Hello, Is Anyone There? The Scoop on Scams and Ghost Calls

 

How many times a day do you get phone calls, but when you answer, nobody is there?

It probably goes something like this – the phone rings, you pick it up and say “Hello” but nobody answers. This is often termed a “ghost call”, and they can be annoying.

To fix this, you stop answering calls from distant area codes. You check before answering to see if you recognize the number and it looks like the caller is local. But it’s another ghost call!  This is called ‘Caller ID Spoofing” – that’s when a caller deliberately falsifies the phone number on your caller display. Scammers have ways to make these incoming calls look like numbers similar to yours – sometimes by showing a caller ID that starts with your local area code – to entice you to pick up the call.

 

Who is making these ghost calls?   

As it turns out, although nobody answers your “Hello”, there probably is “someone” on the other end of the line: an automated computer system that’s calling your number — and tens of thousands of others — to build a list of live targets for theft.

That initial call you get, with silence on the other end, is the first reconnaissance call that scammers do. They’re trying to see if the number they are calling is associated with a human on the other end. If you even cough, it knows you are there.

The next step for them is to attempt to gather personal information like your bank or credit card account number, date of birth, Social Security Number, credit score etc. They often do this by giving you a call with a prerecorded voice. For example, “We’re calling with an important message about your debit card. If you are the cardholder please stay on the line and press 1. Otherwise, please have the cardholder call us at 1-877…”

 

Don’t call them back!

Another reason you may be getting the call with no response is when calls are part of a massive, international scam called “Wangiri” which is a Japanese word that means “one cut”. The scamming companies rely on people calling the numbers back in order to make money. “This is basically a mobile premium scam, what happens is somebody calls you, lets the phone ring once and they do it multiple times,” the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Delia Rickard told Hack News. “If you call them back, you may be charged a premium. Much of the revenue from these calls go to the scammer.”

 

So with all these calls targeting you, what can you do about it?

1stDon’t pick-up or answer a call unless you recognize the number or are expecting a call at that particular moment. No one is going to call with an emergency and then not leave a message. Most “unknown” calls are from bill collectors, scammers, harassment or wrong numbers. Since it is your phone and it is for your convenience then you can choose when you answer it and when you do not.

 

2nd – If you do pick up accidentally – Just Hang Up

The FTC is trying to combat the rising number of illegal automated phone calls. “It is the No. 1 consumer complaint that we receive,” says Patty Hsue, an attorney who leads the FTC’s effort against robocalls. The agency receives an average of 170,000 complaints per month about robocalls”, she related to  NPR’s Audie Cornish. The FTC recommends that consumers “just hang up” on the robocalls.

“We don’t want consumers to engage in any way with robocallers,” Hsue says. “A lot of times when you get a robocall you have the option of pressing 1 for more information or pressing 2 to ask to be removed from the list. In either case, pressing 1 or 2 basically lets the robocaller know that it’s a live person on the other line who’s willing to engage and that most probably will lead to additional robocalls.”

 

3rd – If you think it may be a legitimate call, hang up and then check the website of the organization calling. Use the website contact number to talk with a service representative. If you can’t find a website, then check the number online and see if it is reported as a scam.

 

Safety tips on handling Robo or “Ghost” calls from the FTC:

  • Never give out personal information such as account numbers, social security numbers, a mother’s maiden name, passwords or other identifying information in response to unexpected calls or if you are at all suspicious.
  • If you get an inquiry from someone who says they represent a company or a government agency seeking personal information, hang up and call the phone number on your account statement, in the phone book or on the company’s or government agency’s website to verify the authenticity of the request.
  • Use extreme caution if you are being pressured for information immediately.
  • If you have a voicemail account with your phone service, be sure to set a password for it. Some voicemail services are preset to allow access if you call in from your own phone number. A hacker could spoof your home phone number and gain access to your voicemail if you do not set a password. 
  • If you receive a call and you suspect caller ID information has been falsified, or you think the rules for protecting the privacy of your telephone number have been violated, you can file a complaint with the FTC. https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1

 

How do I stop telemarketers and scammers?

The first thing to do is immediately block the caller number. You can also register your numbers with the national Do Not Call list at no cost. The national Do Not Call list protects both landline and wireless phone numbers. You can register your numbers by calling 1-888-382-1222 (voice) or 1-866-290-4236 (TTY) or https://www.donotcall.gov

 

Robo, telemarketers and “Ghost” calls are not only an inconvenience, they can also be extremely damaging if you don’t handle them correctly. Please take the time to check the number before answering and remind your family and friends to do the same!

 

Much of the information presented in this blog was originated by, NPR, Hack and the FTC.

 

 

 

Taking Your Student to College? 9 Safety Tips to Review Before They Go

 Campus life can be one of the best experiences in a young person’s life. Making new friends, learning new things, camaraderie, exploration and all the excitement that comes from learning independence. As parents we want our children to be as safe and secure as possible during this wonderful time of life.

Below are a few safety tips to discuss with your student to help ensure all goes well.

1) Take the time to explore. Get to know total campus layout and surrounding areas. Learn the most direct, well lit, open routes (few bushes & trees) to different points on campus. Most campuses have emergency call buttons and/or phones at key locations throughout campus. Take note of where they are located and become familiar with their operation.

2) Use your technology wisely. Check your campus website for safety tips, procedures, and emergency information. Many have free apps like Campus Safe or Safe Trek that can be activated while walking alone and deactivate once you have arrived safely to your destination. This is a great protection when you find yourself in the situation of having to walk alone at night. When using your headphones, make sure you are still aware of your surroundings, both visually and hearing. The key to safety is recognizing a potentially dangerous situation before it happens and taking action to avoid it. 

3Think before you post on social media. It is fun to share moments, pictures and thoughts as we experience college life. However, your posts may be viewed by other people as well. Review the settings on your social media profiles and definitely avoid geotagging your photos. Disable location services and make your accounts private so you can be sure of who is viewing what.

4) Double check that you have emergency numbers programmed into your phone. If you are away at school, ensure you not only have your parent’s numbers listed but also a local reliable family member or friend. It is the first item hospitals and police check if you’re admitted alone because they are able to bypass your passcode in order to access your contacts.

5) Carry some cash. With debit/credit cards the main mode of payment these days, sometimes it is hard to remember to have some emergency cash on you at all times. Perhaps your credit card won’t work, your debit card gets lost, or you lose your backpack. You never want to be stuck in a bad situation because you don’t have the necessary funds to get out of it as quickly as possible.

6) Lock your doors. It is easy to become comfortable and relaxed in the college environment especially when living in a Dorm, Fraternity/Sorority house, or college apartment complex. However, it is sensible to always lock your doors, especially when you’re alone or sleeping. Sometimes this is tough with roommates coming and going but most college crimes happen where access points are unlocked. Take time to hide your technology and valuables when leaving and/or close window curtains and blinds. Consider purchasing a small safe for your ID documents and for storing your laptop, iPad, and other valuables when you’re away. Keep your safe hidden in an unusual place. Bedroom closets and under the bed are the first place thieves look for valuables. If you live on the first floor of a building, make sure your windows lock. If they don’t, you can purchase a jam stick or sliding window lock at the local home improvement store or Internet.

 7) Party Safely. Yes, you probably will be going to a party or celebration .. or two! Have fun but be smart. Never go to a party at an unknown location without a friend or two. Never stay at a party where you have “just met someone who seems nice” after your friends have gone home. And finally, never become so inebriated you lose control. Sometimes it is easy to get carried away with the festivities and common sense goes out the window. Make an agreement with your friends to watch out for and take care of each other as a number one priority! Party’s can turn into dangerous situations if you do not keep aware of your surroundings and the coming and going of the people attending.

8) Make sure you have pepper spray or mace easily assessable to you. Have one located out of sight in your apartment as well as having one easily assessable to you while you are out and about. Fastening these items to a key ring, lanyard, and backpack will ensure they are there when you may need them.

9) Learn how to protect yourself physically. You’ll feel safer and more confident. You don’t need to invest a lot of money or time in getting a black belt to master self-defense; all you need are a few classes and tips from a professional instructor. Classes are often available at colleges and gyms. To make it fun, ask your roommates or a few friends to take the class with you. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is and how much better you feel when you are out and about.

College is an exciting time and a rewarding experience. As busy as you’ll be with learning, meeting new friends and operating with a new level of independence, remembering these nine simple safety tips will help ensure a safe productive school year. 

Tips for Saving Money and Energy While on Vacation

Did you know that you can save both energy and money while you are away on vacation? Just follow these home energy efficiency tips:

  • Turn the air conditioning down – For every degree a thermostat is raised during the summer, a homeowner can save 2-3 percent on his or her electricity bill.
  • Unplug your small kitchen appliances and tech gear. These household items are called “energy vampires” because they still draw current even when not in use. So before the family leaves, someone should walk around the house and unplug every unnecessary appliance and electronic device. Start with the television, computer, and entertainment center, but don’t forget small items like coffee pots, digital clocks, and cell phone chargers – they all drain energy when plugged in.
  • To avoid unexpected water loss and damage, turn off your main water shutoff valve.
  • Set your water heater to low or vacation mode if it has one. If you will be gone for quite awhile, shut off your water heater at the fuse box. When arriving back home, remember to turn the main shutoff valve back on and run some water in the sink to ensure your tank is full before turning it back on.
  • If you have an automated irrigation system, check to see if the rain sensor is set to ¼ inch.
  • Lower the blinds and close the curtains when leaving for vacation. This simple act will keep heat from coming in during the summer or going out during the winter.
  • Double check to ensure your smoke detectors and home security alarm systems are operating in an optimal fashion.

For tips on protecting your home and property while away, review our Leaving On Vacation Home Security Checklist at:

https://www.secur-tek.com/leaving-on-vacation-heres-your-handy-home-security-checklist/

Following both the Energy Saving and Vacation Home Security Checklists will help give you and your family peace of mind while away on vacation. So enjoy your vacation, and come back refreshed and ready to go!!

 

Beware of Porch Pirates!

This is the time of year that can be lots of fun — bringing joy and opportunities to visit with family and friends. Unfortunately, it is also a time when there is an increase in burglaries, break-ins and property damage. This could be because the nights are longer and people are out at holiday parties, visiting family or shopping, leaving their homes unattended. Highly visible deliveries such as Fed Ex, UPS and other packages. compound the opportunity for theft.

Here are our suggestions to help you and your families have a safe, secure and worry-free holiday season. If you would like a free consultation and discussion with one of our experts, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 919-387-1800.

Get lit! One of the best ways to make your home look active is lights. When you set up holiday lights outside it makes your home look festive and eliminates shadows a burglar could hide in. Lights inside also make it look like someone is home. Timers on your lights are a great idea; set them on random schedules in different rooms to resemble activity in your home. Another highly effective strategy is to invest in a smart automated system that allows you to control your lights remotely with your phone or tablet.

Keep it Clean! A home will look unoccupied if leaves, snow or newspapers have accumulated. If you’re going to be gone, hire a neighborhood kid to take care of your yard — they will appreciate the holiday cash and your place will look lived in and much nicer when you arrive home.

Hold it! UPS, FedEx, and USPS all will hold your mail while you’re away. Keeping packages and mail from piling up is critical, so register with them to hold all your deliveries. Not only are these items valuable targets, they also let everyone know your not home!

Track it! Major carriers offer online tracking of your orders and give you a close approximation of when your packages are to be delivered. That way you can arrange to ask someone to pick them up and off your porch until you get home.

Inform us! Let your alarm company know your going out of town and provide a phone number where you can be contacted.

Conceal your valuables. Keep valuable items out of sight. Don’t keep spare keys in obvious places such as under a flower pot or fake rock. Remove valuable items from  your car, if parked outside.

Keep it on the down low until after you get back! Resist the urge to update your status on social media annoucing you’re away from home. Share when you get back! 

Do some heavy duty “Jam’n”! If you have a wood doorjamb, the lock strike plate is the weakest point in your door. Upgrade to a heavy-duty strike plate and use four 3-inch screws to secure it to the doorframe.

Get a smart doorbell. Swap your current doorbell for a Skybell and enjoy a higher level of safety and security with remote monitoring and cloud recording features. Data suggests that burglars ring your doorbell to find out if you’re home. When the delivery person rings the doorbell, you can see how and when packages are delivered. No more interruptions during family dinner; missing important packages while you’re gone; or unwanted visitors at your doorstep.

Monitored home security A home security system can do a great deal. If there are visible security features like cameras or alarms, potential thieves will be more likely to move along to a less protected house rather than risk getting caught by a security system.

 

If you are going out of town, check out our Security Checklist before you leave: https://www.secur-tek.com/leaving-on-vacation-heres-your-handy-home-security-checklist/

Please contact us for information on Skybell or the Security System that is right for you!

Happy Holidays to You and Your Family!!

 
 
 
 
 

It’s October – Take a Bite Out Of Crime

October is National Crime Prevention month. The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) encourages everyone to join the effort to “Take A Bite Out Of Crime®.” In 1984, A Presidential proclamation designated October as Crime Prevention Month. Since then, NCPC has been working with local law enforcement, government agencies, civic groups, schools and businesses to help spread the word about crime prevention and personal safety. The NCPC and your efforts can create safer, more caring communities and promote the importance of public vigilance to combat crimes.

For those of us living in Wake County, the Wake County Crime Prevention Unit is a fantastic resource for all sorts of information, classes, events and local news.

The Wake County Sheriff’s Office Crime Prevention Unit is a proactive program that provides the public with information to help identify and minimize the risks of becoming a crime victim. These programs teach citizens how to enhance security and safety for themselves and their neighborhoods.

The Crime Prevention Unit also offers classes that teach citizens how to report a crime and what information is important to gather before calling law enforcement. They also help organize community watch programs where communities work as a team to observe activity in their neighborhood.

The Crime Prevention Unit has programs for children and adults. If you are interested in additional information about the Wake County Crime Prevention Unit and their programs check out http://www.wakegov.com/sheriff/divisions/Pages/crimeprev.aspx and click the services button on the left side of the page. While you are there, review the News and Events or sign-up to be connected through Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.

12 Tips for Keeping Your Child Safe After School

School is starting up  –  is your child arriving home alone? If so, check out our home safety checklist!

Many kids stay by themselves after school; it’s important for parents to feel that their child is safe and secure when they are home alone. To help you and your child prepare so you can both feel better about it, we have compiled the following checklist. This comprehensive checklist has been compiled from many sources, including The Red Cross, Parent & Child Magazine, and Scholastic.com.

Being prepared is key to safety and feeling secure. Take the time to review and implement this plan with your child for a safer, happier school year!

Have an emergency plan. Practice an emergency plan with your child so they know what to do in case of fire, injury, or other emergencies. Write the plan down and make sure they know where it is. Even if you believe it to be common sense, review the sound of the alarm and what to do if it goes off. S/he should get out of the house immediately and then call 911 from a neighbor’s house. Review the emergency exits by drawing a map that outlines the best pathways to safety from each room in the house.

Post relevant phone numbers. Have numbers for a trusted neighbor, your cell and work number and other emergency numbers in a prominent location. If children have approved access to smart phones or tablets, download the free Red Cross First Aid App so they’ll have instant access to expert advice for everyday emergencies. 

Place flashlights in assessable locations. Let children know where the flashlights are. Make sure that the batteries are fresh, and that the child knows how to use them. 

Inspect your home thoroughly for any safety risks.

    • Make sure that all of the smoke detectors are functioning properly.
    • Remove or safely store in locked areas dangerous items like guns, knives, hand tools, power tools, razor blades, scissors, ammunition and other objects that can cause injury. 
    • Make sure potential poisons like detergents, polishes, pesticides, lighter fluid and lamp oils are stored in locked cabinets or out of the reach of children.
    • Make sure medicine is kept in a locked storage place or out of reach.
    • Install safety covers on all unused electrical outlets.

Always check in. Make it a rule that your child calls a parent (or another adult that you designate) or leaves you a message as soon as s/he gets home. This can be the first step in a daily routine that includes homework, a snack, and some downtime.
 

Make the phone (almost) off-limits. Your child shouldn’t answer the phone for just anyone, so set up guidelines. If you have a land line with caller ID, tell her not to answer the phone if she doesn’t recognize the name or number. If you don’t have caller ID, tell him that she should let every call go to voice mail. If you child is old enough to have her own cell phone, use the same guidelines.

Don’t leave the house. Your child should not leave the house unattended unless cleared with you first or there is an emergency such as a fire. Make sure that he is aware of the risks of leaving home.

Take the same way home. Have them take the same route to and from school every day. If your child walks, review each street that she uses. If she takes a school bus, make sure that she takes it every day, even if she is offered a ride from a friend. Knowing her route allows you to predict how long it will take her to arrive home, and to trace her steps if there is ever a problem.
 

Caution children:

    • Not to talk about being home alone in public or on social media.
    • Never tell someone on the telephone that the parents are not at home. Say something like “He or she is busy right now. Can I take a message?”
    • Lock the doors; if the home has an electronic security system, children should learn how to turn it on and have it on when home alone for extra protection.
    • Never open the door to delivery people or service representatives. Ask delivery people to leave the package at the door or tell them to come back at another time. Service representatives, such as a TV cable installer, should have an appointment when an adult is at home.

Lock the doors. If the home has an electronic security system, children should learn how to turn it on and have it on when home alone for extra protection. Security systems with remote access, like Honeywell Total Connect, allow parents to be notified and view activity in the interior or exterior of their home for extra peace of mind.

Keep them busy. Although a child needs some downtime to rest and rejuvenate, your child will be less likely to get into­ trouble if he’s occupied with homework, practicing music, and chores. Review what they have accomplished and give them feedback when you get home. Reinforcement is key to getting things done!

Practice first aid. Keep a first aid kit handy and review it with your child. Help her distinguish between a true emergency and a minor one that she can handle herself.

Consider enrolling older children in an online Red Cross babysitting course so they can learn first aid skills and how to care for younger family members. Babysitting Basics is geared towards children aged 11-15 while Advanced Child Care Training is well-suited for those aged 16 and up. 

 

We at Secur-Tek, Inc hope this checklist is helpful and wish you and your family a safe and productive school year. If you have any questions or needs concerning your home security or automation needs please give us a call!

 

Leaving On Vacation? Here’s Your Handy Home Security Checklist

 

First – start by creating the illusion that somebody is actually still home!

You can achieve this by:

  • Setting your lights on timers to be set on/off at different times in different rooms
  • Set your radio, sounds system or television to turn on and off; creating the sound of someone at home
  • Leave a car in the driveway – have someone move it from side to side occasionally (close family member, friend or neighbor)
  • If you normally leave a few toys around or hose uncoiled in the yard – do so. The idea is to look like things are as normal!
  • Curtains Closed — or Open?  You may think closing your curtains will prevent people from peering inside your home. However, closed curtains also stop those who aim to help — the police, your neighbors or friends — from seeing inside your house. So, what should you do? Leave your curtains exactly as you usually keep them when you are at home. Remember – you want to create the illusion that things are normal. You should never leave expensive items, like jewelry or computers, out where they are visible from the window.
  • Arrange to have your landscape trimmed. Nothing signals “not home” stronger than an unkempt yard, especially one that is normally regularly manicured.

Run by the post office (or do it on-line) and cancel your mail and newspaper deliveries. Or ask a trusted friend or neighbor to collect them for you while away.

Stow away your valuables and important papers. Lock up any valuable jewelry, deed to your home, title to your cars and small electronic devices. Things that are relatively small and easily transported are the main target of thieves. They want to get in and out fast, carrying as many valuables as possible. If you don’t have a safety deposit box, store these types of items in a fireproof lock box. Great places to put the lockbox are in children’s bed or playrooms, laundry room, garage or kitchen. Thieves will always look in master bedrooms and living spaces where adults hang out. 

Remove Your Spare Key(s)  That plastic rock, above the door-frame, under a mat/flowerpot isn’t fooling anyone. If a criminal figures out you’re away on vacation, it’s likely that (s)he will first check your porch and obvious locations for a spare key.

Don’t announce you are leaving or your whereabouts right before or during your vacation via Social Media.  Many of us enjoy keeping up with friends and family via social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The perceived anonymity of the Internet can encourage us to share personal information without fully realizing that there could be complete strangers viewing our daily musings. So try to refrain from posting those pre-vacation thoughts and plans and hold off posting pictures and statements showing you at fun or exotic location away from home until later. In addition, be careful what you say on your home, home office answer machine, voice mail or auto email response. People trying to reach you don’t need to know that you’re out of town — they just need to know that you can’t respond right now.

For the highest level of assurance – Alert Your:

  • Home Security Company – Double check that your door and window alarms are activated before you leave. Also, leave a house key and the code with someone you trust and provide the police and alarm company with their name and phone number. 
  • The local Police – Call the non-emergency number and let them know of your vacation timing. Often times they will send a patrol car by you home occasionally to inspect the property for abnormalities. Leave them a number where you – or someone you trust – can be reached. 

Right before leaving – to save yourself and the environment – Pull the Plug!  Disconnecting the power to electronics, like computers, routers, televisions, and other appliances can save you money while you’re gone and eliminate the worry. Turning off your garage door opener is also an effective way to keep thieves from opening it with a universal remote. Finally, never leave a portable GPS in your car when parking at the airport. It’ll alert thieves that you’re not home and give them a convenient map to your house.

We at Secur-Tek wish you and you families a safe and worry-free vacation holiday!

For more information about staying safe with a home alarm system while at home or away, call us at 919-387-1800, email  khenke@secur-tek.com or check out our website at  www.secur-tek.com.