WannaCry and Other Spring Hacks

hacker-1952027_1920Spring has sprung and some concerning internet hacks and seasonal scams have also surfaced. The “WannaCry” ransomware release of late has everyone scrambling, including Microsoft apparently. Microsoft released a robust update this weekend that took almost an hour for some to implement, featuring new updates to the stock “Windows Defender” malicious software/virus protection.

What some do not realize is that with the changing of the seasons, there are also a whole new set of hacks and scams tagging along for “fun”.  Consumer Action does a great job at keeping us in the know on what new hacks are out there and how best to avoid them. www.consumer-action.org

In their April 2017 Newsletter release, they highlighted some “Spring Varieties” that we need to watch out for, worse than dandelions and crabgrass at taking over and infiltrating all that is your happy cyberplace.

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Here they are, along with tips and tricks to keep your cyberlife safe and secure:

Call me, maybe
Starting this month, the IRS and four collection companies it hired will be reaching out to people who have failed to pay their taxes for so long that they have been referred to the companies after the federal agency has made multiple attempts to contact them. Unfortunately, this makes it even more difficult for taxpayers to determine if a request to pay back taxes is originating from a taxman or a trickster. So the IRS is working to clarify this before the collectors come a-callin’. “Here’s a simple rule to keep in mind,” warned IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “You won’t get a call from a private collection firm unless you have unpaid tax debts going back several years and you’ve already heard from the IRS multiple times.” Well, many consumers are unsure if they owe old taxes, while others may have moved from residence-to-residence and failed to receive snail-mail warnings. Scammers know this, and they also know that, when faced with legal threats, unsure taxpayers tend to pay up. That’s why it’s important for you, the taxpayer, to know when a “debt collector” is exhibiting shady behavior. IRS-approved collectors will not: call to demand immediate payment through a prepaid card, gift card, wire transfer, etc.; threaten to immediately bring in local police or others to have you arrested; ask for bank info, credit or debit card numbers over the phone; or refuse you the right to question or appeal the amount in question. The private collection firms are, however, allowed to facilitate payment either electronically or by check but only to the IRS or U.S. Treasury. (In other words: Never make a payment to an individual or a company. Find out more about legit payment options here.) If you get a call that makes you nervous, your best bet is to sign up here to check your balance through the IRS website. Whatever you do, don’t become one of the 5,500 victims who have paid a whopping $29 million to scammers in the past few years!

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Travel troubles
Spring is in the air, and so is the desire to break free from your mundane everyday life and travel to an exotic locale (or at least enjoy a stress-free staycation). Unfortunately, scammers share your enthusiasm for the good life, and are looking for ways to capitalize on your vacation plans. While we’ve warned readers to be careful when renting a vacation home or booking flights, AARP and Credit.com have written about some additional travel scams that even we’ve never heard of. For example: the hotel front desk scam. This occurs after you’ve checked in and rested your head on that perfectly fluffed pillow. Your room phone rings. It’s allegedly the front desk, telling you that your card was declined and they need you to give them the information again (you see where this is heading…). Later on, let’s say at the same hotel, you get hungry and call the number on that flyer you saw in the lobby for a pizza. They ask for your credit card info and voilà, you’re dinged twice by scammers! If you’ve made it this far without being scammed, there are many dangers that await you outside as well. Beware of strangers offering to “help” you get a stain off your clothes or work an ATM machine; they may be pickpockets. And of course, if someone offers to take you and your traveling partner’s picture with your cell phone, don’t just hand it over or you may never see it again. Finally, AARP recommends taking only credit cards (not debit cards) on your trips, because thieves could draw on your bank account if your debit card is lost or stolen.

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Spring cleaning
There’s no better way to spring clean than to break free from your relationship with a mega-bank like Wells Fargo. The giant nationwide institution was busted for defrauding consumers last year, and since then has stubbornly resisted calls by pro-consumer leaders such as Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to free its customers and employees to pursue cases before a court of law, particularly regarding the millions of accounts set up without their permission through identity theft, forgery and fraud. Because of this, Consumer Action has been engaging in events and campaigns to encourage consumers like Byron Cooper to make the switch. Cooper ended up closing his accounts with Wells Fargo after he discovered the bank had opened two new ones “on his behalf” and shifted $25,000 from his checking account to his savings account—all without his authorization, and despite his insistence that he did not want the new accounts. The bank also changed his “free” checking account to one that charged $30 per month and required a minimum balance of $25,000—also without his permission! If you’ve been defrauded (or feel defeated) by your relationship with Wells Fargo (or any bank, really), check out our handy Tips for switching banks. Remember: Seasons change, and so do you.

 

Suckers for love
Gone girl. What’s worse than the melodramatic 1996 flick “Ransom” featuring an increasingly loud and obnoxious Mel Gibson? Starring in a real-world version yourself! Officials are warning that kidnapping scams are running away with people across the country, and CBS outlines one particularly cruel incident that resulted in a family paying $17,000 to scammers who claimed to have kidnapped first the daughter, then the husband! The only non-“kidnapped” member of the family (the wife/mother) explained why it’s so easy for good folks to fall for this scam: “You won’t jeopardize somebody you love over money.”

You’ve got to be kid-ing! At least 12 victims have come forward to press charges against a woman who offered adoption and surrogacy services to people looking to become parents. The woman posted to message boards offering to carry a baby or adopt “her own” out to those wanting kids. She even went so far as to share fake ultrasounds with wannabe moms and dads! Fortunately, many of the victims called their local district attorneys (DAs) and put a stop to the sick scam.

A cancer on society. A mother who set up a crowdsourcing page to raise money for her five-year-old son (who was legitimately battling brain cancer) found out that a scammer was using her son’s photo to solicit pity, and donations, for herself. In another cancer con, a healthy woman shaved her head and set up a GoFundMe page claiming she had 18 months to live after having been diagnosed with leukemia. Moral of the story: When it comes to donating via peer-to-peer fundraising sites, make sure you know and trust the person making the ask (although, in the latter case, the woman’s own boyfriend didn’t even know she was lying for quite some time!).

‘Like’-farming. They’re calling it “the chain letter of the 21st century,” only it’s worse. What is it? Like-farming involves persuading you to “like” or comment on a heart-wrenching Facebook post (featuring, say, a photo of a sick child or mistreated animal). Once you interact with the post, your identity can be “farmed” out to other scammers (since you’re now seen as an easy target, prone to emotional manipulation) or worse (think malware and computer viruses). So, what’s a sympathetic person to do? Use websites like Snopes or HoaxSlayer to debunk dubious claims before you interact with an over-the-top, cry-for-help post (particularly if there is a mention of money).

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Tips!
  • A deadly oxymoron. If you’re not careful, you could become the victim of a legal but highly questionable car purchase transaction—unsafe vehicles with open safety recalls sold by dealers as “safe.” While it’s against the law to sell new vehicles with unfixed recalls, the rule doesn’t apply to used cars. Adding insult to very real injury, sellers can brand the cars as “safe” or “certified.” We were gobsmacked when the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently declared it would allow the practice to continue. The FTC’s position outraged consumer groups, some of which are suing the agency for allowing what is, at best, false advertising and, at worst, a death trap.
  • Adios, alternative facts! The Washington Post has provided a solid guide and expert advice to help you guard against the scourge of the modern-day internet: fake news. Read this very real news article and learn how to look beyond the headline, research the publication or website, fact-check, consider the source, and more. After all, the only thing more embarrassing than believing fake news is getting called out for spreading it!
  • A fool and his money… What do the following have in common: talk of “getting rich quick,” promises of guaranteed high returns, and high-pressure “act now” messaging? These are all tactics used by scammers to make suckers out of investors. Don’t allow investment advisers (whether man or machine) to fool you.
  • ‘Oh, bye there!’ If you’ve found yourself conversing with a robot recently, don’t feel too bad. “Natural-speech technology is advancing so quickly that it may be only a few years until we won’t be able to tell if we’re speaking with a machine,” points out the Los Angeles Times in an article warning the public of the ubiquitous “can you hear me scam?” When your dear author answered her phone recently, a bumbling but realistic young woman’s voice responded after a short silence with, “Oh, hi there! Sorry I was having trouble with my headset.” This is the point to hang up; if you begin to have a conversation with the robo-caller and answer “yes” to any questions, your recorded voice can be used against you to give consent to purchasing a product or making a transaction that you never bargained for. The calls have been targeting local businesses, which can then be “invoiced” by the scammers. Stay sharp!
  • Kicking deportation scammers out. Those of us working in the advocacy community have been hearing more and more about scams targeting immigrants in fear of deportation. Scammers will offer to, for instance, sign the deed to the immigrant’s house in order to “safeguard” it in case they get deported (and, well, the rest is history). Be wary of anyone offering paid legal or other services to “help” you avoid (or prepare for) deportation, and learn about your rights as an immigrant (via the National Council of La Raza).
  • Check your check. Checks, like faxes and written mail, are becoming more outdated by the minute, yet scammers continue to benefit from the amount of time it takes to process a check. Victims are told to deposit scammers’ checks into their bank accounts. In the time it takes the bank to smell a rat, the scammers have asked the victim to send them money back because they “overpaid.” Once the victim wires the money, the bank realizes the check is no good and the victim is left on the hook for the overpayment as well as any returned check fees or overdrafts caused by the bogus instrument.
  • Death by a thousand cuts. As Newsweek points out, “More credit card companies are charging a range of fees for everything from card replacements, reward redemption, foreign currency conversion, over the limit, duplicate statement, balance transfer and account closure.” These “junk charges” add up, and while the government has put a stop to some of them via the CARD Act, the banking industry ferociously bucks additional attempts to rein in what has become a major revenue source. How can you stop the financial bleeding? Read the fine print carefully before you sign up for that shiny new card, and don’t be afraid to fight your bank over this “sanctioned fraud.”
  • Up in smoke. While most of us think of purveyors of pot as peace-loving hippies, some in the burgeoning marijuana trade are dirtier than last week’s bong water. The SEC recently charged a California-based marijuana products company with using sham stock sales to inflate their profits and fool investors into believing they were a leader in the industry. The moral of the story: If you’re looking to grow your money in this budding arena, make sure you weed out the bad businesses first.
  • Imitation inspectors. There are con men hiding in every crevice, a fact that Dr. Oz proved when he tasked some so-called mold inspectors to tour a mold-free home. Of course, the inspectors had a financial incentive to find mold, and find it they did! Only, what they found wasn’t mold; it was black eye shadow that Dr. Oz and crew had applied to an appliance. The imitation inspectors carried no testing equipment (to check air quality or swab the “mold” for testing), nor did they possess any certification for the task at hand. Let this be a warning to concerned homeowners everywhere: While some types of mold are very dangerous, so is paying to fix a problem that may not exist.

(Courtesy of Consumer Action, April 2017)

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Stick or Automatic?

I prefer manual transmissions…even when it comes to communication.

 

Ah it brings me back to the good old days. Fast cars, throaty exhaust systems, American racing wheels with tires that seduced the driver as much as they did the road itself. When I was in high school, stick shifts were more popular. The reason for all of this reminiscing and banter is an overall theme: Controlled transmission. When driving a manual transmission, I feel like I am in more control. I can negotiate twists, turns and obstacles with more precision and savvy. I can also ramp up to a blow this long hair back in the wind carefree speed without waiting for a sluggish overdrive to finally decide what it wants to be when it grows up.

“Okay”, you say, “What in the world does that have to do with Commercial Real Estate???” Well, my good man/woman…the correlation is this: Total Automation of Your Social Media and Communications = Epic Fail. I know that every piece of new CRE bling whether it be software for your pc or an app for your ipad is pushing you to “automate” your online voice. To some extent, it does make sense. Efficiency, time-saver…your assistant can do it for you – these pros all sound great, but…

Communication: the exchange of information between people, e.g. by means of speaking, writing, or using a common system of signs or behavior (Courtesy of Encarta).

Social Media is a technology based extension of your voice to an online global community. Let me play devil’s advocate for uno momento por favor. How many of you love spambots? Most of you block them, right? Why? Because they spam you with all kinds of duplication and junk you aren’t interested in.

Please keep that in mind when it comes to your online communication, even as it relates to CRE.  If variety is the spice of life, your Twitter account should be more a reflection of than iStock_000008822742Large

Say this in the mirror ten times, “I am a REAL person.” Then please convince me…online. No, don’t get me wrong. I do not want to see all of your personal photos, I do not want a close-up into your personal existence, but engage me. Let me know who you are. Yea, I know you eat, breath and even sleep Commercial Real Estate (for those of you who take time to sleep that is), but still…Networking is about connection, content, corroboration, collaboration, rapport and relationship.

I will probably never become your BFF, but you will be “top of mind” when I have a CRE want or have that I think is really spectacular. I will contact you for your thoughts on an issue with a property. I might even share what things are like in my neck of the woods (CRE market area).  I will RT your TWEETS, because you’ve made yourself relevant in my eyes. I might even + your post. I become part of your community. Get the idea??? If you are utilizing Social Media to increase your online presence minus the engagement, you are missing the key piece of the pie. Without it, you are one ingredient short of the “Pièce de résistance”.

My Analysis of CrunchBase

crunchbase-logoWhat is Crunchbase?

Accurate, deep data with the ability to deliver high-potential, high-quality leads and analysis

Who uses Crunchbase?

  • Investors
    • Investigation:
      • new companies
      • new people
      • companies that raised money
      • companies that recently failed
      • companies that hired new people
  • Entrepreneurs
    • Investigation:
      • Locate investors that are investing in your specific industry, product, services, location, etc.
  • Business Development Teams
    • Investigation:
      • Find connections
      • Find companies
      • Find competitors
      • Find licensed investors

Why Crunchbase?

  • Customized Searches
  • Data analysis tools to glean the information you are looking for
  • Customizable email alerts to keep you in the know and finger to the pulse of the business economy
  • Over 1 million users per week and fastest growing of it’s kind

Crunchbase’s Mission in a Nutshell

The definitive business intelligence platform where professional communities document the connections between investors, companies, products and people.

A Global one-stop-shop for data, trends and analysis tools.

Crunchbase’s advantage to the Commercial Real Estate & Crowdfunding

  • Quantifying Startups and Founders:
  • Integrating Analytics into Investment Thesis
  • Quantifying Services
  • New Investment Vehicles built on data
  • Because the SEC allows open solicitation as of 2012, Crunchbase opens a world of potential investors to one seeking funding from qualified investors
  • Evaluate traction
  • Evaluate competitors

Crunchbase’s advantage to the Small to Medium Business

  • No need for a data analytics team
  • Find qualified investors easier
  • Global data at your fingertips
  • Customizable searches to get to your local level, interest, business size
  • Gauge your competition and evaluate their movements, both financially and growth-wise

Crunchbase’s Competition

  • Angellist
  • F6s
  • Owler
  • Mattermark
  • CB Insights
  • Datafox
  • Traxen
  • Funderbeam
  • Sourcinno

 

Regional police department gets township approval | Chester County Press

There is a merger expected to join West Grove and New Garden police departments in January 2017.  It is said that this is in an effort to economize the police department to scale, so that they can improve and enhance their services to the local communities.  At this point, New Garden is said to be bearing the brunt of the costs at a liability of 80% while West Grove, a smaller municipality will be responsible for 20% of the costs. It is the hope that a “larger operation” would stabilize coverage and improve investigations. There is talk of a new facility as well, but no concrete detail on that as of yet.  Read more via the link provided below.

Source: Regional police department gets township approval | Chester County Press

Credit Crunch and Surplus is Affecting Ag Industry

iStock_000017068698Large.jpgIt seems that a crop surplus has led to a 14-year low in agricultural industry profits according to Bloomberg. The amount of debt that farms have taken on is said to be the highest in the last 30 years.

The banks don’t want to give out anymore loans unless they are secured by land. This has caused an influx of interest in the USDA program which was originally designed to be a last ditch effort, not a standard. Enter in the statistically consistent problem with any government programs. You said it. Yes. This one is almost broke as well. 

The lessors of land will find it to be a difficult year most likely. Will lease rates fall? Still remains to be seen. According to the USDA, the forecasts do not look good in the profit column for 2016. The National Farmers Union is petitioning Congress for a credit solution asap so that they can continue production.

Recently there has been a surprising increase in prices and it is the agricultural industries hope that the rally continues. 

(Data courtesy of Bloomberg, National Real Estate Investor 2016)

New Office Availability for Lease in Kennett Borough

Commercial Retail/Office Space in the heart of Historic Kennett Square. Convenient Employee/Client Parking in Rear. Located on 0.21 Acres and zoned C-2 for many permitted uses. Only $1,675/Month

  • 3,474 SF Building; 1,645 SF available for lease
  • Public Sewer/Water/Gas
  • Central Air
  • Receptionist Desk
  • Current Use: C60 (Commercial/Office Buildings/Lab/Library)
  • Off-Street Parking – in the borough of Kennett Square!

This commercial suite features 6 individual offices, a waiting/reception area, kitchenette, restroom, conference room, storage area, ADA Compliant main entrance, off-street parking (in Kennett Borough) and good signage in front of the building. Office is located in a high traffic count area. This is your opportunity to have your business here in the heart of Kennett Square’s business community.

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Office Entrance – 413 W Cypress St.  –  MLS#6731016

 

Just 3 blocks from the center of town, 2 blocks from the new Victory Brew Pub, 4 blocks from the Kennett Square Parking Garage, and 2 blocks from The Market at Liberty Place.

The Beiler-Campbell Business Center Welcomes New Tenant: Cyron & Company

Cyron-0798-1For over twenty years, Cyron & Company has offered a comprehensive suite of customizable accounting, payroll and tax services for small to mid-sized businesses and individuals. Our unique approach of delivering custom-tailored solutions truly sets us apart. We help you achieve balance by aligning your business and personal goals. We pay close attention to your goals, ideas, plans, and concerns—and design a services package that meets these specific needs and objectives.

Our distinct philosophy has not only earned us the loyalty of our clients, but has allowed us to grow through a steady stream of referrals. We’re known for our clear focus on helping clients reach their full financial potential and are proud to develop partnerships that support business growth and ongoing financial strength.

Cyron & Company is moving into the newly constructed 400 Building within the Beiler-Campbell Business Center.

Add their new contact information into your CRM/Address Book:

Cyron & Company Certified Public Accountant

The Beiler-Campbell Business Center, 400 Old Forge Ln, Suite #405, Kennett Square, PA 19348

Find out more about Cyron & Company by visiting their website HERE

Granite Run Mall Plans a Facelift in the Near Future

granite run mallThe Delaware County 58 acre property known as the Granite Run Mall is experiencing some drastic changes as of late. The 39 year old JCPenney store announced its closing plans in January. This was one of 40 closings scheduled across the US. Under-performance is said to be the root cause of this array of retail cessations. This “old school” mall is not finished yet. BET Investments, the current owner based in Horsham, PA has big plans for a re-do. It is said that there is a heavily funded plan to convert the antiquated building into an opulent mixed-use town center. (This does seem to be trending, doesn’t it?) This lifestyle center concept is encountering extensive popularity. This adaptation by the retail development industry is a conspicuous sign that the way consumer mentality and preference is drastically changing. Formerly a convenience to be savored by mainly 55+ active adult communities, the mixed use lifestyle centers are drawing in the young professionals and families alike. Boutique-type shopping in lieu of the big box and mega-department stores, open courtyards rather that jam-packed push and shove hallways and let’s not forget open air walkability to give that Fit Bit a workout. This projects a new lifestyle that we American consumers have embraced, one that incorporates all the luxuries of residential living spaces with shopping, entertainment, outdoor activities, fitness and multiple dining options, all within a walking distance. Many of these lifestyle centers also solve a ever-present, pressing problem that many cities and urban areas experience. The parking issue is being resolved by parking garages strategically placed within the lifestyle centers, creating added value and convenience. The face of retail is ever-changing they say. However, the popularity of this particular development concept may provide sustainability for this new look of retail.

Through the Looking Glass (Part 3) – Commercial Real Estate in 2015

Possibilities Road Sign with blue sky and cloudAs we dove into 2015’s waters, investment capital stats were already at in influx. The US has traditionally been a favorite depository for said capital. With US Treasury Rates on a decline due to demand and  the US Stock Exchange experiencing new elevations, commercial real estate is an attractive invitation for both foreign and domestic investors. The evidence of this is the growth of overall commercial property transactions in the US by foreign investors has now arrived at a level that we haven’t seen since 2006/2007. Firms aim a close eye at interest rates and market stability as they compare these current statistics with historical data. The timing for interest increases is concerning for most, and whether long term and short term rates will increase in a united or disjointed manner. A majority of soothsayers, (correction: forecasters), hold the belief that the Federal Reserve will raise  rates Summer of 2015. Out of the estimated $5 trillion plus capital invested in the United States, over $3 trillion is debt-driven. Commercial real estate loans are steadily gaining as per the Feds, with private equities and REIT’s in the lead. There is speculation that we will see a “re-do” of 2006 where large sums will be reinvested into #cre in 2015 if all goes according to pattern. Is your brokerage positioned for these potential opportunities? Are you as an investor positioned to take advantage of this stimulative climate and seize the day?

Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service 2015 Opportunities

MLK dayHere are some great ways to participate in the MLK Day of Service events in the Greater Philadelphia area:

African American Museum of Philadelphia – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Sharing the Heritage Celebration and Date of Service – 11 AM – 5 PM at 7th and Arch

MLK Social Action Day Concert – The Chester Children’s Chorus – 1 PM – Congregation Ohev Shalom, 2 Chester Rd, Wallingford, PA

Macy’s Family Days at the National Constitution Center – Celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. Day from 9:30 AM – 5 PM only $5 admission fee today

Health and Wellness Fair at Girard College 8 AM – 2101 S. College Avenue, Philadelphia, PA

Jobs and Opportunity Fair – 9 AM till 1 PM inside Hum Bldg at Girard College

MLK Tribute Concert in the Girard College Chapel – 1:30 PM – Free admission but tickets are required (215) 893-1999

US Forest Service recreation sites are waiving their fees today in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day