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Posts Tagged ‘natural disaster’

When “You” Isn’t Really You: How to Prevent Identity Theft

Monday, November 15th, 2010
"Identity Theft" typed on documents coming out of a shredder.

Be careful to guard your identity.

Today’s blog post isn’t about the threat of a natural disaster. We will be discussing a manmade crisis that can potentially affect anyone and can take months or even years to repair. Today’s topic is Identity Theft. Claiming nearly 10 million victims a year, Identity Theft is the number one complaint lodged with the FTC.

According to research from Nationwide Insurance, four out of five victims of Identity Theft encountered serious issues as a result of the crime, such as lowered credit scores, bankruptcy, foreclosure, or even prison time.

A significant threat now that so many of us handle financial matters online, Identity Theft is a crime that is cloaked in mystery, with most of us imagining identity thieves working in dark, secret computer-filled lairs. The truth is that the crime is far less glamorous than they make it out to be in the movies, with far more serious implications for its victims. The good news is that while Internet anonymity is practically impossible these days, you can take steps to make yourself a less inviting target.

  • When it comes to selecting a password for your online bank account or email accounts, don’t choose “password” or “1234.” Also avoid easily detectable data such as your child’s first name, your birthday, your anniversary, your dog’s name or your street address. This type of data is easily accessible for even casual hackers.
  • No matter how much you hate the hassle of changing and forgetting your passwords, you need to change them periodically. Experts recommend changing passwords on every online account at least every three to six months. People who work with extremely sensitive data change passwords hourly.
  • Check “privacy settings” on social media websites. Recent problems regarding privacy settings on Facebook highlighted the need to carefully consider how public you should be with details about your life. Review your settings and carefully read the “terms of service” on every site you use. Also, look at the amount of data on your social network profiles and determine if certain identifying information should be deleted or altered.
  • Do you like to use WiFi and other public area internet access networks? Take steps to ensure security of your laptop or mobile device when sending information over shared networks. Don’t let the leather chair and tasty beverage lull you into thinking you are at home when you are using your computer at Starbucks.
  • Create truly random passwords. Some popular “systems” for randomizing passwords involve thinking of a phrase such as: “My favorite movie is Gone with the Wind” and using the first letter from each word: MFMIGWTW. Better yet, change the case in some of the letters and swap out the second and fourth letters with characters, so the password would be m@M*GWtw. Randomization and picking phrases only you would know are the keys to real password security.
  • Even if your passwords are difficult to decipher, you might be surprised by how easily experienced hackers can access even complicated encryptions. Fortunately, several applications and software offer secure password management tools. If you do not have access to these tools, consider using a completely random number. And don’t store it near your computer or in your purse.

Also, don’t forget about offline methods that thieves can use to steal your identity. Not every identity thief is a hacker holed up in a basement with five computers and three monitors. Some still take a more old-fashioned but no less harmful approach to assuming someone else’s identity.

  • Don’t leave mail hanging out of your mailbox or dispose of it in the trash can at the post office! The amount of information contained on some of your bills is staggering. Thieves who commit the felony of stealing your mail would have access to your full name, address, phone number, account numbers, bank routing numbers and more. For security, deposit important mail into a USPS drop box.
  • Don’t forget about the trash. Shred any and all documents that contain personal information before you toss away any paperwork…including junk mail.
  • Take a good look at your wallet or purse. Is it a good idea to carry your social security card, checks, paystubs, insurance information and a letter with your mother’s maiden name on it, conveniently located all in one place for the taking?
A lock on top of a credit card

Do what it takes to protect your identity.

What steps should business owners and manager take to guard customer and/or employee personal information?

  • Computer data is hard to erase! If your sell or donate old computer equipment, clicking “delete” on files and folders won’t be sufficient. Purchase an application that can completely wipe the hard drive. Or, better yet, take computers to a trusted source so the hard drive can be erased. All data on CD, DVD or backup tapes should be removed and then destroyed so files are completely unreadable.
  • Mind your laptop. Guard it at all times, as if you are protecting private information. You are! Store sensitive data on secure servers or in the computing “cloud,” behind firewalls, instead of stored on a portable machine.
  • Have old-fashioned paper files? Outsource your document retention services to an established company that will shred or store, as needed. Also, don’t throw boxes of data with sensitive client information into your building’s unsecure storage basement! Invest in a heavy-duty shredder and use it often.
  • Don’t adopt “It Won’t Happen to Me Syndrome.” According to the FTC, in the past five years alone, 27.3 million people were victims of identity theft.

We often discuss the benefits of proactive prevention. And dealing with Identity Theft is no exception. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

Fire Safety

Monday, July 12th, 2010
Steps to take to be fire-safe.

Steps to take to be fire-safe.

Part 2 in a Series

Since a fire department in the United States responds to a report of fire every 19 seconds, fire is an ever-present danger at work, home or even when you are traveling. Fire is also one of the most common emergencies following an earthquake, explosion, terrorist attack, power surge or other natural or manmade disaster.

Since you never know when fire will strike, you should be careful to prepare so you will immediately know what to do in case of emergency. In this series, we hope to educate you in an effort to help you and your tenants prepare for fire. Today’s post will discuss the ways that you, as a building owner or property manager, can mitigate the risk of fire by making sound choices for building materials and furnishings and by educating tenants about taking responsibility for their own safety.

Making sound choices for building materials

If your property is still under construction, install fire-safe materials wherever possible.

David Horne, a member of the Fire Safe Council (FSC), admits that it’s impossible to take the risk of a fire down to zero unless you live in a bunker.

But he says, “Builders can make their (projects) between 20 percent and 70 percent less likely to burn from the outside by choosing fire-resistant materials and veering from traditional designs.”

Here are some fire-safe installation ideas from the FSC:

  • Install stucco, fiber cement, and other noncombustible cladding materials
  • Build eaves and roof decks that are boxed in and never made from wood.
  • Omit windows from exterior walls that sit close together.
  • Add an extra layer of gypsum or another fire-resistant material beneath the siding on facing walls
  • Install double- or triple-pane windows to keep intense heat from breaking the windows
  • Choose noncombustible materials for fences

Making Sound Fire-Safe Choices for Furnishings

Even if your property has already been built, you can take steps to lessen the risk of home, apartment or office fire.

Upholstered furniture, wall coverings, flooring and mattresses burn quickly and produce large amounts of toxic smoke. Burning upholstered furnishings or mattresses contribute to nearly every home fire death. Understanding the hazards associated with these furnishings will help you choose fire-safe products.

Whenever possible, select upholstered furniture that has been treated with fire retardant. Some professional organizations and the state of California have developed manufacturing standards to increase the fire resistance of certain types of furniture. For a complete list of these guidelines, check out the technical bulletins released by the California Department of Consumer Affairs/Bureau of Home Furnishing and Thermal Insulation.

Educating Tenants about Fire Safety

In a perfect world, everyone would know how to prepare for disaster and would take the necessary steps to mitigate risks. Sadly, we live in an imperfect world. So don’t assume that your tenants know how to proactively prevent fires or prepare for emergencies. Although you are not obligated to do so, it’s relatively easy and inexpensive to provide helpful, straight-forward guidelines for them to follow, so in the event of emergency, they are without excuse.

Print these helpful tips for distribution,  for information about fire safety at home, tips for basic home fire safety and fire safety at work.  The headline for each of these fact sheets notes that the responsibility for fire safety and disaster preparedness rests squarely on the shoulders of each individual. Additional reference materials are also available through FEMA and the National Fire Protection Association.  Whichever fire safety guidelines you prefer, post them in a central location.

Next week, we’ll look at the ways that you can mitigate the risk of fire by adopting best practices for storing flammable materials. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for property owners and managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.