Three Ways to Verify a Legitimate E-mail

Many of us are familiar with phishing attacks, which use ‘spoofed’ e-mails and fraudulent websites designed to fool recipients into divulging personal financial data such as credit card numbers, account usernames and passwords, Social Security numbers, etc., however people continue to fall victim to the attack. Phishing has become more sophisticated and are hijacking the trusted brands of well-known banks, online retailers and credit card companies, phishers are able to convince recipients to respond to them.phishing

The email can look just like it comes from a financial institution, e-commerce site, government agency or any other service or business. It often urges you to act quickly because your account has been compromised in some way.

If you are unsure whether an email request is legitimate, don’t reply, and don’t click on links or call phone numbers provided in the message.

Try to verify the email’s legitimacy with these steps:

  • Contact the company directly.
  • Contact the company using information provided on an account statement or back of a credit card.
  • Search for the company online – but not with information provided in the email.

Delete email and text messages that ask you to confirm or provide personal information (credit card and bank account numbers, Social Security numbers, passwords, etc.). Companies don’t ask for this information via email or text. Phishing and other online scams aren’t just limited to emails. They’re also prevalent on social networking sites. Be sure to remove suspicious online ads, status updates, tweets and other posts.

What to Do if You Think You are a Victim?

What You Need to Know about Ransomware

Ransomware is the latest form of malware used by cyber criminals to freeze your computer or mobile device, steal your data and demand that a “ransom” —  typically anywhere from a couple of hundreds to thousands of dollars — be paid.  Below is a breakdown of a ransomware attack and how to identify and prevent one from happening.




Plan Ahead For Home Emergencies With A First Aid Kit

It’s a common occurrence around the home: a child falls and scrapes her knee; a father gets stung by a bee while working in the garden; a mother has an allergic reaction to a bug bite.3339first_aid_kit

Being prepared for these emergencies means planning ahead. And one of the best ways to do that is to put together a first aid kit.

Although you can purchase first aid kits that are already assembled, they may not contain all the items that you want or need. One option is to buy a pre-assembled kit and add to it. Another is to make a kit of your own.

No matter which choice you make, it’s important that you have your kit in an easily accessible location in the home, such as the kitchen or bathroom. In fact, you may want to consider having more than one kit in the house for quicker access during emergencies.

Stocking a kit with the proper supplies requires some forethought. The items chosen should be intended to deal with a variety of situations, including those previously mentioned.

Here’s a list to help get you started (please keep in mind that this should not be considered an all-inclusive list and that there may be other items that would appropriate for your particular situation):

  • Adhesive bandages as well as bandages of different shapes and sizes.
  • Hot/cold pack.
  • Flashlight with extra batteries (this should be checked at least monthly to ensure it’s in working condition).
  • Scissors.
  • A bag, box, or similar container to store the first aid supplies.
  • First aid manual.
  • Sterile pads, cotton balls, and gauze of different sizes.
  • Tweezers.
  • Thermometer.
  • Allergy-relief medicine, such as Benadryl.
  • Acetaminophen and ibuprofen (for fever, inflammation, and pain).
  • Aspirin.
  • Antibiotic cream.
  • Hand sanitizer.
  • Calamine lotion.
  • Hydrocortisone cream.
  • Blanket and pillow (place next to kit).
  • Safety pins.
  • Sterile gloves.
  • Petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline.

Certain items, such as medicines, should be checked regularly to ensure they haven’t reached their expiration dates. Any items used in the kit should be replaced immediately.

And don’t forget to include a list of emergency phone numbers (doctor, dentist, etc.) as part of the kit.

While you’re preparing a first aid kit for the home, you may also want to put one together for on the road. In addition to the items listed above, this kit should also include enough food and water to last you 2-3 days; jumper cables; extra blankets; a change of clothes; flares and/or roadside assistance signs; bungee cords; hand warmers; and heavy duty tape.

Don’t let an emergency at home or away catch you off guard. Be prepared with a well-stocked first aid kit.

How to Avoid a Card Cracking Scam

Card-cracking is a national problem, with incidents reported in several states including Georgia, Ohio, Washington, and most notably, Illinois. In Chicago alone, a group of 29 are facing charges for stealing about $6.5 million through this scheme. Many of the “victims” do not understand they are facilitating a crime in which they could receive up to 30 years in prison for their participation.creditcards

In card-cracking scams, young adults (primarily students, newly-enlisted military, or single parents) are recruited to facilitate fraud against the bank. The perpetrators typically target people via social media and convince them to share their checking account information  in exchange for some type of a kickback – usually in the form of a counterfeit check remotely deposited into their account of which, the person is allowed to keep a portion of the funds. However, the fraudster often removes all of the funds before the bank determines that the check is counterfeit.  Fraudsters may also convince the person to provide them with their debit card, along with their PIN. The person is instructed to report the card as lost or stolen, thereby receiving protection via Reg E, while the fraudster withdraws the funds.

Avoid falling for a card-cracking scam with these simple steps:

  • Do not respond to online solicitations for “easy money.”Card cracking advertisements will suggest that this is a quick, safe way to earn extra cash. Keep in mind that easy money is rarely legal money.
  • Never share your account and PIN number.Keep this information private at all times. By sharing it with others, you expose yourself to potential fraud.
  • Do not file false fraud claims with your bank. By filing a false claim, you are a co-conspirator to fraud. Banks’ detection techniques for card cracking are constantly improving and suspicious claims will be investigated.
  • Report suspicious posts linked with scams.If you notice postings that appear to be linked with a possible scam, report them to the social media site. There is usually a drop down menu near the post to allow for easy reporting.

In addition to being charged as an accomplice to a crime, they are also at risk of having their own money stolen from their accounts and having unauthorized purchases made with their debit cards. Because they consented to provide scammers access to their bank accounts, it is difficult for them to prove that any withdrawals or purchases made were unauthorized. If it sounds too good to be true, than it often isn’t true.

*Source: a courtesy, you will be leaving and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Come back soon!

National Cyber Security Awareness Month!

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month! Learning how to identify online fraud and understanding how fraudulent activity happens, helps with prevention. Here are some past blog posts with information on identity theft and prevention.big

Ways to Practice Fire Prevention Around The Home

Fire Prevention Week will be held in the U.S. this year between October 9 and October 15. This year’s theme is “Don’t Wait – Check the Date! Replace Smoke Alarms Every 10 Years.”fire-safety-clipart-dt6xbz8t9

That’s just one of many safety tips you can practice around your home. Here are more to consider to protect you and your loved ones:

  • Create a fire escape plan at home and share it with all family members, then practice the plan at least twice a year.
  • If a fire occurs in your home, get out, stay out and call for help.
  • When frying, grilling, baking, or broiling food, stay in the kitchen. If you must leave the kitchen, turn off the stove or oven.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire, such as towels, clothing, or plastic, away from the stove.
  • Never use a grill, camp stove, generator, or other gasoline, natural gas, charcoal, or propane-burning device inside a home, garage, or any partially enclosed area.
  • Turn off portable heaters when you go to sleep or leave a room.
  • Teach household members to “stop, drop, and roll” if their clothes should catch on fire.
  • Use fire extinguishers only if the fire is confined to a small area and is not spreading, and the room is not filled with smoke.
  • Remember the word PASS when using a fire extinguisher:
    • Pull the pin and hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you.
    • Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
    • Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
    • Sweep the nozzle from side to side.
  • Decide where your family members should meet outside should a fire occur in your home.
  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms on every level of your house, especially inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.
  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide alarms once a month. If they aren’t working, replace the batteries and re-test them.
  • If a carbon monoxide alarm is activated, move quickly to an open window or door or an area where there is fresh air.
  • Teach children the purpose of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and let them know what they sound like.
  • Keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children and teach them the dangers of both.
  • Never smoke in bed.
  • Keep items that can catch on fire at least three feet away from heat sources, such as fireplaces, stoves, and space heaters.

Although Fire Prevention Week is coming up, it’s best to practice fire safety throughout the year.

Get Set For Winter With These Fall Home Projects

As sure as the leaves will fall from the trees, there will be projects and chores to do around the home during autumn months.fall-home-projects

It could be winterizing outdoor plumbing, or sealing cracks in driveways. Maybe it’s prepping the yard for cold weather.

If you haven’t already started a “to-do list”, here’s a little help:

  • Check your driveway for holes and cracks. If you find any, clean them out and plug the crevices with driveway filler, then apply a commercial sealant.
  • Install a programmable thermostat. This handy device allows you to automatically lower the household temperature when you’re away or asleep and boost it just before you get home or get up in the morning, thereby saving on heating bills.
  • Create an upward draft and redistribute warm air from the ceiling by reversing the direction of a ceiling fan. And if you use humidifiers in the fall and winter, clean the water tanks regularly to prevent bacteria and spores from growing in them.
  • Caulk around windows and door frames to prevent heat from escaping your home.This is another high-heating-bill buster, and reduces the risk of water getting into crevices and freezing, which could result in cracks and mold. You may also want to invest in new energy-efficient windows and doors if the ones in your house have seen better days.
  • Clean and repair, if needed, deck and porch furniture before storing it away for the winter. The same goes for barbeque equipment.
  • Get rid of blistering or peeling paint on exterior walls and sides. Left untreated, this can cause deterioration that results in expensive repairs later on.And consider applying a fresh coat of paint or sealer on any interior surface that could come in contact with snow, such as wood floors or stairs.
  • Winterize exterior plumbing such as faucets and sprinkler systems to prevent freezing and bursting.
  • Clear out gutters and downspouts of debris, such as leaves and sticks. This will help prevent ice dams from forming. And remember to repair any damaged joints and tighten brackets.
  • Have your home’s roof inspected for leaks or other damage and make necessary repairs. The last thing you want is to have snow seeping into your home through holes or cracks in the roof.
  • Aerate your lawn and garden beds, rake up leaves, and fertilize and winterize trees, shrubs and grass to prepare them for colder temperatures.
  • Prep your heating system in advance of use by having it checked by a licensed heating professional. Do you have a fireplace or wood stove? Inspect them, too, to ensure they’re ready to go when the cold weather sets in. This includes checking for creosote buildup caused by burning wood; clearing any chimney blockages (such as those caused by squirrel or bird nests); repairing faulty dampers, masonry or brickwork; and fixing or replacing damaged chimney caps.