Protect Your Passwords (and your identity)

With so much of our personal information stored on our phones or computers, choosing a strong, hard-to-hack password is of utmost importance. Whether it is your online banking or simply your email, passwords offer instant access – convenient for you, but more convenient for the wrong person to access your accounts.

For many online programs and smartphone apps, they will have a minimum length requirement for your password. While this may make your password harder to remember, keep in mind that the longer your password, the more secure. Incorporating numbers into your password is also crucial – so long as they are numbers you can easily remember. It is best not to use your Social Security or cell phone number, as these are the first any wannabe hackers will guess. Capital letters can also ward off any identity thieves, as capital letters (as well as any possible symbols) can create complexity. Lastly, it is advisable not to use the same password for all your important programs and applications, as this will help to ensure that if one of your programs is compromised, they won’t all be.

Laptop security, courtesy of On Guard Online

Here is our Tip of the Week.

“Treat your laptop like cash. If you had a wad of money sitting out in a public place, would you turn your back on it — even for just a minute? Would you put it in checked luggage? Leave it on the backseat of your car? Of course not! Keep as careful eye on your laptop just as you would a pile of cash.”

This same advice applies to all your electronics, such as iPod’s, tablets, and smart phones.  The value of the device is one thing – the value of the data, including your identity, is far greater.  Make sure you take the time to place these items in the car trunk, or some other out-of-sight location.  If you are in a public parking lot, or parked on the street, someone can walk by, see your items, break the window and be gone in seconds.

Security Trends to Watch in 2013

Increased crime. Fewer police. A changing State of New Mexico retirement system that gives veteran cops an incentive to retire early and not stay on the job. Those don’t sound like a good combination, do they? Those three trends will come into stark relief in 2013. What does that mean for a business or homeowner? Trouble.

It’s obvious that increased crime is a bad thing. Especially property crime like burglary and metal theft. That’s when we rely on the police to ensure our safety. Where the outlooks turns grim is that law enforcement around the country, and even in New Mexico and Albuquerque, are faced with a growing shortage of officers.

In Salt Lake City, false alarm calls were draining patrol resources, comprising 12 percent of all dispatched calls. The average police response time to alarm activations was up to 40 minutes, well beyond the time when police could reasonably hope to apprehend an intruder. Over 99% of all alarm calls proved false. The result? Police and sheriff’s departments have decided not to respond to security alarms – either at all, or only when a real, live person verifies that the alarm is blasting because of an intrusion instead of the wind, an animal or malfunction. In Montgomery County, Maryland, alarm dispatches have decreased by 70% despite a more than 300% increase in alarm systems.

How did that happen? Companies like Armed Response Team have stepped into the gap left between the security alarm and the police patrol. With our immediate, in person armed response to any and all alarms, our customers know that their homes, property and businesses don’t fall through the cracks in a system where too few police have higher priorities than crooks stealing your stuff.

 Make sure you’re on the right side of this triple threat of fewer law enforcement officers and increased property crime. Find out how Armed Response Team can keep you and your family safe.

Prevent Holiday Theft with Tips from ART

holiday theftBurglary detectives tell us that thieves make out exceptionally well during the holidays because businesses and homeowners let their guard down. While the holidays are times of giving and good cheer, they are also prime time for bandits who rely on the disruption of our usual safety routine. Here are some ideas to ensure that the Grinch doesn’t steal your Christmas this year.

  • Thieves watch your curb on recycling day. Getting a new big screen TV, iPad or other goodies? Defeat the crooks by breaking down all electronic boxes into smaller pieces, turning them inside out or discarding them in non-clear trash bags. The point is to mask anything that identifies your recycling boxes as expensive electronics.
  • Keep your tree and gifts hidden from view of outside windows. Or, keep your curtains and blinds drawn so that peeping Toms can’t see your loot from the outside.
  • Lock all doors and windows even when leaving the home for a short period of time. Many thefts are crimes of opportunity.
  • Leave spare keys with a neighbor rather than hiding them outside. Burglars are not fooled by your hiding places.
  • Place indoor and outdoor lights on an automatic timer, or install motion activated sensors on outside lights.
  • When away from your home on a holiday vacation, or even overnight to grandmother’s house, have a neighbor or friend watch for suspicious activity and pick up your newspapers and mail.
  • Beware of strangers at your door: criminals can pose as couriers delivering gifts or as solicitors for fake charitable causes. Ask for identification or information about a charity.

Have a safe and theft-free holiday season, from all of us at ART.

Holiday Travel Tips from ART

Experts expect a robust holiday travel season this yearholiday travel, with full planes and crowded airports. With gas prices dropping across the country, more families are taking the holiday on the roads, too. About 84 million Americans say they plan to travel over the Christmas/New Year’s season this year, according to a recent American Express Travel Spending and Saving Tracker Survey.

Holidays are also prime time for crooks on the look out for opportunities to trim their own trees with gifts stolen from you. Here are some tips from ART to keep you and your family safer from thieves this holiday travel season.

  • Check the car. Don’t worry about your car leaving you stranded far away from home. Take it to your local auto shop for a quick once over, and make sure your tires are winter ready and properly inflated.
  • Pack a winter safety car kit. This includes an ice scraper, tow rope and jumper cables, sand or cat litter to aid with traction, blankets, flashlights, matches and emergency candles, first aid kit, portable radio, and non-perishable snacks, in case you do get stuck.
  • Leave an itinerary. Should the trip to grandmother’s house, whether by car, train or plane, be delayed, cancelled or rerouted, be sure that someone knows where you’re supposed to be and when. Should the unexpected happen, someone will know when to call out the cavalry.
  • That minor accident could be staged. If you are involved in a minor fender bender, do not get out of the car. Call the police, lower your window slightly and ask the other party to phone the police or follow you to the nearest public area or police station. Some criminals use an accident to get you to stop, get out of the car, and rob you. If you think the accident was staged, call 911 and drive directly to the nearest law enforcement office to report it.
  • Load, hide and unload your stuff before you arrive. By the time you pull into a hotel lot, valet queue, parking garage or any parking spot, everything you plan to leave in the car should already be well stowed and hidden. If you pack valuables in the trunk in full view, you’re broadcasting to crooks exactly where to focus their attention. Put your things in the trunk or other safe compartment before you start the trip and take out only what you’ll need immediately when you arrive.
  • Know what your insurance covers. Call your health and car insurance companies to clarify what your insurance covers when you’re away from home. Don’t get stuck with a big bill should an accident or health emergency cancel plans, either. Consider trip or travel insurance and know what it covers, like trip cancellation and interruption, medical, evacuation, baggage, and flight insurance. Supplemental policies can be added to cover identity theft or political evacuation. Insurance prices can vary dramatically with age is one of the biggest factors affecting the price.

Have a safe and happy holiday travel season!

Armed Response Team Merges With Select Security Systems

Armed Response Team is proud to announce that it has merged with Select Security Systems, another Albuquerque-area home and commercial security company. The name remains the same, and Select Security Systems staff in sales, technical and administrative support will continue to service its current customers under the new company name.

 “I was impressed by the ART model, and saw the value in enhanced service to our customers. We’re excited about the opportunity to offer Select Security Systems customers an even higher level of security service with ART,” says Michael Caldwell, President of Select Security Systems. Caldwell will remain with ART in a sales, customer support and product development capacity.

Bringing Select Security Systems expertise and staff into the company means that soon, ART will be adding fire alarm and suppression systems installation and monitoring to its service menu for businesses. ART remains the only Albuquerque dedicated to installing, monitoring, and most importantly, providing an immediate, armed in-person response to burglar alarms – both commercial and residential.

Watch for more about fire suppression and alarm systems, soon.

Stay Safe On Black Friday

Holiday theftIn two days, the national day of shopping arrives. For some retailers, Black Friday even begins on Thanksgiving night. The holiday shopping season is a great time for rushing to and fro. But another element watching for opportunity to purloin your packages.

Whether or not you’ll be one of one of the thousands searching for bargains, here are some quick tips to keep you, your vehicle and your packages safe from the sticky fingers of holiday Grinches.

  • Even though you are rushed and thinking about a thousand other things, stay alert to your surroundings.
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. If you must, keep cash in your front pocket. Pay for purchases with a check or credit card when possible.
  • Notify the credit card issuer immediately if your credit card is lost, stolen or misused. Keep a record of all of your credit card numbers in a safe place at home.
  • Avoid overloading yourself with packages. It is important to have clear visibility and freedom of motion to avoid mishaps.
  • Put your packages in the trunk of your car. No one wants to return from shopping to find car windows smashed and their presents stolen.
  • Wallet and purse are prime targets of criminals in crowded shopping areas, transportation terminals, bus stops, on buses and other rapid transit. Pay attention.
  • Stolen purses can mean stolen house and car keys. Use separate car and house keys rings. Don’t put your keys in your purse – use a pocket. Never keep your garage door opener on your key ring, either.
  • Use a lockout code on your cell phone. Cell phone theft is way up, and thieves have figured out how to deactivate the GPS locators so you/your cell company can’t find it.

Finally, beware of strangers approaching you for any reason. At this time of year, con artists may try to distract you with the intention of taking your money or belongings. This includes those pesky door-to-door solicitors. So it bears repeating that, with it getting darker earlier (thanks time change), DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR unless you know who is on the other side.

Don’t let the Grinches steal your holiday. Stay safe, from all of us at Armed Response Team.

Fight Crime, Get a Free Month of Service

burglarIt’s no secret that crime is up. Especially property crime. Factor in the police and sheriff’s departments saying they don’t have enough cops and can’t recruit the right people to help protect the community. What do you get? A recipe for stress and worry.

There’s a bright side, though. ART customers have already shined a spotlight on safety. They know that their families, homes and businesses are safer because of ART’s immediate in person armed response to their alarm calls. Any calls – even those caused by the wind, animals or technology glitches (which fortunately don’t happen very often – and we guarantee no false alarm fines, ever).

So pat yourself on the back, and feel proud of yourself. You’ve taken steps to ensure you’re not at risk. ART and its certified law enforcement officers are the first line of defense around your property.

And here’s the even better part. You could get a free month of service from ART. Yep, simply refer someone to ART – a friend, family member, coworker, neighbor. When that person becomes a customer (be sure to remind them to give your name as the referral), you get a month’s service credited to your account. If you’re a pre-paid customer, your credit is extended for a month.

There’s no limit to the number of people you can refer or the number of free months you can earn. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone were as secure as you are?

Fall Check Up & Safety Tips

Fall back and change smoke detector batteriesNext weekend is the end of Daylight Savings, so don’t forget to change your clocks. We use this trick to remember which way to adjust: Spring forward, Fall back.

Speaking of changing the clocks, don’t forget the clock in your alarm panel, too. If you need any help with that, let us know. Changing the clocks is a great time to take a few minutes and change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, as well. These devices could save your life if a fire occurs or carbon monoxide levels rise when you’re at home.

But what about when you’re not at home, or if smoke has already incapacitated you? ART can install smoke and heat detectors that communicate directly to the fire department – whether or not you hear the blast. Yes, these systems continue to have a loud blast to alert you when you’re home. The advantage is that with these automatic devices, there’s no need to dial 911. We can even tie these systems in to your existing alarm system.

While we’re alerting you to safety issues, October is National Cyber Safety Month. You’re viewing this through an internet or cellular device, which opens you up to the risk of potential hackers. In fact, from personal computers, smartphones, and tablets, e-book readers, to working, shopping, and social networking, almost every aspect of our daily lives touches the digital world. Did you know that even when we are not actively using these devices, they are connected to the Internet? And consider just how much information is carried through cyberspace: financial transactions, transportation systems, healthcare records, emergency response systems, personal communications, and more.

And here’s a reminder about scams that have morphed from email to internet devices, too. You probably know this already, but we hope you send this along to someone who might not. Because there are still people every day who read these appeals, and fall for them.

No one is going to receive a large sum of money from a dead Nigerian politician, win a huge lottery from being “randomly selected from a database of email addresses,” make big money from “passive residual income a few hours each day working out of your home,” or has instantly won a (fill in the blank) store gift card. Stay safe online and on your phone, by reporting these emails/texts and never be embarrassed to admit to law enforcement that you were duped.

We encourage you to visit www.staysafeonline.org for more on how to secure your devices and the networks they use.

Dos and Don’ts of Concealed Carry

We meet people who are considering purchasing a handgun. A number of individuals are also considering a concealed carry permit. We asked one of ART’s officers, Mike Guitierrez, who is also a federal firearms instructor and a State of New Mexico firearms safety instructor, a few questions about handguns, firearm safety and the dos and don’ts of concealed carry in New Mexico.

NM Style interview

Click the image to watch the NM Style interview with Mike Gutierrez about his concealed carry course.

Mike’s an excellent trainer and works with everyone from novices to experts. He’s a solid listener and communicator, who asks some hard questions of those considering purchasing a handgun and/or obtaining a concealed carry permit. Because owning a weapon is not a casual proposition, nor should the responsibility be taken lightly.

ART: What do you ask someone interested in your class?

MG: The first thing I ask is, “Why is concealed carry so appealing to you?” We’re an open carry state by law, meaning you can carry gun exposed on your hip without taking a class or license. And you can carry in the car without a concealed carry permit.

ART: Then?

MG: Then I ask, “Are you familiar with your handgun?” Familiarity is fundamental, but proficiency is of key importance. People need to understand whether their actions with the weapon are going to be reasonable and defensible in court of law, if the handgun used in self-defense.

ART: Do you cover this in your class?

MG: Yes. The course for concealed carry that I teach requires, by state statute, 15 hours minimum in areas that cover fundamentals of firing, non-violent conflict resolution techniques, state rules and regulations, and child and home safety.

ART: Is there anything else you’d ask someone?

MG: Yes, I ask, “Why do you want to have a handgun in the community?” We have police and other protections as citizens, so why do you need to possess a firearm and put yourself in a liability situation. Not every individual should possess firearms. I do believe that if you choose to have a firearm, that you understand, respect it, and are able to keep yourself and others safe. People appreciate that.

Once I hear acceptable answers to all these questions, I’ll allow a person in my course, provided they meet the other criteria set by the state: over 21, no felony conviction, no DWI conviction in the last 5 years, no crime of violence within the last 10 years, and no domestic violence conviction at all. Arrests are problematic but not a barrier to getting a concealed carry permit.

ART: Then what?

MG: Then, if someone passes the course with 75% competency in a live fire event where they have to shoot at designated distances, I’ll sign off on their permit. Then the State of New Mexico issues a concealed carry permit.

ART: What other tips do you have for someone considering purchasing a handgun?

MG: If you do find yourself in a situation where you need to fire your weapon, make sure that your actions are reasonable and defensible, and that they were ethical and used a justifiable amount of force. I teach this in the class: using an economy of force. Private citizens are not the military or police. They should use just enough firepower, not an overwhelming amount. If they are ever questioned on how many rounds they fired, they should be able to answer that they used enough to secure themselves or others.

 

For more information on Mike’s firearms safety and permit course, visit http://www.concealedcarrynm.com/