Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Using US Newspapers in Genealogical Research

One of the really useful tools I use when I am doing my family genealogy is to check newspapers for obituaries or news items. Many times, I have been able to add the obit, and I have found other names in it that fill in the blanks in the family tree.

READ MORE - Original Article can be found HERE.

read more digg story

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

To Check or Not to Check – What’s in Your Date’s Background?

Choosing to perform a background check on your potential date is a decision that for some people – does not come easy. In some cases, especially for those engaging in online dating, it may help to consider the possibilities of what could happen if you don’t do a background check. Many online dating websites are now making it mandatory for their clients to submit to a background check, creating a database of people who have been essentially pre-screened for you. If your best friend was to set you up on a blind date, you would essentially be on a date with someone who has been “pre-approved” by your best friend. But in the online dating world, you are basically setting yourself up on a blind date with a complete mystery person.

There is a reason why an increasing number of online dating services are requiring background checks. Simply put, we don’t live in the same world our mothers and grandmothers grew up in. Maybe there isn’t a growth in the number of situational predators in the dating scene, but with online dating there is a new accessibility to undesirable or potentially dangerous people. Most people are already aware of the danger that children are exposed to when going online, but many are unaware of the issues men and women face in with online dating. Background checks can reveal a number of things about a person that you may wish to avoid, such as a criminal history, past marriages, impending court cases, and even sexually or physically abusive people, and how many restraining orders have been placed on them in the past.

Online dating presents new challenges when determining patterns in a person that would normally signal a red flag in the traditional dating scene. Married men and women are able to conceal their marital status, participating in online conversations at times when phone calls and outings would otherwise be impossible. Let’s face it, if you’re going to date online, your going to hear some opposition, possibly from your family, your friends, or your co-workers. Maybe you’ve already heard it, but have you really considered what types of questions can be answered by a simple background check?

Some people naturally assume that if you are going to do a background check on your potential date, you are being dishonest and intrusive. But there are ways of protecting yourself, and being honest with the people you are dating or planning to invite into your home, and your life. First of all, if you are using certain online dating services, you will be meeting with people who have already agreed to a background check in order to join the service. But when exposing yourself to other online dating sources, you still have the opportunity to honestly let people know that you are concerned with their background. One of the most common worries is that a potentially great date is either married, or still in the process of a divorce – both of which can severely complicate matters in a new relationship. Many women are concerned with meeting married men, or men who have been married multiple times in the past. This is something that can be easily determined by performing a simple background check.

There are many areas of a person’s life that can be revealed with a background check, and once you are aware of these things, you can make an informed decision as to whether or not you want to move forward in the relationship. Many people, both men and women, are unaware that the person they are dating could hold enough debts to prevent them from leading a normal life. For example, a woman I have known for many years met a man over the internet, and developed a serious interest in dating this man. After a lengthy online relationship, they decided to meet in person, and hit it off immediately. What she didn’t know, was that her new love interest had a past that he was afraid to reveal. She knew that he had been married before, and had a child. What she didn’t know was that he had been married twice, and had a child from each marriage. Between the two children, he owed more than $65,000 in child support. Knowing whether or not a person has been married, or how many times, can open the doors to communication about things a person may not know how to bring up without scaring someone away. He wasn’t trying to keep information from her on purpose; he just didn’t know how to address the situation. If she had considered a background check on this man, she would have known what her future would be like with this man, and been able to make an informed decision about whether or not to proceed with the relationship.

It is quite common for people to have something in their past that they are not proud of, and they may even be honest with you about a problem they have had. For instance, a man may meet a woman whose profile states that she is a social drinker. She honestly reveals that she was in court for a DUI over 10 years, but has stayed out of trouble ever since. However, a simple background check could reveal that she was caught drinking and driving in 1992, 1994, 1997, 2001, 2004, and 2006. Sometimes people who have something to hide are the same people who think that background checks are an invasion of one’s privacy, and that people who do them are being dishonest.

If you are honest about your intentions, and open about your plans to do a background check on your online prospects, you may be able to weed out those who are keeping secrets. If someone is against having a background check performed on them, talk to them about what you may potentially find; they may just open up and be honest about their past. Let them know that you are willing to trade reports, and you will provide them with a background check on yourself if they provide you with one as well. This can help to ease the tension and allow them to see that you are mutually willing to open up about your past, and looking to enter into a happy, healthy, honest relationship. If it remains a problem, you may decide that this person isn’t ready to fully share their life with another person. Most of all, consider your own safety and happiness, you may just be glad you did.

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USsearch.com - Website Review

US Search, pioneered affordable people search services. Founded in 1994 by Nicholas Matzorkis, US Search has been featured in Entrepreneur Magazine, on television shows reuniting friends and family members, and recently appeared on 60 Minutes with their first customers, who were reunited 13 years ago. Matzorkis states that making public records available online has leveled the playing field. "Personal information in the U.S. is a multibillion-dollar-a-year industry," he said. "It's just a question of who has access. You, or the people selling it to other companies to market things to you?"

Their website offers various searches and reports such as background checks, criminal records, real estate reports, and reverse phone. They feature “4 Easy Steps to Public Records”, where the user enters search criteria for a preliminary search, which returns a list of names for you to choose from, select a report to purchase, and off you go to checkout online. Their famous 800-number connects you with operators assisting with searches and questions.

US Search grew rapidly. By 1996 the company had over 200 employees and took up three floors of office space on Wilshire Blvd in Beverly Hills, CA. By 1999, they employed 400, and were worth $160 million on the NASDAQ exchange. In 2002, control of the company was acquired by First American Title, and is currently traded as First Advantage (FADV), with a market capitalization of over $1.3 billion.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Phishing Scams Could Take You for Thousands

If you aren’t already aware, there is an extremely common email and website scam known as “phishing”, which is the practice of distributing and publishing email messages and websites that are designed to look like legitimate sites. They are designed to deceive the reader into giving up valuable personal information like usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, bank account information, or social security numbers. There are many different techniques and tactics that thieves will design to dupe the reader into submitting your information, which can then be used to gain access to your personal and financial information. Most of these tactics involve unsolicited email messages, and are usually sent repeatedly and from several companies at a time. The emails are being sent fraudulently using the names of many different highly recognizable business names, financial institutions, and government agencies.

There are some similarities between the spam emails, the most common emails are sent to you claiming that your eBay, PayPal, Bank of America, or Chase Bank account has been compromised or is being updated? Education is the key to preventing this crime from happening to you, so consider yourself warned if you hadn’t already caught on to the abundance of emails flooding into your inbox. Typically they will refer to you as “customer” or use your email address to salute you instead of your username, which is typically how your banking institution or eBay and PayPal accounts. This should be the first signal. Many of the links will lead to fraudulent or fake websites that look like the real McCoy. You perceive the website as legitimate, and enter your information, and – poof! Your money’s gone. Phishing is one of the most invasive, fastest growing types of spam affecting the internet world-wide. Businesses are particularly at risk due to the assets a company can hold. Microsoft offers a guide to keeping your business from being “Hooked by Phishing”, providing tips on protecting your company from identity and data thieves.

I just downloaded the new Internet Explorer 7, and identity theft seems to have been taken into consideration when the browser was updated. The new version sports a new “phishing filter” that functions in a way as a security and social networking ID theft deterrent. It works by scanning the websites that you visit, and warns you if they appear to be potentially suspicious. There is also up-to-the-hour online information through an online service and blocks you from having your personal information transferred if a site is known as a phishing website. Not only does it act as an early warning signal, but blocks you from potential phishing sites known for phishing activity. The filter reports phishing websites from both end users and 3rd party data sources, helping to protect users from sites that could be engaging in identity and data theft.
You can get the new Phishing Filter Add-In by installing updates for Internet Explorer. Simply click the “Help” list on your browser tools in the top of your window, and then click “Check for Updates”.

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