How to Shop Online Safely for the Holidays

Be sure to take precautions when you shop online.

As more and more people turn to the convenience of online shopping for the holidays, make sure you use your common sense. Cyber criminals are usually one step ahead with ways to steal your money and personal information.

Be a savvy online shopper. Here are some tips you can use to avoid becoming a victim of cyber fraud:

·Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) e-mail.

·Make sure sensitive information is encrypted. Before you supply any sensitive information, look for a URL that begins with “https” instead of “http”. This indicates a layer of security. Also look for a padlock or shield icon, which indicates recognized encryption software.

·Use a credit card. Always use a credit card to pay for transactions, rather than a debit card, money order or other forms of “cash.” Credit card companies will provide a certain amount of protection against fraud, eliminating or at least limiting personal liability.

·Use different passwords for different vendors. Don’t use the same password for all your online shopping accounts. If a password is intercepted or stolen from one account, it makes all your other online transactions vulnerable as well.

·Avoid using open networks. Only shop on secure networks and avoid free “open” Wi-Fi networks, where data or shopping habits may be visible to third parties.

·Keep software up-to-date. Make sure your browser and operating software is up-to-date. Attackers are constantly looking for vulnerabilities in operating systems and manufacturers regularly offer updates to eliminate potential weaknesses.

·Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited e-mail.

·Be cautious of e-mail claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders. Scan the attachments for viruses if possible.

·Avoid filling out forms contained in e-mail messages that ask for personal information.

·Watch out for seasonal scams. Be cautious with e-mails claiming to be shipping confirmations or package alerts, particularly if they contain a file attachment. Delete any message from a source that you don’t recognize.

·Always track transactions and shipments through the retailer’s or shipper’s web site. Always compare the link in the e-mail with the link to which you are directed. Determine if they match and will lead you to a legitimate site.

·Log directly onto the official website for the business identified in the e-mail, instead of “linking” to it from an unsolicited e-mail. If the e-mail appears to be from your bank, credit card issuer, or other company you deal with frequently, your statements or official correspondence from the business will provide the proper contact information.

·Contact the actual business that supposedly sent the e-mail to verify if the e-mail is genuine.

·If you are asked to act quickly, or there is an emergency, it may be a scam. Fraudsters create a sense of urgency to get you to act quickly.

·Verify any requests for personal information from any business or financial institution by contacting them using the main contact information.

·Remember if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Fraudsters direct victims, via e-mail, to a spoofed website. A spoofed website is a fake site that misleads the victim into providing personal information, which is routed to the scammer’s computer. Beware of e-mails or text messages that indicate a problem or question regarding your financial or bank accounts. Internet criminals will attempt to direct victims to click a link or call a number to update an account or correct a purported problem. The links may appear to lead you to legitimate websites, but they won’t. Any personal information you share on them could be compromised.

If you are expecting a delivery, the major legitimate delivery service providers, such as UPS or FedEx, do not e-mail customers directly regarding scheduled deliveries. You must have an existing account for this type of communication. Nor will they state when a package has been intercepted or is being temporarily held. E-mails about these issues are phishing scams that can lead to personal information breaches and financial losses. Do not respond to requests for personal information.

Be wary of buying products through classified ads on auction websites. Internet criminals post classified ads, often on auction sites, for products they do not have. They make the scam work by using stolen credit cards. Fraudsters receive your order, and then charge your credit card for the amount of the order. But they use a separate, stolen credit card for the actual purchase. They pocket the purchase price obtained from your credit card, and have the merchant ship the item directly to you. Consequently, an item purchased from an online auction but received directly from the merchant is a strong indication of fraud. Victims of such a scam not only lose the money paid to the fraudster, but may be liable for receiving stolen goods.

When purchasing from an auction site, carefully check the seller’s rating and feedback, along with their number of sales and the dates on which feedback was posted. Be wary of a seller with 100 percent positive feedback, with a low total number of feedback postings, or with all feedback posted around the same date and time.

Fraudsters will also offer reduced or free shipping to auction site customers. As for product delivery, fraudsters posing as legitimate delivery services offer reduced or free shipping to customers through auction sites. They operate their scam by providing fake shipping labels to the victim. The fraudsters do not pay for delivery of the packages. The delivery service providers, therefore, intercept the packages for nonpayment. The victim loses the money paid for the purchase of the product.

It’s safest to purchase gift cards directly from merchants rather than through auction sites or classified ads. If the merchant discovers the card you received from another source was initially fraudulently obtained, the card will be deactivated.


If you have received a suspicious e-mail, file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center:

For more information on e-scams, visit the FBI’s E-Scams and Warnings webpage:

Stressed Out? Trauma-gen is a Helpful Remedy

As a private investigator, I have to deal with the unpredictable daily. My job is highly stressful and too often dangerous. When doing surveillance I must be hyper-vigilant and alert, not knowing what is coming next in volatile, possibly violent situations. I have had to experiment and learn ways to help me process the constant, prolonged stress I experience. In addition to physical exercise, proper diet, one product that helps me immensely to maintain calmness is Trauma-gen, a homeopathic remedy by Seroyal/Genestra.


Trauma-gen acts as a nervous system relaxant and sedative. It can be used in any situation that results in emotional, psychological, surgical or physical shocks to the system. Trauma-Gen can also be used as an anti-inflammatory agent.

Stress leaves its marks on all of us. Daily life is full of hassles, deadlines, frustrations and demands. Chronic stress has become commonplace, ever present. In small doses, it can help you perform under pressure and do your best. But when you’re continually in emergency mode, your mind and body pay the price.

If you feel frazzled and overwhelmed most of the time, it’s really important to bring your nervous system back into balance. Recognize the signs and symptoms of stress and take steps to reduce its harmful effects. Long-term exposure to stress can lead to serious health problems. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body. It can raise blood pressure, suppress the immune system, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, contribute to infertility, and speed up the aging process. Long-term stress can even rewire the brain, thus leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety and depression.

The body can’t distinguish between physical and psychological threats. For example, when you’re stressed over a busy schedule, an argument with a friend, a traffic jam, or unpaid bills, your body reacts the same as if you were facing a life or death situation. If you are faced with demanding responsibilities, your body’s emergency stress response may be “on” most of the time. The more your body’s stress system is activated, the easier it is to turn on, the harder it is to shut off.

Become aware of the stressors in your life. Experiment and find what helps you: whether meditation, exercise, reading, socializing, etc. And consider including Trauma-gen as part of your stress-reduction regimen.

You can buy Trauma-gen here.

Trauma-gen 15ml

Each 10 Drops (0.5ml) Contain:

Black Alder (Alnus glutinosa) Bud Extract (1:20)     8.3 mg

Black Currant (Ribes nigrum) Bud Extract (1:20)     8.3 mg

Hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata) Bud Extract (1:20)     8.3 mg

Adult: Take five drops twice a day, or as recommended by your health care practitioner.

Contraindications:Refer to product label for details.

Available as: 15ml bottle

Suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Invert bottle and shake lightly allowing for drops to fall directly under the tongue or into 1/4 oz of water. To promote drop flow, invert bottle and shake before each use.

Using Digital Forensics to Catch a Cheating Spouse

Use Digital Forensics to Prove Your Case

Shelia knew something was amiss when her husband would close his computer windows when she entered the room. It was just one more thing in a list of behaviors that she found suspicious. Shelia was sure there was evidence on the computer that would either prove her husband’s innocence or guilt, but she just didn’t know how to move forward

Eric started to see an increase in text messages on his mobile phone bill. His wife seemed evasive when he asked about them. Eric suspected that his wife was having an affair, but didn’t know how to proceed.

Act Quickly to Hire an Expert

Ask Questions

The Internet is an endless repository of information. Embarrassing, compromising information can often be remarkably persistent on hard drives, even after being deleted. Keep in mind, however, that electronic information, whether on computers, mobile phones or GPS devices and thumb drives can degrade over time. A computer forensics expert can help by using specialized techniques for the collection, preservation and analysis of electronic data with a view to presenting evidence in a court of law. Your best recourse is to hire a computer forensics expert sooner rather than later. Be prepared with the right questions:

  1. Is your forensic service licensed? In some states there may be a licensing requirement. Texas, for one, now requires forensics analysts to be licensed private investigators.
  2. Do you use forensically sound tools and methods that will hold up in court? Computer forensic services must use write blockers, mobile phone collection hardware and also software accepted by the industry to be accepted in court.
  3. Do you have the capability to collect evidence on site? There is usually only a short window of time to gather evidence from a device such as a phone or computer. The ability to go to the device rather than have it delivered to an office location is an important requirement.
  4. How will you handle and store the evidence you gather? Expert forensic service providers understand the importance of the evidence “chain of custody”. If they cannot explain how they will safeguard that vital chain of custody to insure the evidence admissible, look for another service.
  5. What will you deliver to me? At a minimum a forensic examination should include:
  • Proper Chain of Custody
  • Imaging and Verification of Original Media
  • Detailed Examination
  • Documentation of Findings
  • Preparation of Examination Report
  • Provide Report of Analysis and Findings to client

Target the Evidence You Need

Collecting electronic forensic evidence can be expensive and time consuming. Work with your attorney and private investigator to determine which kind of evidence will best advance your case and work within your budget. Forensic service providers call this process “triage”. Here are some sources of evidence you may want to consider:

  1. Computers – An obvious choice, but if the subject of investigation has a “reasonable expectation of privacy” with respect to the information on the computer, it may not be legal to gather the evidence. Your attorney or private investigator can answer this question. Note also there are social techniques for gaining access to the computer. It may be as simple as asking.
  2. Mobile Phones – Much useful information can be gathered from mobile phones these days. Chat sessions, recent calls and even GPS locations can be collected depending on your specific situation. Collecting and analyzing the mobile phone image can be expensive, but yield helpful information.
  3. GPS devices – Often overlooked, GPS devices can have recent trips, favorite locations and other information stored on them.
  4. USB Storage devices – Don’t overlook these small devices. Files can be recovered long after they are deleted. Information can be collected to show how and when the device was used.
  5. Digital Cameras – Digital pictures often hold revealing information such as time, date and even on some models GPS location!
  6. Other items – Depending on the sophistication of the subject being investigated, evidence can be hidden on Digital Video Recorders (DVRs such as Tivo), voice recorders, game consoles.

Be Smart about How You Collect Information

Small things can make the difference in evidence collection. In investigating infidelity, you play an instrumental role in selecting and collecting the information you need to support your case. To be successful, you must be smart about how this is done. Here are some tips to follow:

  1. Do not confront your spouse. Confrontation or similar provocative actions can be cues to your spouse that he or she needs to erase accounts, files or other digital information that points to his or her guilt. Resist the urge to confront. Work closely with your attorney and private investigator according to a plan that will get you results.
  2. Request access, but don’t push. Even brief access to your spouse’s computer can overcome the reasonable expectation of privacy your spouse has with his or her computer. This access can then demonstrate you have the legal right in the future to have a forensic analyst collect the information on the computer on your behalf without his or her knowledge. So if you suspect your spouse’s computer holds evidence, speak to your spouse and request access, but don’t push too hard, as this could raise suspicion.
  3. Have a computer forensic expert gather a complete image of the computer. This is more involved that just copying the hard drive and all files. A full image of the computer can potentially reveal what has been deleted, what search terms used and more. At your court date a judge will rule whether this evidence is admissible. If the judge rules in your favor, the complete computer image can then be entered into evidence. The computer hard drive image can then be analyzed. Consult with an attorney for the particulars regarding the law.
  4. Select the best opportunity to collect data. Computers and other electronic equipment have very large data capacity. This increases your chance of recovering useful information, but it also potentially takes a much longer time to gather a full image of the computer. The best case would allow enough time to remove the main disk from the computer and transport it to the forensics lab for duplication. Once copied, it can then be returned. The second choice would be to collect the information on site, but this can take many hours to complete and be more expensive.
  5. Provide your forensic analyst with key words that will help in the search for evidence. The more you know about the information you need, the easier it will be to find on the source. For instance, a name, email address or hotel name could be the difference between a long exhaustive search and finding evidence quickly. If you are working with a private investigator, he or she may be able to help you to develop key words to help narrow your search.

Consult an attorney if you have specific questions.

Note: Always use great care when dealing with electronic evidence. If it is gathered incorrectly, you may be breaking laws and/or it may not be usable in court.

Elder Abuse…What to Do and How to Report It

No one should be abused. Not physically, verbally, neglected or harmed in any way. Everyone has the right to feel safe and secure. Elder abuse is a crime. Protection is a right due to everyone. If you or someone you know is being abused, report it. As elders become more physically frail, they’re less able to stand up to bullying and or fight back if attacked. Every year more than 500,000 cases of elder abuse are reported, and, in all likelihood, millions more go unreported. As people grow older, they become more and more dependent on family and other caregivers around them. This dependence leaves them vulnerable. They may not see or hear as well or think as clearly as they used to. Their mental or physical ailments may require increased patience and tolerance from caregivers. If your have an elder in your family, you should be aware of elder abuse and its warning signs.

What is elder abuse?

Elder abuse refers to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to an older adult.

Who are the abusers of older people?

Family members are most often the perpetrators of elder abuse, most commonly a spouse, followed by adult children. Neglect is the most common form of abuse perpetrated by family members.

Who is at risk?

While elder abuse happens across the social spectrum. Social isolation and mental impairment (such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease) are two factors that may make an older person more vulnerable to abuse. In some situations, studies show that living with someone else (a caregiver or a friend) may increase the chances for abuse to occur. A history of domestic violence may also make a senior more susceptible to abuse.

Types of Abuse

Physical Abuse

Inflicting, or threatening to inflict, physical pain or injury, or depriving a person of basic needs.

  • Unexplained signs of injury such as bruises, welts, or scars, especially if they appear symmetrically on two side of the body
  • Broken bones, sprains, or dislocations
  • Report of drug overdose or apparent failure to take medication regularly (a prescription has more remaining than it should)
  • Broken eyeglasses or frames
  • Signs of being restrained, such as rope marks on wrists
  • Caregiver’s refusal to allow you to see the elder alone

Emotional Abuse

Inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal and non-verbal acts.

  • Threatening, belittling, or controlling caregiver behavior that you witness
  • Behavior from the elder that mimics dementia, such as rocking, sucking, or mumbling to oneself

Sexual Abuse

Non-consensual sexual contact of any kind.

  • Bruises around breasts or genitals
  • Unexplained venereal disease or genital infections
  • Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding
  • Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing


Refusal, or failure by those responsible, to provide food, shelter, health care or protection for an elder adult.

  • Unusual weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration
  • Untreated physical problems, such as bed sores
  • Unsanitary living conditions: dirt, bugs, soiled bedding and clothes
  • Being left dirty or unbathed
  • Unsuitable clothing or covering for the weather
  • Unsafe living conditions (no heat or running water; faulty electrical wiring, other fire hazards)
  • Desertion of the elder at a public place


The desertion of an elderly person by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.

Fraud and Exploitation

Illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds property, or assets of an elder person.  For more about fraud against the elderly,

Healthcare Fraud and Abuse

  • Duplicate billings for the same medical service or device
  • Evidence of overmedication or undermedication
  • Evidence of inadequate care when bills are paid in full
  • Problems with the care facility:
    – Poorly trained, poorly paid, or insufficient staff
    – Crowding
    – Inadequate responses to questions about care

What should you do if an elder is being abused?

Report it. Elder abuse is a crime. If you suspect elder abuse in any situation, whether it’s in a private home or a residential or medical facility, the most important thing you can do to help is report it. Many victims of elder abuse feel shame and fear, and may not be able to report elder abuse themselves.

Call the police or 9-1-1 immediately if someone you know is in immediate danger.

You also can call the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116. At this number you can find help and referrals to a local agency who can give you guidance.

If the danger is not immediate, but you suspect that abuse has occurred or is occurring, please tell someone. Relay your concerns to the local adult protective services, long-term care ombudsman, or police. For a list of reporting numbers go to this important link: Where to Report Abuse.

When You Call to Report Elder Abuse have this information ready:

  1. Your name and contact information, but if you prefer to remain anonymous you can still report elder abuse
  2. The elder’s name, address and contact information
  3. What types of support the elder has (including family, doctor or other medical workers, friends, and health care workers who could be helpful)
  4. Details about why you suspect elder abuse or are concerned about the possibility of elder abuse, including physical evidence (bruises, burns), hitting, yelling, poor nutrition or other threats to the elderly

Links and Resources

National Center on Elder Abuse The Eldercare Locator, public service of the Administration on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is a nationwide service that connects older Americans and their caregivers with information on senior services. The Eldercare Locator is designed to help older adults and their families and caregivers find their way through the maze of services for seniors by identifying trustworthy local support resources. The goal is to provide users with the information and resources they need that will help older persons live independently and safely in their homes and communities for as long as possible.

The Eldercare Locator, public service of the Administration on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is a nationwide service that connects older Americans and their caregivers with information on senior services.

Call the Eldercare Locator toll-free at 1-800-677-1116. Monday through Friday 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM (ET).

Frequently Asked Questions Answers to 12 key questions about elder abuse. See Basics and other site links at left on page for additional information.

National Domestic Violence Hotline for Anonymous & Confidential Help 24/7
The hotline provides support counseling for victims of domestic violence and provides links to 2,500 local support services for abused women. The hotline operates 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Call 1-800-799-7233 or (TTY) 1-800-787-3224

Guide to Senior Living: State-by-State Options

Stop Medicare Fraud

How to Deal with Password Fatigue


Password fatigue. We all have it. We need to remember too many passwords. The average Internet user today has 40 personal and professional accounts requiring user names and passwords, according to PriceWaterhouseCoopers. To make life easier for ourselves, we choose passwords that are easy to remember, like our pets’ names, for example. Over half of the consumers it interviewed used the same user name and password for all or most of the sites they visit, Jupiter Research found.

We know what we’re supposed to do. Make them cryptic, and change them regularly. But strong passwords­­—those that contain upper and lower case letters, numbers and punctuation—are a lot harder for us to remember than, say, our cat’s name. It isn’t surprising that we turn to Fluffy as our source of inspiration.

How do passwords get stolen? Robert Graham, CEO of Errata Security, explains that we can get hit with either online or offline attacks. In online attacks, hackers try to log on pretending to be you and guess your password. Unless you’ve chosen something extremely easy to guess, such as asdfg, this isn’t usually a problem, because online systems automatically lock your account after several attempts.

Offline password hacking, Graham says, is another story. When hackers break into a system to steal the encrypted password file or eavesdrop on an encrypted exchange across the Internet, they are then free to decrypt the passwords without anybody stopping them.

Graham’s facts are eye-openers. Hackers have programs that can guess passwords at the rate of 1 billion guesses a second. With passwords composed of letters, numbers, and symbols, a five-character password will have 10 billion combinations. This means hackers can guess a five-character password in only 10 seconds. But things quickly get more difficult for hackers:

5 characters = 10 seconds
6 characters = 1,000 seconds
7 characters = 1 day
8 characters = 115 days
9 characters = 31 years
10 characters = 3,000 years

It is obvious that we need long and complex passwords. While hackers can usually crack anything with seven characters or fewer, they are unlikely to decrypt passwords that are nine characters or longer. Passwords should also contain uppercase and lowercase, numbers, and symbols. According to Graham, that makes 100 possible combinations for each character. Lowercase passwords have only 26 combinations per character. A hacker can guess an all-lowercase password of 10 characters in about two days.

Hackers have another trick up their collective sleeve: the mutated dictionary attack. As Graham explains it, a large password like “Aardvark-Zebra9” is a longer password than hackers would be able to discover by brute force. But Hackers get around this with a dictionary attack. It involves trying to match passwords with words in a dictionary, instead of trying all combinations of characters. Hackers then mutate the words that reflect the common alterations (mutations) people make to passwords.

When we try to make their passwords complex, we usually do something simple to them. Instead of choosing the just michael, we will make it michael! . Putting an exclamation mark at the end of a password is one of the most common mutations people choose. Hackers know this.

When devising your passwords, consider this list of common mutations that hackers will try to dictionary words:

  • Capitalizing the first letter of a word
  • Checking all combinations of upper/lowercase for words
  • Inserting a number randomly in the word
  • Putting numbers on the ends of words
  • Putting numbers on the beginning of words
  • Putting the same pattern at both ends, like *foobar*;
  • Replacing letters like “o” and “l” with numbers like “0” and “1”
  • Punctuating the end of words
  • Duplicating the first letter, or all letters in the word
  • Combining two words together
  • Putting punctuation or space between the words

Hackers don’t choose only words in English, but also in Spanish, French and German. They also choose words from pop culture, like xbox360 or Britney Spears.

Here’s an example Graham gives: If they know who you are, they will find words particular to you. Let’s say your name is John Smith, you drive a BMW, you work for Microsoft, and you like to watch The Office. A hacker will Google these terms and create wordlists from the resulting Web pages. Thus, Carell325i seems like a fine 10-character password to defeat hackers, but it will get cracked in only a few minutes by a hacker who knows you.

Devising strong, secure passwords doesn’t have to give you a migraine.

So how do you choose an effective password? Increase the complexity of elements hackers have to check. This will make it less likely they will guess your password. They will check for numbers on the ends of passwords, but as long as you’ve chosen something like your birthdate instead of 1234, it’s something likely to be missed.

Including just one international character, like a vowel with an umlaut, will defeat most password crackers. Typing long phrases instead of words will also help. In theory, it should be easy to guess “Twas as a dark and stormy night” as a pass phrase, but hackers won’t catch it.

On the other hand, the more complex you make your password, the harder it will be for you to type it. Try to create something that you can comfortably type.

For managing and remembering your passwords, consider a password manager. When you create a password, store it in a password manager to keep it safe and encrypted. To generate effective passwords, use a password generator. Dozens of good password management and generator tools are available.

Check out Google’s directory list of password management and password generator options.

Try to generate a random password of bytes converted to hex or straight digits.

The Associative Word List Generator is a tool that generates a list of words relevant to some subjects, by scouring the Internet.

Roman Lab Software’s Any Password is a free, easy-to-use download that encrypts and stores all of your passwords and user names in a simple tree format.

KeePassis a free/open-source password managerhelps you to manage your passwords in a secure way. You can put all your passwords in one database, which is locked with one master key or a key-disk

Test the strength of your passwords at Password Checker.

Source: Robert Graham


Selling a Vehicle? Here’s How to Transfer the Title…

Seller, Do You Know What to Do?

Your vehicle and its title have one thing in common. They both require maintenance. When you buy or sell a used vehicle, but neglect to properly handle the necessary paperwork, you may find yourself liable, fined or penalized for the buyer’s mistakes while driving a vehicle whose title is still in your name.

An auto title is a legal certificate of ownership issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). It lists the current owner’s name and address, the make, model and year of the vehicle, and the first date sold. Whenever a vehicle is sold, traded in or given away, the vehicle’s title must be reassigned to its new owner.

Texas state law requires a vehicle to be titled in the buyer’s name within 20 business days of its sale. However, not all sellers and buyers comply with this requirement, causing many thousands of vehicles to remain titled in the names of the sellers.

Without properly transferring the title, the seller could be held responsible for tickets, toll violations, accident liability of the buyer, or could even have property seized if the vehicle was used to commit a crime after the date of sale. A fresh auto title is prepared by the DMV and mailed to the new owner, listing the buyer as the current owner. Even if you are just giving the car to a family member, the process to transfer the car title in Texas is still the same.

What can you do to protect yourself? Knowing and following the rules for vehicle title transfers is the best protection.

How to Transfer the Title of the Vehicle You Are Selling

You must hand over the vehicle’s title to the buyer. Sign and date the title. Write in the buyer’s name, as well as the purchase price. You, as seller, should write down, also, the current odometer reading, unless the vehicle is 10 or more years old, rated by the manufacturer with a carrying capacity of two tons or more, or if it’s gross vehicle weight rating exceeds 16,000 pounds.

Give the buyer the vehicle’s latest registration receipt. If you cannot find it, you can get a copy from your county tax office. Locate your county tax office.

Complete the Application for Texas Certificate of Title, Form 130-U. The buyer needs this form to apply for a new title in his or her name. The seller will list the odometer reading, VIN and sales price. Both parties must sign Form 130-U and list their addresses. If you are giving the car to someone, put $0.00 for the sales price and select “Gift Tax $10.00.” The tax amount will be $10.00. Keep for your records the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) from the title and the buyer’s contact information. If there is a lien on the car, you will enter on Form 130-U the first lien date and when the security agreement was signed by the financial institution or individual financing the vehicle. Also include the lienholder’s name and address.

It’s a good idea to accompany the buyer to the county tax office just to be sure your name is officially removed from the title. To complete the vehicle title transfer, both the buyer and seller should take the necessary documentation to the tax office. Locate your county tax office.

Remember to take to your local county tax office:

·completed Application for Texas Certificate of Title, form 130-U

·registration receipt


·proof of insurance for buyer

Remove your license plates from the vehicle. You can transfer them to your next vehicle. Removing your plates will force the buyer to re-title the sold vehicle in his or her name, which protects you. Also, be sure to remove your windshield registration sticker.

If you can’t make it to the county tax office, or if you are not sure the buyer will follow through, you must submit a Vehicle Transfer Notification. The Vehicle Transfer Notification will help protect you as seller, and might save you the hassle of proving that you weren’t the vehicle’s owner when it was parked in a red zone. You, as seller, have only 30 days to remove liability. This lets TxDOT know you no longer own the vehicle, and removes you from being held liable for anything the new owner may do with the vehicle. This form must be submitted to your County Tax Office. See options for Vehicle Transfer Notification.

Try to get a receipt as proof that you transferred your title. A Bill of Sale signed by both you and the buyer should be sufficient. You, as seller, are not required to submit a Bill of Sale at the time of sale and transfer, but it is helpful in providing extra documentation.


Vehicle Title FAQs

Texas Department of Transportation Website

Download Texas Certificate of Title, Form 130-U

Texas County Tax Offices

Download Vehicle Transfer Notification

Vehicle Transfer Notification Options


Stop the Madness, Stop Telemarketers

It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way

We’ve all been caught off guard. We answer the phone not knowing who’s calling, only to be irritated and disturbed once again by a telemarketer.

The law is on your side. It takes less than five minutes to register your phone numbers on the national Do-Not-Call Registry. It’s free. You can register residential and cell numbers.  The list is nationwide and applies to all telemarketers, with the exception of some non-profit organizations. It also covers both interstate and intrastate telemarketing calls.

Commercial telemarketers are prohibited from calling any number on the registry.
There is some confusion about whether you need to re-register after five years or not.

Register Free for the National Do-Not-Call List
•    Internet at
•    Telephone at call 1-888-382-1222, for TTY call 1-866-290-4236.  You must call from the phone number you wish to register.

Did you know?
•    The national Do-Not-Call list protects home or personal wireless phone numbers only.
•    Telemarketers and sellers are required to search the registry at least once every 31 days and drop from their call lists the phone numbers of consumers who have registered.
•    Telemarketers are required to transmit Caller ID information and may not block their numbers. The display must include a phone number that you can call during regular business hours to ask that the company no longer call you, even if you have an established business relationship with the company, and even if you have not registered your numbers on the national Do-Not-Call list.
•    Telephone solicitation calls to your home before 8 am or after 9 pm are prohibited.
•    Anyone making a telephone solicitation call to your home must provide a name, or the name of the entity on whose behalf the call is being made, as well as a telephone number or address at which you may contact that entity.

When you receive telephone solicitation calls, clearly state that you want to be added to the caller’s Do-Not-Call list. You may want to keep a list of those persons or businesses that you have asked not to call you. Tax-exempt non-profit organizations are not required to keep Do-Not-Call lists.

Even if you are not registered on the Do-Not-Call list, the government requires a person or business placing voice telephone solicitations to your home to maintain a record of your direct request to that particular caller not to receive future telephone solicitations.

But save yourself time and aggravation. Register on the national list. Unless your phone numbers are registered on the national Do-Not-Call list, you must make a separate Do-Not-Call request to each telemarketer from whom you do not wish to receive calls.

The national Do-Not-Call registry does not cover the following calls:
•    from organizations with which you have established a business relationship, unless you specifically ask them not to call you
•    for which you have given prior written permission
•    which are not commercial
•    by or on behalf of tax-exempt non-profit organizations

See If Your State has a Do-Not-Call List
For contact information for your state public service commission, go to You can also find contact information for these offices in the blue pages or government section of your local telephone directory.

File a Complaint
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) can issue warning citations and impose fines against companies violating the Do-Not-Call rules, but does not award individual damages. If you receive a telephone solicitation that you think violates any of these rules, you can file a complaint with the FCC. There is no charge for filing a complaint.

To file a complaint:
•    Online,
•    E-mail,
•    Telephone, 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322), or 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322) TTY
•    Fax, 1-866-418-0232
•    In writing
Federal Communications Commission
Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries & Complaints Division
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554

For more FCC Consumer Facts, go to

Who Is Coming into Your Home?

Investigators in Ohio were searching for a convicted sexual predator. Warrants were issued after he failed to register his address. A tip to Crime Stoppers got the subject arrested. He had been working for a subcontractor used by a local carpet company. Det. Brian Kratzer, Wilmington, Ohio Police: “He’d be in houses where you’d have pictures of your family…he’s installing carpet…looking at the pictures of the family… maybe kids left home alone, older teenagers, it would definitely be alarming, a guy who’s a…sex predator is coming and going out of your house.”

There are many stories like this, but thankfully they are exception rather than the rule. However, whenever you deal with people you don’t know, you must think first about your safety.

What if you are undertaking a remodel, getting new drywall, new floors, new wiring, repainting? All of this work would mean a continual presence from contractors, subcontractors and their workers. Is your contractor able to guarantee all these people are trustworthy? A worker with criminal intent could return after hours. While working inside the house, he could scope out the scene, leave windows unlocked in order to return later to commit a robbery.

Even if you are not having major work done, consider the many people you let into your home routinely: appliance repair technicians, electricians, carpet cleaners, plumbers, movers, installers, delivery people. Most of them are hardworking people trying to do a good job, but for the sake of your safety it is necessary to know who is coming into your home.

How do you choose the people who will do work for you? Do you shop around for the cheapest deal or quote, even if it means the workers are not licensed? You might be home alone while the work is proceeding. You might pay in cash. These are mistakes, unless you can completely trust the people you have hired.

Is anyone legally responsible for checking out employees who are sent out to do work? In a word, no. There is no law requiring companies to conduct criminal background checks, but many companies do it on their own.

In 2004, a carpet installer, working as a subcontractor for Home Depot robbed a Clermont County, Ohio couple, after making a delivery to their home. Large companies use subcontractors because it’s cheaper and they can avoid paying taxes and workers’ compensation. In a good development, however, Home Depot in 2004 centralized their system for doing background checks. Every subcontractor now goes through an extensive check process. They also periodically recheck them once they’re hired. Last year, the company ran more than 70,000 background checks on subcontractors.

The Internet now makes it easy to find workers online. People often post on sites such as Craigslist looking for a handyman. Should you hesitate when someone responds by asking for your address to come and give an estimate? Yes. Before proceeding, take precautions. Remember, you can’t be too safe.

10 Ways to Be Safer with Workers in Your Home

1. If using a company, ask whether it conducts background checks on employees or subcontractors.
2. Make sure there is someone with you when the handyman comes to discuss work or to give an estimate. Don’t lead a stranger to believe you live alone.
Ask to see an ID or a business card. No one should show up to your home unexpectedly.
3. Ask friends and neighbors to refer people whose work they have been satisfied with.
4. Check and verify licensing and credentials. Although many handymen are not licensed, it doesn’t mean they don’t do good work. But for electrical and jobs requiring a permit, it’s best to use a licensed/bonded contractor.
5. Check with the Better Business Bureau in your area to see if there are any complaints registered.
6. Get references. Plural. Call each and ask about job performance and work history. If you are hiring a remodeling contractor or builder, go to see past jobs. Ask to see a portfolio of before and after photos. If possible, speak in person with past clients who live in your area.
7. Ask your contractor specifically about his subcontractors: how long have they been working for him, will he vouch for their dependability and be available to address any complaints.
8. Get a full background check, if you will be entrusting your contractor with a major job for a major amount of money. A civil background check will reveal if there have been any lawsuits or judgments filed. You might want the reassurance of a criminal background check as well.
9. Always put your contract in writing specifying exactly what is expected of this person. Include a clause about what will happen if the contractor fails to do the work properly and to specifications.
10. Make sure the person you hire can be contacted easily. Be sure you have access to contact information: a cell phone number, an email address, a pager number. Your contractor or worker always should return your communications in a timely manner.

Rate Your Date on the Truth-O-Meter

You’ve met someone. It’s been great. You’re thinking this could lead to something. But you’ve been hearing a soft, steady voice in your ear. Something is slightly off. But you’re not exactly sure what. You want to trust the new person is your life. But can you really?


You should feel secure, safe and be able to believe your significant other is telling the truth. Has he told you he isn’t married? Or you suspect he or she might be older than they are saying. Don’t ignore your hunches.




You should be suspicious if your date:

  • Seems too good to be true
  • Acts secretive regarding the past
  • Gives expensive gifts too early in the relationship
  • Asks for money or the use of credit cards
  • Is too adamant about particular ideas or beliefs
  • Claims ex-spouse is deceased
  • Can never meet during weekends
  • Asks not to be contacted by telephone
  • Has not intruduced you to co-workers, friends, family
  • Has been caught in a lie, no matter how small
  • Your intuition suggests something “doesn’t add up”
  • Blames others for problems

Today you don’t have to expose yourself to the unscrupulous or criminal. Put your doubts to rest by getting a background check from a private investigator, from a real person who does the legwork necessary to deliver current and accurate information. It can mean the difference between starting off on a solid foundation or suffering grave hurt and disappointment.

Using a private investigator is the most reliable way available to insure your results are current, accurate and complete.

What about using the online investigation services? Those services that offer background checks for about $75?

The results from online investigations cannot be guaranteed to be accurate or up-to-date, and are often incomplete. For example, not all public safety agencies are mandated to report their data online. Some agencies do, others don’t. The only way to access data from those non-reporting agencies is in person, by telephone or in writing. A check of public databases by an investigation service doing only online searches would be incomplete.

Another example, without an accurate list of past addresses, you wouldn’t know which counties to call to check financial information such as bankruptcies, liens or judgments. Online search results of past addresses are often culled from only phone records. These results are often incomplete.

A private investigator can put a list of past addresses together from credit data, mail delivery, insurance premiums information, not just past phone numbers.

Put your doubts to rest and your mind at ease. A private investigator can deliver a comprehensive background investigation that is current, accurate and complete for about $250.

A private investigator can guarantee complete and current results that verify

• Address for the past ten years
• Date of birth
• Bankruptcy, tax liens and judgments
• Warrants
• Sex offender status
• Civil court actions concerning name change, divorce, domestic abuse and child support
• Criminal misdemeanor or felony court actions for drug dealing, theft, rape or murder


We often are asked if fault such as infidelity or domestic violence can affect the outcome of a divorce. And if so, how?

Though Texas is a community property state, it is not a 50/50 division state. The manner in which property is divided is left to the discretion of the court. The court has the authority to award one side more or less, depending on various factors, including, but not limited to, infidelity or cruelty, the earning power of the spouses, and the role of primary caregiver of the child or children.

In Texas adultery is not a crime. You cannot be prosecuted for adultery; however, adultery can affect custody issues and issues such as spousal support and division of property. The court will definitely consider adultery and its repercussions.

Regarding custody, the court will examine the extent of the adultery and how it has affected the child. Since custody is determined on the basis of the child’s best interest, the court will focus on the way the misconduct affects the child.

The court will look into the following factors:

  • Whether the physical, psychological, or emotional needs and development of the child will benefit from joint custody
  • The ability of the parents to give first priority to the welfare of the child and reach shared decisions in the child’s best interest
  • Whether each parent can encourage and accept a positive relationship between the child and the other parent.
  • Whether both parents participated in child rearing before filing for divorce
  • How close to each other the parents live
  • The child’s preference, if the child is age 12 or older
  • Any other relevant factors