What in the Heck is Smishing?

You’ve probably heard of “phishing” – when hackers send bogus messages to your email, hoping that you’ll reply or click a link so that they can get their hands on your information. But there’s a new version of this scheme that’s gaining prevalence, and it targets your smartphone. This scam is called “smishing” as in “phishing via your SMS (text) messages.”IMG_1698

One of the most popular smishes takes the form of a “Congratulations! You’ve won X prize from X company! Reply to this message to receive your reward!” text message to your smartphone. Do not reply to messages like this! Even if you figure out that it’s a scam and you really want to reply with something like “Go blank! your blank! you scamming blank!” – don’t do it. Yes, it would be cathartic, but the act of replying will only affirm to the smishers that your phone number is active, and you’ll receive more of this type of message (plus you’ll probably just be replying to a robot anyway, and robots are unfazed by profanity).

These “congratulations” messages, if replied to, may also ask you for your credit card information to allegedly pay for the shipping and handling costs of your prize. Never give out this information in a situation like this. Many messages like these have claimed to be from Walmart or Target. The Walmart messages have been used by smishers so frequently that at one point the company issued a statement saying that they absolutely never send consumers messages asking for sensitive information via text.

Another smish is one that will claim to be from your bank or another seemingly credible or important institution. The message will claim to be urgent and will request a reply. If you receive a text like this, do not reply via text message. Instead, look up the phone number for the bank or company and call them directly.

Other tips related to smishing prevention:

  • If a text message comes from the number 5000, it’s a smish. It’s safest to delete it without even opening it.
  • You may want to set up a text alias with your provider. This will allow you to receive and send texts, but the texts that you send will show up under your “alias” rather than your real number. It’s like having a secret phone number. Then you can block incoming texts to your “real” number and give family and friends your alias. Ask your service provider about how a text alias works.
  • Never give any sensitive information (your social security number, bank account information, etc) to anyone that you don’t absolutely trust.

Don’t let yourself get smished! If you’re receiving any messages that might be from smishers, report them to your service provider. You may also want to report suspicious messages to the Federal Trade Commission.





Going Back to School? Don’t Get Scammed

Is your dream to go back to school? There are many people out there just like you, who want to better their lives and provide for their families by furthering their education. Getting an online diploma can be a great option for busy people. However, some online schools are far more interested in taking your money than they are in actually teaching you anything.

image provided by flickr creative commons user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/atramos/6479790855/sizes/l/in/photostream/">atramos</a>

Unaccredited Schools:

Almost all employers will only recognize a diploma from an accredited university. Schools are not accredited directly by the US Department of Education, but by recognized authorities and accrediting institutions. Sham schools will often tiptoe around this and use words like “licensed,” or “recognized.” To be absolutely sure that an online school is legitimate, you can contact the better business bureau to ask them about the school’s credentials and whether or not it’s accredited.

Diploma Mills:

To earn a legitimate degree takes a good deal of time and a lot of hard academic work. Online schools dubbed “diploma mills” will offer unsuspecting education-seekers degrees based on “life experience” or a degree earned in a disproportionately short amount of time. These schools may also charge “per degree” rather than per credit hour or semester. Watch out for online schools that have foreign addresses or use P.O. boxes. If earning an online degree seems to require little to no academic work, or there is almost no communication with professors, you might be dealing with a diploma mill. Another sign of a diploma mill is a requirement to take an online exam that seems far too easy to pass, or lets you take it multiple times to ensure that you pass it.

The following online schools have been reported to issue useless diplomas:

  • Belford University
  • University of Berkley (watch out for schools with names very similar to those of real, reputable institutions)
  • Jefferson High School Online (for getting a GED – online school scams can apply to high school diplomas too!)

These fake online schools prey on people who are trying to improve their lives through education. Don’t fall victim to one of these scams. There are some legitimate online schools. Remember to check with the BBB to ensure that the online school you’re considering will grant you a real diploma that will be recognized by the military, employers and admissions offices. Many brick-and-mortar schools also offer legitimate online programs or classes. Also, if there’s a chance that you might transfer to a different school in the future, make sure that the school you enroll in now offers credits that are easily transferable.


What Is School Accreditation?




Hack AT&T? That’ll Cost You Over 3 Years in Prison

download-key-logger-programA man who successfully exploited a hole in AT&T’s web security to obtain information about iPad customers was sentenced on Monday to 41 months in prison and an additional three years of supervision following his release. While Andrew Auernheimer didn’t put the information he obtained to any malicious use, under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, he did commit a serious computer crime. He was charged with one count of identity fraud, as well as one count of conspiracy to access a computer without authorization.

The hacking occurred back in 2010, when he and a colleague discovered a security hole in AT&T’s website and wrote a program they called the iPad 3G Account Slurper. The program allowed them to access the email addresses and ICC-ID numbers, and other data about the users affected. (ICC-ID numbers identify an iPad and who it belongs to.) Rather than taking the information they retrieved and using it to harm the users affected, they sent their findings to a popular website so the security hole could be publicized and hopefully fixed. It’s just the latest in what seems to be a growing trend in hacktivism.

What are hacktivists? Continue reading Hack AT&T? That’ll Cost You Over 3 Years in Prison

Skype Spam/Scam from Scum: Rory Gilbert-mrrorygilbertel@gmail.com

This is new.

I’m being scammed/spammed via my Skype account from a Rory Gilbert.

Of course, it’s simple for scummy scammers to create thousands of fake Skype accounts and send out scams and spam like this.

In any case, if you hear from this particular Rory Gilbert on Skype, you should know that this is a scam.

Note that he never uses my name.  He’s just looking for anyone with the common last name of Kraft.

The typical NIgerian 409 Fraud Scam, perpetuated via Skype.
The typical NIgerian 409 Fraud Scam, perpetuated via Skype.
[11:33:48 AM] Rory Gilbert: Hello  Kraft

I am sorry to contact you unannounced through this medium. I am Mr. Rory Gilbert a former staff of Barclays bank dubai, United Arab Emirate . I write you this proposal in good faith hoping that I will rely on you . In 2006, one Mr. Daniel Kraft

who has same name as yours and who has your country in his file as his place of origin, made a fixed deposit for 36 calendar months, valued at $18,400,000.00 with my bank. I was his account officer before I rose to the position of Manager Director now. The maturity date for this deposit contract was 16th of January 2009. Unfortunately, while on a business trip ,he died in a deadly earthquake that occurred on May 12, 2008 in Sichuan province of China which killed at least 68,000 people.
Since the last quarter of 2009 until today,the management of Barclay’s bank have been finding a means to reach him so as ascertain if he will want to roll over the Deposit or have the contract sum withdraw .Since September 2009,when I discovered that this will happen , I learnt of his death ,so I have tried to think up a procedure to preserve this fund and use the proceed for charity .

Some directors here have been trying to find out from me the information about this account and the owner, but I have kept it closed because, I know that if they become aware that Mr Daniel is now late, they will corner the funds for themselves. Therefore, I am seeking your co-operation to present you as the one to benefit from his fund at his death since you have the same name, so that my bank head quarters will pay the funds to you. I have done enough inside bank arrangement and you only have to put in your details into the information network in the bank computers and reflect you as his next of kin.

I am not a greedy person, so I am suggesting we share the funds equal, 50/50% to both parties My share will assist me to start a charity organization to help the poor and also own a company which has been my dream.
Let me know your mind on this and please do treat this information as TOP SECRET. We shall go over the details once I receive your urgent response strictly through my personal email address,  mrrorygilbertel@gmail.com Have a nice day,and may GOD bless you.
Best regards,

MR. Rory Gilbert.


I have blocked this user on Skype and reported the message as abuse.

I suggest you do the same.

The power of kindness to overcome bullying and cyberbullying

download-key-logger-programThe power of kindness to overcome bullying
by Lauren Ivy Chiong

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

That’s the saying we learned as children to recite when picked on by bullies, but the statement that the words never hurt couldn’t have been further from the truth. The truth is that cruel words can hurt as much as a physical injury, even if it’s in a different way, and the wounds run deep and can last a lifetime.

I was the prototypical nerdy girl who got picked on in the locker room and chosen last in P.E. I’ll never forget what the mean girls said to me, even though it’s decades later. Now I’m the mother to a preschooler, and she’s on the verge of being old enough to understand what it means to get picked on for being different and to have her feelings get hurt.

How can the inevitable cruelty in the schoolyard be overcome? The first thing that comes to mind is kindness.

I was very pleased to find some current examples of how kindness is being used in schools to overcome bullying and foster compassion and friendship.

Performing random acts of kindness

In Terre Haute, Indiana, a local non-profit organization called SPPRAK, an acronym for Special People Performing Random Acts of Kindness, has unveiled a program at Dixie Been Elementary School called SPPRAK Pack. The program’s mission is to help students celebrate acts of kindness by allowing them to record fellow students’ good deeds on sticky notes, which are then placed on a large banner displayed in the school’s front hallway. The notes record moments of students sharing lunches, helping put toys away, opening the door for each other, and more. The program is expected to be available soon in all of the 28 schools in Vigo County, Indiana.

Stopping cyberbullying with kindness

Jeremiah Anthony, a student at West High School in Iowa City, Iowa, is combating cyber bullying one compliment at a time. He created a Twitter account called @WestHighBros to send out kind tweets about his fellow classmates when he became aware of the growing problem of students being bullied via social media. Anthony, along with two friends, send out tweets full of praise and encouraging words for students whom they choose randomly.

Here are some samples of the @WestHighBros tweets:

“Leader in so many ways. You don’t tell lies and you are forever real. Your infectious smile brightens everyone’s day around you.”

“One of the funniest and classiest guys we know. Fantastic on the soccer field and in the classroom. Keep up the great work!”

So far the friends have sent out more than 3,000 tweets and counting.

#26Acts of kindness for Sandy Hook Continue reading The power of kindness to overcome bullying and cyberbullying

Foursquare Discounts or Four or More Opportunities for Identity Theft?

foursquare now offers discounts to merchantsMany stores today offer member discounts, program rebates, and other ways of earning money back when you make a purchase at the store. This is usually done with the swipe of a key fob, member card, or giving the cashier a phone number to look up. I personally never remember to bring those with me, so I am always grateful that they can simply look my number up to apply the discount. On the other hand, who can remember every single key fob they have or know ahead of time every time they will visit a store they are a member of? I know I’m not that organized, but even if I was, I don’t relish the thought of filling a key ring with multiple fobs.

FourSquare came up with a great program to help eliminate the hassle of having to carry all those key fobs or merchant cards around. Their program allows you to sync your data so that in some cases, multiple discounts can be applied.

Here’s how it works: You sync your information with merchants who participate in the program. When you go to that store and swipe your credit card, all your information is applied. For instance if you have ecoupons, you don’t have to print them out because they are synced with your card already. You also don’t have to have your key fob for in-store discounts because they are already in sync with your card. When you consider this and the fact that most banks offer cash back incentives, it seems like this would be a great way to simplify your shopping experience.

There’s just one problem; doesn’t it also simplify the identity theft experience? Continue reading Foursquare Discounts or Four or More Opportunities for Identity Theft?

Opposing Views of Fingerprint Payments

fingerprint takes place of credit cardWhen my child’s school started scanning fingerprints for lunch payments, I was opposed to the idea. But I like to be a pretty fair person so I weighed the pros and the cons. As it turns out, this could be a budding popular method of payment and there are actually quite a few perks involved.


There isn’t a person on the planet who hasn’t lost their wallet, purse, or at least one credit card. Personally, I am well known for all of the above. One of the advantages of fingerprint payments is that it’s pretty hard to lose your finger. Even if someone did manage to take it from you in some unspeakable way, new fingerprint systems monitor for pulse as well as scanning the fingerprint. Another positive point is that identity theft is a lot easier to prove when you aren’t even in the same location.

Let’s just assume that someone used some sort of technology to duplicate your fingerprint. They put it on their own finger, which obviously has a pulse. They make a purchase. You try to dispute it. If this had been a credit card and you weren’t in the same location as the purchase, your creditors might accuse you of lending it out in an effort to obtain the merchandise without having to pay for it. This is clearly an impossible task when you use fingerprints instead of credit cards.


While there are plenty of pros when it comes to fingerprint payments, there are cons as well. How you look at each depends a great deal on how you view the financial and governmental system, not to mention your own body. I have to admit, when I first heard of it at my son’s school I wondered how much he would hate me for allowing this if later on down the road he wanted to live “off the grid”.

I don’t even like the idea of Social Security numbers. The idea of submitting my young child’s fingerprint to anyone was appalling to me. For me, the biggest downside of all to fingerprint payment Continue reading Opposing Views of Fingerprint Payments

Here comes the marriage fraud

marriage fraudCue up the wedding music.   Turn on the PC.  You may not kiss the computer screen.   Yes,  internet marriages are becoming more common, but could that also mean that marriage frauds could become more common and easier to do too?

Britain recently uncovered a 20 million pound marriage scam involving cash for brides from Eastern countries.  The brides were bought and paid for, in order to get access to benefits and jobs in Great Britain.  It has been called the largest marriage scam uncovered, to date.

In the U.S.  three brothers were recently found guilty of  “participating in a conspiracy to enter into marriages for the purpose of evading U.S. immigration laws, making false statements to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and unlawfully attempting to procure naturalization and citizenship.” Apparently the three men in question paid women to marry them and set up a scheme where they would convince U.S. authorities of their happily married status, so that they could become citizens.   They now face prison time and deportation.

True Love or Marriage Fraud” took an inside look at the problems with marriage fraud in Canada.  stating that,

 Canada is, perhaps, the easiest among all developed countries in which to commit marriage fraud — and without any repercussions.  Around one thousand cases marriage fraud are reported to the government every year – stories of would-be immigrants who woo and marry Canadians as a doorway into Canada.

One artist from Ottawa says of the Canadian system, “The easiest way to become a permanent resident in this country is to get married. As soon as you step into the country you’re granted permanent residency status. There’s no other country that grants this…..I was duped into marrying this man who had no intention of staying with me.”

Reporting marriage fraud Continue reading Here comes the marriage fraud

5 Tips for Teaching Your Toddler to Use Tablets & Other Technology

ipad table wikiDon’t you wish we had some today’s toys and games when we were kids?  Today’s technology is amazing and the learning tools, apps and resources for our kids to learn and be entertained are better than ever before.

These games and apps are powerful tools we can use to help give our kids a head start on learning, but it’s important to teach them how to use them safely as well. Here are a few tips if you’re starting to teach your toddler how to use your tablet or computer.

 Set Time Together

Especially if your child is very young, you don’t want to just turn them loose with an iPad or computer on their own to explore. Set aside some special time to spend with your child to teach them how the device works and how to play the games. Explain things, let them practice navigating and turn the time into a learning experience together.

 Set Time Limits

While the learning and educational benefits of most of today’s apps are amazing, there can also be too much of a good thing. It’s important to set limits for how much time kids spend playing games or getting online. Be sure set limits and make sure that your kids are still getting lots of good old fashioned playtime offline as well.

 Set Parental Safety Controls

While the web is filled with millions of amazing things, there’s also lots of scary stuff out there too, sometimes when you least expect it. My niece was recently doing a homework assignment on corn (we live in Iowa so it’s an important topic!) and she typed the word into Google to search for images to use in her report. Because not many people search for pictures of this particular vegetable, instead the search engine substituted what it thought was the closest search term that would work. Let’s just say it started with a “P” and rhymes with “corn”. Up popped millions of inappropriate images just for an online search about a vegetable. After that my sister and brother-in law realized they needed to set up stricter parental controls to help protect their kids — even during innocent homework assignments.

Set Purchasing Controls

While that one click purchasing on iTunes or on Amazon for your Kindle Fire might make things easy for you, it can also make things easy for your child to quickly rack up large amounts of unauthorized purchases. We have several friends whose toddlers have ordered hundreds of dollars of merchandise without Mom and Dad knowing because that one click ordering was a little too easy. Be sure to log out and set a password that your child doesn’t know before allowing them to explore on your tablet or iPad. It could save you a surprise on your credit card bill.

Set Rules and Guidelines

While you might have parental controls in place to keep out some of the bad stuff, it’s still important to have additional rules and guidelines about using technology to keep your young child safe. Our kids are only allowed to use the computer or tablet while they are sitting down (to prevent drops and breaks) and have to stay within sight of Mom or Dad so that we can keep an eye on what they are doing. Our preschooler is only allowed to use his approved apps, while our his big sister is allowed to explore a little more. However she still needs to surf only with our supervision and ask permission before visiting a new website she hasn’t been to before.

What rules do you set for your children online?


Thanks to our guest contributor.
Kim R. is a busy working mom of two in small town Iowa. She blogs at www.twokidsandacoupon.com, providing readers with daily information on frugal family fun and living. 
Image courtesy of Creative Commons License Wikipedia

This image, originally posted to Flickr, was reviewed on  by the administrator or reviewer Leoboudv, who confirmed that it was available on Flickr under the stated license on that date.

Your Passport Has Huge Black Market Value

When I was traveling in South America a couple of years ago, the only form of I.D. that I could use to get into bars was my passport. That meant carrying this important document on me while navigating the busy streets of Bogota, Colombia (all in the name of a few mojitos!). My friends cautioned me to be very careful with it, as thieves would be eager to steal a valuable American passport to sell on the black market. Luckily, I encountered no such nefarious characters and I heeded their advice and kept it close to my body at all times, rather than in a purse. However, if someone had stolen my passport, I would have been dealing with more than a damper on my vacation and a bunch of paperwork. The theft of a passport can easily lead to identity theft.image provided by flickr creative commons user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/hjl/101443399/sizes/o/in/photostream/"target="passport">hjl</a>

Prior to our current digital age, thieves would simply apply for passports using the information of a deceased person or someone who was very unlikely to apply for a passport themselves. The ability to quickly access databases now discourages this type of passport identity theft, although it does still happen occasionally.

A stolen passport is a wealth of information for an identity thief. It contains the owner’s name, birth date, nationality and place of birth, among other important tidbits, including the owner’s signature. There are passport cases available that hang around one’s neck and easily tuck underneath a shirt for relatively safe travel.

Although, modern passports are embedded with a microchip, which broadcasts a radio frequency. Unfortunately, identity thieves have learned how to “skim” this frequency to get access to your information, without even having to Continue reading Your Passport Has Huge Black Market Value