(Left) “The Tech-Wise Family” by Andy Crouch was given out to the first 40 attendees at the “Online Threats” presentation. The book is available at the Hallock Public Library and contains information about technology and your family. (Right) Sheriff Steve Porter and Chief Deputy Sheriff Matt Vig gave a variety of examples of online threats including cases of sexual predators they have captured in our area. (Enterprise Photo by Margie Holmgren)
By Margie Holmgren
“Online Threats” was the name of the seminar provided by Sheriff Steve Porter and Chief Deputy Sheriff Matt Vig.
The two Kittson County Sheriff’s office staff members shared a variety of scams and online threats, as well as phone scams, that are invading our area.
They started by talking about scams that happen with phone calls and emails.
An estimated one in every 10 American adults has lost money in a phone scam this past year. The average money lost is $430 for a staggering total of $9.5 billion.
Sheriff Porter said they have received several complaints about scammers using local area codes and now using local prefixes. As they become more sophisticated, scammers are now able to completely duplicate someone’s phone number. So the call may look like it’s coming from someone you know.
When consumers suspect a phone call may be a scam, they can report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1. To avoid being a scam victim, the FTC recommends not answering the phone for unknown numbers, or hanging up immediately when the caller makes promises such as prize money in a foreign lottery, or asks for any financial information like the recipient’s credit card number.
Porter told the group they can say they are going to call the sheriff’s office, it will likely get the scammer to hang up and not call back.
Porter and Vig had two examples of people in Kittson County who had fallen prey to a phone scam. One told the caller they had won the lottery and the other received a call from someone pretending to be the Internal Revenue Service and stated the individual owe them money.
Porter stated most times it is hard to catch these people because they are more than likely in a foreign country and routing the calls through local numbers.
Email is another way for people to try get your information or money.
The federal trade commission offers this advice for email phishing scams.
Phishing is when a scammer uses fraudulent emails or texts, or copycat websites to get you to share valuable personal information – such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, or your login IDs and passwords. Scammers use your information to steal your money or your identity or both.
Scammers also use phishing emails to get access to your computer or network then they install programs like ransomware that can lock you out of important files on your computer.
Phishing scammers lure their targets into a false sense of security by spoofing the familiar, trusted logos of established, legitimate companies. Or they pretend to be a friend or family member.
Phishing scammers make it seem like they need your information or someone else’s, quickly – or something bad will happen. They might say your account will be frozen, you’ll fail to get a tax refund, your boss will get mad, even that a family member will be hurt or you could be arrested. They tell lies to get to you to give them information.
Be cautious about opening attachments or clicking on links in emails. Even your friend or family members’ accounts could be hacked. Files and links can contain malware that can weaken your computer’s security.
Do your own typing. If a company or organization you know sends you a link or phone number, don’t click. Use your favorite search engine to look up the website or phone number yourself. Even though a link or phone number in an email may look like the real deal, scammers can hide the true destination.
Make the call if you’re not sure. Do not respond to any emails that request personal or financial information. Phishers use pressure tactics and prey on fear. If you think a company, friend or family member really does need personal information from you, pick up the phone and call them yourself using the number on their website or in your address book, not the one in the email.
Turn on two-factor authentication. For accounts that support it, two-factor authentication requires both your password and an additional piece of information to log in to your account. The second piece could be a code sent to your phone, or a random number generated by an app or a token. This protects your account even if your password is compromised.
As an extra precaution, you may want to choose more than one type of second authentication (e.g. a PIN) in case your primary method (such as a phone) is unavailable.
Back up your files to an external hard drive or cloud storage. Back up your files regularly to protect yourself against viruses or a ransomware attack.
Keep your security up to date. Use security software you trust, and make sure you set it to update automatically.
emails and texts
Forward phishing emails to email@example.com – and to the organization impersonated in the email. Your report is most effective when you include the full email header, but most email programs hide this information. To ensure the header is included, search the name of your email service with “full email header” into your favorite search engine.
File a report with the Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov/complaint.
Visit Identitytheft.gov. Victims of phishing could become victims of identity theft; there are steps you can take to minimize your risk.
You can also report phishing email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Anti-Phishing Working Group – which includes ISPs, security vendors, financial institutions and law enforcement agencies – uses these reports to fight phishing.
A good portion of the seminar was on keeping kids safe online.
Porter and Vig shared several cases where Vig has portrayed a young girl and caught predators after communicating with them via text messages.
Due to their detective work they have caught people before there was an incident and they want to keep it that way.
They want predators to know they are catching them and locking them up.
Statistics show there are more than 500,000 predators online every day.
Children aged 12 to 15 are the most susceptible to be groomed and manipulated by offenders online.
Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) stats show that more than 50 percent of victims of online sexual exploitation are 12-15 years old
Eighty-nine percent of all sexual advances toward our children take place in internet chat rooms and through instant messaging.
In (27 percent) of exploitation incidents, predators asked kids for sexual photographs of themselves.
Four percent of kids get “aggressive” sexual solicitations that included attempts to contact the kids offline.
Since most of these kids are contacted online, Porter and Vig offered some suggestions on how to keep your kids safe.
“Get parental control software on your computers, place computers in highly trafficked areas, set limits on late night use, establish rules and take control,” stated Vig.
His advice echoes what can be found online. Those tips include:
1. Self education- Learn what kids may be exposed to online – Learn what the risks are.
2. Communicating, educating, e-mentoring your kids about:
• Online risks
• Chatrooms, game site risks
• Predators and to be aware of manipulative behavior, gifts, requests for nude pictures, grooming.
• Predators don’t look scary, they look like you or I, or the person down the street.
• Teaching your child that if they get in a situation that feels uncomfortable, that they should and can always come to you and that they won’t get in trouble if they do.
• Only friends and people they know on Social Networking Sites
• Never meet someone they’ve met online without talking to an adult first.
• Turn off webcam when not in use
3. E-mentor kids online especially when they have a computer in their bedroom. ScreenRetriever enables parents to monitor children’s computer activity live where ever the child’s computer is located in the home including who your child is communicating with using their webcam.
4. Set limits and ground rules about what your child is allowed to do online, sites they visit, information they post, who their friends are on social networking sites, who they are chatting with. Go over the ScreenRetriever tips before they are allowed on the computer.
5. Learn the language your kids use on the computer and cellphone, like A/S/L or GNOC.
6. When your child comes to you with a problem, be there for them, and don’t over react. Many kids don’t tell their parents when they have a problem online because they are afraid they will lose computer privileges.
7. Start e-mentoring early when kids go on the computer so that your family values and rules are ingrained early.
At the seminar, “The Tech-Wise Family” book by Andy Crouch was handed out to the first 40 attendees.
The book will be available at the Hallock Public Library and offers insight and information on how to be more tech smart.
According to the book, approximately 82 percent of teens and 72 percent of preteens sleep with their phones next to them.
The two officers stressed the importance of knowing what your kids are doing online and on their phones.
Porter informed the attendees that if they see or think something suspicious is going on to contact the sheriff’s office.
“We would rather be called out to find out it’s nothing,” he stated. “Don’t be afraid to contact us.”