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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Scam websites

 Note: This post was originally published on November 27, 2016 and has been updated with new information.
On top of all the safety concerns we have for shopping in the real world, you have to be careful online as well.  Not only from identity theft issues but bogus, price too good to be true deals, on fake websites and fake mobile apps.

You use to be able to look at a website and have your spider sense tingle warning that this doesn’t look quite right. But now, at first glance, it’s hard to pick out a thrown together site. Site building skills and packages are such that pretty much anyone can construct a site that looks like a multi billion dollar corporation is at the other end. When in reality it’s a small time operation or worse an out of country company that is selling bogus products or collecting personal data.

Scam Busting

One quick way to tell if the site is not quite on the up and up is to take a tour and make note of the grammar. One thing the scammers haven’t quite grasped is writing in grammatically correct English. Sites that do not pay attention to simple grammatical structure probably don’t have your best interest in mind. We’re not talking about a typo here or their or misusing there,  they’re, or their, you'll see serious grammar issues that scream no quality control. But don’t use this as your only method.

There are several “detectors” that can be found online that you enter the questionable website address and the detector gives you a report on the site, including a score, location, technical data, owner, and contact information. One such site is [This is just one of many and no endorsements are being given.] This site seemed to provide the most detailed information that online users could use.

If you’re not sure of a site, run it through a “scam busting site”, you should be able to get enough laymen details to make a determination if the site in question is someone you want to provide your credit card.


In the early days of the Internet, criminals would identify the most popular retailing websites and then figure out the commonly mistyped spellings of the retailer’s names. They create their own sites under the misspelled names. Users always misspelled Amazon, or example. Type in Amason, and you are directed to the scammers’ site. Companies figured this out and began buying up the domain names associated with the misspellings.

The technique is called typosquatting. The practice diminished but is picking up popularity again. It’s hard to think of or even buy every possible spelling combination, so criminals are able to slip past the gatekeepers. The fraudulent sites are very close facsimiles to the real sites. Once a user interacts, malware is downloaded onto the users computer and/or information is stolen.

Mobile devices are targeted as well through fake retail apps sold in smartphone stores. The apps mimic legitimate retailers, but they install malware that steal identity, financial information, and sometimes install ransomware (If you ever want to see your files again August 8, 2016) The RiskIQ cybersecurity company estimates that 1 in 10 Black Friday apps were fraudulent. The biggest app stores fall victim to fake apps. Retail apps may be safer downloaded from the retailers website.
Another oldie but goodie is fake shipping notices sent via in email. They are always prevalent but become more so when criminals know that there will be an increase in online shopping/shipping. The notices can look real and appear as they are from a retailer from which you recently purchased. With the flurry of shopping everyone does at this time of year, it’s easy for fake notices to lost in all the emails received. Know what you purchased and from whom, monitor the confirmations and shipping. Most companies will send out a confirmation email, a product shipped email, and possibly a follow up.  Be on guard for anything more.

It’s hard to say stick with nationally named brands and big retailers. Lots of small businesses make their living through online sales and often have good deals especially on unique items. Just as if you were shopping in the real world, you wouldn’t buy from a questionable character off the street, so do some research before you buy online. And watch out for too good to be true deals, especially on hard to find items. Use common sense.  Check reviews. Do your homework.

Be safe. Enjoy the thrill of the hunt.

See our blog archive for other posts relating to shopping safety:

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Employee monitoring

German clockmaker Peter Henlein developed a clock that could be worn around one’s neck in the early 1500’s. Called the Nuremberg Egg, the device had a miniature torsion pendulum and coil spring that allowed it to keep fairly accurate time. Since then humans have been obsessed with wearable devices to provide feedback and information on everything from the time to the weather to biometric data. Today’s technology adds the ability to track the device and by association the wearer.


GPS technology hit the public aviation sector in the 1980’s. In the 1990’s automakers began installing GPS navigation services in their vehicles. Once navigational systems were installed it was a short leap to use the GPS data to track where the vehicle had been by downloading the data. The next step was live tracking of the vehicle, which is commonplace today for most fleet operations and emergency services. The miniaturization of the technology allowed GPS services to be installed in phones and wearable devices.

Businesses have been tracking their fleets for some time. Not only as an accountability measure but also as a way to collect and analyze data to improve routes. In the last several years, companies have been using GPS data from Smartphone’s to track employee locations. Most recently, companies have been issuing employee wearable devices that not only track their location but also performance and sometimes health data.

Wearable devices have become a $15 billion a year market, mostly charged by the introduction of the Fitbit in 2009 and the Apple watch in 2015. As with fleet tracking, business is not missing out on the ability to track employees.

Managers can monitor employee location and production to better understand the needs of the workplace. Studies have shown that employees that are tracked do have better performance. There have been myriad studies over the years that suggest workers perform better not because of new technologies but because they are being watched. Which overall benefits the company.


There are legal concerns that have been raised, such as invasion of privacy regarding intrusiveness into the employee’s activities and health data. Some of the devices allow the monitors to see biometric data, which could reveal an employee health issue violating privacy laws.

As the courts and laws catch up with technology the question of legality can be gray. Like phone call/text data and location, data from tracking devices are becoming the status quo for evidence collection. Data from tracking devices have been used for years in auto collision court cases. Personal fitness wearable device data has just recently been introduced to the courts in personal injury cases and police investigations.
Most of the questions arise regarding invasion of privacy, especially outside of the workplace. Company owned vehicles, so far, appear to be legal to install GPS devices and track. However, when a company puts a device on an employee’s personal vehicle it gets trickier. Even company owned vehicles could be targeted as any issue or law can be questioned in court.

Company owned Smartphones seem to fall in the category of the vehicles regarding privacy. Employees don’t have much of a case until the employer requires the use of the phone out side of the workplace, during the employee’s personal time.

Wearable devices issued by a company to employees have not yet been used in a court case. Anytime data is being collected, it is only a matter of time before one party uses the data against the other. Whether it is company v. employee or vice versa.

As with any company policy, how the employees are informed of the policy and how it is implemented goes a long way in keeping the business out of court. As cases start to go through the courts and company policy is examined, the court decisions will affect how policy is shaped from thereon. Simply, one bad policy or managerial decision can change the landscape for everyone.

Worker’s rights advocates will be watching the use of wearable technology in the workplace. As with any new rule of law or technological application businesses should be cautious to jump on the bandwagon until they have thoroughly researched the use of such devices and the end goals for collecting the data.