The President has asked Americans all across the country to come together as a nation to help fellow citizens recover from the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. As the community steps up, so do the scammers.
In the devastating wake of Sandy, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) released a new warning for all investors to show caution against potential investment scams. As legitimate relief organizations, charities and investors combine efforts to address the destruction on the Eastern Seaboard, scammers seek opportunities to add to the list of victims through a growing number of schemes.
Unfortunately, investment scams and charity schemes occur frequently in the aftermath of natural disasters. Numerous individuals faced enforcement actions by the SEC following Hurricane Katrina for fraudulent activities, including stock inflation and fictional business deals. Based on these previous scams, the SEC now encourages investors to watch for trading cons promising quick, big wins and schemes where early investors receive payment from money acquired through new investor funds.
Other common disaster-related scams include fraudulent charities and phishing schemes aimed at obtaining personal and banking information. In addition, hackers and identity thieves utilize natural disasters to create links to inauthentic videos and photographs requiring software downloads used to obtain personal information. Sadly, the victims of natural disasters are not safe from scammers, as unaccredited contractors or clean-up agencies frequently con those most impacted by disasters by receiving funds to repair property damage they never intend to complete.
In times of crisis, genuine organizations heed the call to action and so do scammers. The following tips may assist investors and consumers in avoiding fraudulent disaster-related scams:
- Do not respond to unsolicited emails or text messages.
- Avoid unknown links from emails or social media posts.
- Show caution when approached by individuals soliciting for money donations via email. Most authentic relief organizations do not send spam emails.
- Only open attachments from known senders and avoid attachments claiming to provide disaster photographs or videos. Such files may contain viruses.
- Only contribute directly to established organizations and do not rely on third-party agencies to make contributions on your behalf.
- Research all organizations through online searches. Access the aid organization or charity website directly to assess its validity.
- Do not provide any personal or financial information to any individual or agency soliciting funds. You may compromise your identity and become vulnerable to theft by providing these details online.
- Review the domain name. Most websites for legitimate organizations end in .com or .org.
- Investigate all contractors and clean-up crews to ensure accreditation.
- Avoid financial opportunities promising large and fast returns. Assess all investment opportunities using thorough company research.
- For more useful information on charity scams, visit the FTC’s website.
Compassion in times of need is great as long as we are being compassionate to those in need. Scammers don’t deserve your generosity.
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The recent child abductions in Colorado and New Jersey raise important questions about how to best assist law enforcement in locating and rescuing missing children. According to a survey released by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, not enough parents in the United States know vital statistics about their kids, including height, hair color, eye color, weight, etc. Young children change in physical appearance so rapidly that parents often struggle to keep up with this information. In a time of crisis, a panicked parent may labor even more to accurately recall and disseminate these vital details to authorities.
For law enforcement, the first few hours in the case of any missing minor represent the most crucial in finding a child alive. An accurate physical description and a recent photograph potentially make the difference between a search-and-rescue effort and a search-and-recover effort. For years, some parents provided ID cards for children with everything from vital statistics to DNA identified on the card. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recently took this process one step further with its release of the Child ID iPhone app. The first-ever mobile app released by the FBI allows parents to input and store information about their child’s appearance and send this information directly from the app to law enforcement during a crisis.
Although the app itself does not offer password protection or fingerprint storing capability, parents may use the existing iPhone password locking and image storage capabilities to safely maintain essential data about their children on cellphones. The National Child Identification Program offers an inkless fingerprint identification kit for parents to take and store their child’s fingerprints at home. Parents may then scan and upload the image to their mobile device.
The Child ID app represents just one example in a series of electronic identification and tracking tools aimed at protecting children. For example, the Insignia Little Buddy Tracker allows parents to locate their children at all times using a smartphone or computer through GPS technology. The Lookout app provides cellphone tracking even on turned off devices or phones with depleted batteries. The Nu.m8+ Tracker Watch provides similar tracking through a wearable accessory. These devices offer parents increased opportunities to monitor the whereabouts of their children with potential life-saving results in crisis situations.
You’ve gotten the best costumes for the kids and more candy than you can eat in a year. As darkness approaches, the kids are waiting by the door to start trick-or-treating. But amidst all this excitement and like all parents, you are worrying about the real dangers that might be lurking out there this Halloween.
So, how can you be a forward-thinking parent by using the power of today’s technology to help ease your worries and keep your children safer this Halloween?
Here are some great apps and gadgets that you can use and most don’t even require a trip to the store:
Trick or Tracker 3.0 App: Parents can know where their kids are at all times through the push of one button. GPS technology is used to pull the exact location, which is then sent to your phone through a text message.