Showing posts with label crime. Show all posts
Showing posts with label crime. Show all posts

Monday, March 15, 2021

The True Meaning of Identity Theft


Scene from upcoming movie, "That Gone Darn Scam!"

Thank you for visiting!

My new web series, "Cyber Brats" a funny puppet show highlighting scam prevention, is FREE and available on Spondulics TV at   On weekdays, my programs starts at 9:30am eastern and ends at 10:00am. The show repeats every six hours, with new programming every Friday! 

In addition, I have a 2nd show in the works thanks to a grant from the West Springfield Arts Council, a local agency supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. This 10-minute weekly program will air on the West Springfield local access television in addition to be uploaded to my YouTube Channel at  Stay tuned! 

According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity fraud cases has tripled within the past 3 years. 

In 2020, 1,387,615 consumers from across the country felt the sharp sting. The year before that, 650,523 victims were impacted. 2018 saw 444,344 Americans lose their hard earned dollars. 

Talk about a spike! The advent of COVID-19 has much to do with the huge numbers for 2020. 

But what alerted me to the crime of identity theft itself is WHEN this scam itself unravels. I thought it happened once a scammer illegally use personal information for financial benefit. 

My brain buzzed like a switchboard while I was contemplating the actual meaning of identity theft. 

The AARP Fraud Watch Network defines the occurrence of identity theft when, "someone steals personal information that could be used to falsely apply for credit or for government benefits." 

Think about that for a moment. 

The crime of identity theft does not begin when a criminal is actively engaging in fraudulent activities such as making purchases while assuming another person's name or using deceit to have a customer reveal sensitive information. 

Identity theft is underway the moment the con artists is in possession of stolen personal information. 

One need not use or sell sensitive data to commit identity fraud. Once an individual has unlawful possession of it, the theft itself had already materialized. 

SWRS Radio Manager Chuck Green interviews Cyber Sly

With this said, it makes me wonder how experts categorizes what is personal information when users on social media platforms deliberately share birthdays in conjunction with ages, detailed COVID-19 vaccine cards, addresses, employment, trips out of town, and so on. 


Con artists are working diligently with whatever pieces of information available publicly on social media. It's kind of like constructing a puzzle set. Once the pieces are in place, the big picture is seen. 

Swindlers can use this information to falsely apply for credit or government benefits.

There have been cases of the identities of young children falling prey to identity thieves. Years later, when they applied for a line of credit, they find out about unknown fees incurred by these bad actors. 


1. If someone calls or email you to purport there is a problem with some account you have, hang up! Do not give out any personal information. Call the business official number to confirm your status. 

2. Remove mail or sensitive documents responsibly. Invest in a shredder and get rid of unwanted papers. Never leave personal info in your trash, office, and yes; social media postings. 

3. Just because a job is posted on an employment website does make it legitimate. Do your homework and research hiring companies on your own. You can even look up status or complaints on the FTC website at or the Better Business Bureau at

Remember, identity theft is in progress once the scammer have your info. There's no telling when the scammer will put it to use. He or she might wait sometime or sell it to a bidder on the dark web or elsewhere. 

Protect yourself and loved ones from the never-ending threat of fraud. Vigilance is key!

Please don't forget to check out my weekly puppet show at

I will be posting helpful info weekly! Feel free to subscribe or bookmark the link to my blog.

Until time, stay safe and stay secure!

Ken Harris

Ken Harris Shadow World Puppets logo

Friday, February 26, 2021

That Darn Gone Scam!


I am thrilled to make available my comedy short film, "That Gone Darn Scam" available for FREE on FilmFreeway from February 26 to March 1st at

This comedy highlights the "grandparent scam". I hope viewers find it just as entertaining as it is educational!

According to Sam Kunjukunju of the American Banker's Association, 10,000 baby boomers in the country turn 65 years old everyday. They are vulnerable targets for scams. Exploited seniors endure physical ramifications as well as emotional scars. 

Many of us know or can relate to a senior. This is why it's important for us to stay informed and be vigilant. 

Feel free to share this short movie with family and friends! I am sure they will enjoy it!

If you enjoy the film, be sure to check out my weekly show Cyber Brats on Spondulics TV. It runs weekdays from 9:30am to 10am and every 6 hours with new episodes every Friday! 

Here is the information for Spondulics TV, a new platform with movies, shows, and programs aimed at elevating financial capability for all.

Eastern Time Zone. Programs repeat every 6 hours (7am, 1pm, 7pm at FYI on app downloads: Roku 171 FireTV 9 AppleTV 6 iOS Mobile 24 Android Mobile 6 AndroidTV 6

As the first America Puppeteer to spread cyber security awareness and scam prevention through a web series, I am proud of my association as a volunteer AARP digital fraud fighter to help others in a creative way.

Thank you!

Stay Safe and Stay Secure!

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Weak Passwords


                                                  (A scammer puppet made from scratch)

"Weak Passwords" by Ken Harris


How often do you think of the significance of passwords to your personal and business accounts? Are you complacent in properly managing safeguards to crucial networks that matter to you? If none of these thoughts have no weight in your daily life, perhaps you should reconsider. 


It’s actually no different than the importance of ensuring our homes are properly secured when away. A weak password is like an open door to a willing cyber thief. 


Here are some basics to keep in mind about passwords. 


  • Create a strong password by making it long. Every character makes it strong.
  • Ensure your chosen password is difficult to guess. 
  • Avoid using birthdate, pet names, or anything that you shared on social media. 


You might consider using a paraphrase as it is one of the simplest ways to create a strong password. This is made up of many words such as, “I need to go to the bank”, or use of random words like, “cloud-mountain-thunder-journey”. Just select one that is easy for your to remember. 


When creating a password, you might be prompted to include an assortment of symbols, numbers, or upper and lowercase numbers. 


Whatever you do, always use a different, unique password for each account. In event your account is compromised by a hacker, you will have some peace of mind knowing your other accounts are still secured. 


If remember many passwords poses trouble, you should consider utilizing a password manager. This is a special program that securely stores all of your passwords. You only need to remember the actual password manager. 


Your password is a secret and it should stay a secret. Don’t share it with coworkers or your supervisor. If anyone knows, it is no longer a secret and so much for your peace of mind. 


I would not use public computers to log onto online accounts such as checking email at hotels or libraries. Since anyone can access these computers, they may be infected with malware. It’s best to log into accounts from computers or mobile devices that can be trusted. 


Some websites use security questions for your accounts. You offer answers to personal questions in case you forget your password and need to reset it. Here’s the problem with that. Some of these questions or answers can be found online or on your social media accounts. Only use information that is not publicly known about you, or simply make up answers to questions. 


Some accounts offer two-step verification also called two factor authentication or multi-factor authentication. This requires a one-time code in addition to your password to log in. A unique code is generated in a special app on your smartphone that is used with your password to log-in. 


Whenever possible, enable two-step verification so that your accounts are protected by more than just a password by itself. Weak or compromised passwords are one of the most common ways cyber attackers break into organizations or online accounts.


If you believe you accidentally shared a work-related password or believe it may have been hacked or stolen, be sure to change it right away. Afterwards, notify your technical support team asap. 


I use family friendly puppetry to spread cyber security awareness and scam prevention. 

See how I use puppets to spread tips at

Check out my website at for more information! 

Stay safe and stay secure!

Ken Harris













Sunday, August 2, 2020

Ways Fraudsters Can Fool You

Ways Fraudsters Can Fool You

Thank you for visiting my blog! Here I strive to empower you with cyber security awareness and DIY puppet activities. If you find this content helpful, please sign up for my FREE monthly safety newsletter at

A segment of my web series "Cyber Brats" was recently shown at the StringsNThings virtual puppet festival from San Pedro, CA in July! Be sure to check it out above!

2019 was a profitable year for fraudsters. Nationwide, they targeted their deceptive tactics at slightly over 16 million consumers. Based on the statistics from the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft alone saw a lost of 17 billion dollars.

This year, with the avalanche of the COVID-19 paralyzing our economic system, con artists has already taken advantage of cooking up new types to take advantage of the uncertainty.  Stories relating to unproven treatments, medicines, fake contact tracing agencies, and so many more hideous acts has sprung up around the country.

Next year, when the tallies for this year is compiled by the FTC, Better Business Bureau, and AARP, I'm sure the figures from last year will show an increase.

Vigilance is the key to decreasing our vulnerabilities to fraud and I found what better way than to share 13 common scams listed by AARP. By comprehending the basics safeguards in protecting out our finances, we can adapt to making better decision in the course of our daily lives.

At the bottom preceding this content I will also include links to resources that can either help you with a concern or provide additional information regarding online safety.

Identity Theft

Why does identity theft occur? Have you ever given that much thought why computer criminals do this? Here our 2 primarily reasons. 
  • To falsely apply for a credit card
  • To use someone's profile to get government benefits. 

How is this done?

  • An example of phishing takes form when you are asked to clear a bank account problem by verifying it with a social security number, bank routing number, or birth date. 
  • Gather information by dumpster diving. This can also be taken from inside the office or social media websites.
  • Fake job listings can also trick you into voluntarily sharing sensitive information on a job application. Fraudsters harvest this data and will use or market the contents on the dark web for profit. 

Investment Fraud

Gold Coin Scam 

Scammers will use the struggling economy to pitch this false narrative. You are urged to invest in gold and silver coins because they will eventually spike up in value. These so called precious metals are sold at a 300 to 500% mark up which means you will lose rather than reap the benefits. 

Free Lunch

The goal is to convince you to show up at a seminar and invest in a great investment right away. You are not given the option to thing it through and if you don't commit, you will miss out on the opportunity. The truth is they want your hard earned money and they are gone like the wind. 

Oil and Gas Scams

The ploy is to convince you that a company is using a new technology to drill for oil in an area not frequented prior. Never will they inform that legitimate energy investments carry risks. Also don't expect them to indicate they are a registered broker or registered with the state. 

Additional Scams You Should Know About

Fake Checks

Out of the woodwork you get this call informing you that you won a big prize! But there is a handling fee! They expect you to pay it because they are sending you a cashier check that will cover the processing fee. Ultimately, this check does not clear you are stranded without your prize after paying the fee. Talk about bummer. 

Tech Support

A phone call or pop up on your computer screen tells you your system is infected with a virus. These con artists want you to contact them and give them remote access to your device. What they really want to do is install a real virus and charge you to remove it. Afterwards, they might compel you to buy a useless computer maintenance program. 

Disaster-Related Charity Fraud

This is a prime example of scammers chasing headlines to line their pockets. They do this at the expense of victims who are really in need of help. Beware of phone websites, suspicious calls, and questionable emails. 

Sweetheart Scams

Dating websites is a beehive for con artists seeking to build an emotional connection to victims. Once this is done, he or she asks for money. These internet criminals have no intentions on ever meeting their victims and will resort to communicating via instant messaging and plain old emails.

Timeshare Properties

If you are looking to cash in on your timeshare company there just happens to be a company claiming to have a specific buyer interested. Just pay an upfront fee to proceed. After you do this, this contact person disappears and you are left scratching your head after signing all that paperwork that looked alright to you. 

The Grandparent Scam

What grandparent can refuse a grandchild in some sort of legal trouble. This false narrative comes by way of phone call in the middle of the night from thugs purporting to be a relative in trouble. Victimized grandparents have lost thousands of dollars to the type of scams.  (Just call the parents or the police department in question to confirm the story first!)

Foreign Lottery Scam

It's impossible to win. They are illegal here in the United States. Of course their agenda is to have you pay "taxes" or  a "processing fee" claim your earnings. Please don't wire anything. You didn't win the lottery. 

General Tips

  • Protect your Social Security Number and Personal Information
  • Monitor Your bills and financial statements
  • Check your Credit Reports
  • Safeguard Personal Identification Numbers (PINs and Passwords)

Online Communication

Did you know your can report or forward suspicious emails to the Federal Trade Commission at 

U.S Mail

Protect your incoming mail. You can stop pre-approved credit cards by calling 1-888-OPT-OUT or visiting

You can also cut down on junk mail at

Do Not Call Registry 1-888-382-1222 or

Verify charities at or at

Thank you again for visiting my blog! Here I strive to empower you with cyber security awareness and DIY puppet activities. If you find this content helpful, please sign up for my FREE monthly safety newsletter at

Stay Safe and Stay Secure!

Ken Harris
Cyber Brats Title Card

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Email and Phishing Scams

Thank you for visiting my blog! Here I strive to empower you with cyber security awareness and DIY puppet activities. If you find this content helpful, please sign up for my FREE monthly safety newsletter at

I just released a funny adult puppet video about a prize scam! Be sure to check it out below!

Email and Phishing Scams

Last year in the U.S alone, an estimated 16 million victims lost 17 billion dollars to identity theft. That’s just one type of scam. 

I’m sure if AARP, the Better Business Bureau, and other organizations intended to protect the financials security of Americans, combined all their figures from reported swindles, the final tally would be mind-blowing. 

Now with the COVID-19 pandemic creating fear and uncertainty everywhere, con artists are conjuring up new ways to squander people’s finances and personal information. 

This gives them motivation to reach out with offers too good to be true and the impersonation of government agencies to steal personal information. 

Email and phishing cons are just some of the tactics these criminals apply. Cyber attackers send thousands, if not millions of emails daily. They are not sure who get these messages; but their objective is to trick a victim into some call of action. It includes the following.

  •  Clicking on a link
  • Opening an attachment
  • Completing a form

A harmless action can get you tangled. 

Since scammers are attempting to “phish” as many victims as possible, their messages are usually directed to “Dear Customer” or other generic greeting. 

The bad guys creates a strong sense of urgency or curiosity to the receiver. They pretend be an official organization like a bank or may impersonate a local, state, or federal agency. 

Generally, these fake senders will have grammar or spelling mistakes in the content of these email messages. Another clue to look out for is if the email originated from a personal email account such as an address. Also, by looking at the top left, the “From Email Address” line may appear like it generated from an official organization. But the “Reply-To-Address” is someone’s personal email account. 

Here are some other clues that should raise red flags.

  • Messages requesting highly sensitive information like credit card number or password.
  • You receive a message from someone you know but the tone or message does not sound like him or her. 

It is easy for a scammer to create an email that appears to be from a friend or coworker. If the message includes a clickable link, you can hover your mouse cursor over it to reveal the link’s true destination. 

Make this a common practice to confirm if you being directed to a legitimate website. Even on many mobile devices, pressing to hold the link will also show the true destination. Instead of clicking on a link, you can type the website address directly into your browser. 

Why respond directly to a suspicious email claiming to be your bank when you can use the browser? 

I wouldn’t open any attachments I wasn’t expecting. The last thing I want is opening an infected attachment and subjecting my computer to malware. Not all antivirus can detect malware. 

Take care to not expose sensitive information when using email or messaging. Email features, such as auto complete, make it easy for you to mistakenly email the wrong person. 

Once you send an email out, you cannot retract it. Also, be careful with the “Email Reply-All Feature” thread as you may not want to respond to an entire group of people who received the same email. 

Learn more about scam prevention with my use of puppets at

My Youtube channel has many more videos on cyber security awareness and scams at 

PS If you haven't already check out AARP's  Scam Tracking map at to checking on existing scams in your area. Vigilance is key!

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Scams Amidst Covid-19 Fears

Welcome! Thank you for checking out my blog where I strive to share the latest news and events pertaining to scams to keep you safe and secure.

With my passion for using puppets to depict situations, along with my articles, it is my hope you find this content informative and helpful.

Please subscribe to my email list at to get the latest news and events from my free digital monthly newsletter in a fun way!

The Covid-19 Fears exposes a new low for Scammers

Scam artists has the practice of observing worldly events; studying trends in order to prosper in a specific market. 

This is common during the Christmas season when they target the elderly with a grandparent scam in where they pose as a grandchild in need of financial help as a result of an arrest, hospitalization, or vehicle accident. 

Now, with the spread of coronavirus fears on an alarming level, these fraudulent predators are manipulating an assortment of mediums to reap monetary gains in the latest schemes to date. 

Let's take a closer look at these deceitful methods.

Social Media

Currently, there is no medically proven preventative treatment or cure for Covid-19. Yet, advertisements for these “miracle products” are appearing on social platforms at a time when many people are home from work and practicing social distancing. 

Also, a rumor is circulating that government scientists found a vaccine but is keeping it hush-hush for security purposes. That is untrue. Complete rubbish and unfounded. 

Fake Websites

Computer criminals are reaching out to victims with offerings of essential supplies such as masks, gloves, and cleaning products for the protection. 

There is a lack of these supplies in local stores due to the profound paranoia that is compelling people to stock pile these items. 

In reality, not only does this creates a challenge for medical professionals 
who don’t have enough of these essentials; but also, this increases one’s vulnerability for internet thieves overseeing deceptive businesses. 

Increasingly, victims are buying these products; but they don’t receive them in the mail. In addition, those who do get them learn the items are of low quality and not as advertised. 


Con artists goes at great length to disguise their motives via text message, phone call, and email. 

As I previously pointed out, sometimes they target specific victims whom have a need for a service or item. 

Through relentless persuasive tactics, they capitalize on existing consumer fears, hatred, sadness, hope, aspirations, and other preferences. 

Recently, such methods were used in impersonating government agencies such as the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to con unsuspecting recipients into opening attachments and downloading malicious software. 

Instead of sharing promised news regarding Covid-19, the real motive is to ultimately steal personal or financial information.

It is easy to see why senior citizens are preferred targets. Genuinely, they are trusting and can easily be tempted to fall for fraudulent activities. The FBI explains this on there website at

When this happen, there could be a delay in the reporting of this to local authorities, the Better Business Bureau, and AARP, the leading advocacy group for seniors. Reasons such as shame and embarrassment could disguise instances of deception unless a caretaker or relative happen to stumble upon it.

The Better Business Bureau actually has loads of existing allegations about schemes in your neck of the woods. Find out about the cons in your local area at

Another reason includes the affected senior opting not to discuss the incident to anyone for fear of losing his or her financial independence as a result of declining cognitive ability. 

Anyone can be a victim to fraud regardless of age. All would have to work long and hard to clear up the mess with financial institutions to prevent future exploitation. 

In this day and age of hideous fraud investment opportunities, counterfeit essentials, and other massive deceptions, we are all in this together to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and to spread cyber security awareness. 

Please sign up for my free monthly cybersecurity awareness newsletter monthly depicting real life scams with puppets and the latest news and events at

Also, check out my current educational videos on Youtube at
By subscribing and sharing, you will be helping me to get the word out about scams.

Thank you my friends!

Until next time, stay safe and stay secure.

Ken Harris

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

An Upcoming Educational Web Series Focusing on Scams

Art by Aaron Harris

Lets face it. An educational lecture on any sensitive topic could still be boring.

The subject of scams is no exception. This is a global problem that will never go away in it's entirely.

As our technology get better, so will the skills of scammers to access our sensitive data for financial gain.

A Creative Passion blended with a Self Call to Action

Recently, I came up with a terrific fun idea with spreading world about cyber security awareness. It's purely educational but includes specks of entertainment.


Yes, I find this endeavor challenging and exciting to pass on what I learn on a continuous basis!

This is the introduction to my Youtube Channel that will eventually be home to many cyber security awareness videos

An Unlikely Pair...

The setting takes place in a fictional radio station. It stars host Cyber Sly, a former scammer, and cohost Alexander Midas, a former business man who's business crumpled after a cyber attacker accessed his customer's banking accounts.

 Cyber Sly is a change man who now wants to make a difference in the world.

Alex Midas is an angry man who resents Cyber Sly and don't think computer criminals can change their behaviors.

Each episode will be 7 to 10 minutes in length with 3 segments on scenarios and tips involving malware, phishing, spoofing, identity theft, social media, targeting, iCloud, and so much more involving the latest news and updates happening in the world.

Having written monthly articles pertaining to cyber security awareness in the Point of View Community Newspaper at, I feel I need to do more to get the word out on how people can stay safe and secure from multitudes of scams (check out page 19!)

While computer criminals congregate on the dark web to share their deceitful tactics and organize plans to trick an unsuspecting victim, I feel we should be joining or creating platforms like this to educate ourselves.

"Cyber Brats" is a show that will be free and available on Youtube in June 2020. In the meantime, I like for you to subscribe to my blog to get the latest news and events regarding cyber security awareness.

This program is geared for adults with an emphasis on sharing insightful tips and suggestions to avoid being a victim to a scam.

I welcome any suggestions to this platform. Please leave any comments or questions below and I willrespond promptly.

Thank you for your time and I hope to be your source for informative news to help keep you safe
from scammers!

Ken Harris

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Social Engineering Tactics on a Global Scale

It is to our benefit to fathom the tentacles of social engineering tactics introduce by cyber attacker on a daily basis. Far and wide Investigations by Interpol, FBI, and the Toronto police revealed how deceptive participants are networking and exchanging information on how to be better at what they do (check out the video far below). 

Several years ago, when I was oblivious to basic terminologies related to cyber security, I knew very little about social engineering orchestrated by cyber attackers. I thought it was a practice initiated by computer experts to combat viruses. Since I was no expert on such systems, I spent years with no interest in educating myself on technological systems. 

It took me a long time to understand; but learning the basics of closing the door on cyber criminals in restricting access to systems or information does not require a profound knowledge of computers. 

Social Engineering is actually a tactic to trick people into doing something they should not do, such as sharing sensitive information such as banking information, passwords, opening infected email attachments, etc. 

A Senior Citizen is taken Advantage of 

A recent case last December saw two men from New York, pretending to be a lawyer for a grandson in jail, swindle a Massachusetts grandmother out of $19,000. This poor woman was specifically targeted by way of a series of phone calls requesting for payments to be made in order to secure the grandson’s release. 

It took these criminals no more than a week deceive this woman twice before the police were alerted and the men were taking into custody when they were trying to trick her for a third time. Learn more about this here

You might ask yourself why should this story concern me? I would never be gullible for something like this. 

True, but how often do we have elderly relatives or friends who could be potential victims for something like this? We can’t be certain WHO could fall for these scams but what I know for sure is the elders in our community are high risk targets. 

It would be beneficial to keep ourselves updated with the latest news and events to educate ourselves and put our newly acquired knowledge into practice by checking on our loved ones. 

More On Advanced Social Engineering

Advanced social engineering attacks can also come in a form of a fake or suspicious email. Generally, how many times per day do we see something like this? If this seems odd or not right, just contact the sender directly by phone. Why take a chance?

I think so far, the most bizarre story I heard of took place late last year in Kentucky when a woman was sentenced up to 30 years in prison for defrauding her employer for millions of dollars. Previously, she was a victim of a romance scam.  

She was hoping to eventually meet someday while sending this person money from her retirement and savings. This cyber attacker claimed he was a business man and needed her to loan him money to close out deals. 

This went on for years before she depleted her funds and resorted to stealing from her employer in order to solve her financial troubles. Read up on this at 

Advanced social engineering attacks basically contains the same fundamentals. Cyber criminals creates a sense of urgency, often through fear, intimidation, a crisis, or using an important deadline to deceive victims. 

The best defense is you. Be mindful of opening suspicious attachments, clicking on suspicious links, and sharing sensitive information. If something’s too good to be true, most likely it isn’t. 

Criminals in Internet Cafes and Other Deceptive Methods

This video left me baffled concerning not only with the obvious signs missed by the victims; but also the blatant disregard of a moral compass by the cyber attackers who shared deceptive practice. 

In this investigative video by ABC News In-depth in West Africa's Ghana, these orchestrator's behind romance scams carefully sought out targets with the following traits-
  • Widows
  • Those looking for engagement or marriage
  • Vulnerability with no ability to properly screen 
Without giving away too much before you see this video, please understand how victims keep their guards down and quick to cater to the wishes of these internet predators. 

This has become big business for gangs of criminals because of the lack of awarness regarding cyber fraud. in some cases cyber thieves are stealing images of U.S. military personally and using that to trick unsuspecting women.

The same applies to male victims. They think they are speaking to a woman in a different country. But they are really talking to teenagers in an internet cafe. 

The male victims ending doing stuff on camera they shouldn't do and these inaappropriate incidents not only signifies the growing problem of online fraud; but it also exposes weaknesses on the part of the victim.

Please take a look at the video about (there's nothing graphic). Just a story about the problem in Ghana and the ties it has to drug smuggling, money laundering, and more. 

Thanks for checking out my blog. If you like it, please subscribe above. 

Until next time, stay safe and secure!

Ken Harris

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