Prolific Conman Targeting Churches

PHDefence, a local martial arts class I teach at, is held at a chapel. While I was there, I saw this notice and thought I should do what I can do share it. Knowledge is power! Now, this may not seem particularly relevant to self-protection or personal security, but it is. Dialogue, deception and distraction are three major factors that a criminal often utilises in the ‘interview’ stage of selecting a victim for a violent attack so maintaining awareness of these kinds of methods is crucial.

Just click either of the images to display it larger. Note: I’m not saying conclusively.that this is true or anything of the sort. I’m just sharing what I’ve seen.

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IMAG0393

Spelling It Out For Them: Personal security tips from a discarded letter

A few days ago I went to see The Bourne Legacy with my brother, which I enjoyed very much. On the bus coming back from the cinema I just happened to see a letter on the floor, and thus chanced upon a great opportunity to open discussion on the very real dangers of leaving documents that contain personal information around. Of course the best thing to do with this information is to destroy them if we don’t need it, however this person had either never been told this or had failed to uphold his vigilance this time. Luckily for him, it was me who picked it up instead of an identity defrauder! Originally I was going to merely take it and burn it to protect his identity, however I noticed just how much personal information was on there when I was about to, and so I took the opportunity to make this post. Of course, I have removed all of the information itself from these images to protect his identity and have destroyed the original document.

Letter Part 1 Letter Part 2

So let’s take a closer look. After all, you might think a simple letter (or printed email in this case, strictly speaking) probably wouldn’t have too much information on and so wouldn’t be overly important – what’s the worst that could happen, right? I’ve gone through and labelled the relevant sections A-S (including repetitions). Let’s have a quick run through and look at them. One aspect of the psychological side of self-protection which is extremely useful and powerful is to cultivate the ability, through research and the ensuing logical thought processes, to see things from a criminal perspective. The classic example is to look at a crowd and identify victims from various criminal perspectives. Here we will be using this technique to identify how these various pieces of information could potentially be seen from a criminal perspective.

imageA – Name and address: Here not only do we have his gender and full name, but his full address with a postcode below. This alone is not good to throw around. Simple as it is, you should remember that this simple information tells a criminal a lot about you. More than merely where you live, we need to see this in more depth. With this information, the criminal can find a spot to watch you from and easily build up a profile of your habits – the times you leave for work, the times you get back, the arrival and departure times for other regular activities (gym, regular social meetups, etc) and the routes you take whether driving or on foot. The postcode makes it quick and easy to search for your address, and even with the simple usage of Google Earth’s Street View they can see what your house looks like, identify weaknesses, hiding places, escape routes, etc from the comfort of their own homes. With this an attack or stalking can be planned with ease.

imageB – National Insurance number: The top one of the blurred pieces here is simply his National Insurance number. This of course is just another piece of information that a criminal could potentially use when building up their profile of personal details with which to make changes to your accounts or it could be a security question they could be asked when attempting to get into an account, or when requesting information, etc.

imageC – Date: This may seem unimportant, but often when making banking inquiries you are asked for details of the specific message/s that you have pertaining to whatever you’re discussing. One of these is often simply the date of the correspondence, which in this case is helpfully left here.

imageD – Name: The mention of such a repetition here may seem irrelevant, but it is not. In a physical hard copy of a document such as this, it is essential from a criminal’s point of view. If the document is damaged, even mildly, obscuring any information then having it repeated is essential to verify or fill in missing bits that could be smudged, burnt, partially shredded, torn or simply worn off. In either hard (physical) or soft (electronic) documents, repetition is also important as it serves as a quick and easy verification: if an unusual name is there, it may well have been mis-typed, particularly if it seems an unusual spelling of a common name. In this case, a repetition of the name can offer some verification as to whether it was a typo or just an unusual name. This is of course important as the criminal wants to minimise the risk of making any mistakes and thus minimise the risk of sounding the alarm and getting caught out.

imageE – List of the documents attached to the email: This in itself of course is not personal information, however it would help someone making enquiries using this person’s identity sound more believable, for example making an enquiry about losing their ‘Give Me Some Money Please Pack’ (fictional and not on the actual list). In addition, they can give further ideas of the document’s context and the nature of the situation in general.

imageF – Sender’s name and position: Again, while this isn’t personal information to the recipient of this message it is useful for a criminal. When making an enquiry, it sounds much more believable to be able to casually say ‘I’ve just got a question about something in an email I had from Mrs Whatsherface, your Customer Relations Manager’ as opposed to something less specific.

imageG – URL: If an email has been printed by hitting File –> Print from an Internet browser, by default it’ll have the URL of the file you’re printing in the footer. URLs can include a lot of personal information, which varies between different websites. One example is what I have noticed with my university’s in-browser email access system: the URL for my inbox has my full university email address in it, which is simply my university username followed by ‘@student.staffs.ac.uk’. This is assumedly true of all Microsoft Office Outlook Web Access setups by default, but regardless the important thing to remember here is that URLs can hold a lot of information. Even if it looks like a random bunch of letters and numbers to you, to someone who knows what they’re looking for there could be useful clues hidden away in there.

imageH – Date: Again, this is another repetition of information which can be useful for verification.

imageI – Name: You get the idea.

imageJ – National Insurance number: Once again, another repetition here of a key piece of information.

imageK – Date: Yet again, you get the idea by now.

imageL – Name: I know. I’ve mentioned this before.

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M – Date of interview: This is crucial information. With this, a criminally-minded attacker could have known what his or her target would be doing on a particular day. A few ideas to take away from this: beforehand the recipient of this message is likely to be in a rush and they won’t be at home for a while on the day in question. Perfect. That’s bad enough, but let’s look further…

N – Time of interview: Now not only does the criminal have the date but the exact time that their target will be away from home, so they could use this as a time to attack them while they’re likely to be distracted and in a rush or they could simply take advantage of knowing that their house would be unoccupied at the time in question (or at least that this person specifically wouldn’t be at home – with their previous stalking opportunities they could have ascertained whether they live alone which adds other elements to this information’s usefulness). With the added knowledge of the duration of the interview, and that the target has to see someone else beforehand, they can work out a considerable window of opportunity.

O – Place of interview: This is even worse than the other information – now the criminal knows exactly where and when their target will be, so setting up any number of situations is rendered easy for them. What makes this worse, however, is the addition of the next piece of information:

image

P – Documents: Here the criminal reading this message finds out what his or her target will have on him when he attends the interview – more personal information. The claim form mentioned will undoubtedly have a wealth of personal information in it, and the other information will almost invariably include a form of photographic ID such as a driver’s licence or passport. Through mugging or subtler methods of theft, these documents could potentially be taken and copied. It may sound far-fetched, but it is far from impossible.

imageQ – Sender: Again, the name and position of the sender here. More verification.

imageR – URL: See above (G).

imageS – Date: Once more, just a repetition useful for verification. This is the date the document was printed of course, not necessarily the date it was sent or received.

Some Important Things to Remember:

Let’s keep this simple:

    • Documents contain information, and sometimes this can be useful to people who don’t hold your best interests at heart.
    • This information can be used to stalk you and build up a profile of your habits. This is useful for a criminal who wants to attack you, attack someone you live with, steal from/damage your property or use your identity for other reasons. That’s not an exhaustive list by any means – just a few ideas.

What we need to remember here is that simply put the information in these kinds of documents, or indeed potentially any other, can be used for criminal activities against you. I’m by no means an expert on this – I haven’t got a degree in criminology and I’ve had no experience of dealing with identity fraud – however I do know what to look for in terms of security holes and how criminals could exploit them.

The simple solution to this is to do everything you can to not leave any holes for them to exploit – this concept extends to all aspects of your life but let’s keep to the example of documents and information for now. When you don’t need these documents any more, burn or shred them. Better yet, shred and burn them! It’s not impossible for shredded paper to be put together by a committed individual, especially if you only shred one document at once. Shred documents along with random pages from an old magazine, or off-prints of unimportant things from when the printer last played up – anything to throw confusion into the heap. If you burn your sensitive information, make sure it’s fully burnt before you throw away the ashes! We’ve seen here from even a fairly cursory glance at the information in this letter how much can be gained from even an address.

The simple rule: if you wouldn’t shout it from your roof, tell it to a random person in the street or post it online publicly, then it’s sensitive information. Don’t leave it for the wrong people to find.

You can find more information on fraud and how to protect yourself and others against it at http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/CrimeJusticeAndTheLaw/Typesofcrime/DG_181626.

Stay safe!

Josh Nixon, ESP

FCIns. Josh Nixon of the CSPS is at Stoke College’s Disability Day–25th of April 2012

On Wednesday the 25th of April 2012 FCIns. Josh Nixon (that’s me) will be representing the Combative Self-Protection System at Stoke College’s ‘Disability Day’. From 10:00-14:00 you’ll have the opportunity to speak with me and I’ll answer any questions you have about the CSPS or training in general. Details are also on our events page.

The event will be held at Cauldon Campus on Stoke Road, Shelton, ST4 2DG, in the Sports Hall from 10:00-14:00 on Wednesday the 25th of April 2012.

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service have said on their site:

The aim of the event is to raise disability awareness and provide information, advice and guidance to individuals within the college and the general public. There will be over 60 organisations on hand to provide the most up to date information on a range of disability issues to an eager audience and the celebrity guests will be ‘Race2Recovery’ who have recently been on the BBC’s Top Gear.

(From http://www.staffordshirefire.gov.uk/2091.asp on 14.04.2012.)

It’s going to be a great opportunity to speak with a lot of interesting organisations and individuals so I heartily recommend coming and taking a look – everyone’s welcome! I’ll be on hand for the full four hours to answer all of your questions on training with or without disabilities for self-protection, health, fitness and personal security. I’ll also be representing local martial arts class PHDefence, which I am Co-Instructor of. There may be an offer available to people who attend this event…

See you there!

-FCIns. Josh Nixon, CSPS

P.S. There may also be sweets…

Home Security: Easy and Cheap Upgrades

This is a good one.

As you may know, I’m a big fan of Lifehacker. I think their approach towards everything is brilliant and they’re often my go-to website if I’m not sure of anything technological (and often other stuff too). If you’re not keeping up to date with their posts, then you’re missing out and I heartily recommend you do something about it!

The other day, Melanie Pincola wrote this article on the site, which outlines some really effective strategies based on burglary statistics. Here is a brief summary of the main points.

Know Your Enemy! The Anatomy of a Burglary:

These statistics are from 2005 and are US-centric, but this graphic from the Washington Post still shows you some important and useful information to bear in mind when evaluating your home security measures:

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Most Burglaries Occur Between 10:00 and 15:00. Whether this is true of the UK or not, it ultimately means very little. Beware the false sense of security that can arise from these kinds of statistics! While it is good to remember which peak times prevail in your local area for burglaries (get in touch with your local police force for information; they can steer you towards some up-to-date statistics), you should not feel that at other times there’s any cause for relaxation of your security measures! Thinking ‘Ahh, I’ll leave it – it’s after three…’ is not a good mindset! Just because most burglaries happen within certain times, it doesn’t mean the next one will!

Burglars look for homes that appear unoccupied, and residential homes, as you know, tend to be empty during those hours because people are at work. If you’re out of the house during those hours and are concerned about burglaries in your neighborhood, consider setting a random timer to turn the TV or radio on during those hours.

If you have a second car, keep it out in the driveway while you’re at work. Or, perhaps you can rent your driveway during the daytime (besides making your home less attractive to thieves, you can make a few extra bucks. Win!); previously mentioned Park Circa is one place you can find people looking for a parking spot in your neighborhood.

Do you use gardening services or other home maintenance services like window cleaning? Schedule those services (which don’t require you to be at home) during those prime theft hours.

Good advice here, well worth following. Just make sure that you can trust whoever you’re sending around to your empty house to do work though! How do you know they’re not an opportunistic thief, or recently become laden with debt and are desperate to pay it off? That’s it – you don’t!

The typical house burglar is a male teen in your neighborhood—not a professional thief and 60 seconds is the most burglars want to spend breaking into your home. This suggests you only need enough security to thwart the regular person. Simple things like the
"my scary dog can run faster than you" sign may be one of the most effective theft deterrents, other than—or in addition to—actually owning a scary dog. (Even a small dog prone to barking helps, though.) Regular "beware of dog" signs work too, especially if you add some additional supporting evidence of dog ownership, like leaving a dog bowl outside by your side door.

The Washington Post suggests deadbolt locks, bars on windows, and pins in sash windows may be effective theft deterrents. It goes without saying to make sure all the entry points are locked (but, still, 6% of burglaries happen that way).

Again, while this is excellent advice that we all should take into consideration, don’t think that older or younger, or female, local people can’t be burglars based on this! What we should take from this is that the more difficult we make our homes to break into, then the more warning we’ll get if someone’s breaking in, and the more time we’ll have for either the police to arrive after you call them or for you to escape, or whatever other plans you have in place.

In order of percent of burglaries, thieves come in through: the front door, first-floor windows, and back door primarily, followed by the garage, unlocked entrances, and the basement. Look at reinforcing all of these entry points, of course, but if you want to know where the best places are to put your security cameras, the front and back door and first floor windows are your best bets. (We’ve featured quite a few DIY ones using old webcams or your PC.) Fake security cameras placed at those points might also be effective.

With your outside lighting, make sure those points of entry are well lit (motion-detector lights are inexpensive and don’t use a lot of energy) and clear of thief-hiding shrubbery.

When placing lights and cameras, think about how much they can see – treat them as if you’re placing sentries, because essentially that’s what you’re doing! Corners are great, especially if they can oscillate and see all around from there. You can’t sneak past a camera through a wall! Make sure the ends of the camera’s oscillation ‘touch’ the walls though, or you’ve just made them a handy little invisibility path! If you’re placing dummy cameras, make sure they’re very visible and preferably have blinking LEDs on them (an easy thing to make if yours haven’t). Something that can be seen from the road is best, and from any other likely access points. Always think about where a thief can hide around your house, and what you can do about it. Try breaking into your house yourself (simulated of course, unless you really want to test out your windows’ anti-shatter strength!) to see where your security holes are.

An average of 8 to 12 minutes is all burglars spend in your home. If a thief does get into your house, you can prevent loss of your valuable objects by making them harder to find than within those 12 minutes. The dresser drawer, bedroom closet, and freezer are some of the first places thieves look, so forget about those hiding places. Instead, consider hiding things in plain sight.

Perhaps set up a red herring for possible thieves: Leave out an old laptop the thief can quickly grab and go. Even better: install Prey to track the stolen laptop.

Once again, I would take this information in, but I wouldn’t swear by it. The mindset of ‘He’s probably gone, it’s been 15 minutes, so we can come out from hiding now…’ isn’t what I would recommend! That’s only if you’re in though of course. Making things hard to find is a great third defence, after making the house look unappealing to burglars, then making it difficult for them to get in. The longer they’ve got to mess around, the more likely the police will arrive or they’ll give up, panic, and leave empty’-handed. The links are worth following in this quote. Prey is invaluable, and I may do an article on it myself. I have it installed on both of my computers and my phone.

We’ve previously noted several ways to protect your home while traveling, including using push lights in your windows and asking your neighbors for a vacation check. Lifehacker reader fiji.siv reminded us of a small detail like not having your garbage cans put out as a sign that you’re away; make sure any help you get from friends or neighbors include the little stuff like that (putting out garbage cans, getting the mail, maybe even cutting the grass).

Don’t forget the daily stuff like stopping newspaper and mail delivery, if you don’t have someone picking those up for you.

And, of course, the tried-and-true method of looking like you’re home: use a random timer on your indoor lights or TV.

This is all, once again, well worth paying attention to – basically just make it look like you’re in when you’re not! There are loads of ways you can do this, as the link in this quote shows you.

There’s a lot of other information in the comments on Lifehacker, so that’s also worth a look. What measures do you take? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below, or if you’re especially awesome, join the discussion on the CSPS forum.

Update: March 2011

Hey all,

First off, let me send out a huge thank you to everyone who’s been showing interest in CSPS over this start-up period. We’ve been having steady views here at CSPS Online, and have been pleased with all of the questions we’ve been receiving. By all means keep them coming! To address some of the more repetitive questions, I’ve just updated the FAQ section to accommodate the ones we keep getting again and again, so if I refer you to that section I’m not being rude and ignoring you; I just don’t have the time to type out the same answer over and over again. Also thanks to everyone who’s following us on Twitter, our likers on Facebook and our subscribers on YouTube too. We really appreciate all of the support and interest.

Thanks to the select few (and you know who you are, my friends) who’ve been contributing to the redrafting process of the Syllabus and Guide, many hours of discussion and training later we’ve finally published version 1.0; the final draft and the first official release version! There has also been a general redraft of some of this site’s information as a result, because a lot of the information is also found in the introductory pages of the booklet.

Syllabi will be available in class for just £1 – I’m really sorry to have to charge, but it’s literally just to cover the printing costs. It’s a 23-page concise booklet, so I’m not ripping you off with it; you’re getting a meaty wad of paper for your quid. It’ll be invaluable in your training to have a copy of everything you’ll need to hand, but while it’s recommended it is of course optional, and you can share with a friend or anything. You’re also not obliged to buy a new copy with each update; we’ll tell you what the changes are if and when updates happen (CSPS evolves, as you all know) and you can annotate your copies instead of buying a whole new book.

The Syllabus also now explains our revolutionary, unique ‘CSPS Ranges Notation System’, which I created myself, in the Beginners’ section, just so you have a reference for that as well as everything else. If anyone has any suggestions, criticism or spots and mistakes (even niggly English mistakes – they’re important to us!) then just chuck us an email at csps.info@gmail.com.

See you all in May at the launch of CSPS Endon – full details on the Classes page.

Thanks again,
FCIns. Josh Nixon

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