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Tidings of the Season

 Faith. Joy. Peace. Family and friends. Fraudsters. Holiday time brings with it the blessings of the season. It also brings a proliferation of scams, some of which are described below. The media and government agencies including the FTC are urging consumers to be cautious when sharing information online and to take precautions to avoid common frauds that increase during the holidays. Fake charities reach out online and by phone this time of year to take advantage of goodwill (and the rush to obtain year-end tax deductions). Confirm the legitimacy of any charity before donating. Don’t donate...

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A COVID Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving, a day traditionally meant for giving thanks for our blessings. For some of us, pausing to reflect on what we’re grateful for this year might be more challenging than it’s been in the past. But one thing we might want to include on our list is the technology, warts and all, that has allowed us to maintain some normalcy in our lives and has made social distancing tolerable.  What would we do without Zoom and similar applications? Video conferencing platforms have enabled us to continue working, have playdates, attend religious services, throw dinner parties, and otherwise...

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Netflix’s “The Social Dilemma”

The Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma” presents the scary undeniable reality about social media and its impact on society and the world. Why is it so hard to put our phones down, to disengage from our favorite social media sites? Because they have been engineered to be addictive, according to the now remorseful technologists who invented these devices and apps and are interviewed in the film. According to Dr. Anna Lembke, an addiction specialist interviewed in the documentary, human beings are wired to crave the interpersonal connections that social media enables. Chamath Palihapitiya,...

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My Pandemic Gym

A while ago I injured my hip and for years had difficulty walking even short distances. My orthopedist advised that the best course of action to avoid surgery was to strengthen the area by weight training. I found an excellent trainer, and through twice-weekly training in the gym and regular cardiovascular exercise, today my hip is stronger and generally pain-free. However, it only stays that way if I continue to work out. When I take a couple of weeks off, or do solely cardio instead of weight training, the nagging pain returns. With virus cases mounting back in March authorities closed gyms,...

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The Learning of the Twitter Breach

Last month Twitter reported that it suffered a data security breach at the hands of hackers. While the details of the hack are still unclear, Twitter has stated that through “a coordinated social engineering attack by people who successfully targeted . . . employees with access to internal systems and tools,” hackers duped employees into handing over administrative access privileges. This enabled hackers to take over high-profile accounts; 130 accounts, including those of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk were compromised. Of these, hackers accessed the direct messaging of 36...

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Wear a Mask Even If You  Don’t Want To

 It’s not breaking news that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have recommended that, in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19, we wear masks in public when social distancing is not possible. According to the CDC, the virus spreads “mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice.… These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.” So if I wear a mask and I’m infected, even if I don’t know I’m infected, I won’t be subjecting...

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Relief Payment Scams

 The two trillion dollar Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, signed into law in March, includes authorization for one-time “Economic Income Payments,” or relief payments, for eligible taxpayers. According to the IRS, eligible individuals with adjusted gross income of up to (1) $75,000 for single filers, (2) $112,500 for head-of-household filers, and (3) $150,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly are eligible for the full $1200 (individual filers) and $2400 (married joint filers).  They are also eligible for an additional $500 per qualifying child. Filers with...

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COVID-19 Contact Tracing is Coming

According to the CDC, contact tracing is an infectious disease control measure that has been used by local and state health department personnel for decades and should be a key strategy for preventing further spread of COVID-19. In contact tracing, public health staff, or tracers, work with a person who has tested positive for an illness to help them recall their contacts: everyone with whom they’ve been in close contact during the time they were contagious. The tracers then warn these contacts of their exposure. Contacts are generally not told of the identity of the infected person but are...

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Online Daters, Take Safety Precautions

 According to a recent survey, 40% of straight couples and 65% of same-sex couples meet online. There are almost 8,000 dating sites worldwide and more opportunities through social networking sites. Sites include mainstream ones like Match.com, special interest ones like Gaydar (as the name suggests) or RocknRollDating (for musically compatible couples of any sexual preference, including “polyamorous”), and even ones for married folks seeking extramarital activity, like Ashley Madison. Online dating has its risks. Daters can be exposed to false information (like fake user profiles), threats to...

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