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- Avoid IRS Imposter Scams This Tax Season
While IRS imposter scams happen year-round, they are particularly prevalent during tax season and in times of crisis (ex: scams related to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic). These imposter scams can lead to tax fraud and identity theft -- here's how to identify and avoid them. SCAM #1: PHISHING Phishing is an attempt to obtain sensitive information or payment (usernames, passwords, account details, etc.) by scammers impersonating a reputable company -- in this case, the IRS. Once these credentials are acquired, scammers can use the information to withdraw money from your accounts, apply for benefits/other accounts in your name, and much more. Be on the lookout for fake IRS emails that want you to input private information to collect a tax refund or a pandemic stimulus payment, pay overdue taxes, or apply for benefits. A GOOD RULE OF THUMB: The IRS will never email you or text you to discuss tax debts or refunds. The IRS may call you to set up an appointment, but they won't do so without sending you a letter first. If you receive an unsolicited email claiming to be the IRS, do not reply, click any links, or open any attachments. By doing so, you may be unknowingly installing malicious software onto your device. *IF YOU RECEIVE AN EMAIL FROM THE "IRS," DON'T EVEN CLICK ON IT... IT IS NOT THE IRS* Do not provide any personal information in response to an email or a text (or through any digital communication) SCAM #2: FRAUDULENT PHONE CALLS Scammers who are claiming to be the IRS will often call saying you owe taxes. They demand you pay this bill through a gift card, prepaid debit card, or wire transfer. They may also call saying that you are eligible to receive COVID-related benefits, and will ask for personal account information in order to send the payment. Here's how to tell if you're dealing with a scammer: They demand immediate payment and will often offer to assist you in sending this payment They use aggressive tactics (scare tactics) that are extremely threatening in nature. They may threaten arrest, deportation, or license revocation They request any account numbers (debit, credit, or bank account) SCAM #3: IDENTITY THEFT Scammers can steal your personal information for illegal, fraudulent activities, like filing a tax return in your name. A growing scam involves criminals stealing client data from tax professionals, or by obtaining your tax software login information to file a tax return and have it deposited into a bank account (that isn't yours). Here's how to avoid this scam: Use a unique name/password for tax filing software, and update it annually Do not share your Social Security number with others unless absolutely necessary Shred any sensitive documents when you discard them Review your credit report every year to confirm the list of credit accounts is accurate If you fall for a tax scam, do not panic. Report identity theft to IdentityTheft.gov. If your Social Security number is stolen, contact the IRS immediately. You can also file a complaint at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/#/assistant. Stay vigilant, stay aware, stay safe.
- Avoid this email scam and secure your facebook account
Most of us have probably received an email at some point from Facebook saying, "someone is trying to log onto your account." The feeling of dread that comes upon you in that moment is gut-wrenching and hard to shake. It feels like a serious invasion of privacy, which is why we are typically so quick to act. HOWEVER... you must be alert when it comes to these emails. All too often, scammers use this as a way to hack into a victim's account or get information out of them. Before you click on the link in the email to "secure your account," check out some of the warning signs below. Looks kind of legit, right? The red text in the photo above points out obvious ways to confirm whether or not the email can be trusted. 1) The email subject doesn't make sense and is grammatically incorrect. Sometimes, it will contain emojis. I can promise you one thing: Facebook will never send you an email with a subject that has emojis. 2) The email address is crazy looking and is un-readable. For anything security-related, the email will come from firstname.lastname@example.org. Any other email address is fraudulent. 3) Check the "sent to" email address! If it does not say your actual email address, it was probably sent out to many, many people. Hackers do this because they expect at least one person to fall victim. 4) Check the display name. In the above email, it shows that their display name is "Hi." This should be the biggest red flag in and of itself. 5) They didn't use my full name in the email. Instead, they used the first part of my email address. Facebook/Instagram/Twitter will always use your name and not the first part of your email address (the part before the @ sign). 6) There will never be two options to choose from when it comes to securing your account. There will always just be one option that prompts you to enter a code to change your password. 7 - bonus!) The hacker sent this to an email address that isn't even associated with my Facebook account. Big whoops on their part. Before you respond to one of these emails, always go to Facebook privacy settings to see where you're logged in. If you notice something there that seems suspicious, you will be able to log out of all devices/sessions and reset your password. See the below screenshot for reference: If you notice a log-in from a suspicious location or a device you don't recognize, immediately log out of all sessions and reset your password. To get to this screen, follow the steps below: 1) Click the small "down" arrow in the upper right-hand corner 2) Click "Settings and Privacy" 3) Click "Settings" 4) Click "Security and Login" from the lefthand side menu 5) View all of your active sessions! To ensure ultimate safety, it is best to set up two-factor authentication. This will send your phone/email a code every time someone tries to log on to your account. I have also installed an authentication app called "Duo" that further secures my account -- I encourage you all to download it as well! There is a new scam going around where hackers take possession of your social media profiles and demand a ransom to give you back control of your account. These ransoms can reach over $1,000 in some cases. It's better to be safe than sorry -- always make sure your account is locked down. Continually perform self-checks to make sure you're only logged into your personal devices, set up two-factor authentication, and be wary of suspicious emails from Facebook!
- Keeping up with email scams
Recently, someone very close to me fell victim to an email scam that gave the hacker full remote access to their computer (super scary, I know). These email scams can look incredibly realistic, so it's important to be able to distinguish between what's legit and what's not. These emails attempt to fool you into visiting a website to either download malware or reveal sensitive personal information. The perpetrators of phishing scams craft the website to look like the real thing. Here's how to protect yourself from these scams: 1) Stay informed on the latest phishing techniques! Being informed on the latest scams can help you avoid a potentially scary situation. Be wary of emails asking for your password, emails with misspelled words or grammatical errors (if an email comes from a legitimate site like Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Instagram, etc. it more than likely will NOT have any spelling or grammatical errors), emails that contain a suspicious link for you to click, emails that promise you money if you click on a link, emails that say, "We've been trying to reach you about ____," the list goes on and on. Basically, be cautious when clicking on any link in ANY email. Most phishing emails start with, "Dear Customer," so that can be very indicative of an email you DON'T want to open. 2) Install an anti-phishing toolbar (from a trusted site). Most internet browsers these days will allow you to install such a toolbar -- these toolbars are completely free and will alert you if you attempt to visit a site that is malicious. This is just an extra layer of protection against phishing scams! You can download anti-phishing software here: https://www.avira.com/en/avira-browser-safety 3) Keep your browser up-to-date. Security patches are released for browsers on a fairly regular basis. These patches are released to account for any security loopholes that hackers and phishers are using to exploit innocent victims. Never ignore messages about updating your browser -- when an update is available, download it and install it immediately. 4) Never give out personal information. In general, you should never share personal or financial information over the internet. If something seems phishy, it probably is. ALWAYS go to the main page of the company in question and call their customer service line to verify whether or not they actually contacted you. Never send an email with sensitive information to anyone. If you do have to submit info online, make sure the website is secure by checking to see if it has "https" in front of the URL. For more in-depth information on what to look out for regarding email phishing scams, visit the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team website here.
- Sexting and Pornography | Know Your Net
sexting & pornography Sexting and pornography can both have lasting psychological effects on the young mind, and can often lead to problems later on in life. Oftentimes, sexting and pornography cross paths when a minor is involved. Learn about sexting and pornography addiction, associated consequences, and mental health side effects. What is sexting? Sexting is the sending of sexual text messages that are erotic or pornographic in nature. Initially, it referred only to the sending of texts that were sexual in nature -- but later it also began to encompass the sending of pornographic videos and photos through cell phones, computers, and social networking apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp. Oftentimes, sexting is used in social networking to obtain nude and half-naked photos. These photos and videos can be sold on adult websites or uploaded as revenge as well as extortion and blackmail (revenge porn, which is classified as a felony in most states). Unfortunately, a photo shared between two people can quickly become viral. What classifies as pornography? Pornography is any material that is designed to arouse or give sexual pleasure to the individual who is being exposed to it. What is considered to be "porn" is constantly changing because what is socially acceptable is evolving. Definition of pornography: "The depiction of nudity or erotic behavior, in writing, pictures, video, or otherwise, with intent to cause sexual excitement." Sexting and porn addiction Sexting and pornography addiction is the number one sub-type of Internet addiction. Pocket porn has become a significant problem for men and sexting is becoming a more significant problem for women. According to The Center for Internet Addiction, people who suffer from low self-esteem, a distorted body image, untreated sexual dysfunction, or a prior sexual addiction are more apt to develop pornography and sexting addiction problems. The costs of online sex and porn addiction can include emotional and physical health problems, as well as legal, family, and career consequences. Pornography use is widespread and often problematic, and generally has a negative impact on couples and gender relations -- it has been shown to lead men and women to devalue each other. Pornography tends to be is dominated by hostile sexism, frequent violence, and general dehumanization and objectification. Watching pornography essentially short-circuits other systems and doesn't just become addictive, but can also undermine attachment and intimacy. Sexting can be a symptom or manifestation of sexual addiction, which is an addiction with destructive consequences. With mobile devices making sexting readily available, sexting addiction has become even more widespread. Consequences of cybersex addiction Pornography addiction can lead to: Sexual dysfunction Impotence (inability to form or maintain an erection) Premature ejaculation Preoccupation with sexual thoughts throughout the day Guilt, shame, or confusion Ambivalence about stopping, or cycles or stopping and restarting Tendency toward other impulsive behaviors or addictions Depression, anxiety, or other co-occurring psychological disorders Not wanting to seek person-to-person sexual contact or diminished patience for sexual contact (e.g., wanting to have sex right away, or fantasizing or obsessing about sexual contact with random strangers) Decline in romantic or sexual interactions with one's partner, such as: Inability to become aroused Increasing need for more aggression or dominance Emotional detachment Studies have shown that pornography viewers have higher levels of depressive symptoms. Addiction to pornography often shows a correlation with substance abuse. Consequences of sexting include: There is a risk that their image will be made available to others Can lead to self-harming, self-isolation, and restricting their dietary intake Can lead to high levels of anxiety and the development, or exacerbation of, depressive symptoms If an adolescent does not get the response they wished for from sending the image or video: It can have a negative impact on their self-esteem and body image They may also experience bullying that further decreases their self-esteem Young people who sext are more likely to engage in other risky sexual activity which can impact their mental state Some young people can be coerced or blackmailed into more sexting, which can lead to emotional trauma Images that people have sent could possibly reappear on websites years later, leading to the deterioration of that person's mental state or interfere with their future prospects (jobs, relationships, etc.) In some states, anyone who creates, possesses, or distributes nude or explicit photos of a minor can be charged with child pornography or related crimes (e.g., sexual exploitation of a minor) Sexting and Federal Law Depending on the circumstances, sexting may also be a crime under federal law. The Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to end the Exploitation of Children Today (PROTECT) Act of 2003 makes it illegal to produce, distribute, receive, or possess with intent to distribute any obscene visual depiction of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Knowing possession of such material—without intent to distribute—is also a crime under the PROTECT Act. (18 U.S.C. § 1466A(a)(1).) Federal law also criminalizes causing a minor to take part in sexually explicit conduct in order to visually depict that conduct. Parents who allow this behavior can also be prosecuted. (18 U.S.C. § 2251.) It’s also a federal crime to use a computer to ship, transport, receive, distribute, or reproduce for distribution a depiction of a minor actually engaging in sexually explicit conduct, or any material that otherwise constitutes child pornography. It’s another federal crime to promote or solicit sexually explicit material involving a minor. (18 U.S.C. § § 2252, 2252A.) But federal prosecution of juveniles for sexting may be unlikely. The Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act (FJDA) generally provides that, where possible, juveniles should be prosecuted in state—not federal—courts. (18 U.S.C. § 5032.) (Via criminaldefenselawyer.com) Signs and symptoms of cybersex addiction Excessive viewing of pornography The definition of "excessive" depends on what you consider healthy. If pornography starts to have a negative impact on some aspect of your life, it may be defined as "excessive" Watching pornography interferes with normal daily habits or responsibilities You begin to develop a "tolerance" to pornography and begin to search for more stimulating genres There is a sense of emotional distress or a feeling of withdrawal when porn is stopped Continued use of pornography despite destructive behavior e.g., loss of a relationship or job, contraction of an STD Compulsive masturbation Sexual dysfunction Use of pornography has begun to negatively affect relationships It is more difficult to become aroused by your partner Romantic/sexual behavior between you and your partner changes (you may become more detached, aggressive, or dominant) You obtain a "high" when you watch pornography -- you typically do this to avoid unpleasant feelings like anxiety or depression Emotional detachment Becoming more withdrawn in social situations Do you think you may have a problem with online sex addiction? Click here to take an online self-assessment on netaddiction.com If you believe you are battling a cybersex addiction, there is help available. SAMHSA’s (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders. If you find yourself battling addiction, call their National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP. Click "Learn More" to visit SAMHSA's website. Learn more Do you know your net? Click "Take Quiz Now" if you think you're ready to test your #NetKnowledge! Take quiz now! Read more Cybersecurity Discover helpful tips to stay safe online and avoid dangerous situations. Read more Online dating Online dating can certainly be convenient in this technological era, but it comes with it's fair share of complications and dangers. Read more Mental Health Social media can have a profound impact on your mental health -- here's how to handle it.
- For adults | Know Your Net
Test your net knowledge If you are 14 years old and up, this cyber knowledge test is perfect for you. You can take this quiz to see how much you know already, or you can visit the "TEENS & ADULTS" tab first and test how much you know later! Not quite ready to test your #NetKnowledge? That's okay! Click on "Go Home" to be redirected to the "Teens & Adults" page. Go home You may also like: Read more Online Dating Online dating can certainly be convenient in this technological era, but it comes with it's fair share of complications and dangers. Read more Sexting & Pornography Sexting and pornography can be damaging. Click "read more" to find out why. Read more Mental Health Social media can have a profound impact on your mental health -- here's how to handle it. Read more Cybersecurity Discover helpful tips to stay safe online and avoid dangerous situations. Read more Quiz for Adults Test your cybersecurity knowledge with this short quiz. Read more #beKYNd The Be KYNd Project's goal is simple: to put an end to online bullying. Read about our mission here.
- For kids | Know Your Net
Test your net knowledge! If you are in grades K-8, this cyber knowledge test is perfect for you! You can take this quiz just to see how much you know already, or you can visit the "KIDS" tab first and test how much you know later! Not quite ready to test your #NetKnowledge? That's okay! Click on "Go Home" to be redirected to the "Kids" homepage. Go home You may also like: Cyberbullying If you are experiencing cyberbullying, you are not alone. Read More > SEXting Chances are, you've probably heard of sexting. It can be a serious issue and can put your privacy/livelihood at risk. Learn more now! Read More > all about respect Respect holds relationships together. Learn ways to be respectful online. Read More > kids rules for online safety Follow these 10 rules to remain safe online. Read More >