Monday, December 15, 2014

Guest Blog: Shop Safe This Holiday Season


By Judy Leary, President of IdentityForce

The holidays should be a joyous time of celebration and not a time of worry. But identity theft is a problem that affects us all. It was just one year ago that sophisticated cyber thieves accessed Target’s   computer system and stole 40 million credit and debit card numbers and personal information on 70 million customers. It was a huge wake-up call for retailers and consumers alike. Consumers vowed to be more careful with their personal data, and retailers redoubled their efforts to make every customer transaction failsafe.

Unfortunately, despite companies spending more than $4 billion so far this year to combat the problem, cyber attacks have not only continued but have escalated. According to information compiled by the Identity Theft Resource Center, major data breaches are up about 25 percent over this time last year. Home Depot, J. P. Morgan, Kmart, ebay, Neiman Marcus, Walgreens, and the U.S. Postal Service all experienced security breaches in 2014, exposing data on tens of millions of customers. No wonder 60 Minutes recently dubbed 2014 “the year of the data breach.”

While safer days are ahead of us as banks and retailers gear up to roll out the more secure pin and chip credit cards in 2015, shoppers can do their part this holiday season to keep their identity as safe as possible.   

10 Tips for Safer Shopping—Online and in Stores

1. Strengthen and Protect Passwords
“123456” is not a legitimate password, yet 60 Minutes reports it’s one of the most common ones used. A strong password consists of a combination of at least 8 letters, numbers, and symbols. Store passwords in an online password safe, never in a desk drawer or wallet.
2. Vary Emails
Do not use the same password for multiple email accounts, and always keep your banking emails separate from other email accounts.
3. Use a Credit Card Rather than a Debit Card
Credit cards are generally more secure than a debit card, which links directly to your
bank account. If you absolutely must use your debit card, be sure to have the cashier run it as a credit card so you won’t have to input your pin number.
4. Review Bank and Credit Card Statements
Review your statements each month and question any suspicious expenses, no matter how small. Cyber thieves sometimes “test” a card with low-cost purchases first.
5. Check the Safety of Each Retailer’s Website
To ensure the website is safe for transactions, make sure “https” is part of the address in the URL, and look for the padlock icon, typically found in the bottom right-hand corner of your browser. Use a credit card rather than a debit card, and under no circumstances give out your social security number.
6. Be Aware of Your Surroundings
With so much emphasis on cyber security, we forget sometimes about the still very real threat of pickpockets. Pocketbooks and backpacks should be kept closed and when possible carried in front of your body. Men should keep wallets in a front pants or jacket pocket. Limit the amount of cash and number of credit cards in your wallet, and never carry your social security card.

7. Treat Your Social Security Number Like Gold
You’d be amazed at the damage an identity thief can do with just your name and social security number. Memorize the number so you don’t have to carry the card with you, and share it only with employers and banks.
8. Guard Your “Snail Mail”
If paying bank and credit card bills by mail, put the envelopes directly into a secured U.S. post box, rather than in your door slot where anyone can grab it and access your account numbers.
9. Sign Up for Alerts
Ask your bank to alert you via email or text for any transaction over a certain threshold amount, such as $250.00.
10. Use Two-Factor Authentication
More and more banks and websites are offering this service, which requires an additional security step above and beyond your username and password. Typically a passcode is generated anew and sent to your phone each time you want to log on.

Follow these tips to ensure your identity is protected throughout the holidays, and all year long. From all of us on the IdentityForce team, we wish you and yours a joyous, magical, and secure holiday season.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Giving Back on a Small Business Budget


Businesses, large and small, frequently receive requests to support local causes and events. While large businesses may have a portion of their budgets allocated to support local causes, small businesses oftentimes have the desire but not the funds, making charitable giving a challenge. However, giving back is more than donating funds; it is supporting the communities we serve with resources that create a positive impact.

Customers are loyal to businesses that are involved in programs that support their local community. Even if small businesses are not able to write a big check, they can still be good corporate citizens by supporting local causes and creating mutually beneficial collaborations.

One of the first steps to giving back is learning about the opportunities available. Conducting research will help assure that the charity you support has a commitment to standards and accountability and will use your time and talents effectively and ethically. Because not all charities are created equal, ask for details on its programs, finances and governance. Use BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance evaluations on nationally-soliciting charities for free at www.bbb.org/charity.


Better Business Bureau (BBB) offers three tips on how small businesses can support the communities they serve on a small budget:

Donate Time: Know what your company and its employees can offer. Consider staff members’ skills and what services they would be particularly well-equipped to provide. From volunteering at a local food bank to helping construct a home, a small business can not only offer volunteers, but also expertise that many charitable causes will value.

Donate Resources: Think outside the box. The most common ways to support local causes are donating funds or providing volunteers; however, be creative with your resources and consider offering services, equipment or space. Share your expertise on a project, offer to print flyers for an upcoming event, or make your conference room available for meetings.

Donate Support: Encourage staff to participate in company-backed volunteering efforts. Much of the great work charities provide to their communities is made possible by volunteers. Support staff volunteering in groups or teams—not only does it provide a great service, it also enhances team building, staff cohesiveness and community awareness.

Comment below and share how your company gives back to the community it serves.

- See more at: http://www.bbb.org/blog/2014/07/giving-back-on-a-small-business-budget/#sthash.yVxT7rgY.dpuf

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Guest Blog: How to Protect Yourself on Cyber Monday


Written By: Judy Leary
President, IdentityForce

Ah, Cyber Monday. No lines, no waiting, no fighting over the last Frozen DVD for a lucky niece or nephew.



As you can tell, I’m a big fan of Cyber Monday. Apparently, I’m not the only one: deal hunters spent $2.29 billion in 2013. That’s a 15% increase from 2012, and with all those shiny new iPhones with bigger screens (better to see those deals with) this year, I have no doubt that the number of online shoppers is only going to increase in 2014.


As the president of IdentityForce, it is my job to remind people that unfortunately, holiday shoppers won’t be the only “hunters” surfing the Internet on December 1. The increase in online spending is the perfect opportunity for scammers to gather credit card data from unsuspecting bargainers.


Here’s how you can protect yourself throughout the online holiday shopping season:


  1. Avoid making purchases over a wireless connection in a public space. Shared connections allow hackers to access your computer (or tablet or phone), and lure you to fake sites where they can gather your credit information.
  2. Password protect your home network connection, or better yet, plug into the network. Wireless connections are inherently less secure than ethernet connections, for the same reasons noted above.
  3. Be cautious about links provided in emails. You’ll see plenty of deals come through your inbox, and it will be tempting to just click on the links to get the deal. Experts recommend pasting the link into a new browser window, or navigating directly to the site to find the coupon or deal. Hackers can manipulate emails links to look safe when they’re actually designed to take a user to a fraudulent page.
  4. Lock down your social networks. The more of your interests that you make public, the more information a scammer could potentially use to target you with fake offers that you’ll be tempted to accept.
  5. Dedicate one of your credit cards to all of your online purchases. That way, if your information is compromised, it’s only one account.


While it is really important to remember that thieves and scammers may be more active over the holidays, don’t forget that they’re searching for vulnerabilities on the Internet all year long. Always remember to keep your passwords unique, and limit the number of people you share personal information with. Remain diligent over your credit reports, and monitor your credit card bills for unusual purchases. By keeping these tips in mind, if your information is compromised, you can take the necessary steps to stop the bad guys before they do too much damage.


December 1 is almost here! With these tips, I hope you’re getting ready to sit back in your coziest pajamas with a great cup of coffee to shop away from the comforts of your home, and personal computer.  

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Things to Know to Avoid Being Scammed




You got duped. Deceived, hoodwinked, bamboozled. You went against your gut (and you didn't check BBB.org) and someone just walked away with your valuable money or time. Getting scammed is not a great feeling. In an effort to avoid getting this, familiarize yourself with these six ways to avoid getting scammed!



  1. Do Not take someone at their word. Always do your homework. Ask lots of questions and check with your BBB. If a business tells you they are accredited with BBB, double check. It’s always best to be skeptical and thorough when dealing with businesses and solicitors.
  2. Do Not become emotional. Never allow yourself to get wrapped up in the story a solicitor is telling you. Scammers feed on people who allow their emotions to dictate their actions. If you believe their tragic or sad or exciting story, the scammer is more likely to make money off of you.
  3. Know common persuasion tactics. Scammers like to try to ignite emotion in their victim. They either manipulate the victim’s emotions or use fear to get what they want. If you get an unexpected phone call and are being asked for money (recently people were getting phone calls from the IRS demanding immediate payments with the threat of jail time if the payments were not made immediately) ask questions. If you have an uneasy feeling about something call your BBB. Never blindly hand out your personal information or money.
  4. Do Not act impulsively. Downloading files, clicking pop-ups, signing up for trial offers, and opening emails from unknown senders are all behaviors to avoid if you want to protect yourself from a scam or from being hacked.  
  5. Do Not be afraid to be rude. Often the people who end up scammed are those who feel bad about hanging up the phone or shutting the door in someone’s face.
  6. Always protect your personal information. This last tip is vital. Always shred personal documents or keep them locked up. Shred credit card offers that come in the mail. Anything that has your social security number or your banking information on it needs to be destroyed. Never use the same password for all of your accounts and change it frequently.

What other ways can you think of to help avoid scams! Comment Below!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

BBB Tip: Look for the Seal

Your Better Business Bureau recently launched a campaign titled "Look For the Seal" to encourage customers to actively check for BBB Accreditation when researching a business. This campaign includes commercials, online advertisements, and images that will remind consumers to properly research a business before making a decision. Wondering how this campaign will affect your business? Check out our tips below! 

Are you BBB Accredited?
Obtaining BBB Accreditation means that BBB has thoroughly reviewed your business and meets accreditation standards. Accreditation can help your business in a variety of different ways. Here are just a few.



Do You Have the Seal?
Once you've gone through the accreditation process, it's important to let the world know! Your BBB has a variety of different options to choose from, all of which are complimentary with your accreditation. All you have to do is enter your login information!




What about your website?
If  your business has a website installing the online seal will increase the likelihood that your business will come up in an online query. This works because BBB has a high domain authority and linking our website to your business review helps to strengthen the online presence as a whole!


Have you thought of a creative way to display the BBB seal? Show us! Post your photos on Facebook or Twitter.  Don't forget to tag us!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Checklist: How to Give a Performance Review

The performance review can be quite the nerve wrecking experience for the employee as well as the supervisor. As difficult as it can be to have this conversation with employees, it is necessary to make it as much of a positive experience for both parties. Here are some tips to make the review run as smoothly as possible:
  1. Don't sideswipe your employees
    • Your employees should never hear about a positive/negative performance for the first time in a review. As a manager, you should give regular feedback to your employees and use the formal review to focus on specific parts of their performance.
  2. Remember that a performance review is about setting goals
    • It is important to make sure that the employee has a clear understanding of what is expected of them. You should also work together to determine how these expectations will be evaluated to ensure that the employee can perform to the best of their ability. When setting goals it is also important to discuss the employee's career goals. It not only shows that you have an invested interest in the employee but it also 
  3. Follow-Up
    • While a performance review should be yearly, it is important to make a quarterly follow up to ensure that the employee is on track with the goals that have been set. In order for the review to be effective, the employer must check in periodically throughout the year.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Truth About BBB and Uber: 10 Facts You Should Know

There is an old saying that you should never get into a fight with someone who buys their ink by the barrel. That should probably be updated now to say you should never get in a fight with someone who has a huge online following. But whether on paper, on air or online, sometimes the media get stuff wrong… even The New York Times.
In the past few days, Better Business Bureau got a tremendous amount of coverage in both traditional and social media; so much so that we were trending online. As the BBB national spokesperson, I should be thrilled about that. But I’m not, because the way it came about was due to some clever public relations and some less-than-stellar reporting.
Here are the facts:
  • The rideshare company Uber Technologies has an F rating with Better Business Bureau. As they are headquartered in San Francisco, they are rated by BBB Golden Gate, one of 112 local, independent BBBs across North America.
  • All BBBs follow the same rating system, which is explained in detail at a link that appears on every one of our 4.5 million BBB Business Reviews (all available for free at bbb.org).
  • The specific reasons for the company’s rating are spelled out in their Business Review: “Factors that lowered Uber Technologies’ rating include: Length of time business has been operating. Failure to respond to 39 complaints against the business.” Details from many of those complaints are also available in the Business Review.
  • On Thursday, October 8, 2014, a public relations agency that represents the Taxicab, Limousine and Paratransit Association put out a press release about Uber’s F rating with BBB. They did not consult with BBB before doing so and we knew nothing of the press release until it was distributed online.
  • A blogger with The New York Times saw the release and did an article that did not mention the taxicab association as the source of the story (he didn’t contact BBB either).
  • Within an hour of the article posting, I contacted the reporter by both telephone and email, highlighting four things that were wrong and asking that they be corrected.
    • The article said that Uber had received an F rating from BBB that day. Actually, they have had an F rating for quite some time. The only thing that happened that day was the PR agency’s press release.
    • The article said the rating was based on the number of complaints when in reality the rating was due to Uber’s failure to respond to some of those complaints.
    • The article said that BBB ratings have been “increasingly marginalized” compared to Yelp and other commercial services. In fact, research by Nielsen shows that BBB is trusted by consumers at a significantly higher rate than Yelp, Angie’s List and other for-profit review sites. Our trust scores are comparable with Consumer Reports.
    • The article said that “some branches” of BBB were accused of pay-to-play. In reality only one BBB, the former BBB of the Southland (Los Angeles), was accused and it has since been expelled from the organization.
  • I pointed out to the reporter that other media outlets were likely to use The New York Times as a source and that his story should be as accurate as possible.
  • The reporter responded to me via email and, after going back and forth several times, he said that he was “in transit” (it was by now the end of the work day) but would address the issue shortly. I never heard back from him and he never made any changes to the story.
  • As I predicted, a number of other outlets reported based on The New York Times story. They not only repeated some of the original mistakes, but some took it a step further and said that BBB gave Uber an F rating due to surge pricing or due to the 90+ complaints filed against the company.
  • A number of the complaints to BBB were about surge pricing. However, the F rating is not directly related to the nature of the complaints but rather to the lack of response from the company.

BBB Golden Gate has a meeting with Uber next week to talk to them about a better process for handling their complaints. This meeting was set up before the press release and ensuing media coverage. We are hopeful that Uber will work more closely with BBB in the future and will more readily respond to their customers’ concerns.
Other companies that have an F rating with BBB are urged to contact the BBB where they are headquartered to review best practices and, in particular, discuss improvements in customer complaint handling. BBBs are always willing to work with businesses seeking to enhance marketplace trust.
Working with BBB isn’t just about resolving complaints, it’s also about a business’s reputation – you never know who is going to be utilizing BBB for information.
- See more at: http://www.bbb.org/blog/2014/10/the-truth-about-bbb-and-uber-10-facts-you-should-know/#sthash.jeypQvVj.dpuf