You Know Tom Might Kill You So Why Do You Stay with Tom?

“Tom” can also be “Alicia.”

Nevertheless, it happens often enough to come up every so often in a crime documentary aired on the Investigation Discovery channel.

The premise is as follows:

  • A person is SO convinced that their spouse or soon-to-be ex-spouse is going to kill them, that they actually tell friends something like, “If anything ever happens to me, Tom did it,” or, “If anything bad ever happens to me, have the cops question Alicia.”
  • There was one case in which a woman spoke from the grave. Detectives discovered a note she had hidden inside a piece of furniture explaining that if she was ever murdered, her husband was responsible.
  • Yet these men and women continue living with the person they think is capable of murdering them.

These aren’t cases in which the future killer warns their future victim, “If you move out I’ll kill your parents and your dog and boil your bunny.”

The irony is that there’s often no threat given to the future victim of any devastating consequences if they move out.

Another thing about many of these cases is that there aren’t young children living with them who could provide the future victim an excuse for continuing to live with the man (or woman) they’ve told friends might kill them.

So this begs the question: Why would anyone want to continue living under the same roof with someone whom is so threatening, that the future victim has actually told friends or other family members, “If something happens to me…it was Alicia”?

One might think, “Well, maybe these individuals don’t have any other place to go.” Yet in the documentaries, friends or extended family members are speaking lovingly of them and are very distraught over what ultimately had happened. Certainly, they would have taken in the person they cared about.

But this element is never explored. Thus, the assumption is that a place to stay was offered but declined.

There are many reasons people stay in destructive relationships. Fear and uncertainty play a huge role. Bad judgment might be another. But one things for sure, the victim in these situations isn’t to be blamed. They are no more “at fault’ than someone who is walking down the street and gets bit by a dog. And Tom just plain sucks.   

Why stay?

#1 Self-esteem might be so damaged through emotional abuse the victim simply can’t make a move.

#2 Abusive behavior seems “normal” in a society that is abusive towards each other.

#3 Leaving can be very dangerous. Its not unlikely for their abuser to act on his feelings of violence when feeling abandoned.

#4 Abuse is all about control of the mind and body. A victim’s decisions are often not their own.

#5 Abusers are skilled at making the victim think everything’s their fault.

#6 The victim might think they can change the abuser. They cannot.

#7 Embarrassment, being judged by others and shame often keeps the victim from leaving.

#8 Family. Having kids together is huge and the victim might stay “for the sake of the kids”.

The worst-case scenario is living in a mission, a safe house or even on the street – which would be a lot safer than living in the same house as someone you’re convinced might kill you.

Would you spend even ONE NIGHT in a house if you knew that somewhere in that house, a 20-foot python was loose? Of course not. If you were told you had a choice of a nice warm bed and bath facilities – in a house with that roaming snake – or…a homeless shelter…which would you choose? This however is easier said than done.

If you’re compelled to hide a “from the grave” note or inform a friend, “Tom did it,” then GET OUT NOW. If you or someone you know is in danger call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video

Florida City Pays Hackers $600,000 after Scam

Riviera Beach, a city in Florida, has agreed to pay a $600,000 ransom to hackers who attacked its network.

This week, the City Council voted to pay the demands after coming up with no other option to meet the demands of the hackers. It seems that the hackers got access to the system when a staff member clicked on a link in an email, which uploaded malware to the network. The malware disabled the city’s email system, direct deposit payroll system and 911 dispatch system.

According to Rose Anne Brown, the city’s spokesperson, they had been working with independent security consultants who recommended that they pay the ransom. The payment is being covered by the city’s insurance. Brown said that they are relying on the advice of the consultants, even though the stance of the FBI is to not pay off the hackers.

There are many businesses and government agencies that have been hit in the US and across the world in recent years. The city of Baltimore, for instance, was asked to pay $76,000 in ransom just last month, but that city refused to pay. Atlanta and Newark were also hit with demands.

Just last year, the US government accused a programmer from North Korea of creating and attacking banks, governments, hospitals, and factories with a malware attack known as “WannaCry.” This malware affected entities in over 150 countries and the loses totaled more than $81 million.

The FBI hasn’t commented on the attack in Riviera Beach, but it did say that almost 1,500 ransomware attacks were reported in 2018, and the victims paid about $3.6 million to the hackers.

Hackers often target areas of computer systems that are vulnerable, and any organization should consistently check its systems for flaws. Additionally, it’s important to train staff about how hackers lure victims by using emails. You must teach them, for instance, not to click on any email links or open emails that look suspicious. It is also imperative that the system and its data, and even individual computers, are backed up regularly.

Most of these attacks come from foreign entities, which make them difficult to track and prosecute. Many victims just end up paying the hacker because the data is precious to them. They also might work with some type of negotiator to bring the ransom down. In almost all cases, the attackers will do what they say and allow the victims to access their data, but not all of them do. So, realize that if you are going to pay that you still might not get access to the data. Ransomware simply should not happen to your network. If all your hardware and software is up to date and you have all the necessary components and software that your specific network requires based on its size and the data you house then your defenses become a tougher target. Additionally, proper security awareness training will prevent the criminals from bypassing all those security controls and keep your network secure as it needs to be.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.

The First Step to Secure Your Data

Your personal information and data are literally everywhere for criminals to target, and there isn’t much you can do to keep it from spreading. You use your email credentials on countless websites, you use your credit card number with countless vendors, and, believe it or not, your Social Security number is shared rapidly immediately after you’re born.

It’s almost impossible to give out your personal information nowadays. However, criminals know this, and they lurk around the same places that your information is used. You need to take action to secure your information so you are less of a target. Let me show you one simple step you can take today that will create one layer of security and improve your defenses.

There is one specific action you can take to secure your information, and after you do it, you’ll be much less likely to be targeted because criminals tend to take the path of least resistance. That said, if you DON’T do this action today, you ARE the path of least resistance.

All you have to do is set up a credit freeze. There are four major credit bureaus in the United States, and you need to get a credit freeze with them. Just use your preferred search engine and look for Experian credit freeze, Equifax credit freeze, TransUnion credit freeze, and Innovis credit freeze. You should freeze your credit with all four, but you should still review your annual credit reports. More importantly, you should dispute discrepancies with the appropriate bureau AND the lender. Getting a credit freeze won’t gum up your credit score or make it so you can’t use credit. You are able to “thaw” the frozen credit as needed and then freeze it again. You can literally do this in a single day. Then you’ll want to put more layers of defense in place to become an even harder target than the other guy.

A credit freeze will secure your information, but setting up multiple layers of defenses is really what will make you a hard target. Criminals are constantly probing defenses, and even while technology advances, crimes against your data are usually ahead of the curve. You don’t need to know everything about security, but you do need to take on the responsibility of protecting yourself. I’ve created a free guide that will make you a pseudo expert on your own security, and if you follow it’s simple steps, you will have more layers of defense than the average person. If you want to create even more layers of defenses, bring this guide to my next webinar, and I will walk you through each step so you can rest assured that you are creating a smart, secure, safer “me.”

Boy Scouts of America 12,000 Sex Abuse Victims is Normal

The Boy Scouts of American is no stranger to controversy, and now new information is shedding light on how many leaders were actually involved in a sex abuse scandal.

According to official records of the Boy Scouts, more than 12,000 children were sexually assaulted while in the scout program. The records, which date back to the 1940s, show that more than 8,000 leaders have been accused of these acts. Yes, that’s EIGHT THOUSAND PREDATORS.

Basically, this information was known to the organization, but only in the past 10 years or so had the vast scale of this abuse been exposed. What’s even worse is that this is probably not all of the incidents that have occurred. These are only those that have been exposed. Only the organization itself knows the true numbers of victims and perpetrators, and it has never released any of the names of the abusers. Though it is believed that these leaders were removed from their positions, the Boy Scouts never released their names to the public.

There are more than two million members of Boy Scouts of America, and hundreds of members are expected to file suit against the organization. One sexual abuse attorney, who has taken a prominent role in the case, has signed with more than 180 victims.

Currently, Boy Scouts of America have thousands of acres of land across the country, and the value of that land is very high. However, it is expected that the organization could declare bankruptcy, which has the victims in this case in an uproar as they would get little to no compensation.

Michael Surbaugh, Chief Executive of Boy Scouts of America, recently made a public apology. He said that the organization is offering support for the victims and members of the organization are outraged by the number of times that individuals took advantage of innocent children. He also said that they all care deeply about the victims and that they apologize to anyone who, during their time with the Boy Scouts, was harmed. He said that they believe the victims’ stories and will pay for counseling for any victim that requires it. He also encouraged any and all victims to come forward.

If the Boy Scouts of American files bankruptcy, it could continue to operate while keeping its information and assets safe. Last year, the organization filed suit against several of its insurers and claimed that the companies refused to cover its liabilities. The insurance companies banded together and said that the Boy Scouts failed to take precautionary action in these situations. As of now, all of those cases are still pending. Here’s the most disturbing aspect of this story: This is normal. Yup. Normal. That doesn’t mean it’s OK or acceptable behavior, but it’s the way it’s always been. If it’s happened consecutively over the past 70 years, and its part of the culture, the same way the Catholic church works, or thousands of teachers and coaches or others in professions who work with kids, its normal. Predators go to where their prey is. And the sooner you begin to have these uncomfortable conversations with your kids, the better chance you have of preventing this in your family. Care to discuss?

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.

Lost in the Woods: Survival Tips

With the recent news that Amanda Eller, a Hawaiian hiker, was found alive after 17 days of being lost, it’s worth it to know what to do if you’re lost and alone in the wilderness. Eller did many things correctly, according to multiple early news reports. CNN claimed that she picked guava and berries to eat when they were available. She only drank water when it looked clear, and she didn’t think it would make her sick. She also nursed herself when she got a bum knee and had a sunburn that was so bad it got infected.

If you’re hopelessly lost or injured, it is essential that you know about wilderness survival. Most people don’t realize that it is much about waiting to get rescued without making the situation worse. If you’re in good health and are fit, you might be able to hike your way out of the area, but the challenge is to know which one you should choose.

Stop to Think

Once you realize that you’re lost, remember to STOP. It’s a mnemonic term that means:

  • Stop. Stay exactly where you are, don’t panic, and sit down.
  • Think. What you do depends a lot on your location and situation. According to the US Forest Service, you shouldn’t move from your location until you have a need to take that first step.
  • Observe. You should get information about your situation and try to determine where you’re located. Do you have a compass and map? Look at the map or look around you to see if there are signs that tell you about trails or intersections.
  • Plan. Next, consider your courses of action and pick one. You might want to continue the way you’ve been going or consider turning back and backtracking. If night is about to overtake you or you’re hurt, it might be best to stay there as long as nothing is threatening you.

Plan Ahead

Once you’ve realized you’re lost, it’s too late to plan for getting lost, but most people are going to read this because they are curious and not because they’re currently in the wilderness and googling tips. Of course, if you are reading this in the wilderness, your cell phone has some battery life and a signal, so you should be calling 911 to get help.

Some points to consider include:

  • Always tell someone where you’re going. If you’re going for a walk in the woods, text a family member or friend to tell them where you’re going.
  • Bring the most essential survival gear, which includes emergency shelter options, sunscreen, first-aid supplies, bug spray and a flashlight.
  • Make sure that you can communicate during an emergency. Bring your cell phone and have a backup battery if possible. You may want to invest in an emergency GPS beacon, as well.

Know How a Rescue Works

If you do end up needing to get rescued, you should understand the rescue process. Most people think that your loved one calls the cops and a search is initiated immediately, but that isn’t likely to be the case.

Most of the time, the authorities get a 911 call from the person you texted to say you were heading out into the wilderness, and the law enforcement official gathers information to determine if you’re lost or just decided to leave town.

If they believe you to be lost, they’ll start looking. Cell towers can pick up your previous cell signal even if the phone is turned off. Searchers will get a description of you, such as what you wore and where you’re likely to be. They’ll search there and spread out to find you. About 97 percent of people who get lost in the wilderness are recovered within the first 24 hours. If it has been longer than that, it’s harder to find you, such as you’re in a challenging place to see.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.

Reinforce Your Door with the Door Devil

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a totally burglar-proof home, but there is also no burglar who can get into any home. By taking a few steps and using some specific security measures, you can make your home ALMOST burglar-proof.

When most homeowners consider security, they usually only think of a few items. However, you might not realize that things like shatter proof glass is on the market. There are also surveillance cameras that are real and fake, which can be installed. That certainly will help deter a burglar.

And while deterrence is huge, the most important aspect of home security is “hardening” the home to prevent access. Doors are the most common method of burglar entry and most doors significantly lack reinforcement.

There are a few critical things that you can do with your front and back door. If you have a typical door, its frame made of pine and it can definitely get kicked in. It doesn’t even take a lot of strength to get through a door, and most adults would have the strength to do it if they know how.

A normal door closes with a latch that has two or four small screws that go through a weak strike plate. This is attached or a pine door frame, which might be only ½” to ¾” thick. Keep in mind that a child can kick through pine that is ½” thick, so it should be no surprise that it’s so easy to kick through a door.

Here’s how to Secure Your Doors!

As in the video above, this is where a device like the Door Devil Anti-Kick Door Jamb Kit comes in handy. This kit has a bar that is over a foot long and is 1/16th inch heavy steel. It is installed right on the door jamb over the strike plates that are already there.

The kit includes:

  • 13-inch strike plate with EZ mounting tabs
  • Door plate and hinge plate
  • Heavy duty mounting screws in two different sizes for extra strength
  • Installation drill bits

It only takes about 15 minutes to install the Door Devil, and once it is installed, you are done. The only other thing you have to do is lock your door.

Though door reinforcement is a great thing, just consider that it is only a single layer of security, and you should consider complimenting this with other types of home security including motion detection lights, surveillance cameras, and home security systems. Remember, most burglars aren’t extremely skilled, nor are they extremely smart. If they can’t get through a door with a couple of kicks, they will move on to the next house.

Robert Siciliano is a home and personal security expert to discussing Anti-Kick door reinforcement on YouTube. Disclosures.

“Choking Game” Killing Kids, and Authorities Have to Step Up

It only took a minute for 12-year old Erik Robinson to die while playing a macabre game called the “Choking Game.” His mother desperately tried to save her son when she found him with a Boy Scout rope around his neck, but it was too late. Erik was brain dead due to lack of oxygen, and mom had to make the choice to remove her son from life support.

Sadly, she is not alone. The only viable statistics run between 1995 and 2007, where 82 kids have died while playing the “Choking Game,” an act where people cut off their own air supply in an effort to feel the euphoria that comes when they begin breathing again. But a 2015 study by the University of Wisconsin looked at 419 choking game videos, that had been viewed 22 million times, and the conclusion the researchers reached was social media has “normalized” the behavior and increased the likelihood that viewers will follow suit.For many years, people would spread info about this “game” by word of mouth, but these days, it’s very easy for teens to find out how to asphyxiate themselves online. In fact, there are more than 36 million results for “pass out game” on YouTube, and over half a million results for “how to play choking game.”

As more kids fall victim to this game, their parents are banding together and warning others about the dangers of this game and the ease of finding out how to play it. However, they are hitting a lot of road blocks as schools aren’t willing to raise awareness about it and coroners aren’t trained to recognize it. In fact, many times they misclassify deaths due to the “Choking Game” as suicide. Sites like YouTube and Facebook are taking the videos down, but they aren’t taking them down quickly enough.

Most teens who play the “Choking Game” don’t see it as dangerous or realize that they could permanently damage their brains. Not everyone who plays the “Choking Game” dies, of course but plenty are left brain dead as in this video.  Brain cells begin dying off in a matter of minutes if they don’t get oxygen, and the more you do it, the more the risk of permanent damage grows. There is also the fact that this feeling of euphoria can become addictive, which means some teens will do it over and over again. There is a push for more awareness about this dangerous act, and videos and presentations are being shared with school districts about how this game can quickly go wrong. Advocates are also pressing the CDC to research this game more, and the injuries and death that come from it.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.

Catfished Teen Murders Her Best Friend

A teenager in Alaska, Denali Brehmer, killed her best friend after a man she met on the internet offered her $9 million to commit the murder. Brehmer, who is 18-years old, killed her 19-year old friend, Cynthia Hoffman, by shooting her in the back of the head at the urging of Darin Schilmiller, 21.

According to authorities, Brehmer and Hoffman considered themselves to be best friends, so it is obvious money had to be the main motive as to why Brehmer killed her friend. She was arrested and has been charged with murder.

The district attorney’s office claims that Brehmer met Schillmiller online. He told her that he was a millionaire from Kansas and said that his name was “Tyler,” and they began an online relationship. In reality, he really is a 21-year old from Indiana and is far from being a millionaire. The two starting planning crimes together, with “Tyler” offering to give Brehmer money for these crimes, including asking her to “rape and murder” someone in Alaska. Brehmer chose her “best friend” as the victim, and then she recruited four other friends to help her do it. She promised them “substantial shares of money” for their assistance.

Brehmer and her friends made a plan to invite Hoffman on a hiking trip. While gone, they overtook her, bound her hands, mouth, and feet with duct tape, and then shot her in the head before leaving her body in the Eklunta River. Brehmer took video and photos, which she sent to Schilmiller via Snapchat, while the crime was occurring.

After they were done, they destroyed some of Hoffman’s belongings, and then texted her family to tell them that they had dropped her off at a local park.

When questioned by police, Brehmer confessed to murdering her friend, and the investigators also found texts that she sent to Schilmiller showing her sexually assaulting other teens.

For his part, Schilmiller admitted to lying about his identity to Brehmer and blackmailing her into the murder and sexual assaults. He told police that they had been planning Hoffman’s murder for approximately three weeks.

Hoffman’s family told authorities that she was likely chosen as a victim because she was a “trusting” person “whose learning disabilities put her at a younger developmental age.” Her father, Timothy, said “My daughter just wanted friends.” All of the people involved were recently indicted for first degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and second degree murder. In the state of Alaska, where they are charged, each count carries a prison sentence of up to 99 years.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.

Police Say Scammers Are Stealing Deposits from Homeowners

The police in Port St. Lucie Florida have claimed that scammers are now posting homes as available for rent or purchase. You rent/purchase the home by putting a deposit down on the house, but you’re never given any keys.

The scammers are getting their victims to the property and even a tour of the house, but when it comes time to move in, the victim is left without any options. The tour aspect of the scam is important here. This legitimizes the fake agent as real.

Local realtors say that there are a few things you can look for to ensure that your money gets to the right person and you have a place to live.

If the price doesn’t feel right or the deal is too good to be true, you should be very wary. Of course, the seller or renter might also ask way too many questions or require too much information upfront, which is also indicative of a scam.

Scammers tend to post ads on Craigslist and actually use houses that are for sale. Then, they ask the victim to tour the house and the scammer provides the lockbox pin code to get inside. The question is, how do the scammers get that information?

The only way to get access to the system is if you are a real estate agent. If they aren’t stealing the agent’s information, there are seemingly endless hoops to jump through before gaining access to that piece of information.The victims are told by the Fake Agent the keycode for the lockbox which allows them entry;

  • The keycode is either told to the scammer by the real real estate agent via phone or email
  • The real estate agents email is hacked and the code lies in the hacked email somewhere.
  • The scammer poses as another real estate agent and scams the code via phone or email

Once the victim sees the place and has some trust in the scammer, the scammer can ask for a security deposit or down payment on the home. Police officers claim that scammers take your money but don’t give you the keys.

How can you make sure the listing is legitimate? If they ask you to call a number that isn’t local or send you to a website that looks off or isn’t recognizable, it’s best to double-check the information. You can call the real estate company, search the address of the property and seek other listings. Along with such, realtors do not give pin or lock-box codes to anyone for safety purposes.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.

Fake Real Estate Agent Caught Stealing $30K in Jewelry

Recently, a man was accused of pretending to be a real estate agent just to steal some jewelry from an open house. According to Toronto police, he has been arrested.

The victims are a couple (their identity isn’t being listed for their safety). They had an open house in a small city called Oakville. It’s in Ontario, which is about an hour west of Toronto (also in Canada). According to the investigators, a 29-year-old man saw an online ad for the open house. He decided to pretend that he was a real estate agent, went inside the home, and stole over $30,000 worth of jewelry from one of the upstairs bedrooms.

A native of Willow Beach, Ontario, a nearby town, the man was charged with a single count of being in a dwelling unlawfully and a single count of a theft over $5,000. Local law enforcement believes that this theft wasn’t an isolated incident. They’re currently encouraging people with information to provide details on this case or others in which they believe the man might be to blame.

Throughout the years, many criminals have tried posing as real estate agents to get access to people’s homes and buyer’s homes. Just last month in California, a woman was arrested for posing to be a realtor to steal tens of thousands of dollars from homebuyers.

Along with such, another man was arrested in January on the suspicion that he had posed as a real estate professional to steal rare art, expensive jewelry, and fine wine from a variety of celebrities, including Adam Lambert and Usher. His name was Benjamin Eitan Ackerman. It is important that homebuyers ensure that they are talking with their real estate agent each time that they speak with them on the phone or email them. You should see company letterhead on emails and may want to call the agent back on the number you have for them to ensure your safety.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.