Talking and Driving, a Dangerous Mix

January 23, 2010

The New York Times has compiled a great series of articles on the use of mobile phones while driving. It is a list worth perusing as distracted drivers, particularly those under 30, continue to wreak havoc on the roads.

For a listing of state-by-state cell phone driving laws, go to the Governors Highway Safety Association’s Cellphone Driving Laws Page.

Also, check out my previous blogs:



$100 Billion-A-Year Medical Care Fraud

January 17, 2010

Healthcare fraud is big business. Last year scammers and organized crime groups bilked an estimated $100 billion last year according to a new article Health care: A ‘goldmine’ for fraudsters from

Medical Identity theft is the most lucrative aspect of the medical fraud business, and the most common method of gaining access to personal medical records is when someone with legitimate access to the data sells the information to criminals. But that’s changing.

According to the CNN article “Increasingly, criminal groups are hacking into digital medical records so that they can steal money from the $450 billion, 44-million-beneficiary Medicare system — making the government, by far, the “single biggest victim” of health care fraud, according to Rob Montemorra, chief of the FBI’s Health Care Fraud Unit.”

To learn more about the risks you face when your medical records go online, see my blogs:

While the government is the “single biggest victim”, every individual whose records are stolen will feel the pain.

The most common way scammers and criminals make their money is by sending in false bills to insurance companies and Medicare for medicines, equipment, in-home health care, or treatments that were not prescribed or requested.  Criminals also ‘resell’ an individual’s medical records to an uninsured person in need of medical care.

While the aim of the criminals behind medical ID theft and fraud is to steal money, the tampering with your medical information can place you at serious risk if doctors base medical decisions about your care on the falsified information in your file.

The government isn’t the only one footing the bill. In addition to the indirect costs to the government and insurance companies that every consumer pays for medical fraud, the average cost to an individual victim of medical ID theft was close to $1,200 according to Javelin Strategy & Research, a research firm specializing in trends in security and fraud initiatives. Javelin’s research also found that in 2008 the average incident of health care identity fraud netted the criminal $19,000, which is four times the earnings of overall ID theft.

In addition to the risk to your medical records, these thieves also gain access to the information that accompanies your records – including your name, address, phone number, social security number, insurance company, and more – placing you at high risk for traditional ID theft as well.

Stay vigilant

Always check your insurance benefits statements to see if there are charges or claims that are not yours. Notify your insurance company if your financial ID has been stolen, and notify your financial institutions if your medical ID has been stolen.


If Your Tweet’s an Ad, Prepare to be Unfollowed

November 23, 2009

A growing number of Tweeters are jumping on the ad bandwagon to make money off their networks by allowing advertisers to use their identity and tweet their followers., Izea and Peer2 are three key players in this new consumer-to-consumer advertising strategy that is attempting to create an alternate marketing channel in the face of largely ignored ads delivered via print, TV or online media. The idea is that your Twitter followers will pay attention to (and place more trust in) an ad delivered by you as someone they respect.

According to Joey Caroni, co-founder of Peer2, “We don’t want to create an army of spammers, and we are not trying to turn Facebook and Twitter into one giant spam network. All we are trying to do is get consumers to become marketers for us.”

For tweeters with lots of followers, the payout can be significant – up to $10k for a celebrity who pushes a tweet ad – but the bigger opportunity in the minds of these companies is to marry topic experts with smaller brands to push their products. For example a running guru might accept payment to send a ‘tweet’ that promotes a new shoe – and by doing so her followers may choose to buy the product.

Deception and Exploitation

Paying consumers to insert ads in what is supposed to be their own thoughts isn’t new – Izea already has a service called PayPerPost that pays bloggers to pitch products to their readers – when first launched it was not transparent that the ‘posts’ were in fact paid ads, and the company was sharply criticized for the deceptive practice. Now, ads are more clearly marked but the sleaze factor remains.

Most Internet users do not want their online relationships and dialog sullied with commercial content. Even when deception isn’t a factor, why follow someone whose comments are based on profit, or at a bare minimum, sees your relationship as something to financially exploit?

Tech blogger, Robert Scoble, explained it this way in a New York Times article. “It [advertising within your content] interferes with your relationship with your friends and your audience.” Scoble also noted that he “unfollows” people on Twitter who send him ads.

My Promise

No content on, and my twitter account has ever been influenced by profit. We do not, nor will we accept advertising. Right or wrong, the content we provide represents the best advice we have to give.

If I recommend a product, – and I do from time-to-time – it is because I genuinely recommend it. There is no financial compensation for doing so. Period.

When I follow someone’s blog, tweets, or comments, I do so because I want their honest take. If their comments are motivated by ad revenue, the honesty of the interchange is gone and so am I.


Teens Report High Levels of Texting While Driving – Parents Poor Role Models

November 18, 2009

The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project released a report Monday that found 25% of 16 to 17yr-olds who have cellphones say they text while driving.

The study also found that nearly half of Americans ages 12 to 17 say they’ve been in cars with someone who texted while behind the wheel.

However, perhaps the most disappointing finding was that teens say their parents are also texting behind the wheel. Pew found that “the frequency of teens reporting parent cellphone use behind the wheel in our focus groups was striking, and suggested, in many cases, that texting while driving is a family affair.”

Research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found even higher texting frequency. Their data indicates that 81% of U.S. residents said they have used their cellphone while driving, and that of the 82% of 16- to 17-year-olds who have cellphones, 52% said they use them while driving.

Teens know the risks – just think it won’t happen to them

“Many teens understand the risks of texting behind the wheel,” said Amanda Lenhart, co-author of the Pew report, “but the desire to stay connected is so strong for teens and their parents that safety sometimes takes a back seat to staying in touch with friends and family.”

For more information about the risks of texting and driving (like the stat saying Drivers who text behind the wheel have a 23 x greater risk of crashing), read my blogs:


Microsoft Updates their Online Safety Website

November 6, 2009





To address advances in technologies (to so-called Web 2.0), Microsoft has redesigned their Consumer Online Safety Education website at

Caveat: LOOKBOTHWAYS provided the content for Microsoft’s brochure series, as well as some other materials for the site. We are also listed as a resource on their community page.

The site is clean, easy to navigate and has updated, relevant materials to help protect yourself, your family, your computers and I recommend the site.

In addition to solid advice on Internet safety, security and privacy topics, be sure to check out some of their other features:

Sadly, my all-time favorite Microsoft safety video is not on the site – it uses a little live mouse to teach concepts. Maybe they’ll get it on the site shortly…


Mainstream USA Embraces Technology

November 5, 2009

According to a new study by Forrester Research , a marketing firm based in Cambridge, Mass., newer technologies are no longer dominated by ‘early adopters’ or ‘geeks’. Their research, found that Americans love and use technology:

  • 50% of US adults are gamers
  • 63% of US households have a broadband Internet connection
  • 75% of US households have cellphones and PCs
  • Nearly 10 million US households (out of nearly 118 million) added an HDTV in the last year, a 27% increase 2007.

“There’s really no group out of the tech loop,” said Forrester analyst Jacqueline Anderson, one of the study’s authors. “America is becoming a digital nation. Technology adoption continues to roll along, picking up more and more mainstream consumers every year.”

The broad adoption of technologies is fantastic, but does have implications for online safety. Simply talking about how to stay safe while on a computer isn’t enough. Make sure you know how, and teach children how to stay safe using their cell phone, internet connected game consoles, and other connected devices.


New tool calculates Your ID Theft Risk

November 3, 2009

newtool1Symantec has released a new Risk Calculator tool that lets you get a sense of how much your information is worth to online thieves, and how at risk you are to having that information stolen.

It’s a useful tool for not only understanding the underground economy, but for reviewing your own online actions from a security perspective.