Tag Archives: animal shelters

Avoid COVID-19 Scams

By Tracey Dowdy

Seasons like the one we’re currently living in bring out the best in some and the worst in others. 

It’s nothing new for scammers to get creative during a national emergency – we’ve seen it happen time and again – and a global pandemic like COVID-19 is no exception. 

A recent release from the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency offers great advice on how to avoid being scammed. 


Any time an unsolicited email prompting you to click on an attachment hits your inbox it should raise a red flag. CISA recommends disabling automatic downloads for attachments. The problem is that not all email clients offer this, and each is different from another. Scammers know that in times like these, by pulling on your heartstrings or using language that increases your anxiety, you’re more likely to share sensitive or personal information, so they recommended taking the time to read Avoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks. Most importantly, never ever reveal personal or financial information in an email or respond to requests for it via email or text. It’s also smart to ensure any charity or cause you choose to donate to is legitimate. Sites like Charity Navigator, guidestar.org, and give.org can help you vet the charity before handing over and money 

Mobile Malware.

If you’re tracking COVID-19 news and information through an app, be aware that there are malware traps out there. Recently, a malicious Android app called CovidLock that purported to help users chart the spread of the virus instead locked and held many Android phones for ransom by hackers. DomainTools researcher Tarik Saleh states, “This Android ransomware application, previously unseen in the wild, has been titled ‘CovidLock’ because of the malware’s capabilities and its background story. CovidLock uses techniques to deny the victim access to their phone by forcing a change in the password used to unlock the phone. This is also known as a screen-lock attack and has been seen before on Android ransomware.”

Hackers have been using coronavirus-tracking map sites to inject malware into browsers and Market Watch reported that coronavirus-related website name registrations are 50% more likely to be from malicious actors. The best way to avoid this is by setting a password that can help protect you from a lock-out attack. And when it comes to choosing an app, shop the Google Play store so you’re less likely to download a malware-laced app. 

Beware Facebook Charity Groups 

It goes without saying, but there’s volumes of misinformation, fake cures, pseudo-science, and conspiracy theories being shared on social media, doing far more harm than good. Trust what the CDC says, not a theory posted by a guy you knew in high school who heard it from a friend of a friend who knows someone that talked to a guy working behind the scenes who can’t reveal his source.   By clicking the “about” section of a Facebook group, you can see whether that group has changed its name multiple times to reflect new national crises — a sure sign that the group is trawling for an audience rather than promoting reliable news. 

Here’s how to sift through the trash to find the treasure: 

  •  Trust only official sources on Twitter and Facebook including the accounts of trusted news sites and their reporters.  Avoid talking heads or people presenting opinion and theory as opposed to facts. 
  •  Before you click on a website that purports to be an official government site, check the URL to see if it ends in .gov. 

CISA’s has an official tip sheet to help you avoid being scammed during this challenging season.  

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

How Technology Is Helping Save Pets’ Lives

By Stacey Ross 

Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened. ~ Anatole France

I agree with the above quote, and the more we embrace technology, the more we can help rescue the millions of dogs and cats that are cared for by shelters each year!

Considering that microchips and animal tattoos are becoming outdated and tags can be lost, it is exciting to see the growing use of technology and social media to help re-unite lost pets with their owners, as well as find loving homes for shelter animals.

In fact, just last week I received an automated call that, for once, was welcome! A young dog was lost within a few miles of my home and LostMyDoggie.com came to the rescue. Thanks to technology they are able to deliver “amber alerts” to notify neighbors and
businesses about lost pets in their area. I reflected upon the huge value that this service offers. Here, sharing details with the masses was an animal recovery service that has helped 1000s of owners find their lost pets!

Another growing lifeline is the PiP My Pet app for iPhone and Android. PiP helps pet owners locate their furry friends by using facial recognition technology. Anyone with a smartphone can take a photo of a found animal and check the app’s database to see if it has been reported missing. The app’s facial recognition engine is reported to have between a 95 and 98 percent success rate. PiP is making arrangements with a number of U.S. counties that would share data and images at no cost to lessen the number of pets that end up in shelters.

Using similar technology, PetMatch (iOS and Android) helps connect people with a pet they want to adopt by searching through the PetFinder database. Looking to adopt a terrier, for example? Take a photo and the app will use the image to find a similar-looking dog in your area that is ready for adoption.

Some shelters have developed yet another brilliant way to rescue pets! iPet Companion allows viewers to view and “play” with animals available for adoption through a live video feed. Users get to play for two minutes, maneuvering the camera to see the animals and clicking on toys to interact with the kitty or puppy of their choice.

Pet rescue and adoption is now easier, thanks to our handheld devices, apps and high-speed Internet access. GPS devices are also growing in popularity. We must also give props to social media for creatively highlighting the efforts of shelters and rescue services! Twitter and Facebook posts of available pets are very visually powerful images. Just this past summer, a Facebook friend, Lisa, posted a picture of the dog that my family had been waiting for and thanks to her efforts in support of AlmostHomeAnimalRescue we now we have an adorable 22 pound Yorkie!

Social platforms are ideal for business owners like Lisa to not only gain exposure themselves but to partner up with humanitarian services. All part of a noble effort to help save lives and build memories, one precious fur ball at a time!

Stacey Ross is an online consultant, social media enthusiast, freelancer and owner of SanDiegoBargainMama.com. A former teacher and middle school counselor, she is now a mom of two who researches and freelances about lifestyle topics involving family and well-being.