It Should Be Illegal for Teen Girls to Give Rides to Strangers

If only. But that’ll never be.

Brandi Hicks, 17, and her high school friend, Liz Reiser, exited a video store at 9:30 pm, where they were approached by Matthew Vaca, a creepy acting stranger.

He asked them for a ride to his house. At first they refused, but then he offered $20 for gas. The ID Channel re-enactment portrayed Vaca as stating that his home was “just down the road,” that he had been “walking all day,” and that he wanted to get home before his kids went to bed.

The girls were sold and told him to get into the backseat.

What Brandi, the driver, should have done: Refused, possibly gone back into the store (with Liz) until Matthew left, or possibly asking the store manager to call the police.

The “down the road” seemed nowhere in sight as Matthew told Brandi to keep driving. Then he told her to pull over. He got out, during which the girls really began feeling fearful, discussing whether or not they should just leave him.

What Brandi should have done: Left him.

But Matthew got back into the car, and shortly after, threatened her with a gun, directing her to take the car into a wooded area.

He ordered both out, took Brandi’s shoelaces and bound her to the steering wheel, then ordered Liz to go off with him, eventually stabbing her to death.

He returned for Brandi, untied her and led her away, beating her, then using a shoelace to strangle her (it’s not known why he didn’t have the knife).

What Brandi should have done during the strangulation: Play dead.

What Brandi did: Play dead!

Faking death, she was pushed into a nearby river, and somehow while Matthew loitered nearby for an hour, pretended to be dead while floating in the water.

Once he was gone, she climbed to land and flagged down the first car she saw, which was a police officer’s.

We need to track back to the beginning, because once in the woods, victims don’t have too many options unless they are trained in self-defense tactics.

If you’re ever tempted to give a stranger a ride because he’s giving a story (“I’ve been on my feet all day”), remind yourself of some facts:

  • If he’s able-bodied and lives “down the road,” he doesn’t need ANY ride.
  • If he appears injured or sick, call him a cab, especially if he has $20.
  • If you refuse him a ride, what’s the worst that could happen to him if he’s truly harmless? Aching feet.

Bottom line: Under NO circumstances give a stranger, including a female, a ride. If she looks pregnant, she could be using pillows. Women, too, can be vicious.

Matthew Vaca will die in prison.

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.

Woman Voluntarily Sits in Truck of Man Who Creeped Her Out

Who does this?

Morna Brennen did this when she was 22. She and a few friends went to a bar and stayed there late.

At some point while they were there, a man took an interest in Morna. But she was creeped out by him and pretty much ignored him.

Later when it was time to leave, Morna and one of her friends went out into the biting cold and dark parking lot.

Her friend was going to drive her home. Suddenly, someone from near the bar called out the friend’s name.

The friend told Morna to wait for her, that she’d be right back.

So Morna waited alone in the very cold air.

Then someone appeared before her from the parking lot – the creepy man who had approached her earlier inside the bar.

She told him she was waiting for her ride to rejoin her outside and take her home.

The man suggested that she wait inside his warm truck rather than shiver outside in the cold.

What Morna did: Went inside the man’s truck by her own free will.

What Morna should have done: Gone back inside the bar.

What could have possibly compelled her to sit inside the vehicle of a man who, just a short while earlier, had given her the creeps?

Nobody will ever know, but one theory is that she thought it would have been rude to decline a kind gesture. Women, as children, more so than men, are trained to “always be nice.” Perhaps Morna’s judgement was clouded by being trained since childhood to never appear rude.

Another theory is that despite the way this story is told on Investigation Discovery, Morna was actually forced into the truck.

One might also suppose that had Morna declined the man’s offer and headed back towards the bar, he would have ambushed her from behind and dragged her to the vehicle, forcing her in.

Or perhaps he would have killed her right in the parking lot, then sped off.

So what ultimately could have saved Morna’s life?

When her friend decided to go back into the bar, Morna could have followed as well, if for no other reason than to avoid standing outside in the frosty air.

Nobody knows how much time passed between the time her friend left her and the man approached her.

But if you’re ever standing alone in a dark parking lot in the wee hours of the morning for longer than a few minutes while waiting for your ride to come out of a building, it’s time to go back inside the building.

The man, Rickie Kiger, drove off with Morna in the passenger seat, and soon after butchered her, dismembering her body. This occurred in the mid 1980’s, long before smartphones with emergency apps were invented.

Though it’s possible that Rickie approached her only 20 seconds after her friend left her, it’s easy to believe that had Morna sprinted back into the bar the second she saw him, she would have gotten inside before he had a chance to grab her.

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.

Must-have Apps for Safe Long Distance Driving

Whether you’re driving long distance to make a career move, visit family/friends, or just sightsee multiple states, you may be wondering what kind of helpful applications for your phone are out there.

045There’s just tons, and many fall under the category of convenience, such as apps that locate the cheapest gas stations, the nearest and cheapest lodging or your favorite restaurants. But this article is about safety and security.

The issue isn’t so much what particular app to install, but the type of app, what it does. For example, there are a number of weather applications out there. Which one is best? That depends on your needs and wants. But the important thing is that you know that the category of weather should be one of your app considerations for equipping your phone.

However, I will be mentioning some applications in particular, just to give you an idea of what’s out there. For instance, there’s the iMapWeather Radio application. This works even when your phone is asleep. It will arouse your phone to alert you if you’re nearing dangerous weather. This app automatically updates to wherever you currently are located.

Additional Apps for Road Travel

  • iTriage helps you figure out medications and medical conditions. It tells you where the nearest medical treatment centers are. You can also ask medical questions and get fast answers. So if, for instance, you notice that one of your legs has begun to swell and ache after you’ve been on the road all day, you can plug in this information and see what the likely cause is. As mentioned, there are numerous apps out there that fall into specific categories; review several before making your decision.
  • Another medical app worth mentioning is smart-ICE4family. Its features include: EMS-alert and location finder if the user becomes unconscious; in addition offers a piercing siren to help locate user; and a one-button-hit provides pre-existing medical information to first responders. If you think you might accidentally drive your car into a remote lake or ditch, this app is for you.
  • wikiHow explains how to resolve countless emergency situations. Chances are, whatever fix you’re in, this app covers it. It has over 140,000 how-to articles that explain resolutions for choking, animal attacks and surviving in the wilderness.
  • DriveSafe.ly is coming soon, designed to eliminate texting-caused accidents. It will read your text messages out loud. It will also read to you your e-mails. You also won’t need to touch your phone to respond.
  • Flashlight converts your phone to a flashlight. Need I say more?
  • Another category is “accidents.” If you don’t want to be overwhelmed by apps that seemingly have everything under the sun, such as the wikiHow, you can opt for applications that focus only on vehicular crashes, such as iWrecked.
  • For repairs, there’s RepairPal. You may also want to look into Collision Call.
  • Red Panic Button; the name speaks for itself. Another good app is iMPrepared.

Other categories that are must-haves for your long road trip are that of GPS and maps.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

Safety Tips for Lone Female Road Travelers

Rule #1 for women traveling alone: Do not look or act like prey, as this will grab the attention of any predator nearby. Looking like non-prey may be difficult for some women, but one way is to dress in black. Black is the color of authority (e.g., judges, nuns, priests, referees, police officers). Here are more rules:

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  • Before embarking on your trip, get your car road ready by a trusted body shop.
  • Never give strangers a ride. If you’re tempted, ask yourself what their fate would be if you never crossed paths. Would they die? If not, ignore them and move on. You are not obligated to give anyone a lift, even if it’s “just a mile down the road,” even if the stranger is a woman. She might be a co-conspirator with a man to rob you, or just plain dangerous by herself.
  • To reinforce the don’t give strangers a ride rule, review possible scenarios before you leave for the trip. For example, you strike up a friendly conversation with a stranger at a diner who then offers to cover your meal, then says he/she needs a ride to the motel down the street. What would you do? Plan ahead your template response, then rehearse it.
  • Give someone your travel plans including complete itinerary before you leave.
  • Always be aware of every exit in any building you enter such as diners.
  • Don’t yap to anyone that you’re traveling alone, not even the nice lady pouring your coffee. If anyone says something like, “It must be scary, traveling alone,” and it’s obvious you’re alone, do NOT validate this comment! Say something like, “Actually, I’m not the least bit scared. I turn into a grizzly bear when threatened.” Rehearse this line so that it sounds like it’s true.
  • Do not carry a lot of cash; use your ATM card or credit card.
  • Leave the pricey jewelry and high priced designer handbag behind. Don’t wear clothes that suggest you have a lot of money. Do not wear any attention-getting attire.
  • Wear sneakers when driving. You can run easily in these and walk long distances. Forget the flip flops or pumps.
  • Never ask strangers for directions; only ask employees.
  • Don’t stand at the payment counter fishing through your stuffed purse to pay for gas or your meal. Have the money in your hands ahead of time and leave the purse hidden from view in your car.
  • Carry pepper spray on your person.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

Never put these Docs in your Wallet

Yes, believe it or not, you CAN get by in life with a wallet that just has a little cash, a store card or two, one to two credit cards and your ID.  Unless you absolutely need your insurance card or Social Security card, leave those items at home.

1DFor years now, wallets have been on the market that you can stuff everything into, save for the kitchen sink. This doesn’t mean you must carry a ridiculous bulging wallet everywhere you go.

Now you may not mind having to dig through your wallet for five minutes to retrieve things because there’s so much stuff in there, but do you know who actually would enjoy this?

A crook who specializes in identity theft. With just your Social Security card (come on already, just memorize the number), a crook could open up credit lines in your name and make your life a nightmare.

Now you may think it doesn’t matter because your wallet will never be lost or stolen. Everyone must lose their wallet at some point in their lives? But what if you’re in an accident? What if you’re jumped on the street? What if someone brazenly approaches you, grabs the wallet out of your hands and runs?

If my wallet is lost or stolen I won’t care because there’s nothing in my wallet that the thief could easily use to steal my identity, nor is there anything I couldn’t easily name or easily replace.

Keep the following items out of your wallet:

  • Anything with your Social Security number; again, just memorize it already.
  • Home address
  • Keys
  • PINs and passwords (if you need an assortment of these to function while away from home, use an encrypted app—assuming you have a smartphone).
  • Checks
  • Credit cards you won’t be using on any given day you’re out in the community (though one emergency credit card at all times is a smart move).
  • Birth certificate
  • Credit card receipts
  • Medical cards unless you are going to the doctor
  • Store cards unless you are going to that store

Make photo copies of all docs in your wallet and upload them to your secure email account. Consider an app like “Key Ring” and enter the cards into your mobile device. Put ALL your loyalty cards there and copies of most cards you might need in a pinch.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to TheBestCompanys.com discussing  identity theft prevention.

How to safely travel in a Car

Before embarking on a road trip with a car full of kids, make sure everything about the vehicle is in top working condition, including the windshield wipers, A/C, heat, fluid levels, seatbelts and lights (exterior and interior).

Hopefully you’ll have a GPS; make sure that works, too; they’ve been known to malfunction. Have a backup mobile GPS app too.

While on the road you may hear a lot of “Are we there yet”s. Feel free to announce, “Next one who asks are we there yet will have to do 20 pushups.” Just kidding, but seriously, come up some way to discourage any nagging if it bugs you enough. Kids iPads loaded with family moves and a good headset are the best tool ever invented for parents. My Aunt used to have a yard stick on the dash. Us kids still have scars from it. I wish we had iPads!

  • If you’ll be driving in a foreign country, make sure you have everything you need in the car that the country requires.
  • Have emergency supplies: first aid kit, nutrition bars, flares, flashlight, pepper spray (check laws), blankets, water, motion sickness tablets, etc.
  • Don’t load the kids empty-handed; give them coloring books, crossword puzzles and other age-appropriate word games, 3D puzzles that will keep them occupied for extended periods trying to figure them out, etc.
  • Give older kids (8-10) a long word that you can make a ton of words out of, such as “Transportation.” Arm them with a pencil and paper on a clipboard and give them a command to “Go” once you’re on the road. Who will have formed the most words by the time you get to your first rest stop? Every word formed gets them a dime. This will pretty much guarantee stillness and quiet among the participants.
  • Do not tolerate resistance to seatbelts. “The car won’t start till everyone’s buckled up.”
  • Pack snacks such as raisins, bananas, apples and nuts.
  • Take a rest stop at least every hour to 90 minutes. Not only do the kids need to get out and move, but remaining cramped in a car for extended periods can lead to a blood clot in the adults’ legs!
  • Sing-alongs? I don’t know. Not my thing.
  • Avoid loud music; the driver needs to hear sirens and honking horns. Unless it’s Led Zeppelin.
  • Forbid screaming, yelling and hitting. Such can cause you to lose control of the car or miss an exit. Issue all the rules before you even get the vehicle out of the driveway.
  • And last but not least, everyone must relieve themselves prior to traveling whether they feel a need or not…before getting into the car.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to BestHomeSecurityCompanys.com discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

Take a Women’s Self-Defense Course

Crimes against women are often “crimes of opportunity”. The predator doesn’t care if the opportunity presents itself in a major bustling city or in a tiny town with a population of only 400. If he sees prey and nobody else is around, he’ll strike—big town, medium town or small town.

1SDWomen should take self-defense classes, regardless of their age, weight or height. Just do it. There’s more to a high quality self-defense program than learning how to throw a punch, get out of a choke-hold and deliver a kick.

Sometimes, a predator can be frightened away by a woman’s eyes and tone of voice. In fact, a predator will “interview” a woman before assaulting her. He wants to first make sure he can overtake her. He won’t automatically assume he can simply because he’s taller and heavier. He has to qualify her as victim material.

He may do this by asking her for the time, for directions, or just looking at her in a creepy way. Her response, tone of voice and body language will be very telling. Self-defense and martial arts teaches a woman how to display a posture that makes a dangerous man back off.

Sometimes a woman who’s trained to fight will get attacked anyways.

Its simple enough, you have to be willing to injure, hurt and harm your attackers. A good self-defense program will include instruction in how to get out of real attacks and how to fight from the ground and even when there is a weapon involved.

Attackers generally don’t expect their victims to fight back. So what you do, your response to an attacker in the first few moments of an attack, can very well determine the outcome. Scratching a man’s face is a good start, but may anger him rather than scare him, but a solid punch to the throat or a deep gouge to the eyes is better.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to BestHomeSecurityCompanys.com discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

Chip and PIN vs. Chip and Signature Cards

The planet’s most powerful nation is sure backwards when it comes to the payment card industry: Why has America been using 1970s technology as of the posting date of this article? That magnetic strip on credit and debit cards has GOT to go already! And thank goodness, the transition to chip technology is more imminent than ever.

1CFor those of you out of the loop, the stripe makes it ridiculously easy for cyber thieves to commit all sorts of crimes. (Remember Target?) The chip in most cases will trip them up on this.

Chip-and-PIN technology is better than chip-and-signature. However, the chip-and-signature is taking a much stronger root in America than the PIN version. The signature version’s most obvious drawback is that it’s useless in all the other nations where PIN technology rules.

Additional Problems with Chip ‘n Signature

  • A signature can be forged.
  • The card can be intercepted prior to transaction completion.
  • Will be very costly to convert the current stripe technology to signature—but the investment will not offset the cost due to the inherent weaknesses in signature-based technology.
  • Consumers, thinking that the “chip” part of the signature version means great security, will be miffed once they realize how vulnerable signature actually is.

Benefits of Chip ‘n PIN

  • The card issuer must assign the personal identification number prior to mailing the card to the user; the user must reset the PIN at a branch. Just like a debit card. Easy.
  • Makes it really difficult for criminals to use a person’s credit or debit card in a fraudulent way. A most obvious example is that if a thief steals or finds a lost credit card…and tries to make a purchase…he’ll come to a dead end when it’s time to enter the PIN.

Drawbacks of Chip ‘n PIN

  • Will cost an arm and a leg to implement on a universal scale, and unfortunately, funds are already being diverted to switch over to the signature technology rather than the chip.

Solutions to the Signature Problem

  • To nab or prevent imposters from making that signature, certain technologies like geo-location can be implemented to determine if the customer is the real owner of the card. There’d be multiple technologies in place for verifying ownership.
  • The transaction can require voice biometrics with a smartphone: The system will approve the purchase only when the card user’s voice is identified as that of the real owner.
  • The second point here would be contingent on authenticating the smartphone.

But all that seems a little complicated an unnecessary. We really should just use the Chip and Signature. Or how about we just use Apple Pay!

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.

6 Survival Tips for Being Lost in the Woods

Some may remember the James Kim case out of Oregon in December 2006. Kim inadvertently chose an old logging road while driving home, getting lost in the woods. He left his wife and two young kids in the vehicle while he sought help, promising to return by early afternoon. He never did and his body was found in a creek. Based on snow tracks it was determined he walked practically in the same loop over and over for 16 miles. Awful.

1MHere are no-nonsense, easy tips for surviving mentally and physically if you ever become lost.

  1. Once you realize you’re lost, assess for injuries or situations that interfere with life sustenance. This assessment is ongoing because it includes avoiding doing anything that could interfere with breathing, blood flow, consciousness, you know, life.
  1. Next is think and observe. Where are you? What landmarks did you spot prior? How did you get here? Assess the environment: Hot? Cold soon? Darkness soon?
  1. Get logical, not emotional. Admit you’re truly lost. If you have an idea from where you came, backtrack mentally for clues, e.g., if you see wet mud on the trail where you think you came, check if your shoes are muddy. Think before you wander.
  1. Inspect your inventory. Maybe you have something that could help like a sharp tool, whistle, cellphone. And, how much water do you have? Sip in small amounts when thirsty, and limit exertion.
  1. It’s time to plan. Once you decide to find your way back, leave trail markers. But don’t budge unless you’re 100 percent sure you know the way out. It’s safer to stay put in your lost spot and wait for rescue than do what James Kim did (rescuers eventually found his vehicle and his unharmed family).
  1. What about food? Don’t panic (cavemen certainly didn’t; long fasts were a way of life). The body can go up to three weeks without food (but only two or three days without water; less in scorching heat).

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to BestHomeSecurityCompanys.com discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

Reasons a Space Heater Can Cause a Fire, & Safety Tips

Do you know the three reasons why a space heater can cause a fire, and what the No. 1 reason is?

6HAs a home security specialist, one of the areas of safety that I’m always screaming about during the cold weather is space heater safety, including making sure people know the reasons why such a little device could bring an entire house down in ashes.

The National Fire Protection Association names these three reasons that a space heater can start a fire: The unit is too close to a flammable agent like a mattress or bedding; the space heater is on but not attended; and dirty chimneys.

The NFPA offers these tips for electric space heater safety:

-Require a three-foot childfree zone around space heaters.

-Supervise children when a space heater is going.

-Put the “space” back in space heater: Give it ample personal space—three feet of it—from anything else.

-Make sure the unit has no broken or malfunctioning parts.

-The unit should always be on a flat, solid surface.

-Use only a unit with an automatic shut-off so that it shuts off if knocked over.

-Never use extension cords.

-Never leave a space heater on when absent or asleep.

Here are the NFPA’s tips for fuel burning space heaters:

-Use only the fuel that the manufacturer specifies, and the proper grade if the fuel is liquid.

-Refuel the unit only outside or in a well-ventilated area.

-Keep a window open when the unit is in operation.

-Newly manufactured gas space heaters have a mechanism that shuts it off if it detects low ambient oxygen. If your old unit doesn’t have this feature, replace it.

-Allow at least five minutes to lapse if your gas heater pilot light goes out, before relighting, and light your match before you turn the gas on to avoid a flashback.

-Never light the unit if you smell gas from it. Instead shut off all controls, open the doors and windows, then call a gas service tech.

Knowing the reasons why a space heater can start a fire is just the beginning of safety; you must also mind the rest of these tips.

Robert Siciliano home security expert to Schlage discussing home security and identity theft on TBS Movie and a Makeover. Disclosures. For Roberts FREE ebook text- SECURE Your@emailaddress -to 411247.