Americans are the most generous people in the world. The earthquake tragedy that happened in Haiti brings out the best in all of us to help people in time of need. However, be cautious when donating to Haiti relief programs.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management is urging Minnesotan to work with trusted, well-established volunteer agencies. Criminals are out there just waiting to jump on the chance to steal your money. These people have no conscience or moral ethics unlike most Americans who really care about helping people.
The FBI has provided the following guidelines if you are planning to donate cash to any relief fund.
• Do not respond to any unsolicited (SPAM) incoming emails, including clicking links contained within those messages.
• Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as surviving victims or officials asking for donations via e-mail or social networking sites.
• Verify the legitimacy of nonprofit organizations by utilizing various Internet-based resources that may assist in confirming the group’s existence and its nonprofit status rather than following a purported link to the site.
• Be cautious of e-mails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files because the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from know senders.
• Make contributions directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf to ensure contributions are received and used for intended purposes.
• Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions. Providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.
Remember, you want your cash donations go to volunteer organizations that can quickly pay for response and recovery efforts, and provide direct financial assistance to disaster survivors to meet their own needs. Those interested in contributing to help the victims in Haiti can visit www.interaction.org/crisis-list/earthquake-haiti to obtain a list of credible responding agencies for international emergencies
During the holiday season, everyone is looking for “good deals” on name brand products. However, some of those “good deals” may be fakes. DVDs, Gucci purses, sports jerseys, Donna Karan perfume, Louis Vuitton purses, Calvin Klein clothing, Air Jordan shoes and even batteries can be counterfeit products.
According to a Star Tribune article, shoddy copies of your favorite presents, many from China, may be selling to you at one-third the price. As a result, Federal agents have taken down counterfeiters in the Minnesota area. The sting hit Minnesota vendors for the second time just before Thanksgiving.
Officials with the local office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have seized items with a street value of $136,000, but would be worth more than $450,000 if they were genuine and had been sold at the manufacturers’ suggested retail price. A similar operation before Thanksgiving seized more than 17,000 counterfeit items at 21 metro area stores. The latest initiative seized more than 708,000 items in 41 locations across the U.S. in the past week. Recently, local agents seized nearly 22,000 bogus goods at 12 businesses in Minneapolis and St. Cloud. In all, the national sting netted items such as ornaments, toys, clothing and perfume with a retail value of more than $26 million.
John Morton, assistant secretary for ICE recently said, “This is the season these criminals lure in unwitting holiday shoppers and sell them substandard and sometimes dangerous goods. Besides putting a dent in the criminals’ holiday profits, we are getting out the word to consumers that counterfeits are everywhere.”
More stings are planned during the rest of the holiday season.
As winter is fast approaching, many drivers think it is okay to warm up their car before driving off. As long as you are inside the car, you are okay, but once you turn on the ignition and go back into your house, you may receive a citation from police. In Minnesota the law is known as “open ignition law”, in other states such as Colorado, it’s known as “puffing” and you will be ticketed by police.
Any law that prohibits a driver leaving their car running unattended is not intended to punish the driver but to make them aware that this is a direct invitation to criminals to steal your car.
Police will tell you that auto theft is a crime of opportunity just like many other crimes. If a criminal sees your car running and no one in the car, he will steal your car. Some cars are found; some cars are used for another type of crime and yet others are taken to a “chop shop” for parts and never found.
Even though it is cold out, be smart and never leave your car running even for a moment. You never know when a car thief is waiting to steal your car.
The 2010 Census is due next year. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is issuing a warning to be cautious with giving out too much information. Don’t become a victim of fraud or identity theft.
The first phase of the 2010 U.S. census is gathering and verifying addresses of households across the country. Eventually more than 140,000 U.S. Census workers will count every person in the U.S. and gather information about them. The census includes information about every person living at each address including name, age, gender, race and other relevant data.
If you receive an in-home visit from a U.S. Census worker, make sure he/she has a badge, a handheld device, a U.S. Census Bureau canvas bag and a confidentiality notice. Always ask to see identification and badge before answering any questions. In addition, census workers are currently only knocking on doors to verify address information. Do not give your Social Security number, credit card or banking information to anyone even if they insist they need it for the U.S. Census. They do not need this information and chances are they are con artists looking to steal your identity.
The Census Bureau may ask for basic financial information, but they will only ask for a salary range and you don’t need to answer any questions about your financial situation. Remember, no matter what a census worker is asking you, you only need to tell them how many people live at your address and nothing more.
In addition, if the Census worker is working with Association of Community Organization for Reform Now (ACORN), tell them to get lost. No ACORN worker is working for the Census Bureau next year. Finally, census workers may contact you by telephone, mail or in person at home. If you receive an email – delete the email because it is a scam to steal your identity or harm your computer. For more advice on avoiding identity theft and fraud visit www.bbb.org.
It’s always amazing what thieves will do to steal your identity. A new e-mail scam is going around that you should be aware of. Recently, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is warning about the latest H1N1 scam asking for personal information.
Health officials are now considering offering H1N1 flue vaccines to the general population in many states such as Colorado. The e-mail asks you to create your personal H1N1 vaccination profile on a phony government site. Here they ask for personal information in an attempt to steal your identity.
Whatever you do, don’t click on the link in the e-mail because there may be software on the site that can embed into your computer and steal any passwords you may use for other sites. Don’t open the e-mail and delete the e-mail immediately.
If you want information about H1N1 vaccine availability, visit the CDC site or your State Health Department’s web site directly. These sites will never ask for any personal information or have you enter passwords.
Pictures on surveillance camera videos today have advanced so much, criminals are now being caught easier and faster than before. According to an article in the Star Tribune, these advancements in video surveillance technology has helped in crime fighting in Minesota.
Videos have assisted police in the speed of catching suspects accused of robbery, theft, assault and other crimes. The new high resolution images caught on video has contributed to successful prosecutions and has lead to personal stories about speedy identifications of suspects.
For example, because of the quality of the still frames from the videos, police received dozens of calls after photos of Dawn Marie Rassett, the woman charged in Washington County with stealing credit cards from teachers’ purses, were published. Additional charges came last week in Ramsey County after police found more video allegedly showing Rassett, also known as Dawn Marie Scott, using stolen credit cards at businesses in Roseville, White Bear Lake, Maplewood, Vadnais Heights and North St. Paul.
The digital technology of surveillance cameras now allows crisp quality and timely clues that videotapes never did. Images are clear – almost portrait like – and makes it clear who committed the crime. Many of these cameras are computer driven digital cameras that now record images for months. If a store is robbed. a few clicks on a computer takes them to the precise time of the holdup and shows clear pictures of the would be robber. Nearly 80 percent of all Minneapolis metro business owners now have these type of camera installed.
The next time you go into a store, remember to smile – you’re on Candid Camera!
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety is offering 400 DWI offenders to participate in the State’s Ignition Interlock Program. This program makes sure that certain DWI offenders can drive again by having an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicles.
The ignition interlock device prevents a vehicle from being started if the device detects an alcohol concentration level of 0.02. The driver needs to blow into a tube before starting the car. To make sure that the device is working correctly, the driver needs to re-test after the initial test. In addition, the device restricts others from starting the car and then allowing the offender to drive impaired.
Research from the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation reports interlock devices can reduce repeat DWI offenses by 45 percent to 90 percent. Currently, about 13 states have laws that require interlock use after a first-time DWI arrest. MADD nationally supports interlock for all DWI offenders.
A DWI conviction is costly. In order to drive again, you pay for the interlock program that costs $3 to $4 a day depending on the ignition interlock device. You also pay for the installation of the interlock that costs $90–$100 and removal fee of $50. Then you need to pay for your license reinstatement at a cost of $680, or for DWI driver’s exam fees that varies. Even if you don’t go along with the interlock program, DWI offenders still pay the reinstatement and related license fees once they are permitted to regain their license.
Best advice if you want to continue driving in Minnesota, don’t drive drunk.
Most everyone who uses a computer to surf the Internet needs to be aware that whether intentionally or unintentionally your computer may become infected by a virus or malicious program that may download child porn sites to your computer. According to an Associated Press article, several child porn cases have been dismissed because of a claim that a virus infected computers and downloaded child porn sites.
How can this type of virus infect your computer? Software maker F-Secure Corp claims that about 20 million of the estimated 1 billion Internet-connected PCs worldwide are infected with viruses that could give hackers full control. Computers often get infected when people open e-mail attachments from unknown sources, visit a malicious Web page. Even those annoying pop-ups can infect your compunter.
Pedophiles can exploit a virus infected PC by remotely storing and viewing their stash on someone else’s computer. Pedophiles can also tap viruses in several ways. The simplest is to force someone else’s computer to surf child porn sites, collecting images along the way. Or a computer can be made into a warehouse for pictures and videos that can be viewed remotely when the PC is online.
Unfortunately, pranksters or someone trying to frame you can also tap viruses to make it appear that you surf illegal web sites. Child porn can land on a computer because of a sick prank or an attempt to frame the PC’s owner. The cost to prove your innocence can amount to over $250,000 and if you can’t prove your innocence you will go to jail.
Bottom line is to make sure that your computer has the right antivirus software, never open up an email you don’t know where it came from and never go to web sites that have not been verified. The cost of prevention is very little when compared to the cost of proving your innocence. Time, money and your reputation will be at stake.
The Minnesota Criminals blog has written several blogs in the past about the hideous crime of human trafficking. Criminals transport women, girls, boys and men for sex trade and other forced labor. An estimated 800,000 people are forced into commercial sex trade each year according to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency).
Now ICE is bringing this crime to the attention to everyone with its new ad campaign, “Hidden in Plain Sight.” This campaign seeks to encourage community members to report human trafficking if they observe it. Through posters, billboards and transit signs the message is on display in several major cities that include St. Paul, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Miami and San Antonio.
Some victims may be lured by the false promise of prosperity. However, once committed to the trafficker they are forced to work as sex slaves, sweat-shop employees, domestic servants or fruit pickers, according to ICE. These victims do not speak the language of the country where they are taken and traffickers conceal victims’ travel and identity documents. Criminal traffickers may also threaten to harm their victims and families if they try to escape.
That is why ICE needs your help to stop human trafficking. If you see a situation that may not be right, contact your local police or ICE immediately.
Thanks to a group of motorcycle enthusiasts from Hastings, Minnesota’s AMBER Alert Programs has received a check for $25,000. This group has been raising money to help support Minnesota’s AMBER Alert Program since 2003. They started out with a small donation of $500 but each year since, the amount has increased as donations have grown dramatically. The group established a non-profit organization, Minnesota AMBER Alert Fundraiser, dedicated to raising money to support the program
Did you know that 2,200 children go missing each day and unfortunately, 8% never return home? The AMBER Alert was first implemented in Texas after the abduction of Amber Hagerman. Local authorities, the media and the public came together to create this tool that today is in every state. Statistics show that 70% of children who are abducted by a stranger are murdered within the first few hours of an abduction, which is why time is of the essence in these cases. Minnesota was the 7th state to go statewide with AMBER Alerts.
All donated funds go directly to the operation of the AMBER Alert program. Each AMBER Alert costs approximately $6,000-$12,000, which includes broadcast and cancellation. Donations are also used to help defray the cost of law enforcement training and education about the program for children, businesses and the public.
Since its inception, twenty-two AMBER Alerts have been issued in the state of Minnesota and so far, everyone has ended with the safe recovery of a child. Because time is of the essence in abductions, the goal is to use maximum public participation to locate the child as quickly as possible.