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 video games and interact with each other through social networking sites, through sharing photos and in chat rooms. Experts debate the use of cell phones by young 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 stated 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 view online activity. Many phones feature built-in parental controls and systems. Phone apps take it one step further, adding blocks, safe search options, 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.
Ensuring Internet Safety
Parents can practice cyber safety by blocking adult or harmful content on their children’s phones. Monitored activity can include cyberbullying, signs of depression or low-self-esteem, self-harm, 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. If the kids use the Internet at a friend or relative’s house, make sure that the rules are understood by the supervising adult.
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.
Everyone makes mistakes. However, children often relate making mistakes to punishment. Therefore, a child may not go to an adult to discuss negative behavior online. If it involves a school friend, it could be seen as being a tattletale or “ratting” the other person out. Additionally, children might think they will be punished and lose access to computers, smartphones or other devices.
Parents should teach children that there are things that should not be shared. This includes any personal information about where the child lives or any information about the family. The child must also understand that once something is on the Internet, it is there forever – “The ‘net does not forget.”
The best way to protect kids online is to talk to them. Don’t be afraid to have tough conversations. One safety website suggests having children teach the parents about technology, including safety. Kids love to be in charge and share what they know. Parents should hold “classes” on a regular basis.
There have been safeguards for kids almost since the Internet was invented. However, those tech savvy kids can get around those blocks with little effort. Before turning your kid loose on the internet, set strict guidelines including the amount of screen time as well as which sites are acceptable and safe.
Internet Safety Tips
- Use safety features on websites. Let’s use YouTube as an example since it’s one of the most popular sites. If you’re using a desktop, scroll down to the bottom of the screen to the “Restricted Mode” setting. This setting will hide videos that contain inappropriate content. For the mobile app, click on the three dots (top right) to get to Settings > General. Scroll down until you see the “Restricted Mode” option.
- Set privacy controls on social media accounts. First, make sure that the children are old enough and mature enough to use social media. Discuss what is appropriate and limit who can see their posts. Discuss which sites require a parent’s permission.
- Use separate accounts for adults and kids.
- Set up separate accounts for your kids on your computers
- Use kid-safe search engines and browsers.
- Limit your child’s screen time.
- Use only safe chat rooms
- Teach your children not to talk to strangers. While great friendships can be made online, there is a great danger that children are being approached by predators. Teach kids to maintain a safe distance. Encourage communication with people they know in real life. If the stranger wants your child to call or text, iPhone app to see who a phone number belongs to and note it just in case.
- Teach your children about “sexting.” The Justice Department has stated that the biggest threat to children is something called “sextortion.” People send graphic messages or pictures which can cause lasting psychological damage.
- Avoid file sharing. Aside from being illegal, sharing files, e.g., music, videos, etc. can be a doorway to getting a virus on your phone or computer.
- Discuss cyberbullying. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have reported that cyberbullying affects up to 15% percent of children. The percentage is higher for kids who are minorities, disabled, overweight, or LGBTQ.
Online safety is vital for adults and children. Share warning signs with children without scaring them away from Internet use that can further their education. They should be able to learn and have fun while staying safe.
The Apple library has more than one million apps that can be downloaded to your iPhone. Users download apps for every part of their lives. You may choose a financial app, reverse number lookup app, apps for star gazing, watching your weight, calendars, and countless others. Apple corners the market when it comes to finding the latest games, regardless of age and skill level. Apps developed for Android are showing up in the Apple store for iPhone, so be sure to check for your favorite games. Some apps can be used online or offline.
Following are some of the most popular games on the market:
You can take charge of the Order of Assassins in Assassin’s Creed Rebellion, a role playing game (RPG). The leader collects heroes and strengthens the Brotherhood to fight against the Templar menace. You can also get into Templar Strongholds, and join other Assassin Brotherhoods in events.
Bastion wins awards for its intuitive, stunning graphics and cool soundtrack. This RPG game allows you to adopt the role of the Kid as you travel across floating islands, rescuing people and gathering resources to rebuild a world devastated by Calamity.
Updated for iPhone, Crush the Castle: Siege Master is a classic Flash game. Crush the Castle: Siege Master is an upgraded version of its predecessor with new graphics and fun characters. Best of all – it’s free.
This tower defense game has RPG elements that allows you to be the overlord of Roman soldiers.
This award-winning console game has moved to iOS. You assume the role as the Drifter, searching for a cure to a mystery illness. Throughout your journey you get to have some shooting and slash-em-up fun.
Pokémon Masters offers the next best thing to the full Pokémon world. Players drop onto the island of Pasio, where they assemble a team Pokémon to face famous Trainers. The game can be played solo or as a co-op.
Not everyone like RPG so SongPop 2 is a nice change. You can choose your favorite genres and decades to compete with others on a global scale. It’s a mobile version of the old classic “Name that Tune.”
Can’t get enough of Stranger Things? You’re not alone, and now you can get your Stranger Things fix while on your mobile with the official puzzle game tie-in Stranger Things 3: The Game. Play as one of the 12 characters from the show and solve puzzles in a charming, retro-styled world in this adventure game, and team up with your friends in two-player local co-op.
Everyone loves Toy Story. Toy Story Drop! is a match-3 game that takes you places in the movies including Andy’s bedroom and Pizza Planet. Additionally, there are lots of Easter eggs to find to make it extra fun.
No matter what type of games you like, chances are that you will find them at the Apple store for your iPhone. Many are free or have a low cost so everyone can play.
People must protect themselves from scammers; those who steal personal data from innocent people to make money. They make money in several ways, from getting you to buy things to stealing and selling your information. They do this by getting information from social media accounts, sending fake emails, making phone calls, and hacking computers. The ones that make money through spam email may make the most money. The spammers use “phishing,” or finding ways to get your personal information so it can be sold. Spammers may work for legitimate companies; however, in the United States, they must abide by privacy laws regarding sending spam emails. Each email must contain a link or instructions on how to be removed from their list. If telemarketers or scammers call you on the phone, you can opt out by signing up on the National Do Not Call List, along with blocking the phone number. Since scammers use many different numbers, the only way to stop the calls is by turning off the phone.
Big Data is one of the fastest growing multi-billion dollar industries. Data Brokers are divided into three categories. Those that focus on searching the Internet for personal information, contact data and data collection, including using social networks. The second group focuses on marketing tools, and the third uses analytics.
Searching the Internet
Researchers comb the Internet for data input by users. This includes any site where a user enters data, such as name, phone number, address, email address, and even social security number. After the data is collected, it is made available to the public. There is usually a fee to get the information. The information collected and made available to the public is lengthy and can be damaging. It can include personal information, employment data, education, marital status, court records, social media profiles, personal affiliations, property records, newspaper articles, photographs, and much more. Popular sites include Spokeo, BeenVerified, PeekYou, TruthFinder, and PeopleSmart.
The second type of data broker focuses on marketing to individuals, based on information collected through various sources. The sources are varied and may include information gathered through Google, social networks, or companies such as subsidiaries of Equifax or Experian, the credit reporting agencies.
Data brokers created profiles based on age, geographic location, family status, ethnicity, income, profession, public records, credit history, etc. Companies may also use information entered into search engines to market to consumers. After the data collection is complete, marketing is tailored to best suit each group.
Lastly, there are data brokers that use analytics to offer risk mitigation products to consumers. This form of data collection is the least bothersome to the average person since it is used mostly to detect fraud.
Security breaches are in the news on a regular basis. Hackers manage to break into the servers of large companies and organizations and steal their information. Target and Experian are two of the companies recently targeted, and hackers received access to millions of names, addresses, and other private information. These breaches can be devastating to consumers who become victims of identity theft. While companies say digital privacy is a top concern, hackers and other data brokers seem to manage to get the information despite the companies’ best efforts to prevent the occurrences.
The Bottom Line
Aside from identity theft, scammers make the most amount of money from sending spam emails. Email spammers make money in different ways. The spammers purchase lists of names, contact information and email addresses to use as targets. Some spammers send out more than a million emails or text messages per day. Fraudsters that make the most money often create scams that convince people to buy their products. The items rarely, if ever, arrive. Many people forget about small purchases, so the scammer keeps the money. The vast amount of mail sent to victims means that money adds up fast. The most infamous spammers have made millions of dollars before getting caught.
Recent reports show that Internet scammers make more money than drug dealers. Plus, they have less chance of getting caught. Most use email services like Gmail from Google and fake Internet phone numbers that can’t be traced. Spammers who use specialized tools, charge $700 or more per hour.
Spammers and data brokers also make money by selling personal information. Some spammers steal credit card numbers, bank account information and social security numbers by phishing. They pretend to work for a legitimate company like Apple or a government agency like the Social Security Administration. They send emails with links that take you to a fake website or ask for information such as your username, password or credit card information.
After you click on the link, your computer is automatically infected with spyware or a virus. The spyware or virus is almost impossible to detect, even with professional-grade software. The computer system may have to be reset to original factory settings.
Removing Your Information
Experts say that removing your digital information is almost impossible. There are sites like LifeLock that advertise the ability to remove your information and protect your digital privacy. Online protection becomes increasingly important as the Internet continues to grow and many companies insist on using online services. You can remove most of your information, but it requires deleting social media and email accounts as well as online accounts for the companies with whom you do business.
People still trust messages they receive, if they look remotely legitimate. You should act as if every phone call, text message or email you receive could be a scam. Never click on links or fill out forms from your email. Type information into your browser. If you receive any messages that seem like they might be fake, delete them immediately from your phone or computer. Don’t give out personal information to anyone you don’t know. Also, you should update your anti-virus, browser, spyware and malware programs on a routine basis. Lastly, if you receive ongoing calls from a particular company, report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Consumers know the Federal Trade Commission as the government agency that tracks and prosecutes scammers and protects consumers. The agency was created in 1914 to protect consumers and prevent forced business monopolies.
The New Scams
Scammers have begun to use the 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 currently 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.