Parents give children phones at a younger age than ever before. Along with the ability to stay in touch with their parents, kids love to play games and interact with each other through social media, including games and chat programs. Experts debate the use of cell phones by children, claiming that it places them at greater risk for harm due to predators and cyberbullying. Parents often seek solutions to give their children the best opportunities while protecting them. Currently, parents are the number one users of tracking and other apps that provide parental controls.
Statistics show that despite parents’ best efforts, children are still being targeted online. In 2017, analysts reviewed data from over 500 million emails, social media posts, and text messages. The report claimed that 57 percent of tweens and 66 percent of teens were involved in cyberbullying. 53 percent of tweens and 72 percent of teens received content containing nudity or messages of a sexual nature; 11 percent of tweens and 18 percent of teens were involved in self-harm or suicidal situations.
Do You Need an App?
Consumer Advocate shows how parental control apps can help parents to regulate their children’s phone use. Apps can track the location of your child, and also view online activity. Many phones feature built-in parental controls and systems. Phone apps take it one step further, adding blocks and the ability to trace unknown callers on your iPhone or Android or perform a reverse phone number search to identify who is calling your child’s phone.
Parents may search their children’s phones for inappropriate messages, photos and profiles to no avail. Kids are typically smarter than their parents when it comes to tech and can easily hide those messages. Photos and files can be hidden in the cloud using various platforms such as Google Drive or iCloud. Anyone can own an account. The files can be opened on any device with an Internet connection. Apps use algorithms to dig out the information and are more effective.
Monitoring Internet Activity
Parents can block adult or harmful content on their children’s phones. Monitored activity can include cyberbullying, signs of depression, threats of violence, suicidal behavior, and messages from online predators. The apps use specific algorithms to scan and track social media networks, email, video sites, text messages, and more.
Phones Aren’t the Only Problem
Kids use cell phones most often, but parents should be cautious about devices such as tablets, computers, and laptops.
Discuss the Issue
Monitoring your child’s Internet activity may cause an issue regarding the child’s privacy. Kids may see it as punishment or as an invasion of privacy. This can cause resentment. Parents should talk to their kids and explain that is it necessary for their safety. The kids may not agree but parents should hold firm. Someday, the children may understand the need for the action and thank you for protecting them from harm.
Consumers know The Federal Trade Commission as the independent government agency that tracks and prosecutes scammers. The agency was created in 1914 to protect consumers and prevent forced business monopolies.
The New Scams
Scammers have begun to use the good name of the FTC as a way to target new victims. Thieves pose as representatives of the FTC and call random people, telling them that they’ve won prizes in a phony sweepstakes or lottery. They often give names and phone numbers of real agency workers. The scammers are convincing and always ask for personal information and money. The FTC is running a campaign to inform consumers to stop the scams. The agency never runs sweepstakes or other contests, nor do they ask for money. Their sole job is to investigate fraud and protect consumers.
Fake representatives may also tell you that you owe money to the government. Be aware of any caller that claims to be an employee or representative of the agency. The call is a scam and you should hang up immediately. The FTC has published tips on identifying these calls and how to avoid becoming a victim.
You’ve won a prize in a sweepstakes or lottery but must send money to receive the prize.
The caller offers to help recover money you’ve lost in a scam.
You owe back taxes or other government fees or fines. These fees must be paid, or you will go to jail.
Your bank account has been frozen, and you must pay a debt to unfreeze your assets.
What to Do if a Scammer Calls You
Hang up without responding. Do not press a button to be removed from a list or give any personal information. The caller may become threatening but do not respond. You can block calls on your iPhone or Android to prevent that number from calling back. Callers use many different numbers to contact targets, so stay aware.
Notify local law enforcement if the caller makes any type of threats. Next, report the call at ftc.gov/complaint. Include the following information:
Date and time of the call. Did the caller use your landline or cell phone number? Were there any text messages?
Give the name of the agency the caller used.
If a prize was offered, note the amount of the prize amount, how much money you were asked to send, and the requested payment method.
List the caller’s phone number. Scammers can use internet phone numbers that cannot be traced or spoof a legitimate phone number that is linked to the government agency. While the numbers aren’t legitimate, law enforcement may be able to identify the caller by using a tracking system.
Note any other details from the call. Be as specific as possible.
Getting Your Money Back
Unfortunately, the FTC is not able to fix individual consumer complaints, but they have suggestions on how you might be able to get your money back.
Legitimate businesses have used automated systems for many years. The systems are designed to reduce or eliminate the need for human operators and tech support personnel. Many websites feature systems in the form of conversational bots, i.e., robots or “bots” that answer questions based on keywords and phrases. For example, if you log on to Microsoft and ask a question about making your computer faster, the bot will give you a list of links to follow that may answer your question. Businesses use it as a time saving device. One report shows that these bots can answer 29% of a customer’s questions, saving 44% of time that would be otherwise used with live support.
Automated systems are a part of every day life. They are used when you call a company for information so that you are directed to the right department. They can be annoying for the caller but in other ways, efficient. Another automated system that is popular is the ability to block or blacklist certain phone numbers that call unsuspecting people. Most apps blacklist phone numbers based on the number of people they call. If a phone number is used to call 1000 people, it is obviously a robocaller and, therefore, should be blocked. These systems tend to be relatively effective.
Telemarketers and Scammers
Telemarketers and scammers waste our time and, in many cases, want to get our hard-earned money. You can download apps that will help you to trace unknown callers on your iPhone to ensure the caller is legitimate and will also block calls and texts. Users love the apps because they save time and prevent annoying people from calling. However, there is a new trend that takes it one step further. Robokiller has introduced a feature on their platform known as Answer Bot. Not only does it block unwanted calls, it plays a pre-recorded message to keep scammers and telemarketers on the phone.
We’ve all wanted to get revenge on scammers at one time. We learn to avoid saying “yes” and other things that can get us into trouble, but scammers are clever and relentless. Answer Bot blocks unwanted calls and allows users to play a pre-recorded message for the person being blocked. For example, a scammer calls your phone. Answer Bot blocks the number, so you are not disturbed. While you go on about your day, the scammer hears a recorded message that sounds like a regular conversation. The caller is engaged in the conversation, thereby wasting his or her time.
Many scammers and telemarketers are not permitted to hang up on a potential target, so they are forced to stay on the line. Robokiller reports that Answer Bot has prevented the scammers from making approximately 300 calls. The longest call recorded to date lasted 45 minutes. Users enjoy the app because many of the pre-recorded messages are hilarious and have gone viral. People have begun to compete to see who can get the best revenge, opening the doors to similar apps to protect consumers.
Avoiding phone scams can be difficult. Scammers trick users so they can get access to your information. It is more difficult than ever to detect phone scams by the phone number. Criminals often use VoIP or Internet phone numbers to seem as if they are local. The numbers are untraceable. Cell phone users can avoid most scams by using caller ID or an iPhone reverse phone number lookup to check the numbers of unknown callers.
Types of Scams
The types of phone scams increase every day, making it harder to detect or avoid the scammers. Criminals find new ways of getting money and information from users. They may use intimidation, scare tactics or guilt to get what they want from the victims. A common scam involves the IRS calling about an overdue tax bill. You should know that the IRS NEVER calls anyone; they send letters in the mail.
Another common trick involves getting the victim to say “yes.” The scammer will ask questions trying to get an agreement. Don’t fall for it.
The following are popular scams:
A representative claims your company ordered a product and requires payment. The call works because the person ordering the products is not always the person that pays the bills.
Unpaid Utility Bill
The caller says your utilities will be cut off unless you make a payment immediately.
This scam usually targets seniors. Caller scares victims into thinking their coverage is insufficient or lapsed.
Target is told he must appear for jury duty and is required to verify information.
Government Agency Impersonator
The caller claims to be from the Social Security Administration, IRS, or other agency.
Caller promises to help immigrants with documents or citizenship.
Credit Card Services
The caller claims to be from “card services.” He wants to explain offers, suspicious charges, or lower interest rates. The caller requests verification of information.
The scammer claims to be from Microsoft or Apple Tech Support. He reports a serious issue on your computer and offers to fix the problem for a fee. You should report the calls to the company the caller claims to represent.
The caller tells the victim he has won a lottery, prize, or free vacation.
Reporting calls can seem pointless yet it is important. Reports can cut down on activity and help other victims.
Internet-based scams, including government, dating and tech support scams, should be reported online at the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. Supply as much information as possible.
Consumer-related fraud should be reported online via the Federal Trade Commission’s Complaint Assistant. Consumer-related fraud includes a prize, vacation, lottery and sweepstakes scams, utility company scams, credit card scams, tech support scams, calls from debt collectors, fake charities, and telemarketers that violate the National Do Not Call Registry.
A cash advance can help you in times in need, but can also be a way to get you into deeper trouble. This can easily happen if the person or company offering the cash advance isn’t honest. There are many ads and commercials for car title loans and payday loans, many of which are legal but charge big fees and interest. If you choose to go that way, be sure to read the fine print and understand exactly what you’re signing up for, what fees are involved, and the deadline for payment.
Is it Legal?
Some states, such as Georgia and North Carolina, have banned cash advance or payday loans. In some states, they are legal but cap high-interest rates. Others permit payday loans but have failed to close the loophole which prevents high interest rates. In other words, there is no cap on the interest you will pay for quick cash.
States Banning Loans
Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and West Virginia have never permitted payday loans. The District of Columbia has reversed its payday law.
Interest Regulated States
- Arkansas – 17%
- New York – 25%
- Maine – 30%
- New Jersey – 30%
- Montana – 36%
- New Hampshire – 36%
- Oregon – 36%
- South Dakota – 36%
- Colorado – 45%
States with No Interest Caps
- New Mexico
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
The following are six things that you should be aware of when applying for a cash advance loan, in person or online.
- The lender doesn’t request payment history, pay stubs or proof of creditworthiness.
- The lender isn’t registered in your state. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires registration for all lenders and loan brokers in the state(s) they do business.
- The lender requires a prepaid debit card. Some sites will ask for a prepaid card as collateral or insurance. Prepaid cards can’t be traced. They are also nonrefundable, so the scammers keep the money free and clear.
- Their website isn’t secure.
- The lender does not have an address or the address is out of the country.
- The lender demands action. Don’t fall for limited time offers.
- The lender’s phone number is not listed. Use a white pages iPhone app to find out if the number is legit.
If you think you have been scammed or want to report a lender, contact the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
If we have learned anything about sexting, we know it’s fun but foolish and potentially dangerous. Politicians and celebrities are often in the news because of sexting. Some have experienced ruined careers and/or ruined relationships. They tell the media they were caught up in the moment or meant no harm. In the end, the fun was not worth the consequence.
The act is particularly dangerous for youths. Kids are often drawn into sexting with strangers; people who aren’t who they claim to be. The result may be dangerous or even fatal. Even the most diligent parents can’t be on alert 24/7. Educating children is vital to their safety.
What is Sexting?
Sexting is sending or receiving nude pictures or sexually suggestive text messages through a mobile phone. Teenagers engage in sexting to prove an attraction or to keep a mate. Statistics show that 1 in 7 teens sends sext messages; 1 in 4 receives messages. It’s common for a person to receive a message containing a nude photo or sexual suggestion. If that happens, the child should report it to a parent immediately. The parent can use an app for unknown number look ups to find out who owns the number and report it to authorities.
Teens and politicians aren’t the only ones sending the messages:
- 12% to 16% of youths ages 10 to 19 have sent nude or semi-nude images via their mobile phones.
- 15% of teens have received a sexually explicit image through text or social media.
- 40% of 18 to 34 year-olds admitted to sexting
- 10% of people 55 years old and over admitted to sending sexts.
- Sexts are sent almost equally between male and females.
It’s just like it sounds. Sextortion is a form of extortion or blackmail using sexually elated messages or photos against the person that sent them. It is most common among teens or couples that have recently ended a relationship. It happens between friends who are fighting. Also referred to as “revenge porn,” sextortion can easily embarrass the persons joining in the conversation. It may cause animosity, embarrassment, or worse. Teens can be outcast, expelled or denied access into college. People put themselves at risk, including their future careers and relationships. People need to remember that once a photo or message is on the Internet, it is there forever. You can’t get it back.
Additionally, sexting carries legal issues. The person taking or sending the picture can face fines or even jail for distributing pornography, even if that person is a minor.
First, you need to educate yourself about sexting, including the dangers and consequences.
To avoid the embarrassment and possible legal problems from sexting, simply refuse. Do not take nude or compromising pictures. Do not engage in sexual conversations.
Lastly, avoid keeping inappropriate photos and videos on your computer. At the least, computers can be hacked and private photos can be leaked to social media sites.
As technology moves forward, more people are using search engines and reverse phone lookups on iPhone apps to run background checks on family members, friends, possible love interests, and employees. People can search the internet for phone numbers, work history, criminal history, and relationship status. Employers take steps to gain information about hires if they are going to be placed in a job where security was important. Now anyone can dig into public and private information with just a few clicks of the mouse.
The Reason for Background Checks
Employers often do background checks on people as a part of the job screening process. This was common when someone applied for a job in a secure facility such as a courthouse, airport, financial institution, hospital, school, or government agency. Likewise, they are required for anyone getting a license for real estate, insurance, or another job where the employee must show credibility.
Originally, checks were usually conducted when someone applied for a job. Similarly, background checks are run on companies, politicians, and individuals for a variety of reasons. The information can be invaluable.
Current statistics show that background checks give employers a heads up on potential employees.
- 57% of employers say background checks lead to better hires.
- 85% of employers report finding inaccurate information on resumes and/or job applications.
- 77% of employers have uncovered issues that would have gone unnoticed.
Types of Searches
Some jobs may require certain information, but most background searches are general. People can do searches for personal use on private individuals. Common types of screening include:
Criminal and Sex Offender Records
There are websites that show sex offender lists, but criminal checks may not be easy to come by. Some companies offer to research criminal history for a fee, but usually run a check of public records. Third party agencies can give more detailed information, but will not guarantee that the information is correct. The only way to get truly accurate information is to search county or state databases.
Employing undocumented workers is illegal and can spell trouble for the employer. Since the formation of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division of the Department of Homeland Security, employers are required to supply proof of citizenship for its workers.
Getting information on court records is important for personal and employment reasons. It’s important to know if a future relationship or employee has been in court. It can attest to the person’s character.
Employees required to drive at their jobs must have clean records for insurance and safety reasons. Employers can contact their state’s Department of Motor Vehicles and/or the Department of Transportation for information.
Records verify educational qualifications including a high school diploma, college degree, graduate degree or license.
Employers often check job history to check a person’s skill set, performance, attendance, and relationship with employers and coworkers.
Reports may include a person’s credit history, civil judgments, tax information or bankruptcy. This is crucial information to have for a relationship or employer working in a financial space.
Social Security Number
A person’s social security number shows where a person has lived and worked. People who give out a false SSN may be guilty of identity theft or could be illegal.
Who Would Run a Background Check on Me?
The most common reason for a background check is employment screening. Now someone can run a background for creditworthiness or for personal reasons. While some information is public, digging deeper is going to cost. Deep checks can be expensive. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) created rules regarding the information accessed by potential employers. Anyone using a third-party service must state the reason for the search.
Employers cannot refuse to hire someone based on the information of an unofficial search.
One important step many people miss is running their own background check. People found old information contained in databases. Running your own background check enables you to review information others can see about you. Incorrect information can cost you a job or a relationship. You can report incorrect information to the issuing agency. You can also learn how to remove information from your report.
Reverse phone searches continue to be difficult at best unless you have the inside scoop on how to track down numbers that may be important. Inevitably, each of us has received one or more calls from unknown numbers. It can drive you crazy if it happens day after day. The same can be said for finding a scrap of paper with a phone number scrawled on it but can’t remember when or why keeping that number was important. The most frustrating part is trying to find out who owns those numbers without spending a small fortune. Free caller ID programs rarely work – at least not accurately. Googling the number will give you page after page of nonsense that leaves you right back where you started. What you will get for your trouble is a multitude of sites that offer the service, often with a premium cost. So, the question remains – Why are reverse phone searches so expensive?
Many sites offer free reverse phone searches for numbers and names and usually deliver what they promise. They will look it up as advertised, but to see the information you must pay. Some simply redirect you to another website. It’s a way around the old bait and switch that keeps it legal, but not very nice. When asked why the searches are expensive, most will reply that it costs a lot of money to run and update databases, to maintain their servers and pay for lists. That may be true but the cost for such a small service is rarely worth it. Some will offer a one-time search for a price, but the real goal is to get you to subscribe to a monthly service which is almost never worth it unless you are planning on becoming a private investigator.
To test my theory about the worthiness of such a search, I signed up for a free three-day trial and searched my own phone number. What did I get? Well, they did track my name, but the address was one from two years ago, and, wait for it…my address from 12 years ago in a different state. They also had me related to my brother’s third ex-wife and my former boss of, again, 12 years ago. That is someone I certainly don’t want to be linked to any more. If I’m paying for a search, can I at least get a guarantee of its accuracy? Probably not.
All is not lost. There are good white pages iPhone apps and programs out there but finding them means wading through countless search engine pages and sites like the aforementioned. The best way to find that diamond in the rough is to seek out review sites that will give you the truth and the information you seek. If you do pay for a service, be sure that you are paying for what it’s worth and not some inflated cost that will encourage you to sign up for a monthly service that will likely remain unused.