Rebecca Herold

The Privacy Professor's
Tip of the

 Spring has sprung... but it's tax season! Flowers are blooming... but watch out for April Fool's tricks. In like a lamb... but out like a lion! There are so many conflicting messages this time of year - so, I'll keep it simple for you. Let's boil down the threats and opportunities that are springing up everywhere along with the dandelions...



No one likes to pay income taxes, and some fraudsters throughout the world are making unsuspecting consumers pay even more.  Here are a few links to current tax-related scams:

Michigan Trooper Saves Couple's Tax Return

Montreal Mail Scheme Targets Taxpayers

Criminals Go Phishing in France

Convicts Commit Tax Fraud Behind Bars





1. Back it up.

I recently saw the following posted on a friend's Facebook wall: "Anyone who can consult a friend pls contact me: relative died; iPhone PIN locked." This illustrates quite simply how important it is to keep copies of your important data - from accounts to PINs, and yes, even your phone numbers that are stored on your smart phones. You may consider using a trusted third party for online storage, but I always advise to keep hard copies of information such as addresses and contact information in a secure location as well. Don't just depend on digital files - you never know when electricity will go out, batteries will fail or systems will crash. Take that one step further and print out your beloved photos as well. We are so dependent on everything digital these days. Rule of thumb: If it's important, print it, then protect it.

2. Don't talk to strangers.

Google privacy - or lack thereof - has been making news again. (Click here for that story.) The most recent concern points to the need for parents to speak often with kids about their online activities.  Even "trusted" sites, like Google, often ask for way too much information, and they lure kids and adults with promises of games, free toys and other goodies. It's worth repeating that no one should ever need to provide a Social Security Number, even partial, or other sensitive information without a particular legal need (especially at online "fun" sites!). Many game and social media websites ask for birth dates to make sure your child is old enough to use them. Because of the risks involved, consider telling your kids not to supply their actual birth dates, but to make one up for another date in their birth year instead - this is one place that it makes sense to fudge the truth.

3. Do not reply.

Sneaky organizations are calling landlines and leaving voicemails asking you to call back and give personal information to automated systems, or go to a website and enter personal information... all under the guise of assisting with an investigation. I received one of these early in March! Never supply personal information to anyone with whom you did not initiate the contact. These fraudsters are also using text messages for similar scams. Ignore the bogus inquiries, and contact your service provider, or even your state Attorney General's office, to alert them to suspicious calls and messages. 


Did you know...

This new app for Facebook helps you manage rights to photos you post. It doesn't prevent others from using the photos, but should they get into the wrong hands and show up in ways you did not intend, this app serves as a notice as to how you're willing - and not willing - to share your photos. 

Yahoo! Finance reports that "Facebook is the new frontier for fraud." Watch out for this: "Your Friend (insert friend's name) just answered a question about you!" and other notices on your Facebook wall. Your password can end up in the wrong hands. Get the scoop here.

Another worrisome issue is "likejacking" - items automatically posted to your wall (videos, images), and automatically "liked," that you don't necessarily want your friends to know you've viewed. I've seen this happen on A LOT of my friends' walls, and some of the content has been quite embarrassing. Learn more here.


 Social Network

If you know of others who might find these tips handy in their work or personal lives, please do forward this to them so they can sign up, too! For adults and students alike, a minute or two with each monthly tip is an easy way to help us all keep security and privacy at the forefronts of our minds, to stay safer and more secure.

Thanks for reading... have a bright and cheery spring! Talk to you next month,



Rebecca Herold & Associates, LLC
Mobile: 515.491.1564, Business: 515.996.2199