Impostor scams resulted in more than 400,000 complaints to the FTC last year. Find out what they are and how to protect yourself from them.

Falling victim to a scam can be embarrassing, frightening, and financially devastating. Unfortunately, sophisticated scam artists know whom to target and how to use psychological tricks to get countless smart, hardworking people to part with their cash.How many people fall victim to scams? Far more than most people realize. Just one specific type of trick -- called an impostor scam -- led to 406,578 complaints to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in 2016 alone. Impostor scams prompted the second-highest total number of consumer complaints to the FTC, with only debt collectors causing consumers more trouble. This was the first time more people alerted the FTC to impostor scams than to identity theft.Because impostor scams are cleverly designed to play on your fears, it's hard to avoid falling for them. If scams were easy to avoid, consumers wouldn't have suffered $744 million in losses from fraud in 2016.The seven tips below can help you keep yourself safe and avoid losses.

1. Know the common tricks

Impostor scams begin when a scammer calls, sends an email, or sends a letter. The scam artist pretends to be someone they aren't so they can convince you to send them cash or give them your personal information.Scammers usually pretend to be someone in a position of authority or a family member in dire trouble. Common tactics are used again and again by thieves who know what kinds of correspondence prompt people to send money. Some of the most common impostor scams include:

  • The IRS impostor scam: You get a call and are told you owe back taxes. You're threatened with fines, fees, arrest, or deportation if you don't wire money immediately.
  • The "government agent" impostor scam: Someone from "the government" calls with great news: You've won a lottery. You just have to wire taxes and fees first in order to collect your payment.
  • The "debt collector" impostor scam: You get a call or a letter alerting you to the fact you've been sent to debt collections. The letter might look like it comes from a law firm or from a court. It will warn you of dire legal consequences if you don't quickly wire money.
  • The grandparent impostor scam: Your "grandson" or "granddaughter" calls in desperate trouble. They're trapped somewhere and need you to wire cash right away so they can get home. They definitely don't want you to tell Mom and Dad.

All these scams have two things in common: a sense of urgency and a claim that something bad will happen if you don't pay up. If you're told there's a problem your cash can solve, think twice about giving in to the fear the caller tried to instill in you.

2. Do an internet search before sending cash

When an impostor scam is being operated, scammers don't just target one person; they'll call thousands of people and present the exact same scenario. This works to your benefit, because these scams make the news.If you've received an email, letter, or phone call alerting you to a situation that requires you to send money or provide personal information, take to the internet and type the scenario into a search engine. You may immediately find warnings about a scam that is sweeping the nation.It's unlikely that your grandson is trapped in Canada at the exact same time there's a major scam going on where people pretend to be grandkids trapped in foreign countries -- so if that scenario comes up in your search, you'll know you were targeted by a trickster.

3. Protect your social-media accounts

Impostor scams are most effective when the caller seems to have information about you and your family. Your "grandson" may know the names of his mom, dad, and siblings. The "debt collector" may have details about where you live, where you work, and the car you drive.How do scammers get this info? Often, you unwittingly give it to them by sharing your life on social media. Your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other accounts provide lots of details. Scammers use this personal information to convince you they know who you are.To reduce the chances that your social-media information will be used against you, consider making your accounts private so only friends and family can see what you post. If you must have public profiles and pages, be cautious about the personal information you provide and be aware that others could use your data to trick you.

4. Don't trust caller ID

When a scammer calls and tells you they're from the IRS, Health and Human Services, or another government agency, your caller ID may show that the phone call actually is coming from the federal government.The problem is that the caller ID may not be correct. The Federal Trade Commission warns that caller IDs can be faked. Scammers make calls look as if they are coming from official sources, even though the call may be coming from anywhere in the United States, or even from outside the country.Although you shouldn't trust caller ID to prove a call is legitimate, write down the number if you suspect you're being scammed. The FTC might be able to use it to trace the party who is committing impostor crimes.

5. Tell the caller you'll call back

A perpetrator of an impostor scam wants you to provide your personal information or commit to sending money during the first phone call. But you don't have to let the call you received be the only contact. Tell the caller you'll call back, hang up, and go online to look up the official number of whoever was supposedly calling.If the call came from the "IRS," go to the IRS.gov website to find contact details. If the call was from your "bank" or a "law firm," call back a number you find on the company's official website. If the call was supposedly from your grandchild, call the number you have stored under their name -- and if you don't have one, call their parents. Whoever you get on the line can tell you whether the call was legitimate.

6. Never, ever send funds via wire transfer

It's extremely unlikely that there's a legitimate situation that would require you to wire money. If you owe someone cash, there should be multiple ways to pay -- including sending a check in the mail. A wire transfer isn't a common payment method, and in fact, the FTC categorically states: "The government will not ask a consumer to wire money, and it is illegal for telemarketers to ask you to pay by wire."Scammers prefer wire transfers because the money is difficult to trace and virtually impossible to recover. If you're asked to send money via a wire transfer, this is a likely scam. Just don't send it.

7. File a complaint with the FTC

If you get a call you think is a scam, let the FTC know by filing a complaint at ftc.gov/complaint. The FTC won't help you to resolve your specific situation, but it will provide information about steps to take if you suspect a scam.The FTC will also record your complaint to track patterns of criminal behavior. The information you provide could help others avoid becoming victims.

The $16,122 Social Security bonus you could be missing 
If you're like most Americans, you're a few years (or more) behind on your retirement savings. But a handful of little-known "Social Security secrets" could help ensure a boost in your retirement income. For example: one easy trick could pay you as much as $16,122 more... each year! Once you learn how to maximize your Social Security benefits, we think you could retire confidently with the peace of mind we're all after. Simply click here to discover how to learn more about these strategies.

Teresa Kersten is an employee of LinkedIn and is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors; LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft. Christy Bieber has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Facebook and Twitter. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Source : fool.com

Categorized in How to

Early one Sunday morning, my editor, Yahoo Finance’s Erin Fuchs, checked her personal email and was surprised to find a message from PayPal (PYPL). The missive said she had recently changed her password, and asked her to call a phone number if that wasn’t the case.

It wasn’t, so Fuchs called. The email had come from a “This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.” address and included a link to the PayPaypal website. However, she became suspicious when the person on the other end of the line asked for her credit card information to “verify her account.”

Phishing email.

It doesn’t matter who you are or what email service you use. If you have an email account, you’ve received some kind of scam, or phishing email, just like my editor.

Most of the time, these emails are relatively easy to spot. Some African prince or other wealthy individual wants to send you money until he can make it to the US. You just need to send your bank account information and Social Security number.

But criminals are quickly changing their tactics, firing off more sophisticated emails in an attempt to trick you into giving away your personal information. According to Gary Davis, chief consumer security evangelist at Intel (INTC) Security, in a recent study, more than 19,000 people were asked to look at 10 emails and identify which ones were scams. Only three percent of them were able to find all of the phony messages.

Worse still, some phishing messages contain ransomware, which locks down your entire computer until you pay the culprits a ransom.

Yes, it’s a scary world out there. But there’s hope. If you follow some of these quick tips, you’ll be able to stay one step ahead of the bad guys.

Read the subject line and sender’s address

Phishing emails are designed to sucker as many victims as possible. They cast a wide net by covering topics like banking and package deliveries—two things most people generally receive emails for.

You should be on high alert if you get a message from an unknown sender with a subject line mentioning changes to your bank account—or that you need to pick up a package that can’t be delivered—and you aren’t expecting either of those things. It’s probably a phishing attempt.

Just delete the message and move on with your life.

Hover over links

Okay, so you can’t remember if you changed your bank account info or aren’t sure if you have a package in the mail, so you open the email. That’s cool. As Intel Security’s Gary Davis explains, it’s rare that just opening a message executes any kind of code on your computer.

Phishing emails.

The message, however, tells you to click a link to check out the changes to your account or the status of your package. What do you do? Simple: Hover your mouse over the URL. When you point to a link without clicking, most web browsers and email programs automatically display the web address that link will open. If the email says it’s from your bank or delivery service, but the link points to a different site, don’t click it.

Urgency is suspect

A good number of phishing emails try to get you to act before you think—by adding a sense of urgency to their messages. An email telling you to log into or verify information for your bank or other account labeled “Final Warning” or “Urgent Notification” should set off warning bells right away.

Kevin Haley, director of product management for Symantec’s (SYMC) Security Response, explains that you should be suspicious if you receive an email with a URL or attachment that is trying to get you to click on something right away.

An scam email ordering you to do something immediately.

Russian agents are widely considered to have used this exact method to break into the Democratic National Committee’s server’s via a phishing email.So if you get a message telling you to do something instantly, ignore it. If you think it’s legitimately from your bank, skip the link and just go directly to your company’s website.

Hooked on phonics

As Microsoft points out in its phishing email primer, legitimate businesses hire professionals to ensure that communications with customers are mistake-free. Criminals? Not so much. So if you get an email that’s strangely formatted, and is loaded with enough grammar issues to drive your fifht-grade English teacher insane, delete it." data-reactid="66" style="margin: 0px 0px 1em;">The easiest way to identify a phishing email is if it’s loaded with grammatical or spelling errors. As Microsoft points out in its phishing email primer, legitimate businesses hire professionals to ensure that communications with customers are mistake-free. Criminals? Not so much. So if you get an email that’s strangely formatted, and is loaded with enough grammar issues to drive your fifht-grade English teacher insane, delete it.

Spam email with poor grammar.

Patience is a virtue

A lot of people fall victim to phishing emails because they’re simply in a rush. They’re in the middle of cooking dinner and taking care of two toddlers, see an email from their bank and BAM, that’s that. So how do you fix this? Just take a few minutes, breathe, and read your emails carefully. That’s pretty much it.

What to do when you’re hooked

So you’ve clicked a link or downloaded an attachment in a phishing email. You’re done for, right? Not exactly.

Both Davis and Haley suggest that if you realize you’ve been the victim of a phishing scheme and you’re fast enough, you can change your passwords on any affected websites before the criminals get access to your accounts. If you can’t do that, your best bet is to disconnect your computer from the internet and run an antivirus program.

Disconnecting your computer (like turning off WiFi) ensures that any malware you downloaded can’t communicate with its home server and steal your information; meanwhile, the antivirus program takes care of anything on your machine. You should also enable two-factor authentication on your accounts, which requires that you enter both your password and a second string of characters usually sent to your smartphone via text or an app, to keep people from accessing your information. 

If, however, you’ve given your private information to someone via email, well, your best bet is to use a credit-monitoring service to make sure that no one is opening credit-card accounts in your name.

Author: Daniel Howley
Source: https://www.yahoo.com/tech/how-to-avoid-falling-for-email-scams-174835308.html

Categorized in How to

When creating a website, we all strive for extraordinary content combined with a responsive, attractive design to offer a user-friendly experience. While this sounds simple in theory, it may not turn out that way in practice. In addition to considering the content you provide and the aesthetics surrounding your website design, a myriad of legal considerations and best practices apply. Taking care not to violate basic “rules” of website creation should be at the top of your list.

After more than a decade in the industry, I can personally attest to how what might seem like minor violations come back to harm not just your business, but potentially your personal reputation and online presence. It's hard to get noticed on the web, and building a website and a brand online is a career-long effort. But don't let these common website violations set you back – or tempt you.

Using copyrighted images without permission. All images found online are not free for the taking. Technology makes it easy to lift photos quite easily: Right-clicking and selecting “save as” or saving the entire HTML page, taking a screenshot, or physically taking a picture of the image are just a few ways online thievery occurs. Not everyone intentionally steals photos; many people accidentally use an image because they are not sure whether it is royalty-free or a public domain image, or the user may have simply forgotten to give credit for the image. Make sure you are not violating copyright laws and that you obtain images by legally paying for them, obtaining permission or using photos that are in the public domain. Giving credit is not the same as getting permission.

Failing to obtain licensure for video usage. As a core part of today’s online landscape, website video usage, like image usage, must be handled with care. As more people and businesses share videos to tell their stories on various digital platforms, adding a video to your website is easier than ever. However, copyright laws do apply to online videos. Website gatekeepers should be aware of best practices to avoid unauthorized use as well as fair use. Publishing unauthorized videos online exposes you and/or your organization to legal liability, as the videos can potentially reach millions of people all over the world. Minimize your risk by obtaining permission before using any video online.

Relying on duplicate content. It might seem like a good practice or easy solution to repeat content throughout your website to beef up the amount of copy, but Google recognizes (and penalizes) duplicate content. If information is repeated word for word, search engines cannot always pinpoint which version is the original and which version is copied. Duplicate content causes site owners to suffer lower ranking and traffic loss, and the search engines provide less relevant results. If you need to include similar content on more than one page, be sure to completely rewrite, reword and reorganize the content in a new way. If you want to use content from another site, be sure to obtain permission or, better yet, write something completely unique to your site.

Touting services with superlatives. Everyone wants to claim that their business is the “best” or that they are the “leading” or “top” person or organization in their field. However, attorneys are required by bar associations to follow specific rules to describe their services in legal content writing. Most states require statements made in attorney advertising (which includes law firm websites) to be objectively verifiable. Since claims that you are “the best” can generally not be objectively verified, they may be deemed misleading and can expose violators to fines and other penalties.

Claims to be an “expert.” An attorney making claims of being an “expert” or “specialist” in the absence of board certification in the specialty is prohibited in many states. Similar to statements claiming that you are “the best,” claims that an attorney is an expert or specialist may be deemed false or misleading. It is a best practice to avoid using the words “expert” and “specialist” altogether.

Neglecting customers with disabilities. Passed in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was established before the explosion of e-commerce. Now that consumers have moved online, the Department of Justice is redefining how the ADA applies. The release of web accessibility regulations is expected sometime in the near future. Website owners can be proactive by taking measures, such as adding audio descriptions for the blind and text captions for the deaf, as well as enhancing multimedia. Review a full list of proposed requirements.

Taking care to avoid these website legal pitfalls will help to protect you from potential litigation and solidify your reputation as an upstanding member of the online community.

The information provided here is not legal advice and does not purport to be a substitute for advice of counsel on any specific matter. For legal advice, you should consult with an attorney concerning your specific situation.

Author: Peter Boyd
Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2016/12/27/six-content-discrepancies-to-avoid-committing-on-your-companys-website/#2dd946d84b0b

Categorized in Others

It’s getting difficult to figure out who to believe. When US President Obama blames Facebook for the proliferation of fake news online, it’s cause for concern. How do you know that the things you’re reading are true, and not just propaganda?

The unfortunate news is that there isn’t a simple way to know. Avoiding fake news is complicated, and depends a lot upon your smarts. But just like technology is responsible for the spread of lies, technology also has ways to stop them.

From extensions that flag notorious fake news outlets to websites that bust hoaxes and myths, here are the five resources you need.

1. Melissa Zimdar’s Tips (Web) and Fake News Alert (Chrome): How to Spot Fake News

The first step to not falling for fake news is to be more skeptical. How do you do that? Melissa Zimdar, an assistant professor of communication and media, has some pointers in a Google Doc she shared.

Zimdar started compiling a list of outlets whose “news” you shouldn’t believe, but for the time being, has stopped that exercise. However, the Google Doc remains active with tips to easily spot falsehoods.

Avoid Fake News Online -- Avoid Fake News Online -- Melissa Zimdar

Some of it is common sense, like the tips to avoid fake jobs and scams on the internet. Some is more specific, like distrusting sites that end with “.com.co” domains, or the use of capitalized words. Those aren’t things that a legitimate news organization would use, according to Zimdar.

There’s some good news as well. Zimdar plans to re-upload her database of fake news outlets, and posts updates about that plan in the Google Doc.

A journalist took Zimdar’s list of illegitimate news sites and turned it into a handy Google Chrome extension. Download Fake News Alert to get a notification every time your Facebook wall is citing an unreliable source. But remember, these are only from Zimdar’s list, so the extension’s reach is limited.

2. PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter (Web): Verify U.S. Politics News

In the age of social media, a politician’s words need to be carefully weighed. Yet some political parties and representatives blurt out half-truths or lies. PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter is the best place to check whether a statement is true or false.

Avoid Fake News Online -- Politifact

The Truth-O-Meter has different levels, from “True” to “Pants on Fire”, which represents something that is widely read but completely false. Helpfully, PolitiFact also points out when the statement was made, and cites the sources used to say whether it’s true or false.

PolitiFact is generally a good website to follow regularly, so you stay up-to-date about half-truths being peddled by political forces. While you’ll be entertained by fake politicians and world leaders on Twitter, you should follow @PolitiFact for the real news.

3. Snopes (Web): Everyone’s Favorite Hoax-Buster

One of the original hoax-busting and fact-checking websites on the internet, Snopes is widely recognized as a reliable source of information on the internet. So if you’re unsure about something you read online, check it out on Snopes.

Avoid Fake News Online -- Snopes

Snopes specializes in debunking rumors that spread online like wildfire. Viral photos and news have a tendency to be shared widely regardless of how true they are. You need to specifically be concerned with the “Fact Check” section, but Snopes also works as a reliable source of news.

In case you want to have a rumor checked, Snopes lets you submit such items. Just add the link where you saw it, and as long as many people are clicking on it, Snopes will try to verify or debunk it.

4. Truth or Fiction (Web): Constantly Updated With Latest Rumors

Truth Or Fiction has been around since 1998, making it one of the oldest sites on the internet to debunk rumors. It has got the whole ordeal down to a science.

Avoid Fake News Online -- Truth or Fiction

Visit the site and you’ll see a chronological list of the latest rumors floating around on the internet. Scroll down and you’ll see the most-asked rumors in the recent past, so you know which questions are plaguing people’s minds the most.

Truth Or Fiction focuses on email scams and social media mistruths. That makes this is a good place to check the truth behind your friend’s Facebook wall post or verify urban legends and scams.

5. FiB (Chrome): Smart Extension to Analyze News

Verifying any news requires lot of cross-checking and reverse-lookups. You may not always have the time or inclination to do that. Can artificial intelligence (AI) do the due diligence and help you avoid falling for lies?

Avoid Fake News Online -- FiB

FiB thinks it can. This Chrome extension has a backend AI that checks the facts within any post on Facebook. It verifies such posts using image recognition, keyword extraction, and source verification. It also runs a Twitter search to verify if a screenshot of a Twitter update posted is authentic.

If a post is legitimate, you’ll see a “Verified” tag on the top-right corner. It’s an astounding way to see amazing artificial intelligence in action.

Download — FiB for Google Chrome (Chrome Web Store)

Which News Sites Do You Trust?

We know that there are plenty of lies floating around on the internet, so instead of sifting through all those to find the truth, let’s give more power to truth-tellers.

Which news outlets do you trust to always give you the true or fair reportage?

Author : Mihir Patkar

Source : http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/avoid-fake-news-verify-truth-sites-apps/

Categorized in Science & Tech

Two years ago, Google introduced the mobile-friendly label. Then we witnessed ‘mobilegeddon’, where Google began prioritizing these mobile sites. Now, they are cracking down on mobile sites offering a substandard user experience.

On January 10th 2017, any sites with intrusive interstitials may lose ranking juice. The key question then is, what counts as an intrusive interstitial? Essentially, it’s any extraneous content that appears over the majority of the page proper. Call them silly, but Google assumes visitors enjoy seeing the information they clicked for.

At this point you may well have further questions; fortunately, I am here to answer them. In this post, I will help you decide exactly what will and won’t count as an intrusive interstitial by Google. Let’s get straight to it!

What Is an Intrusive Interstitial?

Intrusive interstitials are essentially popup ads. They tend to block most or all of a page, leading to a bad user experience for desktop and mobile users alike.

google examples of intrusive interstitials

Google’s own examples of intrusive interstitials.

These types of ads make it frustrating at best to access the page as intended. The general exception to the rule is when there are legally required (or ethically advised) notifications, such as popups for age verification.

The kicker is that while popups are moderately annoying on desktops, there is even less screen real estate to work with on mobile devices. In these cases, it can completely ruin the user experience. Here are a few examples of how this goes wrong:

  1. The interstitial covers most or all of the content on a page.
  2. The interstitial is not responsive. That means it is difficult or impossible to close it on a mobile, rendering the page useless for mobile users.
  3. The interstitial is not triggered by an action, such as “Click here to subscribe.” Rather, it pops up on its own without prompting, creating an unpleasant surprise for the mobile viewer.

As you can see, the issue is not only the annoyance of popups but their role in ruining the user experience. If you find an interstitial on your own site that you’re not sure of, we find it best to err on the side of a pleasing experience for the user.

Why Are Intrusive Interstitials Being Targeted?

Our first clue that Google was shifting from banning app interstitials to allinterstitials was August 2015, when Gary Illyes confessed to the world that he’d love to use them as a negative ranking factor one day. Back then, he said, “But we don’t have anything to announce at the moment.”

By now, you already have a bit of insight into Google’s decision. For a better understanding of what exactly is under scrutiny as January 10th races towards us, we can look at the factors that play a role in the market.

As frustrating as users find popups, companies continue to use them because they are effective. In one recent study of 1,754,957,675 popups, there was an average 3.09% conversion rate, with high-performing popups performing on average at 9.28%.

However, mobile traffic is growing, and Google seems to be leaning into it hard. In 2015, Google reported that access via mobile was higher than desktop searches in ten countries. Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that 56% of traffic on major sites comes from mobile.

HubSpot’s Senior Product Marketing Manager, Marcus Andrews, recently gave us a friendly reminder that “Google is very focused on the user.” He notes, “Marketers are always looking for hacky ways to increase traffic and conversion rates, and every once in a while, Google needs to make a correction to improve the user experience.”

It’s no surprise then that Google is focusing its resources on mobile, rather than desktop. It’s where the majority of users are — that’s just good business. Between this and its Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project, it’s fair to say Google wants webmasters to offer a seamless user experience for mobile users.

It’s important to note that Google is currently only looking at interstitials that show up when the user first lands on the website from a search result. This means the important part is ensuring that any traffic coming from Google isn’t served these interstitials until the user has clicked further into the site.

“What we’re looking for is really interstitials that show up on the interaction between the search click and going through the page and seeing the content. What you do afterward like if someone clicks on stuff within your website or closes the tab or something like that then that’s kind of between you and the user,” John Mueller from Google Webmaster Central announced during an office-hours Google+ hangout.

How to Identify Intrusive Interstitials

Google has already decided that all interstitials ruining the user experience will negatively impact that site’s ranking signal.

What you need now is a blueprint to check your own site against. How can you tell which interstitials are okay, and which aren’t? Keep reading!

Intrusive Interstitials That Will Be Penalized

The examples of penalized interstitials provided by Google are relatively straightforward. So far, we know of three types of interstitials that will be problematic.

The first is a regular popup, or a modal window blocking the content of the page. These often come with a dark semi-transparent background dimming the rest of the content. These are perhaps the most traditional popups, in that they appear to literally pop up over the rest of the page.

An example of an intrusive popup from Google

An example of an intrusive popup from Google: a regular popup, or a modal window blocking the content of the page.

You can see how the background dims to a dark gray for the modal popup:

example of an intrusive popup
A real-life example of a regular intrusive popup.

The second is a standalone, full-screen interstitial that sits above the header of the website. These interstitials typically force your browser to scroll up to see it before letting you see the rest of the content.

An example of an intrusive standalone interstitial from Google

An example of an intrusive standalone interstitial from Google: a standalone, full-screen interstitial that sits above the header of the website.

The last is also a standalone, but essentially a full-screen modal window blocking the content.

Another example of an intrusive standalone interstitial from Google

Another example of an intrusive standalone interstitial from Google: essentially a full-screen modal window blocking the content.

Its functionality is like that of a regular popup, but you get no preview of what content lies below. In practice, they look exactly the same as the previous standalone popup. Here’s a real-life example:

a real-life example of an intrusive standalone interstitial

A real-life example of an intrusive standalone interstitial that blocks the content.

However, in some cases, it doesn’t seem so cut and dry. For example, what if you have a live chat box that automatically appears to help the guest? This isn’t a direct advertisement, but it does still ruin the user experience if all they want to do is read the content they came for.

In these cases, think about the popup in its purest form — a box that appears over the actual page content. If it’s not a necessity, there’s a good chance it’s going to be penalized.

Intrusive Interstitials That Shouldn’t Be Penalized

It’s important to remember that not all interstitials will be an issue. Depending on your website and country, you may have legal or ethical reasons to display interstitials. Google knows this, and isn’t planning to punish you for it.

Google provides two predominant examples of these legally required interstitials, the first being legally required age verification blockers. These help create a shield for age-sensitive content such as websites featuring alcohol or adult content. The second example is cookie consent notifications, as they are required in the EU.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, any banners taking up a “reasonable amount of space” should be safe. Though an exact size is not provided, it is better to play it safe and assume less is more. If you keep it to 15% or less, even landscape mode devices will still have enough room to read several lines of text.

This goes to show that you can still keep your ads, but you may need to switch up your approach by respecting the user’s screen space first and foremost. Try redesigning interstitials you can’t part with so they take up a small amount of the page, perhaps reducing them to a link that leads to a separate page entirely. In a last-ditch effort, you could change them to be inline ads. If you’re not sure what works best, try A/B testing to find an effective middle ground.

All this said, there is no guarantee of what will or will not be counted against you. Google only notes that these, when used responsibly, will not be affected.

Conclusion

As the deadline draws near, we urge you to check your interstitials and ensure they follow Google’s new guidelines. Though it’s not clear how strong this new ranking signal will be, Google shows a definitive preference for mobile. We recommend that you don’t underestimate its power.

It is relatively straightforward to identify your intrusive interstitials and take action:

  1. Review required interstitials, such as age-verification popups and cookie notifications. You’ll leave these live, but ensure they are easy to use on mobile devices.
  2. Find the interstitials on your site, leading directly from Google search, that act as advertisements.
  3. If these are so effective that you can’t justify getting rid of them, try modifying them to take up a small amount of screen space for mobile devices. Otherwise, we recommend removing them entirely.

What are your fears about the new intrusive interstitial ranking signal? Ask any further questions you have in the comments section below!

Author:  Aleh Barysevich

Source:  https://www.searchenginejournal.com

Categorized in Internet Privacy

Here's how you can identify and avoid sites that just want to serve up ads next to outright falsehoods.

You don't need Socrates to tell you that some websites spin crazy, made-up yarns just so you'll click a link.

False information and fake news have been a problem on the internet almost since the beginning. The situation is so bad, one website, Snopes.com, is dedicated to debunking crazy internet tales and rumors that pop up like digital cockroaches.

The issue rose to prominence again with the election of Donald Trump, which critics say was aided by fake news reports that were rampant across social media, especially Facebook. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has called that notion "pretty crazy" but says his company is working to clamp down on bogus articles.

In the fervor over whether Facebook should do something to separate fiction from fact, you may have wondered how you could figure out whether an article is worth clicking on. Here's our advice on how to flag false stories that just want to take you for every click you're worth.

What is 'fake news?'

First of all, let's be clear: We're not talking about websites with paid journalists who fact-check their reporting and build their brands on accuracy. (Reputable companies have rules on fact-checking. CNET's reporters and reviewers are required to verify information and back it up with links to source material such as press releases, videos and websites.)

The issue is that legitimate news stories get mixed in with everything else on your Facebook "news" feed. That includes stories from websites that are posing as news sources to harvest your clicks. What's more, even if you click a link to a well-researched Wall Street Journal story, Facebook could show you related stories from sites that don't meet those same standards.

As CNET News Editor-in-Chief Connie Guglielmo pointed out, the problem here is that everything in social media is treated like news, with no distinctions.

How to flag fake news sites

The best tool at your disposal, of course, is common sense. No matter what your political bent, if a story serves only to reinforce your beliefs, it's best to be extra skeptical before sharing it.

If a report is purportedly based on other news stories, find the original source of the information. You might find some of the quotes are correct, but the rest may have been taken out of context or fabricated.

If the potentially false story you're reading doesn't link to an original source, well, that's a bad sign. Use a search engine to look for the keywords in the story to see if that "news" is being reported by any other outlets.

Some stories, intentionally or not, read like satire. If it sounds like it could be a headline on the Onion, it's best to double-check the story.

Also check the URL. If it has a strange ending, think twice about the story. An article claiming President Barack Obama banned the national anthem at US sporting events -- false, if you were wondering -- came from a website with the suffix ".com.de," which makes no sense.

No, this is not a real story.

Finally, don't trust a photograph. If you see a compelling photo and are just itching to share the story behind it, try this first:

  • Take a screenshot of the photo, cropping out everything but the image itself.
  • Open up Google Images in your browser.
  • Drag the screenshot into the Google Images search field.

Google will tell you its best guess as to who or what is pictured and where the image originated.

I tried this on a black-and-white photo that ran with a meme about Susan B. Anthony. The photo showed a woman in a Victorian gown lying in the street as police and bystanders stood over her. It turned out the suffragist in the photo was Britain's Ada Wright, not Anthony.

Pro tip: You can do this with photos from dating and real estate websites too, and you might catch a scammer while you're at it!

More ways to flag fake news sites

Programmers have put their heads down to come up with tools that can flag unverified reports in your social-media feeds.

For example, three students programmed a browser plugin that automatically evaluates stories linked in social media and highlights those that have been debunked elsewhere. The cute name for the plugin: FiB.

The plugin isn't available for download yet, but the students are enlisting help in finishing it, through an open-source project.

New York Magazine writer Brian Feldman programmed a plugin too -- it's not automated, but it checks articles against a list of known fake news sites put together by Merrimack College media professor Melissa Zimdars.

Who's writing this fake news?

According to a Buzzfeed story, young people in Macedonia created more than 100 pro-Trump websites to spread false news. The motive wasn't political; it was to make money off your clicks.

Maybe we should be glad they're not turning to cybercrime to capitalize on our collective naivete, like young people in other parts of Eastern Europe have done. Still, it's pretty strange to think that Macedonian website owners were gaming Google's or Facebook's ad programs to make money off fake-but-viral news stories.

Google and Facebook each said on Monday that they will ban fake news sites from using their respective ad-selling software.

Snopes also has a guide to fake news sites, some of which are political and some of which are simply purveyors of wild and wacky lies.

The election may be over, but there's still plenty of fake news to go around.

First published November 19 at 5 a.m. P

Update, 11:10 a.m.: Adds link to story about Friday night comments from Mark Zuckerberg.

Source : cnet.com

Author : Laura Hautala

Categorized in Social

These days, a business' online presence is as important -- if not more -- than its presence on the street. So why would you compromise your company's integrity by making avoidable mistakes? Here are a few examples of things that can prevent you from making your business successful.

1. You fail to have a vision for your brand.

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Feeling confident about your entrepreneurial skills? Think you have the product of the year? Think again. You need to have the product of the century; at least that is the attitude that you should adopt. Don't enter the market half-heartedly. Instead, be confident and bold about where you want to take your business in the years to come. 

2. You fail to choose a unique brand name.

You need a truly unique brand to match your ambitious projections. Be sure to research the market so that you are certain no one else already has your brand name, and check that a suitable .com domain is available. As you can see from this infographic about famous domains -- even the biggest companies can make the mistake of not having enough market research for unique brand name.

One of the reasons I picked the brand name Taco for my marketing agency was because it was trendy and unique. I knew that most businesses, especially marketing agencies, had weird acronyms or bland names. Having something unique would get people interested.

3. You fail to get help with your website.

You may be good when it comes to technology, but do you really have time to learn the ins and outs of website building, SEO, etc.? Remember that your main priority is getting the business off the ground, and spending your time sitting in front of a screen is not the best way to drive your vision forward. Leave the technicalities to the experts, and focus on managing the business.

4. You fail to have a backup plan.

It is very common for people, even business owners, to undervalue their data. "It won't happen to me," you may think. Though you may be able to avoid a fire or a flood, what about a Trojan that remotely infects your files one by one until you can no longer access your data? You are more vulnerable than you think -- even huge international companies have their own mishaps -- so always have a backup solution in place for these inevitable situations.

5. You fail to send out a clear message.

Though you may be active on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, one of the worst things you can do to your brand is to send mixed messages about the business' ethos and affiliations. You should not "like" comments or pages because you think it will make your brand name more visible. You should think about and plan your every move. A designated marketing manager is also a great way to keep your online presence on track.

6. You fail to Google yourself.

Have you tried Googling yourself recently? Well, you should! It is common knowledge that the majority of people will use Google as their primary search engine and will type in your brand name in order to find out more about your company. By keeping on top of the highest search result hits, you can be one step ahead, and ensure that there is no embarrassing or incorrect content connected to your brand name.

7. You fail to proofread your copy.

Don't underestimate the importance of proofreading everything before you publish it. And don't think that is up to the web developer to pick up on errors. It is vital that you eliminate all typos and grammatical errors so that your text is readable and free-flowing. Not only does is it look sloppy if your website and social media posts are littered with errors, it reflects badly on the integrity of your brand too. You can improve your grammar by using a range of easily-accessible online tools and grammar guides.

8. You fail to mention others.

You now have all of your social media accounts set up and have been tweeting all week about your business -- what you do, where you operate and what special deals you have. Rein it in there. The purpose of social media is to network with others and should not be used to introduce your product or services. Try communicating with suppliers or other business in your field to build a friendly and supportive community.

9. You fail to mention what you do.

On the flipside, you should not assume that everyone knows what your company does, especially if you have a unique name that doesn't explicitly describe the trade or nature of the business. It is important that you let your followers know what it is that you can do for them. Instead of being blunt, why not engage with your audience by saying, "Did you know that we specialize in..." Be sure to tell them what makes you stand out from other similar businesses.

10. You fail to delete dead domains.

While you were finalizing your brand name and debating between a .com, .eu and .biz, you inadvertently set up two or three domain names that you now need to maintain. Don't make the mistake of selecting one primary address and leaving the others as dead links, as this will leave prospective clients confused and potentially infuriated. Ensure you delete traces of irrelevant links or make them forward automatically to the correct domain address. Did you know that you can sell a domain back to some providers? It's worth looking into if you're certain you won't need the address in future.

11. You fail to join in the conversation.

Finally, don't shy away from online conversations. Feel free to display how you feel about certain subjects, and let people see your personality shine through. Clients love the personal touch and like to see who is behind a company. How else did Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, become so well-known throughout the world? Interacting with others and engaging in discussions is also a brilliant way to promote your business without seeming pushy.

Source : foxnews

Categorized in Online Research

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