Monday, November 30, 2009

Breaking the texting code - 95% of Parents don't know how to read texting

Do your kids have a cell phone? If so, do you check their texts? Please do.

If you have trouble decoding what the messages say, talk to your kids.

You can also find the top 10 text messages you need to know, also called "LEETSPEAK" and a link to a texting decoder at this website:

Breaking the texting code - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC-

Talk to your kids - you are the best teacher they have.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cyber Monday tomorrow. Be Ready! 5 Tips to Stay Safe While Making Holiday Purchases Online

Cyber Monday tomorrow. Be Ready! 5 Tips to Stay Safe While Making Holiday Purchases Online

Cyber Monday tomorrow. Be Ready! Stay safe online when shopping this holiday season!

1. When typing in your credit card number, look for "Https:" in the web address.
     The s is "secure"

2. Know the vendor you are shopping online with - when in doubt, use an online
     search engine to read reviews from other shoppers.

3. Look for verification on the site that the site is protected.  

4. Go to your credit card company's online page and set up to be
     alerted every time a charge hits your card or pick some $ amount.

5. Don't fall for the latest email scams, if it sounds odd,
     trust your gut instincts.

Two examples:
(a) There is an email scam that tricks you into installing malicious software:
      Example:  "Your package is being delivered,
      click here for more information"
      The email looks like it is from USPS, UPS, or FedEx.
      Don't click on that link!

(b) There is a scam email offering special e-coupons if you click the link.
      Go directly to that company's website instead.

Have a safe, joyful, and peaceful holiday season.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Strong Passwords STOP the Bad Guys! 4 Tips + Password Strength Checker

20,000+ email users across  Hotmail, Gmail, AOL, and Yahoo had their account ids and passwords posted on the internet!

This disturbing situation can be made worse if you are using the same password across many accounts, including your online banking.

The computer security firm, Sophos, did a survey and found that only 19% of people use a different password for each site they go to.

We have busy lives and it is tough to remember passwords.  That is why we are providing you with easy tips to create a unique and strong password.  The best way to put a STOP to these cyberthugs is to create  strong passwords.

STOP Tips:

S: Special characters such as exclamation points and numbers  

Avoid using personal information.
o Examples:  Any part of your name, address, high school, birthday, Social Security number, pet  

Avoid using sequences
o Examples:  “12345” or “ABCDE” or “AAA” or “Password”

If your web site supports it, try to use special characters and/or mixing upper and lower case
o Examples:  @, $, &, *

T: Think of a phrase and pick the first letter of each word to build your base password
Longer passwords are preferred, at least 8 characters

O: One time – only use each password on one account 
Create a different password for each of the different sites you visit

P: Protect your password, never write it down and leave it next to your computer, never give it out via an email or over the phone
If you cannot remember your passwords, consider writing them down and keeping them in a home safe that you keep locked
Never leave them on a post it note next to your PC

Sample Password Using STOP Cybercriminal tips,
Using the phrase:  Fall-beautiful leaves and yummy apples.
o fblaya
Combined with the other rules it becomes:
o F-Bl1&9Ya@

If you would like to test the strength of your password try the Microsoft site’s free online password checker at:

Cyber Crime has become a more popular & lucrative moneymaker than illegal drug trafficking!

4 Easy Tips on How to stay SAFE!

Some Sobering Statistics:

According to recent reports, every three seconds an identity is stolen online.

Nearly 10,512,000 identities each year are stolen online.

One study indicates that cyber crime has become a more popular and lucrative moneymaker than illegal drug trafficking.  It is critical to know what to do to protect yourself from the cybercreeps trying to pick your pocket online.

It is estimated that as many as 1 in 5 people could become a victim of online identity theft.

If you believe your PC may have a virus or that your online credit information has been compromised, follow our SAFE steps to protecting your identity.

What to do if you think cyberthieves are after you:

S:  Seek help.  Call your PC support desk or seek out a local expert to assist you with your computer to find and isolate the virus.

Microsoft provides free virus and spyware removal support to Windows customers who think they have an infected computer.

Call:   1-866-PC Safety for phone support.
Online:           Microsoft customers can also visit for
free online virus and spyware removal.

Apple provides help to computers users that believe their Mac may be infected.

Call:   1-800-APL-CARE (1-800-275-2273)
Online:         Set up a phone appointment or,
request an in-person appointment at your closest
Apple Store’s Genius Bar: .

A:  Actively monitor your bank and credit card accounts.  Look for suspicious charges, even if they are for very small amounts.

Tip:  Most banks offer online alert services where you can set up alerts to notify you if a transaction takes place or if a transaction is over a certain amount.  Go to your online banking page for more information.

F:  Freeze Fraud:  request alerts on your credit reports. Ask if your credit file can be frozen.

You are entitled to a free credit report once a year from all three agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.   Experts recommend that you space out your requests so you can have one from each at different times during the year.


North Carolina offers a free credit freeze for victims of identity theft and a nominal fee for people that want to request a freeze.  Go to the following website for more information:

E:  Engage authorities.  If a theft has occurred, file a police report with your local police and file a theft form with the Federal Trade Commission.

Federal Trade Commission:
Call:   877-IDTHEFT or 877-438-4338

A fantastic resource to use is the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse which is a nonprofit organization that provides in-depth information on your legal rights and how to cope with the aftermath of being a victim.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

4 Tips to avoid online scams / phishing - Don't take the B.A.I.T.

4 Tips to avoid online scams / phishing - Don't take the B.A.I.T.

B:  Beware of popups or emails that request you click on a link.
A:  Account alerts can be set up to help you monitor your accounts.
I:  Internet addresses should include https:// if they are asking for personal and sensitive information.
T:  Tone is usually a give away.  If the tone says you must act quickly or something bad will happen it is usually a scam.   

If You Believe You Took the Bait:
If you believe you took the phishing bait, file a complaint with local law enforcement and visit to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
Also request to freeze your credit report and ask for a free credit report.
Spotting Phish Bait:
(1)  Your children may accidentally click on pop ups while surfing the net.  Teach them to notify you when there is a random pop up while they are online.  You can also set your web browser to "Block Pop Ups" as a precaution.
(2)  Government Agencies such as the IRS and the FBI have been recent targets in phishing scam emails.  Both have said they will never ask for personal information via email.
(3)  Banks and credit card companies are also popular phishing targets and will never ask for your personal information via email.

For more information on how to stay safe online, check us out on

Monday, November 2, 2009

Part 2: Buying a Computer or Smart Phone for the Kids In Your Life?

I blogged in Part 1 last week about how your kids’ holiday wish list might include a new gadget or two...or three.  These gadgets could include a gaming system, smart phone or computer.

Yes, I agree that these gadgets will help your kids with homework, play games, and keep in touch with friends and family. While these gadgets open up a world of information and experiences, these same gadgets can also open the door just enough to let cyber creeps take a peek in and target your kids.

According to a recent study, 4 million kids are posting content to the Web everyday. 
15 million young people use Instant Messaging.

Are the kids in your life part of those numbers?

When your kids go to a friends house or an after school activity, you usually check out the location, who your kids hang out with, and the activities they will participate in. Apply these same safety principles to your kids online activities to help keep them safe.

I have three easy tips for you to follow whether you are purchasing a new gadget or already have gadgets such as gaming systems, smart phones or computers at home.

1. Smart Surfing: Many mobile phones now offer filtering software to block inappropriate content. Check with your provider to turn on this feature.

2. Great Gaming: Talk to your children about online games. Discuss what game sites you approve of. Remind your children not to game with strangers or to give out personal information while online gaming, even if they know the person.

3. Computer Controls: Set your computer browser to block pages with content that is not appropriate for your kids. You can also install software that helps you monitor what your kids see and do online.

Thankfully there are many new services that can help you protect your kids online.  Below we offer just a few of the many options of products and services available to protect your family.

Smart Surfing:
Most smartphone and cellphone providers offer “Parental Controls” to help you protect your kids while they use the mobile device. 

Go to the website of your provider or call their customer support center for more information.

Great Gaming:

Internet Connection:
Some parents disconnect their game system from the internet and only connect it to download games or update the system.  Since not all gaming systems operate this way, this is not always practical.  Please follow our additional tips to help your kids practice Great Gaming.

Don’t Talk to Strangers:
Remind your children not to play online games with strangers and never to share personal information with any online gamer, even if they think they are gaming with a friend.

Check Activities & Gaming Locations:
To block content, you have “Parental Controls” on the gaming systems.

Xbox Parental Controls: gave Xbox a Safe Gaming Award.  Xbox supports parental controls that allow you to limit access based on ages of your kids and ratings of DVDs and games.

Playstation Parental Controls:  Depends on the model you have but use a rating/number system.  Lower numbers aimed at children and highest numbers for mature audiences.  Rule of thumb, 1-5 typically are best for families with younger children.  Level 5 or T for Teen on the PS3.  M is for Mature.

Wii Parental Controls:  Wii Parental Controls are based on the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) game ratings categories.  They also offer a way to lock down online gaming to people that are approved.

Computer Controls:
You can go very basic with controls and use the browser that is installed on your computer.  If you want a little more protection, there are software packages that you can install on your computer to help you protect your kids.

Basic Controls – Browser Settings

Internet Explorer:  If you use a Microsoft Browser, you can set your security settings to high. 

Visit the following link to learn more about this and other security features:

Safari:  If you use a Mac, on the Safari browser, choose Safari, then preferences, and then security to choose your security settings.  Another popular Mac option is to create an “Approved List” of websites that your children can.  Select an account, click Content, and select “Allow access to only these websites.” A child logging in to the Mac using that account will be able to access the sites you list. They cannot get around this setting without your Administrator password.

For more information on this feature and other security features, visit:

Additional Protections:

Free:  There are several free options, we are highlighting two of them -

McGruff Online Safety:

K9 Web Protection:

Available for Purchase:  There are many software packages and services that you can purchase.  We have highlighted three of them -

NetNanny – Net Nanny was one of the first services available.  It allows a parent to monitor, restrict, and control your kids’ access to the internet.

Content Watch – This offers content monitoring and filtering.  Also provides spam blocking.  

Zone Alarm Security Suite – Allows you to customize what you want to block.  You can also create password protected features.