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Family Watchdog
Taxes  Tax season is almost here – time once again to gather your income statements, W2 forms, and 1099s, and sort out how much you owe Uncle Sam (or hopefully how much he owes you). In our busy world, it is often easier to file online and ensure that the IRS gets your return quickly and doesn’t slap you with any late fees. Sending such personal data over the Internet can be risky business however, if you aren’t aware of the dangers involved. We have gathered a few ways to ensure you are doing it safely.

Perhaps the best way to avoid risk when filing your taxes online is to do so through trusted tax preparation software. Software like Turbo Tax is critically acclaimed and certified as a secure way to file your return. In fact, TurboTax (and similar applications) use the same encryption technology that banks use, ensuring that your sensitive data is completely protected as it is transmitted to the IRS.

File using the IRS website.(http://www.irs.gov/) The IRS will not send you emails unless you file through them first. Alot of people are sending out spam trying to get your information in their hands.

Use a secure connection. Never trust the security of a public Internet hub. Internet cafes, libraries, airports, etc – there is no guarantee of security on these connections, and often times the managers who plugged in the wireless router don’t truly understand safe network practice at all. Such networks could be recording all activity by default, and your sensitive information could be left sitting in the server logs of a public Wi-Fi terminal somewhere, waiting to be discovered. Just as you shouldn’t file your taxes at a public Internet terminal due to security risks, neither should you file them on your workplace’s network.
 
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Credit Card  With tax season here, many people are going to be doing some extra shopping online. Please be safe and take credit card fraud and identity theft seriously.

Always choose credit over debit when shopping online. Most credit cards offer protection from identity theft that debit cards don’t.

Disposable is better. They work as a gift card. Only so much can be put on the card at once, so if stolen, no extra money can be taken. If you plan on purchasing something online for "x" amount, add that amount to the card before hand.

Verify website security. A secure web site starts with HTTPS:// instead of HTTP://. Secure sites will also have a small lock icon in the lower right corner of the screen.

Don't shop publically. Use your computer at home. It's safer than putting your credit card information on a public computer.

Don't store information. If you store your credit card information on a shopping site and they have a security breech, your information could be at risk.

Here is more online shopping safety from the American Bar Association: http://www.safeshopping.org/home.shtml
 
Computer  Valentines day: Do you have the dinner reservations and the roses ordered? If so, good job. If not, better get on it! For those of you that do not have a special person in their life, enjoy the day to yourself and take advantage of the resturants being full and packed. (Think chinese take out and a redbox movie date with the dog!)

If your looking for love on the internet (Match.com, EHarmony, Plentyoffish) please remember to be safe about it. Follow your head, not your heart. And while doing so, get a laugh at other peoples dating stories gone wild: http://www.abadcaseofthedates.com/

And remember, before you go meet that person you have been talking to on a social dating site, run a quick search through our free service at www.familywatchdog.us
 
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Question  Q&A
Question: Am I allowed to print the offender's information and post it around my neighborhood?

Answer: Yes! You can now print the offender's profile and post it in public places. (Be sure to double check with the local police first and the owners of the posting site!) Better yet, we now offer brochures. If you are interested in some, please email Jane at Jane@familywatchdog.us. We will send you a PDF file that you can print out and hand out yourself! Great for the workplace and schools!
 
When I was younger I paid little attention to my whereabouts. I went where I pleased and generally assumed the world was full of good people. I still try to hold onto that belief, however now I do it with the help of Family Watchdog.

In the late 1990's I was married, just had my first child and was living in an industrial neighborhood in Berkeley, CA. The building was "secure", gates, keypad, locks. Blissfully unaware we were that we were in the vicinity of a convicted, registered sex offender, we lived our lives, in our little loft, feeling quite safe. This was a mistake. Early one Saturday morning my husband was readying himself to go to work. He walked our dog, made his lunch and packed his tools in his truck. He noted that the garage door to the parking area of our building was stuck in the open position, being so early, there was no one to call for maintenance. Little did he know one of the people he had passed on the sidewalk had followed him into our building. Within seconds of his final departure, I heard the front door open. "Oh, he must have forgotten something", I thought to myself. Wrong. In no time at all, as I lay nearly naked in bed with my newborn, I heard boot-steps, the WRONG boot steps, and they were coming up my diamond plate steel stairs towards my bedroom and my baby!

Just as I sat up I saw a man, he was not my husband. I was irate, furious, confused, did all of the wrong things, including forgetting to dial 911 from the phone laying at the head of my bed. I could have dialed and said nothing, allowing the dispatcher to hear what followed and help would have been on the way. I began to scream obscenities and was more aggressive than a mother bear protecting her cub. I will spare you all of the details. Fortunately for us, the man made the right decision and turned, wiping his prints off the railing, and went downstairs. I grabbed a bathrobe and with one arm in it, I flew down the stairs after him, intent on terminating the threat by any means. When he spun around, that's when I lunged, shoving him out my door. I "boot kicked" it shut with a mighty "humph!" and called my husband and then 911.

By the time police, and my husband arrived, the man was long gone.

The officers brought with them two, huge books of pictures in an attempt to help us immediately identify the perpetrator Interviewed separately, we both identified the same man and yes, he was a convicted and registered sex offender. I wish this story had a happy ending of "the man was convicted of this or that" and went to jail, but during the lapse in time between incident and arrest, I'd become unable to identify him in a physical line-up.

Jumping ahead 15 years, my husband has passed away, I'm now a single mother raising a teen and living in a new state, I have tools! Oh yes, tools like Family Watchdog which allow me to view, with photographs, criminals of all variety in my area. This tool alone aided me in choosing our new home. I pulled a crime report from the local police department, I viewed the area on Watchdog and I asked neighbors what the area is like. Sure, there are one or two within a few miles of me, their pictures burned into my memory, but I do feel safer having free access to Family Watchdog on my side.

Thank you for aiding me in finding a potentially safe neighborhood, raising my awareness and helping my son and I go on with our new lives.
Teri, via facebook
 
See if your neighborhood is safe! www.familywatchdog.us

Have a story you would like to share? Send Jane an email at jane@familywatchdog.us

All other quesions, comments and concerns can be emailed to c.s@familywatchdog.us

We hope you have a safe and warm Febuary and enjoy Valentines day! From our family to yours... stay safe.
 

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