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Protect Your Privacy: Block Your Phone Number or Display A Fake Phone Number

At some point or other, we’ve all had the desire or need to make a phone call yet did not wish to reveal our phone number.  Below are three methods of phone number blocking that work and can be enacted immediately.

1. Use a caller ID blocking prefix. In many countries, you can enter a code before you dial a number and your phone number will be blocked from appearing on the recipient’s caller ID. The code varies depending on your country and your service provider, and it is not possible to block in all countries. Enter the prefix, followed immediately by the number you are dialing. For example, if you are in the US and want to call (555)123-4567, you would enter *675551234567.

  • North America – *67 or #31#
  • Albania, Australia, Denmark, Greece, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway: #31#
  • Argentina, Iceland, Switzerland, South Africa: *31*
  • Germany: *31# or #31#
  • Hong Kong: 133
  • Japan: 184
  • UK and Ireland: 141
  • New Zealand: 0197 (Telecom) or *67 (Vodafone)
  • Australia: 1831 or #31#
  • India: *31# – Must be enabled by network.
  • If your country is not listed, chances are you can use either *67 or #31#. Most GSM mobile networks work with #31#.

2. Contact your carrier. If you want all of your phone calls to always be blocked, you can contact your carrier and set up permanent Caller ID blocking. There is typically a charge for this, and the fees and terms will vary from carrier to carrier.

  • Most pre-paid plans cannot enable permanent Caller ID blocking.
  • Some people have Anonymous Call Rejection enabled, which means your call will not be able to be completed unless you call from an unblocked number.

3. Hide your number through your device’s settings. Many phones allow you to block your Caller ID information by changing the phone’s settings. If your phone does not have the option to do this, then it is not allowed by your carrier, and you will have to try one of the previous steps.

  • iPhone – Open the Settings app, tap Phone, tap Show My Caller ID, and then toggle the slider to ON.
  • Android 4.0 and earlier – Open the Settings app, tap Call, tap “Additional settings”, tap Caller ID, and then tap “Hide number”.
  • Android 4.1 and later – Open the Phone app, tap the Menu button, tap “Call settings”, tap Caller ID, tap “Hide number”.
  • Windows Phone 8 – Open the Phone app, tap the More button (…), tap “settings”, tap the box under “Show my caller ID to”, tap “no one” or “my contacts”.
  • BlackBerry – Press the Menu key, click Options, click General Options, find the Restrict My Identity field, set it to Always.

Fake Phone Number: If however you wish to display a fake phone number, try one of the many apps available that do just that – pop up a fake phone number on your target’s phone.  A new app on the market also allows you to change your voice to sound like a man or a woman: FakeCallerID.  Let’s bear in mind that ultimately, all fake phone numbers are logged somewhere and if necessary, law enforcement can certainly obtain these records.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Lifesaver: Use A Penny Or A Quarter To Determine Adequate Tire Tread

(In our new block, we pass on useful tips each Friday.  since travel season has begun with Spring, first things first, let’s make sure your vehicle should even be spinning along the road.  From PepBoys: tread life and how to check your tires with the change in your pocket. )

The Truth About Tread Life

Tires are designed with treads that provide your vehicle with traction. This traction keeps your car driving along the road – even in inclement weather. Without tread, the elements would literally lift your tires off the road. When you drive through snow or a puddle, the grooves in between the tread blocks of the tires become channels that divert the water or snow away from the tires, allowing the tires to maintain traction in these slick conditions.

When the tread gets worn down, the water, snow, and other slippery substances don’t have anywhere to go except directly under your tires severely decreasing your vehicle’s traction. If your tires are nearly bald, traction will be eliminated completely. Decreased traction will negatively affect your control over the car, making the vehicle unsafe for you and your passengers. Tread depth will determine whether or not you require new tires. You can easily tell if your tires’ tread is too worn by using a penny or a quarter.

Penny Test

Tire Penny Test

The penny test is the gold standard for measuring tire tread-depth because it is easy and it works. Just take a penny and, with Lincoln’s head upside down, put it between the tread blocks of the tire. If you are not able to see the top of Lincoln’s head – if his head is “buried” between the tread blocks – then you still have more than 2/32 of an inch of tread remaining. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, it’s time to go tire shopping because the tread is worn down to or beyond 2/32 of an inch.

Flip the penny over so that the Lincoln Memorial (pennies from 2010 and earlier will have the memorial on the back) is facing you and put the penny between the tread blocks with the memorial upside down. If the Lincoln Memorial is completely hidden, you have more than 3/32 of an inch of tread left.

Did You Know – Most state laws require tires to have a tread depth of at least 2/32″ to remain in service?

The Quarter Test

Tire Quarter Test

Some automotive experts believe that using a quarter to test tire depth provides a better read than using a penny. Some independent tests have concluded that cars were able to stop faster with tires that had a little more than 4/32 of an inch of tread depth, which is the measurement the quarter test indicates. To perform the quarter test, put a quarter between the tread blocks of a tire (just like the penny test) with Washington’s head upside down, If you cannot see the top of Washington’s head, you have 4/32 of an inch of tread or more.

Did You Know – In snowy and slushy conditions, 4/32 of an inch of tread or more is necessary for good traction

For your Consideration

Pep Boys Point B

Whether you go with Lincoln or Washington, both coin tests are also good ways to check to see if your tires are wearing evenly. Simply do the test between other tread blocks and if the measurements aren’t the same on all the tire treads, the tires may need to be rotated or your vehicle may require an alignment. Different types of treadwearwill indicate how your tires are wearing. If you don’t have any coins handy, check to see if the tires’ wear bars are showing. Wear bars run across your tires tread pattern from the outside edge to the inside edge. If the wear bar is visible you are in need of new tires as you have hit 2/32” of an inch of tread depth. Most states consider a tire’s service life over if any point of the tread is at 2/32” or less. If you are still unsure, your local Pep Boys can evaluate the depth of your tires.

NYC Bosses Can’t Ask Prospective New Hires This Sensitive Question

(Washington Post, with permission from Jena McGregor)

In a vote Wednesday, April 5, 2017, NYC approved legislation that will ban employers from asking job applicants about what they make in their current or past job and could have far-reaching consequences beyond the city as employers try to standardize their practices. It’s an idea that’s starting to spread: In passing the measure, New York City joins Massachusetts, Puerto Rico and the city of Philadelphia — where the local Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit against that measure Thursday — in banning the question from job interviews. More than 20 other city and state legislatures have introduced similar provisions.

The measure, aimed at tackling pay inequity, prohibits employers from asking the candidate’s current or former employers about salary, as well as querying public records for it, although applicants can volunteer the information if they choose. The city’s Public Advocate, Letitia James, said it would affect about 3.8 million workers when it takes effect in six months and extends the prohibition to private employers. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) had earlier passed orders that would ban salary history details from public-sector jobs.

The thinking behind the new law is that when employers ask about an applicant’s salary history, they can end up perpetuating any discrimination that women or people of color may have faced in the past. When employers ask about current or previous salary, they can hear a number that “anchors” them, and then offer to pay some percentage more on a figure that could already be too low. “Being underpaid once should not condemn one to a lifetime of inequity,” James said in a statement.

Although the measure is for New York-based employees, employees well beyond New York could feel the effects, say equal pay advocates and employment lawyers. Fatima Goss Graves, president-elect of the National Women’s Law Center, said in an email that the measure “stands to transform the way that companies operate around the country,” she said. “So many companies operate in multiple jurisdictions. If a company changes its practices in New York, it is likely to also make changes around the country.”

Melissa Osipoff, a labor and employment attorney with Fisher & Phillips, agreed that companies like to homogenize things as standard as a job application. With so many companies doing business in New York, “I think what we’ll see is companies that do business in New York City just eliminate that from their applications entirely,” she said. “This will have wide-ranging influence.”

Meanwhile, nearly 20 states, the District of Columbia and two cities (San Francisco and Pittsburgh) have introduced legislation that includes a provision against salary history information, according to data from the NWLC. At the federal level, the newly reintroduced Paycheck Fairness Act also calls to ban the question, and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) plans to reintroduce a bill from 2016 that did, too.

Some business groups have opposed the measure. Kathryn Wylde, president and chief executive of the Partnership for New York City, said in a statement that “closing the gender pay gap is important” and most major employers are already taking steps to correct the problem. “Inserting the city government into the relationship between employer and potential employee is potentially disadvantageous to both,” she said. “Politicians are eager to demonstrate their contribution to popular causes, which is about all this legislation accomplishes.”

It’s also possible the measure in New York could face legal challenges. On Thursday, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce filed litigation against the law in that city. “The ordinance is a broad impediment to businesses seeking to grow their workforce in the city of Philadelphia,” the chamber said in a statement, citing a violation of employers’ First Amendment rights.

But other companies have begun privately ending the practice of asking the question on their own. James’s office said that several New York-based companies, including Kickstarter, Peeled Snacks and BBMG were among those who had already prohibited the question.

Others are weighing the concept. Cindy Robbins, who leads human resources for the cloud computing giant Salesforce, said in an interview this week that it’s a shift her staff has discussed training their recruiters to make. “For example, instead of asking what current compensation is, ask what is the expectation they have around compensation,” she said. “That changes the tone around negotiation.”

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As a boss, I’d definitely like to know a potential employment candidate’s previous salaries as it provides me with insight into employee performance.  Forcing employers to operate in the dark can only be bad for business as many small to medium sized businesses can not afford a high employee turnover rate and the less we know about a new hire, the more difficult it is to employ that person to his/her maximum capability.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Privacy Interrupted: Time to Go VPN.

What Is A Virtual Private Network (VPN)

(from HowToGeek.com)

Overview: A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, allows you to create a secure connection to another network over the Internet. VPNs can be used to access region-restricted websites, shield your browsing activity from prying eyes on public Wi-Fi, and more.

VPNs essentially forward all your network traffic to the network, which is where the benefits – like accessing local network resources remotely and bypassing Internet censorship – all come from. Most operating systems have integrated VPN support.

Definition:  When you connect your computer (or another device, such as a smartphone or tablet) to a VPN, the computer acts as if it’s on the same local network as the VPN. All your network traffic is sent over a secure connection to the VPN. Because your computer behaves as if it’s on the network, this allows you to securely access local network resources even when you’re on the other side of the world. You’ll also be able to use the Internet as if you were present at the VPN’s location, which has some benefits if you’re using pubic Wi-Fi or want to access geo-blocked websites.

When you browse the web while connected to a VPN, your computer contacts the website through the encrypted VPN connection. The VPN forwards the request for you and forwards the response from the website back through the secure connection. If you’re using a USA-based VPN to access Netflix, Netflix will see your connection as coming from within the USA.

Reasons To Use A VPN:

1. Access Full Netflix and Streaming Content from Outside the USA

Because of copyright agreements, Netflix and Hulu and Pandora and other streaming media providerscannot broadcast all content outside of the USA. This means: many movies and shows are blocked to users in the UK, Canada, South America, Australia, Asia, and Europe. This geographical enforcement is managed by reading your user login IP address and tracing it to its country of origin. By using a VPN service, you can manipulate your machine’s IP address to be from within the USA, therein unlocking access to more Netflix and Pandora streams. You will need to configure your television movie player or mobile device to use the VPN connection, but if you are a streaming fan, then the effort and cost of a VPN are worth it.

2. Download and Upload P2P Files in Privacy

MPAA and other cinema and music associations absolutely detest P2P file sharing. For reasons of both profit and legality, the MPAA and other authorities want to forbid users from sharing movies and music online. A VPN can be a P2P user’s best friend. While a VPN connection will slow your bandwidth by 25% – 50%, it will cipher your file downloads, uploads, and actual IP address so that you are unidentifiable by authorities. If you are a file sharer and do not wish to risk copyright prosecution or civil lawsuits, definitely consider spending 15 dollars a month on a good VPN. The privacy and protection from surveillance are definitely worth it.

3. Use Public or Hotel Wi-Fi in Confidence

Most people are unaware of this, but that Starbucks hotspot and that 10-dollar-a-day hotel wi-fi are not safe for confidential email and browsing. Public wi-fi offers no encryption security to its users, and your signals are broadcast for anyone savvy enough to eavesdrop. It’s very easy for even a junior hacker to intercept your unencrypted wi-fi signal using an Evil Twin phony hotspot or a Firefox Tamper Data plugin. Public wi-fi is terribly insecure and is perhaps the biggest reason why mobile users should consider spending the 5 to 15 dollars per month for the safety of a VPN connection.

If you log into a public wi-fi network and then connect to a personal VPN, all of your hotspot web use will then be encrypted and hidden from prying eyes. If you are a traveler or a user who is regularly using public wireless, then a VPN is a very wise investment in privacy.

4. Break Out of a Restrictive Network at Work/School

As an employee of a company, or a student at a school/university, you will be subject to an ‘Acceptable Use’ policy for browsing the Web. ‘Acceptable Use’ is often debatable, and many organizations will impose draconian restrictions, like blocking you from checking your Facebook page, visiting YouTube, reading Twitter, surfing Flickr, performing instant messaging, or even accessing your Gmail or Yahoo mail.
A VPN connection will allow you to ‘tunnel out‘ of a restrictive network and connect to otherwise-restricted websites and webmail services. More importantly: your VPN browsing content is scrambled and indecipherable to the network administrator, so he cannot collect any recorded evidence about your specific web activities. About.com does not recommend violating Acceptable Use policies as a rule, but if you feel you have justifiable reasons for bypassing your specific network restrictions, then a VPN connection will help you.

5.  Bypass the Country’s Web Censorship and Content Surveillance

In the same way ‘Acceptable Use’ policies are enforced at workplaces and schools, some nations choose to impose oppressive internet censoring on their entire countries. Egypt, Afghanistan, China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Belarus are some examples of nations who surveil and limit access to the World Wide Web.

If you live in one of these restrictive countries, connecting to a VPN server will enable you to ‘tunnel out‘ of the censorship restrictions and access the full World Wide Web. Simultaneously a VPN conceals your page-by-page activity from any government eavesdropping. As with all VPN connections, your bandwidth will be slower than the uncloaked internet, but the freedom is absolutely worth it.

6. Cloak Your VOIP Phone Calls

Voice-over-IP (internet telephoning) is relatively easy to eavesdrop on. Even intermediate-level hackers can listen in to your VOIP calls. If you regularly use VOIP services like Skype, Lync, or online voice chatting, definitely consider implementing a VPN connection. The monthly cost will be higher, and the VOIP speed will be slower with a VPN, but personal privacy is invaluable.

7. Use Search Engines Without Having Your Searches Logged

Like it or not, Google, Bing, and other search engines will catalog every web search you perform. Your online search choices are then attached to your computer’s IP address and are subsequently used to customize the advertising and future searches for your machine. This cataloging might seem unobtrusive and perhaps even useful, but it is also a risk for future public embarrassment and social faux pas.

8. Watch Home-Specific Broadcasts While You Are Traveling

Local network news can be rather dodgy in some countries, and access to your favorite streaming television, sports games, and video feeds can be locked out while you are away from your home country.

By employing a VPN tunnel connection, you can force your borrowed connection to access your home country as if you were physically there, therein enabling your favorite football feeds and TV and newscasts.

9. Avoid Reprisals and Traceback Because of Your Researching

Perhaps you are a celebrity, or you are an employee doing market research of your competition. Perhaps you are a reporter or writer who covers sensitive topics like war atrocities, violence against women, or human trafficking. Perhaps you are a law enforcement officer investigating cybercriminals. In any of these cases, it is in your best interests to make your computer untraceable to prevent reprisals.

A personal VPN connection is the best choice for manipulating your IP address and rendering you untraceable.

10. Because You Believe Privacy Is a Basic Right

All the above reasons notwithstanding, you are a firm believer in personal privacy and the right to broadcast and receive without being surveilled and cataloged by authorities. And that is perhaps the biggest philosophical reason you want to spend a nominal amount a month on a good VPN connection service.

PC Magazine’s Best VPNs For 2017. 

In last week’s Bulletin, we covered the repeal of many online privacy laws that, in essence, allow ISPs to now openly track our every move online and compile and distribute our online private search history.  It’s probably well past time for people and businesses to move to VPN use.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

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