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.

Half of American Adults on FBIs Biometric Database

Here’s a bit of a shock for you: about half of all adult Americans have a photograph stored in the FBI facial recognition database. What’s even more shocking, it is that these photos are being stored without the consent of the individuals. Approximately 80 percent of the photos the FBI has are of non-criminals, and might take the form of passport or driver’s license photos. Furthermore, there is a 15 percent rate of inaccuracy when matching photos to individuals, and black people are more likely to be misidentified than white people.

You can’t deny that this technology is very powerful for law enforcement, but it can also be used for things like stalking or harassment. There is also the fact that this technology allows almost anyone to scan anyone else. There are no laws controlling it, either.

If you think that’s scary, consider this: The technology to do this has been used since around 2010, and the FBI never informed the public, nor did they file a privacy impact assessment, which is required, for five years. Where is the FBI getting this information? From the states.

Basically, the FBI made arrangements with 18 different states, which gives them access to driver’s license photos. People are not made aware that the FBI has this access, nor are they informed that law enforcement from across the country can access this information.

Just last year, the GAO, which is the US government accountability office, took a look how the FBI is using facial recognition and found that it was lacking accuracy, accountability, and oversight. They also found that there was no test for a false positive nor racial bias.

What’s even more interesting is that several companies that develop this technology admit that it should be more tightly controlled and regulated. For instance, one such company, and the CEO, has said that he is “not comfortable” with this lack of regulation, and that the algorithms that are used commercially are much more accurate than what the FBI has. But, many of these companies are not willing to work with the government. Why? Because they have concerns about using it for biometric surveillance.

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.

Study Shows Millennials Choose Convenience Over Security

To those of us consider Tom Cruise the movie star of our day or even Grunge as the music we grew up with, looking at millennials, and the way they view life, is fascinating. These “kids” or young adults, many are brilliant. They really do define “disruption”.

However, that doesn’t mean that this tech savvy generation is always right. In fact, a new study shows just the opposite when it comes to internet safety. Though, they can also teach us a few things and are definitely up to speed on the value of “authentication” (which leads to accountability).

Anyway…South by Southwest, or SXSW, is a festival and conference that is held each year in Austin, TX. This year, a survey was done with some good AND scary results. The company that did the survey, SureID, found that 83% of millennials that were asked believed that convenience is more important than safety. That’s not good. But this is not the only interesting finding, however. On a positive note, the study also found the following:

  • About 96% want to have the ability to verify their identity online, which would ensure it was safe from hackers.
  • About 60% put more value on time than they do their money or safety.
  • 79% are less likely to buy something from a person who can’t prove their identity.
  • 70% feel more comfortable interacting with a person online if they can verify that other person’s identity.
  • 91% say they believe that companies “definitely” or “maybe” do background checks on those who work for them. These include on-demand food delivery and ridesharing. However, most companies do not do this.

What does this information tell us? It says that we are very close to seeing a shift in the way millennials are viewing their identities, as well as how they view the people and businesses they interact with.

Millennials have a need to want to better verify another person’s identity. To support this, just look at dating apps. Approximately 88% of people using them find the idea of verifying the identity of the people they might see offsite as appealing. It’s similar with ride sharing, where about 75% of millennials want to know, without a doubt, who is driving them around.

We live in a world today that is more connected than ever before. These days, as much as 30% of the population is working as freelancers, or in another type of independent work. In many cases, this work is evolving from small gigs to large and efficient marketplaces. Thus, the need for extra security and transparency is extremely important. Sometimes, technology helps us act too comfortably with people we don’t really know, and the study shows that having people prove whom they are will help to create higher levels of trust.

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.

Thieves steal 30 Cars using Software

Who needs a hanger to steal a car when you can use a laptop? Despite today’s vehicles having far more sophisticated security protection, thieves can still break in—like the two crooks who stole at least 30 Dodge and Jeep vehicles…with just a laptop computer.

11DIn Houston, video showed the pair in the act, though authorities are still working on piecing together just how the capers were pulled off.

One possibility is that a database contains codes that link key fobs to cars. Perhaps the thieves, who may be part of a ring, somehow got access to this database (one theory is that a crooked employee sold them the access), and from there, created key fobs based on vehicle ID numbers. VINs are visible on vehicles. Vehicles that are targeted for theft don’t “know” an authentic fob from a fraudulent one.

Again, this is all conjecture, but one thing’s for sure: The pair did not steal the vehicles the old-fashioned way.

Though today’s electronic security measures will stop the thief who lacks techy know-how and prefers the coat hanger and hotwire method, technology won’t stop smarter, more ingenious crooks who feel quite at home committing cyber based crimes.

With more and more criminals relying on the Internet of Things to commit all sorts of crimes, maybe the best security for a motor vehicle would indeed be one of the old-fashioned security features: install a kill switch.

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.

What age is it OK to leave Kids home alone?

Sooner or later, you’ll need to leave your child home—unsupervised, alone—for an extended period. And even though you may have smart devices to keep a constant check on your child, this doesn’t mean you can instantly teleport home in the event your smart security system relays a realtime video of a kitchen fire.

12DIt’s one of the toughest challenges facing parents: At what age can they leave a child home alone without breaking the law, without endangering that child? Even if your child is older than the minimum age to be legally left alone, this doesn’t mean they’re ready to face this new chapter.

  • A very emotionally mature, 10-year-old child may be very small for their age, and a crook passing by the house may peer in and think that a seven-year-old is all alone inside—making a break-in tempting.
  • An eight-year-old may be the size of an 11-year-old, which could fool a prowler peering in, but having the mind of an eight-year-old won’t help in a crisis situation.
  • Your feisty but responsible nine-year-old may be begging to be left home alone, have passed a first-aid test and be a junior blackbelt.
  • Or, your skittish 13-year-old may be very bright, but…to put it succinctly, be a scaredy cat.
  • Is the neighborhood popular with burglars?
  • Is the child sick?

Laws are ambiguous. Just what is “adequate supervision” anyways? And is it redefined with different ages? Obviously, you don’t want to leave a nine-year-old alone for even one hour with the new, 95-pound rescue dog, or leave a young child home during a storm. A 12-year-old may seem old enough to be left home alone for a few hours, but not in charge of his two-year-old sibling.

The various U.S. states do not have clear explanations; it’s up to the parent to interpret each circumstance. And only three states specify the minimum age: Maryland is eight; Oregon is 10; and Illinois is 14 … even though many girls begin babysitting late into the night at age 11.

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.

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.

Karate Woman breaks Assailant’s Nose

“I had my earphones in and didn’t know he was there until he threw me to the ground,” says Taela Davis, 25, of Australia in a heraldsun.com article.

1SDBig Mistake: Wearing earbuds while walking about in public. Even if you’re a big bruiser MMA fighter, you should not compromise your ability to hear what’s going on around you. You may miss the sounds of a woman or child screaming (and you, being the good Samaritan you are, would definitely want to help out).

But even if you wouldn’t help out, there are other things that compromised hearing could get you in big trouble for: the sound of car wheels screeching as the car comes careening towards you, thanks to a texting or drunken driver losing control.

Keep your ears clear so you can hear!

Back to Taela: The man forced her on her back and began pulling at her clothes. She checked for signs of a weapon and saw none, then kneed him in the ribs and punched his face, believing she’d broken his nose. Taela has a black belt in karate. Oddly, the punch didn’t stop the man, whom she believes was on drugs, but blood was “running down his face.”

She tried to flee but he caught her ankle and yanked her back to the ground. At that point she was about to “beat the crap” out of him when a stranger stepped in and scared the man off (aw shucks! I wanted her to “beat the crap” out of him!).

Though the stranger scared off the man, kudos to Taela for maintaining wit and presence of mind, things she learned in her karate lessons where she had to break free of simulated attacks. Instead of screaming and scratching, Taela calculated and began striking.

  • Though screaming has been known to send assailants running, often it only pisses them off and they cover the victim’s mouth or punch her hard there.
  • Learn to fight back rather than scream. Rapists expect women to scream and often are prepared to muffle the noise. They don’t expect to get a broken nose, kneecap or be put in a chokehold, and hence are not prepared for these reactions.
  • Martial arts training teaches not only how to deliver effective strikes and moves, but teaches presence of mind.

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.

Rapist runs off when Victim bites Him in Neck

Whoever said that fighting back at a rapist will probably create more problems for the victim might want to rethink this idea. How disabling can a bite to the rapist’s neck be when the biter is a human?

10DI mean, we’re not talking about a dog biting the man. When it comes to biting, humans are pathetic when compared to other animals. Yet a human bite was scary enough to frighten off the man who was sexually assaulting the woman who bit him on the neck, says an article at thedenverchannel.com.

The incident occurred at 1 a.m. in Eagle County after the victim left a party and was walking home. During the struggle, the woman managed to plant a good bite on the attacker’s neck, sending him running.

Points to Reflect Upon

  • Never walk home alone late at night (or anywhere). See if someone at the party will accompany you—someone you know.
  • Or, prior to going to a party, arrange a ride home.
  • If nobody is available to drive you home, call a cab; get the number of a cab company ahead of time and make sure they are operating at the time you think you’ll be leaving the party.
  • Never take your eyes off your drink at a party. You just never know whether or not someone will slip the “date rape” drug in there.
  • If you foresee you’ll be walking home alone, don’t get drunk. And bring with you pepper spray. Hold your keys between your fingers.
  • If you’re being attacked, there are many things you can do to escape. The man in this case had earrings. Pulling down on one, let alone two, will surely send an assailant packing. And I don’t mean tugging, but with enough force to rip the earring through his ear, tearing the ear. It’s extremely likely he’ll release you and holler in pain, hand to his torn earlobe. And that’s your escape window.
  • Sign up for martial arts lessons.

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.

Woman slams Staple Gun into Intruder’s Head

If you’re ever confronted by an assailant in your garage, you may have any number of highly effective weapons within your reach. A woman in Indianapolis identified as Carol found that out soon enough when she arrived home in February of 2016.

1SDA man was waiting in her garage. The 52-year-old questioned what the man wanted. He said he had a gun and demanded her purse.

She replied he could have the purse and it was in her car. Then he lunged at and grabbed her—pinning her against a toolbox (big mistake!).

“So I grabbed a staple gun and smacked him on the side of the head,” the story at fox6now.com quotes Carol. “He went down to his knees.”

The man must have been pretty hard-headed because the blow didn’t keep him from charging her a second time. However, Carol grabbed two staple guns and told him, “I will crush your skill in if you touch me again.”

The bleeding man left.

How to Protect Yourself

  • Preventing an intrusion is the first thing. How did this man get in the garage? The story doesn’t describe the type of garage, but perhaps he simply lifted the door open. But it’s also possible he got into the house from a back door or window, then made his way to the garage and waited.
  • All possible entries to your house should be as intrusion-proof as possible.
  • If you find yourself being pinned by an assailant, keep level headed and make a fast assessment of what’s within reach that could be a weapon—then slam it into your assailant’s head.
  • Unlike what you’ve probably seen on TV hundreds of times, all it takes is one good slam to disable the assailant enough for you to make your escape. The side of an angry man’s head is fragile simply due to the fact that it’s the side of a human head.
  • Even striking with an office stapler can daze an assailant.

Do not hesitate to deliver a second blow if he comes at you after the first blow.

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.