Fourth of July means more to Internet scammers than fireworks and barbeques

The Fourth of July means more to Internet scammers than fireworks and barbeques.  Scambook, the leading consumer complaint resolution platform, published a new advisory statement to warn Internet users against a series of holiday-related scams sweeping across the U.S. this week.

Contained within three general categories, the recent Independence Day scams include phishing schemes, counterfeit tickets and misleading sales pitches.  Scammers use holiday eCards, videos and links to entice consumers to download attachments embedded with malware and viruses that damage computers or provide access to Internet activities and account information from hijacked systems, which may allow hackers to steal financial information, social security numbers and other private data.

Scambook also warns against sales campaigns aimed at driving holiday spending based on deceptive or ambiguous information.  Marketing campaigns that pressure buyers with holiday time limits and unknown no-return restrictions or contract fees may encourage holiday shoppers to spend too much and too quickly without examining all of the purchasing details.  Inauthentic retail websites also scam Independence Day shoppers through fraudulent websites that offer unbelievable savings on popular items in order to obtain financial data.

Lastly, the site alerts consumers to event swindlers who may sell fake tickets for fireworks shows and other specialty events to obtain credit card information and money.  These scammers prey upon the holiday frenzy of last-minute event seekers who miss out on sold-out offerings.

Maintaining a scam-free summer requires Internet users to stay informed about recent scamming trends and how to best protect computers and financial data from hackers and online fraud.  By following the few tips below, consumers may avoid the hazards of Internet scammers waving the all-too alluring flag of deceptive offerings this holiday:

  • Use current antivirus software from a trusted and reputable source and keep this software turned on at all times
  • Access the Internet using secure networks with stringent password settings
  • Never open emails from unknown individual and always avoid questionable downloads
  • Review all sales details before making purchasing decisions and avoid providing financial information to unknown websites
  • Conduct thorough Internet searches on events and retailers before purchasing tickets to holiday events
  • Make purchases on secure websites (sites that begin with HTTPS rather than HTTP or show the lock icon in the address bar)

Internet Safety for Kids: 17 Cyber Safety Experts Share Tips for Keeping Children Safe Online

The most important tip I can share with parents about keeping kids safe online is…

Parents are the first line of defense when it comes to protecting kids offline and online. As much as we want to pass on this role to others when it comes to the online world, the reality is that all parents are actually equipped to be the defenders of their children online as much as they are offline. Most every answer to the question of what should we do to keep our kids safe online comes from the online world. We’ve all done – don’t talk with strangers, don’t give up your personal information, don’t go somewhere alone, don’t go down a dark alley, be nice to others, be respectful, be helpful to your friends… and the list goes on.

Read more on Safe and SoundFamily

Elmo Teaching Online Safety? That’s Cool!

With its lighthearted blend of lovable cheek, quality literacy and numeracy instruction and just the right amount of shrewd and lovable monsters, Sesame Streetentices millions of devoted parents and enamored children to their televisions each day. Beyond letters and numbers, the series teaches viewers about sharing, friendship, problem solving and how to show kindness to others. Sesame Street even tackles some of life’s most challenging lessons. In a recent video from the “Little Children, Big Challenges” series, Sesame Street aims to teach children about divorce and sharing a life between split homes. Given the way Sesame Street is able to provide entertaining instruction aimed at promoting the wellbeing and heath of young viewers, it has an opportunity to protect children from the growing list of online dangers. The time to address Internet safety is now and we ask Sesame Street to do what it is capable of doing by providing an educational video on this topic. And as parents, we would love it if they did.

Read more on Huffington Post


Hemanshu (Hemu) Nigam is an online safety, security, and privacy expert and CEO of SSP Blue, an online security consultancy. He is also a frequent contributor to CNN, HLN, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, CBS,, and  To sign up for SSP Blue’s Weekly News & Info, please click here, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.  See also Hemu’s personal site.

Celebrity ‘Swatting’ the Latest Craze for Kids

Parents now have another thing to worry about with their kids and technology — celebrity “swatting” calls. When Punk’d premiered on MTV in 2003, the collective celebrity community held its breath, wondering who would be the next victim to be humiliated on national television in the name of harmless fun. Recent tricksters have taken this same form of star-centered pranking in a more sinister direction by reporting fabricated emergencies in celebrity homes. The recent “swatting” trend, whereby pranksters place 911 calls to alert authorities about fake home invasions, robberies and potential hostage situations, have placed victims like Ashton Kutcher, Justin Bieber, Tom Cruise, Simon Cowell and Chris Brown at the center of full-blown emergency response protocols.

Read more on Huffington Post


Hemanshu (Hemu) Nigam is an online safety, security, and privacy expert and CEO of SSP Blue, an online security consultancy. He is also a frequent contributor to CNN, HLN, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, CBS,, and  To sign up for SSP Blue’s Weekly News & Info, please click here, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.  See also Hemu’s personal site.

How to Call a Catfisher’s Bluff

Online dating can sometimes have detrimental results.

Take Manti Te’o, Notre Dame’s star linebacker who has been at the center of a high-profile online dating scandal. His “girlfriend,” with whom he had an online relationship, allegedly died of leukemia. This news made Te’o’s story front and center during a time when college football players would give their right arm to become “the” media darling.

The details of this story have many trying to determine whether Te’o was the victim of a twisted “catfishing” scandal or if he was behind the whole thing.
In its simplest terms, catfishing is when a person pretends to be someone else using a social media platform like Twitter or Facebook. Typically, the person creates false online identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances. Catfishers can create pretty extensive online personas to create legitimacy around their existence.


Hemanshu (Hemu) Nigam is an online safety, security, and privacy expert and CEO of SSP Blue, an online security consultancy. He is also a frequent contributor to CNN, HLN, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, CBS,, and  To sign up for SSP Blue’s Weekly News & Info, please click here, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.  See also Hemu’s personal site.

Finding Love Online Safely

The recent dramatic confusion around Manti Te’o’s online love life and it’s just as heart wrenching conclusion has left many online daters wondering how to date safely online if such a public figure as Te’o was allegedly duped.  It’s tough enough to find love in the real world with all your friends and family trying to hook you up.  How does one find that true love by using the great power of the Internet without ending up the joke of the town or in utter depression from all the falsity that might arise?

Though much of what happens online mirrors reality, meeting someone in cyber space is significantly different than meeting someone in person. In the real world, your dating “site” is made up of friends, coworkers, family and acquaintances – people you are already familiar with.  Even though a dating network of “real” people doesn’t guarantee a great relationship to come and might even lead to a bad date, having that personal and human connection is critical.  Seeing the whites of their eyes might be a cliché but it is a cliché because it remains relevant.

In the real world, you might meet potential dates at parties or bars, and often go out on group or double dates. Meeting online you are in the unfortunate position of not having enough information to determine whether you should trust the information you have.  Can you trust that the picture really is of that person, that the person is even real to begin with and that all the person’s information and communications are legitimate?  And yet even without that immediate sense we get when looking into the whites of someone’s eyes, we can still find love safely online.

Here are a few tips to make your experience as real as the online world will allow:

  1. Google, Google, Google – today we all leave digital footprints.  Take the information your online friend has given you and ‘Google’ it.  The less you find, the more worried you ought to be.
  2. Watch out for the sad story that starts to develop as an excuse on why he or she cannot meet you in person — one of the more common scams is perpetrated by a lovely “woman” with a gorgeous photo looking for a new love in America.  Her story is a sad one: no family to speak of, a big heart, a desire to see the man she meets online. Eventually, this “woman” will ask for money, perhaps to help with a ticket or because she has been detained trying to leave her home country. The man will wire her money and “she” will disappear. This is disheartening, heartbreaking, and all too frequent.
  3. Treat an online friend like a stranger until you have actually met in person – meet in a public place, preferably a well-lit place that is familiar to you in an area you are comfortable with.  While these suggestions strongly apply to women, men would do well to take note as well. Predators and scammers are not limited to males so everyone needs to exercise care.
  4. Fall in love online slowly – con artists tend to fall in love dramatically and quickly so they can reach their real goals quickly.  Just like in the real world, online relationships need to develop gradually over time.  So until the first earthly encounter occurs, be cautious.
  5. Go with your gut – just like in the real world, if your gut tells you something is wrong, believe it and go with it.

Engaging in safe dating online in some ways is no different than dating safely in person.  But, because you can’t see the white’s of ‘his’ eyes online, your own eyes and ears must navigate the online world slowly and cautiously.

Much love to you.


Hemanshu (Hemu) Nigam is an online safety, security, and privacy expert and CEO of SSP Blue, an online security consultancy. Hemu was the former Chief Security Officer for News Corporation, Fox Interactive Media, and MySpace, and was an executive at Microsoft. He is also a frequent contributor to CNN, HLN, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, CBS,, and  To sign up for SSP Blue’s Weekly News & Info, please click here, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.  See also Hemu’s personal site.

Making ‘Perfect the Enemy of the Good’ Kills Children

Over two hundred years ago, French philosopher Voltaire wrote, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” While it may have been enlightening then, today it can drive our collective call to action.

With so many responding with their opinions about gun control in the wake of the Newtown, Conn. massacre, I write not as a person who grew up taking Exit 9 for Sandy Hook on Route 84 to visit close family friends in Newtown or as a federal or county prosecutor who handled numerous crimes against children cases from murder to rape including those that involved guns, or as a corporate executive who had to find solutions to some of the most challenging online and offline safety issues facing us in the digital century. Nor do I write as a consultant who helps large corporations find solutions to safety and security concerns facing their teen and child customers, nor as the son of a professor who handed down all the great characteristics of a teacher, and nor as the son of a mother who instilled the notion that knowledge must never be withheld from others.

Read more on Huffington Post


Hemanshu (Hemu) Nigam is an online safety, security, and privacy expert and CEO of SSP Blue, an online security consultancy. He is also a frequent contributor to CNN, HLN, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, CBS,, and  To sign up for SSP Blue’s Weekly News & Info, please click here, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.  See also Hemu’s personal site.

Scammers Have the Best Deals on Cyber Monday

Some of you may have turkey on your mind, while others think past the feast and on to the online shopping.  Deals like “free Apple iPad if you click here” or “check out this site for 50% off all designer watches” sound too good to be true.  In fact, these deals are too good to be true.

The arrival of the shopping season brings more chances for consumers to fall prey to Internet shopping scams and cybercrime.  A record number of Americans plan to shop online this holiday season.   According to the National Retail Holiday (NRH) Consumer Spending Survey, 51.8 percent of consumers expect to utilize the Internet to purchase gifts and other holiday-related items this year.  In fact, the survey suggests that the average shopper expects to conduct nearly 40 percent of their holiday purchases on retail and company websites.  With cybercrime steadily increasing, consumers need to incorporate caution into buying decisions as they usher in the holiday spending season.

The world of Internet shopping offers vast possibilities to busy Americans looking for quick purchasing options.  According to NRH, comparative shopping options also represent a key portion of the Internet retail market.  As more Americans turn to the Internet for purchasing choices, hackers and thieves await greater gains through cybercrime.  A new study by Norton indicates that cybercrime claims 18 adult victims every second.  This means that over 1.5 million cybercrime victims are added to the digital misconduct list daily with losses averaging US $197 per victim globally.

With the shopping season preparing to enter full swing, cybercriminals target consumers with an array of Cyber Monday schemes, including fraudulent retail email promotions containing viruses, malware and hijacking mechanisms designed to spam victim contacts.  Other related schemes include phishing scams designed to lure consumers to fraudulent websites, inauthentic promotional offers and malicious posts on social media websites that encourage users to download videos containing harmful content.

Consumers and businesses share responsibility for making thoughtful decisions to help minimize cybercrime.  By implementing a few Internet safety procedures before shopping this weekend, buyers may avoid some common security risks.  For example, all Internet users should confirm the legitimacy of URL addresses and research the company through the Better Business Bureau before providing financial information.  Researching recent scams online may also reduce consumer Internet fraud, as cons receive considerable attention in chat rooms.  Finally, payment protection options, including PayPal, and security services, such as BillGuard, may assist consumers in keeping personal and financial information secure this buying season.  These few cyber security steps help make the difference between a contented buying experience and a lousy one.

Be sure to keep your wallets safe and your identities protected this holiday season.  For more tips on how to shop safely online, visit

For more info on online safety, security, and privacy, please continue to visit us here, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter. See also Hemu’s personal site.

Keep Out, I’m Still Home

We are all very good at using our common sense when we go on vacation, so that criminals, like those in the movie Home Alone, don’t decide to burglarize our homes while we are gone. We ask neighbors to take in our garbage, collect our mail, and turn on our lights periodically so it looks like our house is still occupied. And yet, we then go online and throw caution to the wind. Holiday photographs, airport check-ins and status updates about destination hotspots occur frequently on our profiles. With 78 percent of convicted burglars in a recent UK survey identifying the use of social media profiles as a means for targeting burglary victims, Internet users must show more caution when displaying vacation information.

According to the industry organization Airlines for America, U.S. airline carriers expect to transport nearly 24 million passengers during the 12-day Thanksgiving travel period.  As these travelers share photographs, check-in at destinations and provide status updates and tweets related to vacation plans, they also increase their vulnerability to home theft by unintentionally enticing potential thieves online.

Social media users share extensive details about their lives on profiles.  Users post everything from the mundane –dinner reservations and favorite shopping locations – to the most important details of their lives.  It stands to reason that posts of family photographs and vacation updates occur commonly during the holiday season.  Unfortunately, the risks associated with these types of posts are simple.  By betraying your location away from home, thieves recognize the opportunity to invade your property unhindered.

Posted and tagged photographs also represent a security risk for all social media users.  Cameras on smart phones assign GPS data to photographs.  When posted, these photographs provide interested parties with your physical location.  Consequently, prospective thieves may use this information to isolate your physical address or to ensure you are away from home.  The content within photographs also becomes appealing to criminals.  Images of valuable assets within your home or on your person may attract unwanted attention from thieves.

Although disclosing vacation information online increases risks to your property, users may reduce these hazards by following these basic security procedures:

  • Turn off location services on mobile devices and associated Internet destinations offering location tracking capabilities
  • Request that visitors and friends disable location identification in your home or when they share information about you online
  • Avoid making general posts about your location on profiles and refrain from broadcasting vacation details or specific travel plans
  • Perform ongoing profile maintenance to remove photographs with embedded GPS data
  • Only use status updates and checking-in capabilities when leaving a destination for home
  • Maintain stringent security settings on all social media accounts and only allow friendship requests from known individuals
  • Speak to relatives or trusted friends about your absence and implement home protection strategies
  • Wait until you arrive back home from your holiday before you post pictures

Holidays represent a source of temptation for vacationers and thieves alike.  It may seem tempting to share all of your trip details in real-time, but this information may also entice thieves.  Protecting your property from potential burglars means following the same safety rules online as you apply to face-to-face conversations – use caution as your guide.

Apps that Can Help When Your Child Goes Missing

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.