Holiday Shopping Online? Protect yourself!

Tis the season of online shopping and, unfortunately, identity theft.

Let’s face it, online shopping is easier than facing the barrage of people who will be at the mall this holiday season.  The bargains are there online and the hassle of carrying multiple packages to your car and facing potential hazards of crowds aren’t an issue from behind the PC.

But, unfortunately, there are hazards lurking in the world wide web as real as in a dimly lit parking lot at night! So, here are some great tips to protect your credit and your identity while shopping online this holiday season:online shopping cover photo.jpg

  • First things first – protect your PC! 
    Make sure your virus and anti-spyware software is up-to-date and fully functioning.  If you do not have this software, we highly recommend you install it as soon as possible not only for the holidays but for year-round protection.  Click here for the 2017 list of top protection software products available.
  • Don’t get phished…research before clicking.
    Phishing is the attempt to obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details, often for malicious reasons, by disguising as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. Phishing emails during the holiday season come disguised as special offers from some of your favorite retailers and are done so well that you will recognize the retailer’s logo and marketing terminology. A simple google search of the retailer should enlighten you as to wether or not you should click on that ad! If you can’t find the info online but you are very interested, call the retailer and ask questions.
    Last year a new phishing technique arrived on the scene via apps in smart phone stores like Google Play and Apple enticing victims to add shopping apps.  You can check the legitimacy of these apps by contacting your phone service provider or your local Apple and Android stores. You can also research these apps online to see if users were satisfied with them or if they are rated.
  • Don’t use your credit card while logged on to a hotspot or open Wi-Fi. 
    Avoid shopping online while you are using a public computer (such as at an airport lounge or public library) or when you are connected to publicWi-Fi (like your favorite cafe’s free Wi-Fi or a hotel’s complementary Wi-Fi). You can never know who is tracking or logging your personal information on public outlets like these.  Note; using your smartphone as a personal hotspot is always safer than public Wi-Fi.
  • Use trusted websites and avoid search engines.
    Start at a trusted site rather than shopping with a search engine. Search results can be rigged to lead you astray. If you know the site, chances are it’s less likely to be a rip off.  Just about every major retail outlet has an online store, from Bed, Bath & Beyond to Toys-r-Us to Walmart. Look for misspellings or sites using a different top-level domain (.net instead of .com, for example)—those are the oldest tricks in the book. Yes, the sales on these sites might look enticing, but that’s how they trick you into giving up your info!
  • Look for the lock! 
    Never make an online purchase using your credit card, PayPal or similar on a site that does not have Secure Sockets Layer encryption. You can identify this by looking for the following clues:
    A legitimate website will start with HTTPS:// (instead of just HTTP://).
    An icon of a padlock will appear – typically it will be in the status bar at the bottom of your browser or right next to the URL in the address bar depending on your internet browser.
  • Protect your info online the same way you protect your wallet in public – keep it to yourself!!
    No online retailer should be asking for personal information such as your birth date or social security number (not even the last 4 digits)! The more ‘they’ know the easier ‘they’ can steal your identity.  If you encounter a retailer asking for information such as this or anything that you feel isn’t necessary for making a purchase, call the retailer directly and ask questions.
    You should also avoid using names or special dates as your passwords for the same reason.
  • Here’s a couple of things to remember off-line to protect yourself too:Presents.jpg
    • Check your credit card statements regularly for unusual charges.  This is even more important during the holiday season and we recommend you check multiple times throughout the season rather than waiting to receive your statement in the mail.  If you see anything questionable, contact your credit provider immediately to review.
    • Have your packages shipped to a safe place.  If you aren’t home during the day, don’t have your expensive packages shipped to sit on your doorstep for hours awaiting your arrival.  Thieves are actively stealing packages directly from doorsteps during the holiday season and there was a major spike in this type of theft in 2016.  Have packages shipped to your place of work or to a safe place you know they can be retrieved such as a mail box.

We hope this information will be helpful to you this Holiday Season as we wish you all the best. Please be sure to follow our blog throughout the Holidays and year-round for more useful health and safety tips!

Facing a Mass Shooting and the keys to your safety

As of November 5th, the United States has suffered 307 mass shooting incidents in 2017.  Which, sadly, translates to nearly 1 mass shooting per day.  In 2016, the total number of mass shootings in the US was 483.

While there is not an official definition of what makes a shooting become a mass shooting, The F.B.I. defines a “mass killing” as the killing of three or more people in a public place but also defines a “mass murderer” as someone who has killed four or more people in the same location.

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As we mourn the wounds our country is facing, we must also find our own courage and strength to not live in fear and allow these incidents to harm our quality of life. While the most obvious way to avoid a mass shooting is to avoid going to crowded or popular events that would force us to live in our own prisons and even still not fully protect us from the possibility of workplace incidents.

Many Americans are fighting for stricter gun laws or changes within our government to better our chances at safety.  If you feel driven to join this fight, we encourage you to check out this simple guide on ways you can reach out to the government and demand change!

As we move toward the peek season of travel, special events, and larger crowds in public places we must not allow fear to cripple us, but we must also learn how to be prepared for danger.

Situational awareness is a key element to your safety at any time and any place.  This will not just help you detect the possibility of a mass shooting, but also help you identify stalkers and other threats.  Most of us aren’t even clear on just what situational awareness is, but to speak in a language we all understand it is much like what you see the professionals doing in spy films or actions films.  Think James Bond.  How was he always so prepared? Situational awareness is the answer.  (For tips on developing your situational awareness, check out this blog.)

As a business that focuses on security and safety, Close Range Safety Training Academy wants to share with you some tips that could save your life should you ever be faced with a mass shooting situation:

  • As you will learn from developing situational awareness, knowing the exits of your location is critical at all times.  Many emergency situations require your need to make a fast exit so this is key any time you go somewhere.  Locate the normal exits and emergency exists as soon as you arrive to an unfamiliar place. 
  • When terror begins – take action! Do not take a moment to devise a plan.  Every second counts. The first 5 seconds of a mass shooting are preeminent in your chances of avoiding injury.  If you have studied these tips below and and have familiarized yourself with the exits, you can do this!
  • RUN! Fear can be paralyzing, but do not allow that! Muster all of your courage in an instant and run for it! A moving target is harder to hit and a crowd running creates mass confusion for the shooter so take everyone you can with you and just run for the nearest exit out of the shooter’s range.
    If your shoes are slowing you down, take them off quickly and keep running.
    Do not stagger your run or attempt any tricks that you think will help you.  Reality is, your best bet is a direct dart to the easiest exit.
    If there are obstacles, such as columns, you can dart behind on your run and only if you feel this is necessary than use them to your advantage but just do your best to move quickly and out of range.
  • Do not worry about your belongings.  Run immediately means just that and your purse or phone are unimportant.  Focus on your safety and nothing more.  Every second counts.
  • If you can’t run, HIDE! If there is no way to escape the crisis, find a good hidingSofiaHulten3.jpg place but don’t get yourself trapped.
    If you run into a room, close and lock the door and blockade that door with any furniture you can move in front of it.  Turn off the lights so the room appears vacant.
    If there is a window you can escape from, do your best to do so.  If you cannot escape from the window, try to signal to people outside for help.  Do not fear jumping from a window if it is a second story or lower.  The injuries of cuts, bruises and possibly broken bones is still better than the alternative.
    If you cannot escape to a close room, find ways to hide behind furniture or in a closet.
    Remember that interior walls generally can not withstand bullets so when hiding also stay close to the ground.
  • Find cover when there’s no escaping. Much like you learned in a tornado or earthquake drill in school, find heavy furniture or equipment to hide behind, under or inside of.  Stay close to the ground and do whatever you can to take cover, but do not trap yourself – make sure you are able to dart from this spot easily if you can do so should the shooter be distracted for any reason.
  • Be as quiet as possible.  If you have your cell phone, silence it. If you are in a group whisper and move softly.  Prevent making noise that draws attention to you as best as you possibly can.
    If there is equipment in the room that makes noise such as printers, radios or anything that makes noise – turn them off!
    If you are with children do your best to comfort them while making clear to them that silence is key.
    Silence can be hard, but it is of the utmost importance.
  • Call 9-1-1 once you’re in a safe space. If at all possible call 9-1-1 from a land line if you are still in the building where the shooting is taking place.  Calling from a land line enables their system to track you faster than calling from a cell phone, but if you cannot use a land line then use a cell phone.
  • Lie down and play dead. If you know there’s no escape and nowhere to hide or a way to defend yourself, fall to the floor and pretend your are dead. This has saved many lives in such attacks.
  • Fight when there’s no alternative. Focus on finding weapons of any sort to help you fight.  In an office, grab the scissors or a stapler or anything you can use to stab, pack a stronger punch or hurl at the shooter’s head. If people are with you, have everyone grab items they can use. The more people fighting, the better the chances of winning the fight.
    Channel your survival instinct and use your adrenaline rush to your advantage.
    Most people who are shot can survive a gunshot, especially if you are a moving target and do not allow the shooter to take good aim at you.
    When there’s no alternative, fighting is your best chance for survival.
    Aim at the shooters head when you are throwing objects toward him/her.
    Create havoc by throwing as much as you can while taking shelter between throws.  Do whatever it takes to slow the shooter down, cripple him/her and possibly cause them to drop the gun.
    If you are with others, determine you are fighting as a group and go for it.
  • When law enforcement arrives do not run toward them. Usually the first group of law enforcement that arrives on a shooting scene is there to locate and deal with the shooter and not the victims. Do not leave your hiding spot and do not get in their way.
    hqdefault.jpgWhen you see that you can move in police presence, move slowly with your arms in the air and your fingers spread to show you are not a threat.  Keep this position until they are clear you are not a threat.
    Move in the direction where the police made entry. Do not stop to speak to them.  In fact, if it is safe to do so, run in that direction while keeping your arms raised.
    Obey police instructions and do so without delay or questions.
    Wait for them to question you and at that time provide the best, detailed statement you can.

On average, a mass shooting incident lasts a maximum of 10 minutes.  Keep your composure, keep your wits about you, and stay focused on this advice and how you can apply it to your situation.

We hope that you will never have to face this terror nor anyone you love, but as a team that puts safety first we want you to do the same.  If you feel this information was helpful, please share it with your loved ones.  If you have a suggestion or something to add, please comment. Together we can do this and save a lives!



Diabetes: Understanding, Preventing and Treating

Many see the arrival of November as the beginning of the Holiday Season, but did you also know November is Diabetes Awareness Month? While many months herald awareness for important issues, diabetes is one of the most overlooked issues in the United States because it isn’t viewed as a comparable threat to things like cancer or abuse and it has no outward signs.  But, diabetes is a silent killer that nearly 30 million Americans are fighting every day.

Understanding Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease in which your blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are too high. Glucose comes from the foods you eat. Insulin is a hormone that helps the glucose get into your cells to give them energy. With diabetes, your body is either unable to naturally produce insulin or process it properly.  This depends on which type of diabetes you have.
With “Type 1 Diabetes” your body does not make insulin whereas with “Type 2 Diabetes” your body does not make or use insulin well.  There is also “Pre-Diabetes” which means that your blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes. Having pre-diabetes puts you at a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of this illness.  Over time, having too much glucose in your blood can cause serious health conditions threatening to damage your vision, kidneys, and nerves as well as increasing your risk for stroke or heart disease.  In serious cases people have had to have limbs removed as a result of diabetes wreaking havoc on their body.  

Both types of diabetes have some of the same telltale warning signs.

Hunger and fatigue. Your body converts the food you eat into glucose that your cells use for energy. But your cells need insulin to bring the glucose in. If your body doesn’t make enough or any insulin, or if your cells resist the insulin your body makes, the glucose can’t get into them and you have no energy. This can make you more hungry and tired than usual.
Frequent Urinating and frequent thirst. The average person usually has to urinate between four and seven times in 24 hours, but people with diabetes may go a lot more because your body reabsorbs glucose as it passes through your kidneys. But when diabetes pushes your blood sugar up, your kidneys may not be able to bring it all back in. This causes the body to make more urine, and that takes fluids. Because you’re urinating so frequently, you can get very thirsty needing to rehydrate more than the average person. Another side effect of frequent urination and dehydration is that you may experience dry mouth often and have dry skin.  These two issues, though they may seem minor, can be another sign that you may have diabetes or pre-diabetes.
Deteriorating vision. This is a serious red flag that also stems from the changing fluid levels in your body.  Because your eyes are surrounded in fluid, the lenses can change shape and cause your vision to blur.
Slow healing wounds. If cuts or scrapes heal slower than the average person, this could be a sign that you have nerve damage caused by the effects of high blood sugar slowing down your blood flow making it harder for your body to naturally heal wounds.
Pain or numbness in limbs. This is a more serious sign that your blood flow has slowed and is not circulating to your nerves at a normal pace.
Other noteworthy symptoms are fluctuating weight and nausea or vomiting. It is a myth that weight gain is the only weight change that occurs with diabetes.  While weight gain is a reason for alarm, weight loss also is a sign that you may have diabetes due to your body seeking stored energy wherever it can take from.  Unplanned or unexplained fluctuation in weight is something that requires medical attention and can be a definite indicator of diabetes. Also, when your body resorts to burning fat or muscle to build energy it can create “ketones” which can make your stomach feel sick.  (For a better understanding of ketones and the dangers of diabetic ketoacidosis visit this link: Web MD – Diabetic Ketoacidosis.)

Diabetes Prevention

The first step to prevention is to get tested for diabetes regularly.  This can be done during your basic annual check ups, but should be done as soon as possible if you are experiencing any of the above described symptoms.
There are different types of tests for diabetes depending on your symptoms (or lack thereof).  Even if you do not have symptoms, if you are over age 45 it is recommended that you get tested. When you spot diabetes early on you can avoid nerve damage, heart conditions and other damages caused by untreated diabetes.
Comparison-of-Diabetes-Tests-Chart.jpgChanging your lifestyle can prevent diabetes.  Here are some great suggestions to help you discover what changes you need to make:
1) Exercise! Research shows that aerobic exercise and resistance training can help control diabetes. The greatest benefit comes from a fitness program that includes both.
2) Eat more fiber and whole grain foods. Foods high in fiber include fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains and nuts help reduce your risk of diabetes by improving your blood sugar control. Studies show that whole grains may reduce your risk of diabetes and help maintain blood sugar levels. Try making at least half your grains whole grains. Many foods made from whole grains come ready to eat, including various breads, pasta products and cereals. Look for the word “whole” on the package and among the first few items in the ingredient list.
3) Maintain a healthy weight. If you’re overweight, diabetes prevention may hinge on weight loss. Every pound you lose can improve your health, and you may be surprised by how much. Participants in one large medical study who lost a modest amount of weight and exercised regularly reduced the risk of developing diabetes by almost 60 percent. Don’t jump on diet fads though. Low-carb diets, the glycemic index diet or other diet fads may help you lose weight initially but their effectiveness at preventing diabetes isn’t known. By excluding or strictly limiting a particular food group, you may be giving up essential nutrients. Instead, make variety and portion control part of your healthy diet.
4) Get tested! If any members of your immediate family have diabetes or pre-diabetes, if you have any of the symptoms described above, or if you are over age 45 get tested today and annually or more frequently depending on the results.

Diabetes Treatment and Control

Diabetes is a serious disease that you cannot treat on your own. Your doctor will help you find a treatment plan suited for your diabetes.  Depending on your level of diabetes, you may also need other medical professionals on your diabetes treatment team, including a foot doctor, nutritionist, eye doctor, and a diabetes specialist (called an endocrinologist).

Treatment for diabetes requires keeping close watch over your blood sugar levels (and keeping them at a goal set by your doctor) with a combination of medications, healthy diet and exercise. By paying close attention to your diet and  following your doctors’ orders you can minimize or avoid dangerous and rapid changing blood sugar levels, which can require quick changes in medication dosages, especially insulin.

There are several medications and preventatives available for diabetes.  If you discover you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, be sure to talk to your doctor about all available options and what is best for you.  Take your medications as prescribed and keep detailed notes about the effects they may have on you to provide to your doctor each visit.  Keeping the lines of communication open with your doctor is very important when fighting diabetes.  Never stop taking a prescribed medication or stop following a strict diet your doctor has advised simply because you are feeling better.

The types of diabetes described in this blog only scratch the surface of information you need to know if you are diabetic or think you may be. It is urgent that you see a medical professional for a proper diagnosis, treatment and regular care.  This blog is written to hopefully help those who may be questioning their health or learning when to start getting tested. Because November is Diabetes Awareness Month, we want to recognize the disease and risks involved and to share this awareness with our readers who may have concerns for themselves or a loved one.  Diabetes is one of the leading natural killers among Americans today.  Together, we can change that!3.jpg