re on; technical information about the IP address, browser and the operating system you use; and, if you are logged in to Facebook, your User ID.

Don’t like it? What can you do about it?  Here are his recommendations,

The advice is to log out of Facebook. But logging out of Facebook only de-authorizes your browser from the web application, a number of cookies (including your account number) are still sent along to all requests to Even if you are logged out, Facebook still knows and can track every page you visit. The only solution is to delete every Facebook cookie in your browser, or to use a separate browser for Facebook interactions.

Facebook has responded to some of the problems with “cookies’ and tracking and Cubrilovic has updated his blog to discuss this change.  They also share with ZDNet where they  “explicitly state that Facebook does not track users’ web activity. They also explain the purpose of logged out cookies.”

But it didn’t make that much of a change.  In a nutshell, you are leaving footprints in the sand, wherever you go when you use Facebook.

Read the entire article Is Facebook Tracking You Wherever You Go to find out more details on this topic.

For more about the tests conducted and technology discussed in this article visit Nik Cubrilovic’s blog.

So what do you think? Does all this create a more “friction-less sharing experience”  Mark Zuckerberg used in his f8 keynote talk or does it create a little friction between you and your Facebook use?

This image went viral quickly after the newest Facebook updates.

Americans Losing Their Privacy?


The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the program review is ongoing, said it would be helpful if Congress would pass legislation that explicitly says DHS is responsible for helping private sector companies protect themselves against cyberattack. Also, the legislation should say that companies can be protected from certain privacy and other laws in order to share information with the government for cybersecurity purposes, the official said.

Yes, it is good for the US to be able to protect utilities and the power grid.

But protecting companies from privacy laws so that they can share their information with the government? Seems a bit Orwellian to us.

New Study Shows Six Million U.S. Parents & Children Affected by Identity Theft

ID Analytics’ ID: A Labs is sharing some scary stats regarding children, parents and elderly parents including these key findings:

“All in the Family–About six million parents and children improperly share identity information, specifically Social Security numbers (SSNs).

Betraying Children’s Trust–Nearly 500,000 children under the age of 18 have had their identities stolen by a parent.

Thanks Mom and Dad–A growing number of adult children have used their parents’ identity information for fraudulent reasons, with more than two million elderly victims in the past few years.”

“The realities of familial identity theft are far worse than anything you see in a soap opera. It is the ultimate in family betrayal,” said Dr. Coggeshall. “Most consumers think of this type of manipulation as something inflicted by a stranger or a criminal scamming the system, when in reality a lot of identity manipulation may be a betrayal by a trusted parent, child or another family member.”

Dr. Stephen Coggeshall, chief technology officer of ID Analytics, will discuss these and other findings at ID Analytics’ consumer risk conference, Advance 2011: Rediscovering the Consumer, in San Diego, Calif.  Read the entire article here.

Unfortunately, this type of abuse and fraud has been going on a long time, and that fact that it happens isn’t a real surprise or shock.  The shear numbers of instances alone are what are so shocking.  Even more shocking is that it is those that are placed in a position of trust that are the ones taking the most advantage of the young and elderly alike.

Read more by Identity Theft on this topic:

Sad but True Crime Stories of Elder Abuse and Identity Theft

Proposed Law to Protect Foster Children From the High Risk of Identity Theft

Why Children are a Prime Target for Identity Theft

Who can check out your credit card balance and history?

Just who can check out your credit card balance, recent purchases and payment history?  Only you, of course, unless someone is “spoofing” you.

What is spoofing?

Spoofing is a service for a fee that allows people to make phone calls that appear to be from someone/somewhere else. Is this legal?  Well that depends on your purpose.  There are some legit reasons to use a spoofing service.  Doctors who want to call patients from their cell phone but protect their private number, parents calling a child that is ignoring phone calls from them or victims of domestic abuse that need to protect their whereabouts all seem to have legit cause for using a spoofing service.

In 2010, President Obama signed the Truth in Caller ID Act prohibiting knowingly using spoofing services to defraud, cause harm or wrongfully obtain anything of value. There is a fine is up to $10,000 for a single incident.

Many people have used spoofing services for pranks but there is an even scarier risk with spoofing.  Many banks automated call in systems are programmed to recognized your phone number as a step one in verifying your identity.

Edgar Dworsky, founder of says in a press release,

“The trouble with this system is that hackers, crooks, suspicious spouses, or nosy neighbors can access your credit card information using the same method the reporters from the British tabloid used to break into subjects’ voicemail accounts,” but “this is far more serious, however, since consumers’ financial information and privacy are at risk.”

Dworsky and New York Times reporter Ron Lieber tested the feasibility of accessing people’s bank information with just a small amount of information through an automated system at two banks, Bank of America and Chase.

The results?  They were able to access information every time at Chase and had success at Bank of America too, even though he was occasionally denied access.  Bank of America even shared the names of specific merchants where purchases were made.

What can you do to protect yourself?

-shred credit card receipts that have some of the information on them needed to access your account

-keep access to your credit card statements and or online statements secure

-always protect your social security number

-don’t offer up your birth date on social network sites

There wasn’t an apparent risk for accessing funds but there was substantial risk for accessing information.  Which begs the question, how would you feel if your ex-spouse, co-worker or neighbor was taping your personal financial information?

Switching Cell Phone Carriers Again – Net10

I seem to switch cell phone companies every few years.

Just when I get to where I’m feeling good about the service provided by one company, they either raise their already ridiculously high monthly fee, or bill me for some super high amount for some reason that is unknown to me in advance.  It feels as much like fraud as any identity theft or fraud scam we’ve ever profiled on our site.

You would think that long-term customers would be wanted.

You would think that companies like T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon, AT&T would care about having long-term customers who had positive things to say about them.

Instead, I’ve come to believe that most of the cell phone companies have policies that are inherently designed to push customers from one company to another, because they make more (short-term) money from selling new phones and stealing customers away from each other.

Yes, I’m frustrated with my latest cell phone story, and I am looking for a new company.

I will spare you the details, but the short story is that I returned to America after 2 years of being abroad to discover that I had a $550 cell phone bill (already reported to the credit reporting agencies – before any effort had been made to reach me).  This was a bill I had never heard a thing about, despite the fact that I found out about it with a simple phone call made to me from a collection company.  My current provider couldn’t call me or send me a letter before turning over my account to collections?

With all of the options for cell phones today, it becomes difficult to decide which company is best.  I used to use Sprint.  Then I used T-Mobile.  However, I’m quite frustrated with their customer service (which can’t even send me a bill for the supposed charges on calls I never made), and so I’ve been looking around for someone else to get cell phone coverage through.

One of the companies I’ve come across is NET10.  With Net10, you pay one flat rate, and then everything is included.

Here’s a Cute NET10 commercial

I like this unlimited feature because one of my big frustrations with my other cell phone plans has been that they eventually end up billing me for some unknown charges.  In the latest issue, I ended up with a $550 bill for a 6 month period when I was traveling out of the country.  During this time, my phone was supposed to be unusable, and I was only supposed to pay $10/month to hold the phone number.  I didn’t the cell phone number in 6 months, and I suspect someone sold my phone number from within the company.  So for me, unlimited is a great deal.

Net10’s unlimited plan also includes all the texting and data you can use in a month’s time.  Unlimited means unlimited.

Here’s something from a Real NET10 customer

You also won’t have to deal with extra contracts, or credit checks because they don’t have anything like that.  They don’t do credit checks since you’re paying just once a month, and they don’t spring surprise bills on you because there are not additional fees.

I haven’t personally tested it yet, but from what I understand, the coverage with Net10 is great and works nationwide.

One thing I’ve noticed with some of the other less expensive companies I’ve been looking at (which shall remain nameless) is that they often use old or off-brand phones.  But with NET10, you can get phones from most of the major brands including LG, Motorola, Samsung, and Kyocera.  You can get phones that have cameras, full QWERTY keyboards, and Bluetooth capability.

Net10 also has other plans.  Personally I am thinking I would go with the unlimited plan for all the reasons I’ve mentioned, but they also have pay-as-you-go plans, including one that they call the “Easy Minutes Plus Plan” which gives you a way to pay just for the minutes you are using.  The most basic Easy Minutes Plan is $15 for 200 minutes.  But because there are no contracts or extra fees, if you sign up for one plan and then decide you want another, you can simply switch plans online, where you can also purchase more airtime.

You can also purchase more minutes (if you’re on one of their pay-as-you-go plans) from your phone.

What Rob has to say about Net10

I used to love each of the companies that I had service with.  Then at some point, they seem to “turn to the dark side” and add in fees, extra bills, and random charges.  I don’t mind paying the charges if I’m responsible, but when a company won’t even send me a bill.

For now, NET10 is the new player on the scene, and appears to be offering really great services and phones at highly competitive prices.  Maybe it’s just natural that I will have to switch cell phone providers every few years, but if NET10 will continue to be the good company they appear to be today with low fees and predictable bills, I will be happy to remain their customer long-term.

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New IRS reporting system affects PayPal accounts

Businesses that process payments through credit cards, debit cards or payment merchants like PayPal beware.  The IRS has a new reporting system and surprise, surprise, according to a Treasury Department audit released July 26, 2011 the system that includes “a revised form” that may be flawed. Imagine that?

In 2008 the enacted Housing and Economic Recovery Act legislated requirements for banks and other merchant services like PayPal to report annual gross payments processed by credit or debit cards or accounts to the IRS and to merchants.

So where’s the beef?

The TIGTA audit found that a newly revised form may not facilitate matches between what merchants report and what payment processors report.  To make matters worse, there’s mandatory back up withholding involved and the fear is that with the great volume of reporting this new system requires, mismatches may be unresolved when mandatory withholding kicks in. Continue reading New IRS reporting system affects PayPal accounts

A first person Ponzi scheme experience

I recently had the opportunity to learn more about Ponzi scheme out of Florida.  One of the employees victimized by this scheme and company shares her experience with Identity Theft Secrets.

K. Balbi, in 1992, worked for a food wholesaler that is now out of business called Sweet Life Foods. Back then they were prominent in New England and supported many of the mom and pop grocery stores and local family chains. Her job was to buy and sell groceries that were diverted. Unhappy with her position and pay, she decided to find a job where she could use her experience and earn a salary that would allow her to save for the future.  Learn about her experience.

She shares:

I was paid a salary to make buy and sell all day long, similar to the stock market except my commodities were baby food, truckloads of laundry detergent, coffee, juices and various paper products. Watching the stock market helped me to be successful.

In the grocery world, as in most industries, you can obtain a better price if you do a quantity buy from the manufacturer.  You can also speculate based upon world markets. Sometimes manufacturers offered regional sales discounts.

For example, I could buy a truck of tomato sauce out of Texas, truck it up to the Northeast, stop in one other location and sell part of the truck off, and then take the rest for my warehouse and still make a profit. It was a legal but somewhat unwelcome activity.

Commission sales vs. salary

The buyer and sellers that I worked with worth were largely based in Florida. I asked several of them and learned that many of them were making a six-figure income.  Unsatisfied with my current salary I combined business with pleasure, scheduling an interview one of my suppliers, during our family vacation to Florida. I was offered a position, if I would move to Florida at my own expense.

Uprooting the family and taking a chance Continue reading A first person Ponzi scheme experience