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Do you know who your kids are talking to?


There is an increasing amount of publicity regarding Internet predators using teen chat rooms as a hunting ground for their next victims. Despite the warnings, the problem continues to grow. There is no easy method to stop this but there are steps that can be taken to minimize the danger.

1. Monitor your child's account. You can log on to any of the sites and search by name, location or other identifiers. See what they are writing and what is being written about them.
2. Move the computer to an area that is observable. Set up a time for computer usage and keep an eye on what is being done.
3. Set definite guidelines for computer use and follow through on consequences if they are not followed.
4. Talk to your kids about these dangers. Children can be quite trusting and naive about the real world. Your job is not to scare them but to educate them. Tell them not to give out any personal information such as addresses, phone numbers or anything that can be used for identity theft or to trace them.
5. Tell them to never, repeat, never agree to meet someone they have been talking to online unless you are directly involved.
6. Children can use computers at school, a friend's house and public places. Set the same rules for usage on those computers and continue to monitor their accounts.
7. If you find your child closing a screen or otherwise hiding what they are doing when you are in the area, that is a good indicator for you to talk to them about what they are doing.
8. If you discover that a predator is targeting your child, report it to local law enforcement at once.
9. Tell your child to log off immediately if they receive notes with foul language, threats or anything that makes them feel uncomfortable. Much like harassing phone calls, if you respond it only encourages them.
10. Web cams have become quite popular. If your child is getting disturbing images, have them log off. You should notify local law enforcement as well.

Your child may not like the rules. They may claim you don't trust them or they have a right to privacy. Trust is earned, privacy is a privilege. Internet filters can help, laws can put the predators away but the ultimate responsibility is with the parents. In this busy life it is not easy to bring up children but avoid devastating consequences and guide them well.

Do You Have a Bug Out Box?

You hear a sharp knock on the door and there stands a public safety official telling you that you have 15 minutes to evacuate due to a forest fire or other imminent peril. What do you take? It is certainly wise to have a 72-hour survival kit with food, water, medications and other life supporting equipment but what if your house is destroyed? You may lose documents and other information that you will need to rebuild, work with insurance companies and perhaps even prove who you are. Hence a Bug Out Box.

The box should be small and light enough to be carried by one person. The contents should include copies of birth certificates, insurance papers, photos of the house and contents, wills, prescriptions and other documents needed to reestablish who you are and what you had. Important phone numbers such as doctors and relatives, emergency contacts, credit card and other business numbers should also be added. Contracts, credit schedules, bank and other financial information may be included but black out personal information such as Social Security numbers. Remember to update the contents quarterly, or whenever there is a significant change to your state of affairs.

Each year, there are several evacuations due to forest fires. Evacuations can also be required for hazardous material accidents, severe storms or other conflagrations. On a smaller scale, if your house catches fire, you may need the documents to help you rebuild.

The old adage still holds true. Failure to plan is planning to fail.

Scams


The electronic age has provided us with fast and convenient ways to gather information and conduct business. The other side of that sword is it also provides rich hunting grounds for illegal activities. ID theft, on line predators and charity scams are rife with the speed of light thanks to the wonders of electronics. Although there are no mechanisms to protect you 100% of the time, you can minimize your exposure and damage if you are caught.

1. Never give out personal information over the phone or Internet unless you initiate the call. Financial institutions, law enforcement and government will not call you and ask for social security, bank or other forms of ID numbers.
2. If you are notified that you have won a prize and are asked to send money for administrative or other fees, don't! You may receive a check to deposit and be asked to send the remainder to the awarding company. Don't. Always check the postmark on the envelope. Compare it with the return envelope or address you are asked to mail something to. If they are not the same, be very cautious.
3. There are thousands of charities all competing for your money. Select the ones you feel close to and stay with them. If a charity calls, ask them how much of your money goes to the cause. Legitimate charities will donate 60% or more, the rest goes for their overhead expenses. They may try to intimidate you, play on your heart strings or be down right threatening and abrasive. You are in control, hang up.
4. The Internet has many traps. Avoid using quick links as hackers use these to route you to their web site. It may be in the guise of a bank, business or credit card company. Always type in the web site yourself. Predators use the Internet quite effectively. Monitor what your child is saying on the Internet. They can be naive about the dangers and can give out personal information about credit cards, where they live or go to school. If the screen goes blank when you walk into the room, they spend more and more time on the computer, or their demeanor changes, those can be warning signs that all is not well. The Internet will not protect you or your family. It is up to you.

In short, be aware that your identity and money are prize commodities. Their best protection is you.