Internet Safety for Children

Online Games

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.

The Stats

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.

Making Mistakes

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.

Appropriate Communication

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.”

Talk Tech

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.

Safe Sites

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Use separate accounts for adults and kids.
  4. Set up separate accounts for your kids on your computers
  5. Use kid-safe search engines and browsers.
  6. Limit your child’s screen time.
  7. Use only safe chat rooms
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.


Top Games for iPhone

iPhone games

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:

Assassin’s Creed Rebellion

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.

Crush the Castle: Siege Master

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.

Grow Empire: Rome

This tower defense game has RPG elements that allows you to be the overlord of Roman soldiers.

Hyper Light Drifter

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

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.

SongPop 2

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.”

Stranger Things 3: The Game

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.

Toy Story Drop!

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.


Social Media Can Ruin Your Career

Social media appsSocial media offers people a lot of opportunities. Many people jumpstart their businesses online or use networking sites to find lucrative jobs. Others use social media irresponsibly, often posting shady content that can cost them jobs or opportunities to move up the ladder. Follow these guidelines to avoid ruining your career.

Don’t Derail Your Career

Employers often see job offers as confidential matters. Current employees may revolt over outside hiring or get upset if the offer has a higher salary. After all, a job offer isn’t a sure thing. One woman posted about her job offer. She was excited about the high salary but confessed online that she was only planning to keep the job until something better came along. The employer saw the post and withdrew the offer.

Complaining About the Boss

Nearly everyone complains about the boss at one time or another. Complaining in public is a foolish thing to do, even if you think your accounts are private. The complaint could cost you a promotion or even your job. At the least, it could ruin a good working relationship. If the post is seen by a future boss, you might not get the job.

Using Text Language

Many people use abbreviations and text language on social media sites. Although it seems to be an accepted thing, a future employer might not appreciate the poor spelling or grammar. A report states that 66 percent of employers judge a person based on spelling and grammar.

Posting Thoughtless Comments

People love to debate on social media platforms. Topics could include politics, religion, last night’s ballgame or anything in the news. You should avoid posting any comments that could be considered thoughtless or provocative if you are looking for a new job. The post could come back to bite you.

Posting Sketchy Photos

Once a picture is posted online, it’s on the Internet forever. This can also be said for iPhone text messages. Sketchy photos include racy selfies, drunken escapades, or anything that might make an employer or client think twice about hiring you. This is one reason why many professionals (lawyers, teachers, political officials, police officers, doctors, etc.) don’t have social media profiles. One report told the story of a teacher who posted a harmless photo of herself on vacation. She had visited a brewery and was shown holding a glass of beer. A student’s parent reported the post to school officials and the teacher lost her job, damaging her career.

If professionals do post online, the content is often curated and carefully reviewed to protect their reputations. Some say if you’d be embarrassed to let your grandmother see it, keep it private.

Mocking Your Clients

Mocking about your clients may be worse than complaining about your boss. It doesn’t matter if you are a server or a CEO. Clients are the people that put money in your pocket. Mocking them online shows disrespect and can cost you money…or your job.

Proceed with Caution

Some people don’t care what they post online. That’s fine if it won’t affect their careers. For those that want to move up or maintain a professional image, they should proceed with caution when putting themselves out in public.

And remember if you’re ever in a situation where you’re being harassed by someone use a caller ID app for iPhone to identify and report them.


Making Money from Your Information: An Overview of Privacy Laws

Online Scams

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.

Data Brokers

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

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.

Selling Information

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.

Protect Yourself

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).


New FTC Phone Scams

Say NO To Phone Scams

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.

Reported Scams

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.

Common Scams:

  • 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 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.


Why is Phishing Dangerous?

Scammers use phishing to steal informationPhishing is the act of gaining your trust by acting as a representative of a reputable organization. Scammers might pose as someone who works for a software company like Apple, a government agency like the Social Security Administration, or a lawyer from a prestigious law firm. They send electronic communication such as email, website links or text messages. The goal is to get a response so that they can access personal information such as passwords, usernames, credit card information so that they can access your accounts.

Fake Websites

The fraudsters often send email or an instant message directing its target to a website. The website appears legitimate, but is designed to gain access to information. It may also infect your system with spyware, malware or a Trojan virus. Consumers may not be able to tell one of these websites from the real thing, however, the website address is usually misspelled. For example, you may think that you are being directed to, when in fact the address is The scammers take the information and charge your account. The funds are rarely, if ever, returned. Hopefully your bank or credit card company will not hold you liable for the charge.

Text Messages

Vishing is making contact through phone contact, such as a phone call or text message. Text messages can be deceiving, and it doesn’t seem that any harm can come from clicking a link to a website to claim a prize or sign up for a shopping service. The website engineers can cleverly attach to your phone, gaining personal information including email addresses, phone contacts, and payment details. If you receive a text message from an unknown person, do not click the link or reply; delete it immediately. You can use a reverse phone search to look up the number that sent the message. You are able to block the number from your phone to prevent further contact. If you suspect that your phone has been hacked, contact your service provider. You can also report the incident to the Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

Safety Tips

There are several phone safety tips you can use to protect your information from hackers. The best way is to password protect any sensitive information on your phone or computer. You should be protective of phone numbers, payment information, bank account numbers, passwords, etc.

Update Software

It’s important to ensure that your spyware, malware, and antivirus software is up to date. Hackers find new ways every day to infiltrate systems and the software is the best way to block them.

Links and Attachments

Do not click on links or open attachments from an unknown source. If you suspect it might be legit, contact the sender before opening to ensure safety.

Too Good to be True?

Lastly, you may receive communication claiming that you’ve won an exotic vacation, iPhone, lottery or other lavish gift. These communications are almost always a scam. Remember, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.


Getting Revenge on Scammers

Using Answer BotLegitimate 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.

Calling Systems

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.

Getting Revenge

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.

The Result

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.


Can Social Security Be Suspended?

Social Security ScamsThe Social Security Administration (SSA) shows a rise in phone scams relating to suspended accounts. Callers claim that citizens are having their social security numbers suspended due to criminal activity or taxes being owed to the government. Scammers target senior citizens and convince them to pay fines to correct the problem, while others ask for verification of personal information. The Federal Trade Commission states that the caller pretends to be an agent with the SSA trying to clear up a problem or to protect citizens from scams. The truth is that the call is the scam. People should know that the SSA does not call people, nor does it ever suspend social security numbers for any reason. The SSA doesn’t require people to reapply, either. Anyone requesting information or saying otherwise is a fraud.

If you get a call from someone claiming to be an SSA representative, hang up. You can use a free reverse phone search to verify the number before accepting another call or giving any information. Some scammers spoof the SSA’s main or customer service number — 1-800-772-1213 — to convince the person on the other end of the phone that the scam is real.

SSA Issues Warning

Gale Stallworth Stone, the Acting Inspector General of the Social Security Administration, says, “Unfortunately, scammers will try anything to mislead and harm innocent people, including scaring them into thinking that something is wrong with their Social Security account and they might be arrested. I encourage everyone to remain watchful of these schemes and to alert family members and friends of their prevalence.  We will continue to track these scams and warn citizens so that they can stay several steps ahead of these thieves.”

Protect Yourself

  • Know the way the SSA operates. The SSA rarely, if ever, calls people on the phone. Instead, they communicate only by mail.
  • The SSA will not make threats or demand payment.
  • Refuse to give out bank account or credit card information.
  • Don’t give out your Social Security number.
  • Ignore robocalls.
  • Never give or confirm any personal information.
  • Don’t assume the call, text, or email you receive is legitimate. Offer to call back.
  • Check all suspicious phone numbers using an iPhone reverse cell search app.
  • Do not engage in conversation with the person on the phone.

Staying Safe

  • Block phone numbers you suspect to be fake.
  • Contact government agencies in person, using verified phone numbers, or through their website.
  • Contact government agencies directly, in person or by using telephone numbers and website addresses you know to be legitimate.
  • If someone has tried to steal your private information by claiming to be from the government, report it to the FTC. Also, report any potential scams to the SSA’s Office of the Inspector General  online or call 1-800-269-0271.

How to Avoid Phone Scams

Phone scams warning

Avoiding phone scams can be difficult. Thieves trick people to get personal information. It is more difficult than ever to detect phone scams by the phone number, either landline or mobile phone. Criminals often use VoIP or Internet phone numbers that 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. Unwanted calls can be avoided by using a call blocking app. The best way to avoid phone scams is to educate yourself about popular scams.

Types of Scams

The types of phone scams grow every day, making them harder to avoid. Criminals find new ways of getting money and information from users. They may use intimidation, phishing, phone number spoofing, 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 a positive answer. Don’t fall for it. Anything a person says can be manipulated. It can make it easier for the person to commit identity theft.

Location, Location, Location

Contrary to popular belief, not all crooks are in foreign countries. They might be in your neighborhood trying to make a quick buck. So-called upstanding businesses often use aggressive telemarketing campaigns to collects funds. On the surface, these people may seem to be honest. If you dig deeper, you’ll find that it’s a front. For example, in 2015, The Federal Trade Commission filed charges against four cancer charities that collected almost $200 million in donations. The money was used for luxury vacations and their family’s salaries.

Types of Scams

Scams are simple. They involve exchanging money for services, donating to a charity, or rescuing a friend or family member.

Popular phone scam:

Charity Phone Scam

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of real charities.  They represent worthy causes. However, people trying to scam you in the name of charity aren’t in that group. Scammers take the money you give in good faith to use for their own purposes. Be aware that thieves may pose as employees of famous charities. Be sure that you are donating to the actual charity.

Real charities may call people for money. Charities are created every day and it is nearly impossible to keep up with the latest giving trend. Likewise, it can be hard to catch on to a false charity asking for money or an organization.

Disaster Scam

Many parts of the country routinely face weather emergencies: power outages, loss of water, loss of homes, and much more. Unaffected people are asked to donate to help those in need. It’s a noble thing to do to help the less fortunate. Less noble is the fact that someone out there is waiting to take advantage of the situation. Scammers take to the phones to ask for donations, playing upon sympathy and human kindness. Some callers shame those who don’t donate. If you want to donate to help others, be sure that the organization making the request is legitimate.

Scammers are smart. They don’t invent charities. Many use well-established organizations to make the potential donor feel secure in laying out money.

The American Red Cross is the most well-known disaster agency in the world. Scammers have contacted donors by using a fake address - or by phone. The Red Cross never asks for personal information and advises people to be cautious if they receive a phone call. If you want to donate, call the organization directly or go to a local office. Anyone who suspects a disaster-based scam should contact The National Center for Disaster Fraud at (866) 720-5721 or email the NCDF at [email protected].

Financial Assistance 

Everyone needs extra cash from time to time. There are even times when things feel desperate. Applying for online loans or credit cards might seem like a good idea – a quick fix – but they are often a source of trouble. Loans and credit cards are offered by everyone from legitimate banks to cash advance services. Due diligence and giving out the right information may save you from identity theft, fraud, or worse.

Financial scams often have red flags:

  • They don’t ask for your credit history.
  • The lender isn’t registered. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires registration for all lenders and loan brokers in the state(s) they conduct business.
  • The lender requires a prepaid debit card.

Before applying for a loan, check out the company thoroughly to make sure it’s legitimate.

The Better Business Bureau is a good place to start. Research reviews from former and current customers.

Law Enforcement 

Police officers warrant respect and obedience. Parents teach children to respect and obey the police. When a police officer calls and asks for a donation or informs you of an outstanding warrant, the impulse to act is immediate. Unfortunately, the person calling may not be a member of law enforcement. The scammers posing as police call and prey upon the victim’s fear. There are three common scams relating to law enforcement:

Bench Warrant

A bench warrant is a “go to jail, do not pass go” document. If you have a warrant against you, police will arrive at your door and cart you off to jail. The police do not call and ask for money. Have you ever seen a cop show where the police ring up a dangerous felon?


Citizens may receive an annual phone call asking for donations to the policeman’s ball or to support the Fraternal Order of Police. Police solicit funds for these and other charities but will not ask for a credit card or wire transfer over the phone. If you receive this call, contact the organization directly for verification.

Relative in Jail

Another common scam is the relative in jail scam. Senior citizens are usually the targets of this scam. The caller pretends to be a family member, saying he is in jail. The caller says a bondsman will be calling shortly. The target is expected to give out credit card information or to send money through Western Union or using a pre-paid card. This is a scam. Like the kidnapping scheme, the target is not offered any proof that the story is true. The scammer plays upon the target’s fear that a family member is in distress. If you receive such a call, find out the name of the jail and call it directly.

Cancer Scam

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2018, there will be 1,735,350 people diagnosed with cancer; and 609,640 cancer-related deaths in the United States. The statistics suggest the most people know someone affected by cancer. Sadly, scammers take advantage of this fact and try to bilk unsuspecting people out of money in the name of cancer research or a related charity.

Social Security Scam

The Social Security Administration (SSA) reports a large increase in phone scams. The caller tells the senior his/her Social Security number has been suspended or there has been criminal or fraudulent activity with the card. The SSA does not suspend Social Security numbers.

If you get a call from an alleged SSA representative, use caller ID or a free reverse phone book app for iPhone to verify the number. Report fraud to Social Security Office of the Inspector General at 1-800-269-0271 or online. You may also call the OIG hotline (1-800-269-0271).


Medicare, like most health insurance plans, has an annual enrollment. Seniors receive many scam calls before or during enrollment. The callers are ruthless. They will say anything to get personal information, including bank account or social security numbers. Many prey on seniors who need Medicare to survive. Some common scare tactics:

  • Caller states that you will lose your coverage unless you join a specific plan.
  • You must pay to receive a new Medicare card. This isn’t true. Medicare cards, even temporary ones, are free and are sent automatically.
  • Don’t share any information with a caller who threatens to cancel your benefits.
  • Don’t give out bank information in return for a deposit or rebate.

If you suspect a scam or receive a call by someone stating to be a Medicare representative, use an Android or iPhone app to search by phone number. If the number is blocked, restricted or unavailable, hang up immediately.

Block calls on your iPhone to cut down on annoyance or the urge to answer.

If you suspect Medicare fraud, report it immediately to, or call Medicare directly at 1-800-633-4227.

Tech Support

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.

Lesser known scams:

Unpaid Utility Bill

The caller threatens disconnection of utilities unless you make a payment immediately.

Jury Duty

Court officer says target is told he must appear for jury duty and is required to verify information. 

Business Orders

A representative says 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.

Immigration Programs

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.

Prize Winner

The caller tells the victim he has won a lottery, prize, or free vacation.

Preventing a Scam 

Ask Questions

You should ask the representative his or her full name, the agency/business/charity’s name and address, and details on how funds will be distributed. The caller may not be able to answer and hang up.

Ensure the Caller is Real

Do not pay at the time of the call. Research the agency/business/charity online to verify its information. Law enforcement and government agencies can be verified online. Charities must register with the state; national organizations can be verified through The Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.

Don’t Give Out Personal Information

Never give out personal or financial information. Be suspicious if the caller asks you for wire transfer, a pre-loaded debit card or use a similar means of payment.

Keep Emotions in Check

Thieves play on your emotions. They will tell sad stories about anything that will get a reaction. They may use guilt to get you to donate. Whenever a caller asks for a certain dollar amount, hang up. Fake bill collectors may use threatening language to cause fear.

Reporting Scams

Reporting scam calls can seem pointless, but it is important. Reports can cut down on calls 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. Give as much information as possible.

Consumer-related fraud should be reported to the FTC 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.



Cash Advances Can Spell Trouble

Cash Advance Request FormA 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

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • California
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Online Services


The following are six things that you should be aware of when applying for a cash advance loan, in person or online.

  1. The lender doesn’t request payment history, pay stubs or proof of creditworthiness.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4.  Their website isn’t secure.
  5. The lender does not have an address or the address is out of the country.
  6. The lender demands action. Don’t fall for limited time offers.
  7. 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.