Unwanted Content. Now What?

The world of social media has become fascinated with live authentic content. And, social videos now have more engagement than any other content format. Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat all offer video and visual content to users (for free) making them exceptionally popular.  One of the reasons these types of visual content are so attractive is that our brains actually crave visual communication.  Accessibility and low investment by the user have also contributed to the allure of these platforms making the sharing of images commonplace for the masses. Videos and images are everywhere.

So what if someone posts a video or image of you without your permission? And what if that video or image is compromising in some way?  Once posted to the internet, there is no erasing it but there are steps you can take to have that video / image taken down. Most mainstream platforms have reporting processes to address this type of thing and it’s important to note that they place a high priority on situations involving youth.

If you’ve run into an unwanted content situation, here are the steps to follow:

  1. Determine what website the content is posted on.
  2. Contact the website and make a request to have the content removed. See link at the bottom of this post for help with this.
  3. Be prepared to state whether or not you are a youth and if so, what age you were in the video / image as well as what age you are now.
  4. Identify yourself as the person in the video / image and whether or not you believe you are identifiable in it.
  5. Object to the posting and state that you object to the continued posting of the content.
  6. Explain that you did not post the content and that you did not give your permission for the content to be posted.
  7. If you are being intimidated, threatened or blackmailed in relation to the content, we recommend that you also make a report to cybertip.ca

Live authentic content can be fun and captivating, let’s work on keeping it that way.  If someone you know posts something you’d like taken down, tell them and take steps to have it taken down. In return, ensure that video / images you post are consensual and non-compromising.

Please note: Each social media platform deals differently with requests for content removal.  Our friends over at needhelpnow.ca have compiled a list of instructions for removing content from each of the most popular sites. Good luck!

 

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To Blog or not to Blog?

If you’ve been following us for a while, you’ll notice some big changes over the past few weeks.  That’s because, after two years of blogging about the personal security of women and girls, we decided to take a step back and review how we could improve our content delivery.  Our site analytics indicated that there was a strong following and potentially even a niche market for our content, however, the blog started as a passion project with limited integration with what we do for a living.

On reflection of how we could incorporate the blog into our actual work, we realized that by continuing the blog we would have an opportunity to keep our research habits sharp while continuing to offer insights about personal security which is something that means a lot to us. So, when we asked ourselves the question “to blog or not to blog?” the overwhelming response was, to blog.

As we work toward creating new content that blends our livelihood with our passion, we hope to provide a deeper look into what we have to offer beyond the blog. In addition to Investigator Girl posts, you can expect to see some portfolio pieces begin to appear on our site.  While it may seem a little unorthodox for knowledge workers to use a portfolio website to display their work product, we believe it may be the best way to tell a wider audience about what we do without giving away trade craft or breaching the confidentiality of our clients.  You may also find the odd blog post that relates to services we offer like environmental scanning, SWOT analysis, or next event predictions.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.  We hope you come back and check out our progress.  We also love hearing from our readers so please feel free to contact us with feedback about our blog posts, make topic requests, and to submit general inquiries.

 

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About Investigator Girl Blog

As with most of the data stories we tell, the Investigator Girl blog began with a question. This post explains how our founder came to ask “who are women and girls talking to about their personal security?” and, why we started blogging about it…

During my studies in the fall of 2014 I was assigned an essay on the topic of “Identity in Contemporary Society” where students were tasked with making a persuasive argument on a controversial issue. Having read Sheryl Sandberg’s (2012) book Lean In over the summer and, still being buzzed by it, I decided researching the evolving roles of women in society would be an interesting starting point. While researching the paper I learned quite a bit about the gender gap and global issues around the advancement of women. This being a widely studied topic, there was no shortage of material to work with. But, what stood out for me most was the prevalent theme that women inhibit themselves.

A short time after submitting my essay, I turned on the news only to find a video of two teen girls literally whipping a man on a bus in India after he had assaulted one of them. I experienced a goosebump moment generated by serious pride for those girls for having the courage to fight back.  Then, the report was concluded with the Newscaster stating “the two girls were then kicked off of the bus”.  Insert sound of needle scratching record here.

Statistics show that in coming years more women will be raising children as single parents and more women will be entering the workforce than ever before. If we pair these stats with the social movement around the advancement of women in leadership roles, we end up with a large population of leaders to protect and empower. After discussing these observations with my friends and colleagues, I began searching blogs and websites geared toward women that covered everything from nail art to applying for a Masters Degree program. Nowhere however, did I find a site dedicated strictly to the personal security of women and girls. So, the question became: Who are women and girls talking to about their personal security?  This question became the genesis of the Investigator Girl blog.

Talking to the authorities about safety and security usually doesn’t happen until something bad does, so my goal with the blog was to create a space where insights about personal security could be shared and safety tips would be offered informally.  And, after two years of blogging, a keen audience for the content was discovered. That’s why the most popular Investigator Girl posts have been left up for you to enjoy while we get on with the business of managing risk.

 

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Drink

Thinking back to our roots, we hover over the question:  Who are women and girls talking to about their personal security?  We started this blog with the intention of discussing all issues that relate to protection from harm.  That includes all things cyber security thru domestic abuse. One of the issues that seems to come up in almost every post we research, is alcohol.  In our January 2016 post we talked about alcohol’s devastating impact on weight-loss efforts and in last May’s post we offered up tips on Music Festival Safety we warned you not to over indulge in booze.  The issue of alcohol consumption comes up over and over again.  It wasn’t until we read Drink by Ann Dowsett Johnston that it occurred to us that alcohol is literally a legal drug and it’s hurting our women and girls more than we realized.

In her book Drink, Ann Dowsett Johnston examines the relationship between women and high risk drinking and what she unearths is disturbing to say the least.  Dowsett Johnston candidly shares her own experience growing up with an alcoholic mother before facing alcoholism in her own adulthood all the while conducting a rather impressive career.  Through her investigation into the down-side of gender equality she sheds light on the alarming aim taken by the alcohol industry on the female consumer as well the reality of campus drinking culture and the consequences of drinking young.

Here are a few highlights from what the winner of five National Magazine Awards had to say about the intimate relationship between women and alcohol…

  • The alcohol market has become female-focused. The author identifies when we starting seeing booze labels that read: “Skinny Girl”, “Mommy Juice” and “Girls Night Out” and points out that marketers realized that 85% of purchase decisions in the $12 – $15 range were “female-driven” (page 64 – 65).
  • University accelerates drinking rather than initiating it for young people. The campus culture of binge drinking now has a female version of the beer-guzzling frat boy stereotype and she’s going one for one with boys despite her weight and more lesser ability to physically break down ethanol (page 90).
  • Ask most women and girls with a serious drinking problem why they drink and they’ll tell you this… “I drink to numb. I drink to forget. I drink not to feel. I drink not to be me” (page 107), the author digs into the role that abuse and post-traumatic stress play in drinking to numb.
  • The author seeks to understand how a woman’s past trauma can recycle if it is left untreated and how a woman can be re-traumatized while under the influence of alcohol. There is an excellent explanation of becoming trauma-informed and how that may aid in the journey to sobriety (page 223).

This book will resonate differently for different people as it reaches each end of the drinking spectrum and everything in-between… the mom who has a glass of wine (or 3) after putting the kids to bed, the weekend warrior, and, the Surgeon who drinks before operating. So, getting back to the question:  Who are women and girls talking to about their personal security?  We sure hope Ann Dowsett Johntson is named in the answer to that!

After some soulful reflection on our own drinking habits we will say this, everyone who drinks has a relationship with alcohol and no one has a “healthy” relationship with alcohol.  We highly recommend this book to all women who drink any amount of alcohol.

Girls in Gangs

Last year we wrote a post about dating gang members  Here’s Your Sign! You Might be Dating a Gang Member if…  that turned out to be our single most viewed post to date.  Who knew there’d be such an appetite for this topic? Well, we’ve found that most of our readers are actually searching terms like “dating a girl gang member” which tells us that ya’ll want to read more about girls in gangs and are most likely stumbling upon our post that was intended to warn women about dating the wrong guys.  Never one’s to disappoint, we’re going with audience preference here and have prepared a post for you that explains the situation on girls in gangs.  Here goes…

The percentage of female gang members has been on the rise since the 1970’s.  The issue of gender equality has certainly not been passed-over in gang culture.  It’s been estimated that of the 800,000 gang members in the USA (2015), 70,000 of them are female.  That’s quite a high number considering that when one thinks of gangs or gang activity, girls aren’t typically the first thing to come to mind.  Our research revealed that female gang members often fly under the radar.  The reasons being that:

  • They haven’t been formally charged with any serious criminal offences and no child protection orders have been put in place. Both are typical indicators within the “system” that flag gang-affiliated women and girls.
  • The majority of gang outreach and prevention programs are focused on boys and men.
  • There is a huge gap in research data on the topic of girls in gangs.

These factors result in people (”people” being the police, government, community services etc.) overlooking many girls and women who are in fact involved in gangs and who are most likely trapped in a cycle of abuse.

So, why does a girl want to join a gang anyway? Girls gravitate into the gang lifestyle for many different reasons but the majority crave respect and/or money.  Research on the topic indicates that as girls mature through adolescence they are at an increased risk for physical and sexual abuse as well as higher rates of depression and anxiety than boys. This increased risk becomes especially exploitable when the girl comes from a low income broken home. Many girls who gravitate to gang life are seeking emotional and financial support and are looking to replace their families. Common statements of girls in exploitable situations resemble:

“My mom doesn’t understand me, my family doesn’t care, no-one listens”… meanwhile the gang is telling them “we hear you, we care about you, we’re there for you.”

Alienation, feeling like a stranger and not fitting in are also reasons for gravitating to the gang lifestyle. Girls who haven’t developed strong bonds with family, school, or extracurricular activities look elsewhere and are more likely to isolate themselves from, and reject the main stream lifestyle.  This is why love is a BIG motivator, girls often follow boys into the gang culture.  Relationships are very important to girls and women and many are willing to give up their lives/freedom for the men they love. There have been many cases where the female has taken the wrap for her boyfriend to avoid him being sent to jail.  In the gang mentality, loyalty is more important than staying out of prison. Sadly, the lowest rank in gang hierarchy and those most at risk are the groupies, referred to as “links” or “pass-arounds”.  These are generally the girls with the lowest self-esteem and who are the most desperate to belong.  If the relationship they follow into the gang is not strong/long-term, they are most likely going to be exploited and they probably won’t even realize it.

Another unfortunate reality for girls in gangs, is that in some areas girls are actually groomed or “gassed up” for gang life. Parents have been known to teach their daughters how to fight and shoot and have provided them with weapons to carry instilling the belief that “you can’t stay out of it” so you best be prepared. These young girls are literally raised to be able to recognize any object as a weapon and to appreciate the sense of belonging and perceived refuge provided by a gang.  With that gang affiliation also comes an ability to instill fear which can be very enticing to young people. The gang mentality around fear is that someone fearing you is a form of empowerment.

Women are recruited into gangs for various reasons and are viewed as a particular asset when it comes to carrying and hiding contraband. There is a longstanding belief that the Police are less likely to conduct a physical search of a woman so the females are often tasked with transporting illicit items such as drugs and weapons. (We’d like to point out that the Police are actually most likely to call in a female officer to conduct a search on a female which simply delays the inevitable but, anyway…) Traditionally, the female gang member may be used as a “honeytrap” which means that they would be used to lure males into a compromising sexual situation to provide an opportunity for the gang to ambush. Original female gang members acted as support to the men but that is no longer the case.  More women are doing the dirty work than ever before, particularly in the state of California where there is a three strikes rule now which is putting male gang members away for 25 years at a time, leaving the women to carry out the criminal activities on the streets.

The crimes of female gang members are not petty, they are committing extremely violent acts like robberies, kidnappings, and murders. Female gang members are increasingly regarded by their male counterparts as being able to function just the same as the males do, presenting a “they got guns, they can shoot” attitude. And, shoot they will, female recruits seeking affirmation and respect will work to prove themselves to be just as crazy as the males.

Want more on girls in gangs? Let us know.

 

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Our 5 Most Pressing Questions About Sextortion – Answered

Sam from Vancouver wanted to know more about sextortion after she read an article in Glamour magazine about a brave young lady, Ashley Reynolds, who turned her victimization into a 105 year conviction against her abuser, Lucas Michael Chansler. Well Sam, we’ve done our homework and are happy to report back!  What we learned is that sextortion can have devastating effects on victims and, sadly, that it is very easy to become a victim.

Here are our 5 most pressing questions about sextortion – answered.

  1. What is Sextortion?

Sextortion is a serious crime that occurs when someone threatens to distribute your private and sensitive material if you don’t provide them with images of a sexual nature, sexual favors or money.  The perpetrator may also threaten to harm your friends or family by using information they have obtained from your online profiles and electronic devices unless you comply with their demands.

  1. How does it happen?

There are a few ways this can happen, the first being that the perpetrator gains your trust by pretending to be someone they’re not via fake social profiles and lures you into an online relationship that results in you providing them with the material. Alternatively, they might be lurking in a chat room and simply recording your posts or live stream of sexually explicit images to be used as leverage against you.  Finally, they may hack into your electronic device using malware to gain access to your files and take control of your web cam and microphone without you knowing it.

  1. What can I do to protect myself?
  • Do not send compromising images of yourself to anyone no matter who they are or who they say they are
  • Do not open attachments from people you do not know
  • Turn off your devices and web cams when you’re not using them
  1. I’m a parent, how do I protect my kids?

Be nosy! It’s ok for parents to be nosy when it comes to the use of social media apps like Instagram, Snapchat, Kik, and ooVoo.  According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the average age of a sexploitation victim is 14 years with the youngest being just 8 years old so, this is your free pass for being a “helicopter parent.”

  • Be nosy!
  • Don’t charge or leave mobile devices in the kids bedrooms at night
  • Set up passwords for downloading apps that you know and control
  • Talk to your kids about the dangers of communicating and sending photos to people they do and do not know
  • Place a sticker over the camera on all computers and mobile devices and instruct your children to only remove the sticker when they are skyping with grandparents or during other supervised chats.
  1. What if it happens to me or someone I know?

If you receive sextortion threats you are not alone.  In most cases, the perpetrator is an adult pretending to be a teenager and you are most likely one of many victims being targeted by the same person. Don’t be afraid or too embarrassed to talk to an adult about what is happening. sextortion needs to be reported.

In the USA: Contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or tips.fbi.gov

In Canada: Contact Cybertip.ca

While sextortion does typically involve young victims there are similar crimes that you will want to be aware of that also involve intimate images.  Those are Cyber Bullying and the Non-Consensual Distribution of Intimate Images, these offences are being responded to by various stages of new legislative authorities worldwide.   Public Safety Canada has a list of the countries that currently have legislation in place to protect against these crimes as well as a examples of existing Criminal Code offences that relate, such as Voyeurism, Obscene Publication and Criminal Harassment.

As for the Ashley Reynolds story, there are still a large number of unidentified victims being searched for by the FBI so that they may be informed that their abuser is behind bars and receive proper counseling.

M.C.K.D.

Click here for more on the ongoing Chansler Investigation

Related: Dissemination of Intimate Images & Get Cyber Safe

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Your Smartphone is Capturing More Than Your Selfies

The nerdiest of our in-house nerds recently took the plunge on researching smartphone sensor data and its potential for use as forensic evidence.  Since we know ya’ll can’t go more than a couple of hours without accessing your smartphones, we’ve summarized the “meat & potatoes” of her findings for you. Enjoy…

Technological advances are progressing at a faster rate of change than all of social change; business change; and legislative change put together. The distribution of such change has created an environment where society must adapt to face the influence that technology has on the future of crime and criminal investigations.  According to the Department of Justice, one of the three main influences that technology has on the future of crime is the development of new technologies to either stop or deter criminal activities.  These technologies will include new forms of digital forensic evidence.

Change in consumer needs and preferences is a critical variable in the evolution of digital forensic evidence. As consumers, we drive the popularity of devices that will ultimately provide digital evidence.  The wireless communications market continues to experience exponential growth in Canada and abroad. A 2015 study by Catalyst shows an increase in smartphone ownership by 24% year over year, declaring smartphones virtually ubiquitous in Canada. As smartphone penetration grows, the demand for newer replacement models follows with consumers increasingly using smartphones for activities that previously would have been accomplished by use of a landline or laptop. This wide-spread use of smartphones and their evolving capabilities introduces new opportunities in the field of digital forensics not to mention new concerns for user privacy.

Today, criminal investigations often involve telephone record analysis which identifies patterns in contact between subjects. This process involves a review of the number of calls made, time of the calls, parties called, etc., for the purpose of identifying devices that may be used in a conspiracy.  Just as traditional telephone record analysis provides valuable corroborating evidence of an overt act, it has been proposed that Law Enforcement Agency’s (LEA’s) may obtain authority to intercept smartphone sensor data to serve as digital evidence in the near future. The sensor data that are stored in most smartphones include: cameras, microphones, global positioning systems, motion sensors called accelerometer and gyroscope, and, environment sensors that capture proximity, light and temperature. These types of sensor data may provide context that constitutes evidence beyond the current scope of lawful interception systems by forming evidence chains when they are combined or when corroborated with other forms of evidence.

The context that is referred to herein has been demonstrated through research at Fordham University in New York where developers at the Wireless Sensor Data Mining (WISDM) Lab have created a system using smartphone sensor data that recognizes such activities as sitting, standing, walking, climbing stairs, and jogging. The WISDM states it is also “able to predict a user’s gender with 71 percent accuracy, and can distinguish between “tall” and “short” people and “heavy” and “light” people, each with about 80 percent accuracy.” Perhaps more relevant is the establishment that one’s gait as measured by a smartphone accelerometer, may be distinctive enough to be used for identification purposes. The progress made at WISDM Lab is mirrored by Shaun Gallager who, in his thesis, found that identifying an individual’s gait is as unique as identifying an individual’s fingerprint.

In addition to the identification of a user’s physical activities and stature, it has been suggested that smartphone sensor data may in fact provide a near-total data profile on the life of an individual. One study, found that by analyzing application usage and communication history, they were able to statistically infer a user’s daily mood average.  Initially with a rate of 66% accuracy, which gradually improved to 93% accuracy after a two-month personalized period. Similar discoveries were made by Lathia, N., et al (2013) who claim that smartphone sensor data “can unobtrusively sense human behavior and deliver feedback and behavioral therapy.” In their article, the authors discuss applications for behavioral monitoring and change and present the first holistic platform for large-scale digital behavior change intervention.

Given the vast array of future uses for smartphone sensor data, it is important to note that LEA’s will be required to standardize appropriate techniques for obtaining and processing this valuable sensor data.  Pioneers in the field will need to delve into this discipline in order to develop sound techniques for transferring and presenting the smartphone sensor data, perhaps looking to industry leaders for tools to bring efficiency to the process. And, they may be well on their way because both Apple and Samsung have introduced software for collecting and sharing smartphone sensor data signaling a growing interest in the use of sensor data across sectors.

So, what does this mean to the average citizen?  Simply put: your smartphone is collecting more than just your selfies, it is literally storing a near-total data profile on you that one day (soon), may be able to serve as digital forensic evidence before the courts. We’ll be keeping tabs on the forces that are supporting and / or hindering the increased use of smartphone sensor data as digital forensic evidence such as emerging case law and relevant sensor data research.

Featured Image Credit / Attribution Under Standard License of Shutterstock

The Overpayment Scam

Two weeks ago, we were contacted by a reader who described a scam to us that really got under our skin. What pissed us off about this scam was that the fraudster attempted to exploit the livelihood of our reader who happens to be a hard working single mother.  Gross.  This reader is an Artist and a Teacher who works in a k-6 school but who also promotes her photography via a beautiful website that she paid for with her own hard earned money.  We would also like to mention that she is well educated (holding a Bachelor of Fines Arts Degree) and in the 35 – 40 age range.  We’ll call her Marie, here’s what happened in her words…

“I recently was contacted by someone who wanted to purchase some of my art that he found on my website. He claimed he wanted sizes that I did not offer on my site. The emails came from: thomasrice2@outlook.com I also received text from “Thomas” from this US # 303-578-0757. This seemed strange considering he claimed to be from Ontario.”

“He said he would send me a check from his company via UPS. The amount I quoted him for the photographic images was $140.00 plus post. He indicated he would send a check for enough to cover the cost plus shipping. (I was becoming sceptical and didn’t actually have the images printed, waiting to see if payment actually arrived.)”

“A cheque arrived yesterday from UPS to my work for $1,999.00. Obviously way too much. When I questioned this things started getting complicated. “Thomas” wanted me to send a money gram to his mover (he’s moving to Turkey,) for whatever was left over after my $140.00 prints and the cost of sending the money gram. Also Thomas is in a time crunch and can’t wait to have my work. So he wanted me to send over $1800.00 in a money gram to his “mover.”

After receiving what she suspected was a counterfeit cheque, Marie looked up the financial institution that the cheque was drawn on and the company name used on the cheque. The address of the Credit Union shown on the cheque was incorrect but she found that the Credit Union was actually legitimate. When Marie contacted the Credit Union directly and informed them of the counterfeit cheque, this is what they had to say…

Hello Marie,

My name is Jane and I work at SCU. Your e-mail was forwarded to me as I have been working with the fraudulent cheques surfacing on this company’s account. I really appreciate all the details in your e-mail. I would strongly advise to take all this information to your local Police. You have provided so many names and contacts – this is important information. Please feel free to contact me at any time, should you have further questions or concerns.

 Thank you and have a great day,

Jane

…..

Thank you Jane,

I was advised to be in touch with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center as this case reaches across at least three provinces. I will stop by my local Police and start a file with them if it helps you out? Do you want the cheque and envelope for your case should you be able to press charges?

Marie

…..

Hello Marie,

Thanks for answering.

SCU is in no position to press charges, it would be our member (the account holder) and they have already done so. But I strongly believe it can only help in stopping these fraudsters if you provide all this information.

Since these cheques have surfaced, I would say a couple of hundred have tried to clear. You are the first person to receive that much information. Please do take all this information to your local Police – it will be very helpful in stopping these fraudsters.

Thanks again,

Jane

…..

Good Morning Jane,

As I did not deposit the cheque no actual crime has been committed, as I was not defrauded of any money. The local Police won’t start a file for a crime that did not happen, this is what I was told. If you or your client would like any other information from me please do not hesitate to get in touch. I have filled a report dated Jan 26 2016 with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center, the complaint reference number is XXXXX. I do not expect to hear from them either though as I did not lose any money. “Thomas” is now threatening me with legal action trying to turn the tables and scare me into sending him money. It is disgusting behavior. I’m afraid your client is likely the only person who has the legal authority for complaint in this case.

Thank you for your support in taking my information,

Marie

…..

As Marie was working toward exposing this fraudster to the appropriate authorities, the creep emailed her again in the following threatening tone…

On Thu, Jan 28, 2016 at 6:45 AM, Thomas Rice <austhomas01@gmail.com> wrote:

“I’m still wondering why I haven’t heard back from you as I have been sending you several emails and text messages to the phone# you have provided and you have intentionally refused to respond. what’s going on??

My shipper has been waiting to receive his money from you so he can get in touch with you and set up time and date for pick up. I would appreciate if you get back to me and let me know when this transaction would come to an end.

If I don’t still hear from you within the next 24 hours I think I might be forced to involve my attorney and the local authority in this transaction and forward all your contact information I’m having with me and also forward a copy to my attorney so they can get in touch with you in case they have questions for you because this seem to me like you are trying to run away with my money and pull some scam.

Sincerely.”

After receiving the above email, Marie responded by writing back to the fraudster telling them to never contact her again.  As far as we know she has not heard back from him since. So, now that you’ve seen how this type of scam unfolds, we should explain that this type of fraud is classified as a mass marketing fraud. Note that the woman (Jane) from the Credit Union stated that hundreds of these counterfeit cheques had tried to clear and that the company who’s name was being used was taking action.

Marie’s case is a sale of merchandise by complainant scam but is commonly known as an “overpayment scam”.  This includes any incident involving a person selling merchandise or a service who receives payment in the form of a counterfeit cheque from the “purchaser” in an amount that exceeds the amount owed. The “purchaser” then requests reimbursement of payment or may request that the excess funds be directed to a third party.

Other mass marketing frauds are:

  • Job offer scams
  • Prize-lottery scams
  • Foreign money offer scams

We found some stats from Canada in 2012 where a reported 41, 496 complaints were filed in relation to mass marketing fraud.  The reported losses that accompanied these claims reached a whopping $76,132,679.08 and, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center it was Canadians between the ages of 50 – 59 yrs who suffered the greatest financial loss.  It is our understanding that this type of fraud has been on the rise since 2012 so it’s a good idea to be aware of and know how to protect yourself:

  • Know who you are dealing
  • Independently confirm the buyer’s name, street address and telephone number
  • Never accept a payment for more than your selling price
  • Never agree to wire funds back to a buyer or a third party
  • Resist pressure to “act now”

Our reader got a strange vibe from communications with her “purchaser” early on and rightfully looked into the details found on the cheque when it arrived.  She noted that the area code of the cell number she was given did not match the location that the “purchaser” claimed to be contacting her from. Another huge step that she took to protect herself was that she limited the amount of personal information she gave to this fraudster by providing her work address for delivery rather than her residential address. This gal was tuned into her intuition and she followed through with reporting despite feeling a little burned about not making an actual sale.  We give Marie kudos for taking the time to document this event and for allowing us to share it with ya’ll!

One last thing we’d like to point out is that Jane from the Credit Union instructed Marie to take her report to the local Police.  We assume that that is a standard procedure carried out by that particular financial institution but we can’t stress enough that a standard procedure of a financial institution will not necessarily be matched by that of your local authorities.  Don’t get frustrated if you are directed to the Police only to find out that your concern isn’t a Police matter. Local authorities are just that, local. There are often inter-jurisdictional issues that prevent local Police from taking on a file, this does not mean that there isn’t a more appropriate authority to report your concern to. In Marie’s case the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center was the correct authority to make report to.

Stay vigilant friends!

I.G.

Link to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center

 

Feature Image Credit: Original photo submitted by Investigator Girl Blog Reader

The Stalking Series Recap

In observance of National Stalking Awareness Month (#NSAM) we’re reminding ya’ll of the three part stalking series we did last January.  It’s been estimated that more than a million women and nearly half a million men are stalked in the US each year. The overwhelming majority of victims are women, and the majority of offenders are men.  Most victims know their stalkers and, unfortunately, new technologies continue to make it easier for stalkers to track their victims.  Check out part one of our series for the basics about stalking:

Part One: What’s The Deal with Stalking?

Stalking can involve a combination of criminal acts and acts that, in isolation, would seem nonthreatening. It is the pattern and context of the acts that constitute stalking. To help clarify, we scanned the web and traded notes with our most relevant and credible sources. In doing so, we came up with a list of stalking behaviors discussed in part two:

Part Two: Stalking Behavior

In part 1 we explained that stalking is about power and control and in part 2 we discussed the behaviors commonly associated to stalking but, there are also different types of stalkers.  Stalkers come from all different backgrounds and have different personalities. They are, by their nature, obsessive and dangerous individuals. Researchers have developed general classifications of stalkers that can be useful for understanding what the heck is going on in a stalking situation, those types are explained in part three for our series:

Part Three: Types of Stalkers

It is very important to note that stalking is a precursor to more violent acts. We really can’t stress enough that any person who suspects that he or she is being stalked should report all contacts and incidents to their local law enforcement as soon as possible. Stalking victims should document every incident as thoroughly as possible, including keeping videotapes, audiotapes, screen shots of texts and snaps, voice mail messages, photos of property damage, letters/emails received and any objects left by the stalker. It is also highly recommended that victims keep a journal to document all incidents, including the time, date, and other relevant information for each interaction. This is because, as we mentioned above, one isolated incident may seem harmless while all of the incidents combined will demonstrate a intentional pattern of activity.

We hope our stalking series provides you with a greater awareness and ability to recognize stalking if it happens to you or someone you know!

I.G.

 

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Yep it’s true. Alcohol makes you fat.

It’s almost the end of January and we’re wondering how everyone’s New Year’s resolutions are going?  We noticed our evening yoga classes are jam packed with new faces and the wait time for cardio equipment at the rec center has quadrupled which indicates that many of you are still making an effort to either burn off the muffin top you grained over the holidays or you’ve remained committed to your New Year’s resolutions (Bravo).

The number of women who list weight loss as a New Year’s Resolution is staggering!   The fact that Oprah has invested in Weight Watchers should serve as a big’ol clue.  We think Oprah looks great and don’t think she needs to lose weight. She is a business woman and we know she’s seen the stats… we’re thinking she is probably hauling in huge bucks as a result of the female population’s delusions of achieving the “perfect bikini body” by counting calories.  The truth is, in order to reduce just one inch from your waist line you’ll need to do a lot more than eat pre-planned meals.  There is no replacement for physical activity.  Tried and true, the combination of a clean diet and daily exercise will eventually help you reach your body goals.

Interestingly, when it comes to the term clean diet we tend to think of opting for carrot sticks instead of buttered popcorn while we binge watch Netflix BUT, there is a whole other factor to be considered if you drink alcohol.  We noticed a fundraising campaign launched by the BC Cancer Foundation called “Lose the Booze” where folks are giving up alcohol for the month of February in the spirit of good health. This got us to thinking about all of the cons associated to the many glasses of wine we’ve guzzled over the years and we started wondering how many calories we’ve been drinking never mind those we’ve been eating.  Also, how are liquid calories negatively impacting our weight loss efforts?

Thankfully the UK website www.drink.aware.co.uk is equipped with a handy dandy seven day alcohol unit calculator to address this troubling thought.  We plugged two glasses of wine on Monday (obvi while watching The Bachelor), two pints of beer on Thursday (happy hour at the local pub) and a vodka soda on Saturday (quick drink with a friend) into this magical weekly calculator and found these drinks were the equivalent of 4 hamburgers (or 923 calories) consumed in that one week period.  Holy smokes! Did we enter that correctly? If you subscribe to the method of maintaining a specific daily caloric intake to lose weight, just a few drinks per week could completely sabotage your “clean diet” efforts and put you well over your daily calorie limit.  This is serious people. Alcohol actually can make you fat.

One in six women will develop a health related problem due to alcohol consumption so if avoiding gout and cancer isn’t enough motivation to help you lose the booze then perhaps vanity will be.  If you’re like us and you enjoy having a glass of wine at lunch with the ladies then it may be a good time to take a quick inventory of just how many hamburgers you’re drinking per week.  We’re not suggesting you cut alcohol out completely but if you are struggling to lose a few pounds this may be the missing link.  And, if this post is hitting a little closer to home than you’d like, don’t freak out.  There are a ton of resources out there to help you get your drinking in check… take the time to click a few of the links we’ve added in this post and start reading about it.  Sometimes a better understanding of your drinking behavior is the best first step.

I.G.

Related: How Alcohol Makes you Ugly 

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The Betches Book Review

It’s a new year and we’re trying on a (slightly) new perspective. After putting  Nice is Just a Place in France by The Betches on our back-burner because we didn’t feel it fit our brand, we gave it a read anyway and found that it speaks to young women in a tone that we totally get.  So, although this book does not specifically discuss safety tips or security considerations, the main premise sends a message that we agree with, not to mention it had us literally laughing out loud – which gets major points and makes it a no brainer for review!

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The main theme of the book is “how to win at basically everything”.  According to The Betches, most anything can accomplished if you simply: Don’t be easy. Don’t be Poor.  and Don’t be Ugly. If you’re ready to embrace the end of “nice girls” and learn how to look hot and unapproachable this book may be for you.  It covers all things sorority rush week, text etiquette and choosing the betchiest career path possible.

The following sentiments made our list of selected highlights:

  • Spring Break – How to avoid arrest, deportation and embarrassment. Includes a table laying out the do’s and don’ts of spring break.
  • Sexting – A slippery slope! Thank you Betches for reminding us that what you put out in cyberspace will follow you for the REST OF YOUR LIFE.
  • Gold DiggingThe Betches provide a clear distinction between being with a man solely because of his money vs. having a certain standard of means for the type of man you’re willing to date.
  • And last but certainly not least, if you keep your legs closed, you can rule the world. Nuff said.

Other reviewers have suggested that this book would be good for the 16 – 24 age range but we disagree. There are too many references to drugs, alcohol and casual sex for the youngest of our readers. Our recommended age range for this book is 20 – 30 years.  We’re confident that ladies in their 20’s will understand the satirical nature and will most likely not attempt to emulate some of the more crass attitudes presented in the book. Meanwhile the content may encourage Mean Girls attitudes in less mature readers.

Overall we consider this to be a jovial, quick and easy read. We appreciated the encouragement it offers to young ladies to take control of their own lives and would recommend this book as a perfect break from study material. Carry it along on transit for short duration reads that are bound to inject a little humor into your day. Enjoy!

I.G.

Social Media

HR Teams are Looking at Your Online Presence. Keep it Classy!

Most people use social media to some extent and whether you like it or not, so do employers. Increasingly, HR departments are using social networks to screen applicants when hiring. According to numerous sources, the most common websites for recruiters to screen candidates on are: LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. If you are a job seeker and have a blog, Facebook page, or any other online presence, you would be wise to:

  1. Carefully manage your image on social sites, and
  2. Be aware of the corresponding legal & privacy considerations when employers screen you online.

Even if you use social media simply to stay in touch with family and friends, or to keep up to date on what’s happening in your community, research shows that almost all employers say that they search and screen the social media profiles of job applicants. This means that if you use social media to post pictures of yourself drunk or naked (or both), or to air offensive views, you may want to clean-up your online act before you begin your job search. HR recruiters are reportedly looking at the social networking profiles of candidates very early on in the hiring process and, at the interview stage in particular.

The many reasons HR teams review the social profiles and activity of candidates include:

  • to gain a more personal view of a candidate than they can derive from a resume
  • they may simply be looking for potential passive candidates
  • they’re looking to see if the candidate will be a good fit with the corporate culture
  • to find out more about that candidate’s qualifications
  • they want to see if a candidate is creative
  • they may be screening out candidates for inappropriate behavior online

It’s important to keep in mind that this type of online “research” can cause a recruiter to form an opinion of a candidate. That opinion may or may not lead them to hire that candidate.  So, with that in mind, here’s what employers least want to see in a candidate’s social profile:

  • references about using illegal drugs
  • posts of a sexual nature
  • use of profanity

While we highly recommend taking a look at your publicly accessible information and making sure your online presence is tidy, there is a flip side. Employers who check out job applicants online do run a number of legal risks. First off, the collection of personal information by employers raises some privacy concerns and, distinguishing between the protected and unprotected online activity of a candidate is not always easy.  For the record, employers don’t need a candidate’s consent to view publicly accessible information on the open internet. BUT, that information must only be used for reasonable purposes that relate to recruiting or establishing an employment relationship.  This serves as a fine example of why your privacy settings are so darn important! This is in part, why job applicants are protected by privacy laws. In Canada, every province and territory has some form of public sector privacy legislation and an oversight authority.  In the United States, certain employee social media activities are actually protected against employer retaliation.  The caveat being, if you have publicly posted information about yourself without restricting who can view it, you will have a very difficult time arguing that that information was private.

Another risk run by employers who view job applicant’s social media posts is the potential for discrimination claims. Social media often reveals one’s ethnicity, sexual orientation, whether or not they are pregnant, married, or in support of a particular political party. This type of information is off limits during the hiring process, and an employer who obtains it from social media and then uses it as a basis for hiring (or not hiring) a specific candidate could face a discrimination lawsuit.

On a related note, there has been a fair bit of publicity around employers pressuring job applicants to provide their Facebook passwords. We’ll be keeping an eye on this topic as we hear that a number of states are currently considering legislation to ban this practice. Facebook has also reportedly weighed in on the practice by making soliciting passwords a violation of the site’s code of conduct. And, the US federal government is apparently investigating whether practices like these violate the US federal discrimination and privacy laws.  If this is your area of expertise, please do comment on this post!

Although the use of social content by HR can be a double-edged sword, you are not off the hook if your online behavior is unprofessional, offensive or just plain gross. Poor online behavior can work against you and leave a potential employer feeling like they may have dodged a bullet by not hiring you based on your sloppy online presence. The bottom line is that what you post and how you behave on social media can create a first impression of the sort of person you might be. All social media users need to understand that any personal information and communication posted on a social site can be viewed by an unintended audience so we highly recommend keeping it classy and utilizing those privacy settings!

 

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What You Need to Know About Wearable Tech

Tech accessories hit the scene at last September’s New York’s Fashion Week fueling a surge in partnerships between designers and tech giants who are now collaborating on pieces that include sleek watches that can answer your calls and elegant pendants that keep you on schedule.  So even though, fitness and health wearables remained the dominant trend at the January 2015 Consumer Electronic Show, wearable technology is gaining popularity quickly becoming more mainstream!

It’s been predicted that worldwide wearable shipments will rise by 158% in 2015, reaching 75 million units by end of the year.  Some say we have the recent release of the Apple Watch to thank for driving the demand for these devices but with things like pet wearables emerging on the market, we can tell ya’ll this trend won’t rest at watches and calorie counters.  That’s right, pet wearables are on their way, soon you will be able to purchase a GPS collar for the family pooch to ensure he never goes missing again.

Due to the popularity of these gadgets, companies will be expecting an increase in employees wearing personal devices to work and experts warn that that could lead to cybersecurity concerns.  Wearables can create an entry point to a company by running third-party applications while the device is connected the company’s network.  If a device is compromised while connected to the network, a hacker could potentially gain access to sensitive corporate data as well as personal information about the employee.  In case you’re not already aware, data about the device or ‘app’ user is collected by most applications and is often sold to third parties for purposes such as advertising.  If the transfer of that data is not encrypted at the time of the sale, it can be intercepted which creates another opening for a hacker.

With that said, many companies are embracing BYOD (Bring Your Own Device).  BYOD is an IT policy that allows and encourages employees to use their own mobile devices to access company data and systems.  Many companies are implementing BYOD policies because they believe that it will increase productivity and innovation; satisfy employees (many of whom may have been accessing corporate data from personal devices without the IT team’s knowledge anyway) and; save costs as employees purchase their own data packages etc.  However, the benefits of BYOD are met with equal or greater network security concerns.

As steps are taken to ensure network security and corporate data, the implications to the privacy of the individual posed by wearables devices must also be considered.  So, before you go and drop $400 on a snazzy new smartwatch, you may want to find out if your employer has a BYOD policy or perhaps they’d prefer that employees don’t don these new trinkets in their corporate space.

M.C.K.D.

 

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Gold Bars

Marrying for Money. Really?!

We spoke to a young woman (17 yrs old) recently who told us that her parents advised her to ‘just focus on marrying rich’ when we asked her about her career aspirations.  Our chins literally hit the floor before we told her that was the worst advice we’d ever heard and here’s why…

Wealthy men know they are being targeted by gold diggers, they are raised to understand and be wary of this concept from an equally young age.  We know plenty of wealthy men who have openly joked about the ‘tire biters’ they can so easily sleep with because they have the money to attract these women like flies. Wealthy fellas can see a gold digger coming a mile away and they know exactly how to use her if they so choose.  This girl’s parents, perhaps unknowingly or uneducated, where inadvertently setting their daughter up with some seriously unhealthy ideas about money and relationships.

The idea of marrying for money isn’t new. Throughout history, marriage has been used as a system to promote the social, financial and political aspirations of many families.  However, this has become an old school way of thinking! These days, (North American) society is generally disgusted by the idea of mercenary marriages and fewer people are actually getting married at all.  Time Magazine recently reported that 25% of US Millennials will never marry.  According to that same article, the three main reasons people are staying single are:

30% haven’t found the right person

27% aren’t financially stable enough

22% not ready to settle down

We live in a world that runs on dollars and good sense. Marginalized women who are raised to believe they need a man’s money to flourish are at a much higher risk for abuse.  And, statistics show that women suffer far more economically than men do when marriages fail.  With that in mind we have some advice:

Instead of looking for either love or money, look out for security within yourself.

Start by getting your own financial shit together then go out and find a man who lives within his means, budgets, saves, invests and stays out of substantial debt.  This is the best move toward a financially secure partnership you’ll ever make.

Everyone’s idea of financial stability is relative to their individual idea of what is needed to meet their needs. You have to decide what that means to you. And, if someone is advising you to ‘marry for money’ instead of going out and making your own, take a good long look at that person’s lifestyle and consider whom you are taking that advice from.  Always be cautious of taking any advice from those who do not possess the same lifestyle and qualities you are seeking for yourself.

I.G.

P.S. Juuuuust in case there are any readers who do not know this, a gold digger is a woman (or man) whose primary interest in a relationship is material benefit.  Any woman who cares more about a man’s bank account than she does about the man fits into this category.

 

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Music Festival

Music Festival, Like a Pro

In case you didn’t notice, music festival season kicked off last month at Coachella down in Indio, CA and was followed closely by Canadian Music Festival in Toronto. Next up is Sasquatch in George, WA this Memorial Day weekend.  As a matter of fact, the line ups for music festivals all over North America have been announced and tickets sales are well underway!

Synonymous with party drugs like MDMA, music festivals generally attract folks who are simply looking for a good time but there is also an underbelly to these events that attracts unscrupulous drug dealers and opportunists.  So, whether you’re a music festival junkie or a first timer, there are a few things to consider before you enter the gated grounds of the increasingly popular music festival.

Festival goers need to be aware of the combination of heat, dehydration, marathon dance sessions and tainted drugs that will undoubtedly be offered up at any outdoor music festival.  With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of safety tips for doing music festival season like a pro:

  • Check the festival website for safety advisory and lists of prohibited items before you go
  • Plan your ride home before you go
  • Check the weather and pack appropriately
  • Leave your valuables at home, bring only the cash & cards you need
  • Prepare an exit strategy, have a plan for what to do in case there is an emergency
  • Set times throughout the day to check in with someone back home
  • Choose a well-lit camp site
  • Mark your tent and property with your initials and postal code
  • Get to know your camp site neighbors
  • Learn the layout of the festival grounds before you indulge at the beer garden
  • Know where the nearest security and medical stations are to your camp site
  • Stay hydrated, bring a refillable water bottle
  • Stay in groups and within your group have a festival buddy who will always have your back
  • Look out for others even if they are not your festival buddy
  • If you find yourself alone, make the festival staff and volunteers aware of your presence
  • Never go anywhere with a stranger
  • Never take drinks or drugs from strangers
  • Utilize free testing at the SafeRave, PartySafe or Ankors booth if you do decide to take drugs
  • Charge your mobile daily, most festivals have charging stations
  • Be aware of anyone who seems to be looking for vulnerable women and don’t let your friends wonder off with someone they just met
  • If you see something sketchy going on, report it
  • Support the festivals that promote safety and skip the others

We know these all sound like common sense tips BUT, we also know how quickly common sense can go out the window once you’ve entered the rush of the festival environment.  We encourage you to plan ahead, consider these tips, have fun and stay safe this music festival season!

I.G.