Some Verizon Customers Getting Spam Texts From Their Own Numbers; Carrier Says It’s Working With US Law Enforcement To Find Those Responsible

If you’re a Verizon customer who’s been getting mysterious spam text messages that look like they come from your own phone number, you’re not alone. Multiple Verizon customers have reported receiving similar messages this week, in which they’re encouraged to click an obscure link to receive a gift. The carrier says it’s working with police to stop the texts.

“Verizon is aware that bad actors are sending spam text messages to some customers which appear to come from the customers’ own number,” a Verizon representative said in an emailed statement. “Our team is actively working to block these messages, and we have engaged with US law enforcement to identify and stop the source of this fraudulent activity.”

A relative of a CNET team member got a text that matched the description of similar messages that were received by other Verizon customers and have been called out in social media and news reports. “Free Msg: Your bill is paid for March,” the message said. “Thanks, here’s a little gift for you.” The message included a cryptic link that made it impossible to know what it was about.

In some cases, the links in these texts direct people to what looks like a prompt to take a Verizon customer survey. “Dear Verizon customer, we would like to personally thank you for always paying your Verizon bills on time by giving you a Free Apple Watch Series7!” the message says. “All we ask from you is to answer a few quick questions about your recent experiences with Verizon’s services.” The message ends with a link to take the survey, encouraging the recipient to take it as soon as possible because “this exciting offer is only available today.”

The uptick in spam messages that mobile phone users are receiving comes after the US government doubled down on its fight against robocalls. Last year, the US Federal Communications Commission mandated that phone and cable companies implement a technology called Stir/Shaken that’s designed to curb the tide of spam calls by requiring voice providers to verify where calls are coming from. The move has, however, led criminals to explore other avenues to keep trying to scam mobile phone users.

“Stir/Shaken has shut down one avenue,” Clayton LiaBraaten, senior advisory board member at Truecaller, which makes a spam-blocking and caller ID app, told CNET in December. “But it’s making already very capable criminals even more sophisticated and sinister in their scams.”

A Verizon customer who received a spam message almost identical to the one received by the CNET employee’s relative posted about it in December on the Verizon Community blog, wondering if the message and link were some sort of phishing attempt. “We cannot confirm it is a valid link” a Verizon customer support representative said in a reply to the post. “We recommend not pressing on it.”

Spam texts like these are one of many forms of phishing, where hackers make use of human error to gain access to sensitive information, typically by preying on gaps in a victim’s tech savvy. Instead of a brute force attack, the cybercriminal poses as a legitimate organization or a familiar face — in this case texts from a victim’s own phone number — and issues a call to action that sounds either fun or urgent (which gives victims little time to think twice). Hackers can use a technique called “spoofing” to disguise their identity by deliberately falsifying the information transmitted to your caller ID display.

After you’re lured into a false sense of security and take the bait, the phisher nets your sensitive information. Phishing attempts aren’t exclusive to mobile phonesThey can be disguised as quizzes or questionnaires on social media, too, with questions designed to trick you into revealing info you might use to verify your accounts.

If you receive a mysterious text message encouraging you to click on a link, verify the origin of the message before taking any further action, even if the contact seems legitimate — including your own phone number. 

Source: CNET

Pepsi And IHOP Are Teaming Up For A Breakfast-Inspired Soda

Pepsi has teamed up with breakfast giant IHOP to create an all-new soda designed for the early mornings. On Thursday, the cola maker announced plans for a maple syrup-inspired beverage that boasts the same classic refreshment of a Pepsi but with a definitively IHOP twist.

So if you’ve ever sucked down a Pepsi right alongside your brunch pancakes and thought, “Now this is a combo,” you’re in luck! On March 24, Pepsi kicked off the sweepstakes on social media, giving fans the chance to win their own six-pack. While Pepsi Maple Syrup will not be joining retailers (yet, at least—you can never say never), you can post a photo or video of your stacks online alongside the hashtag #ShowUsYourStack, #PepsiSweepstakes, and @IHOP. Then, 2,000 winners will have a chance to try the first-of-its-kind flavor.

“There is truly nothing quite like the indulgent taste of Pepsi Maple Syrup Cola—sweet maple syrup blended with the refreshing taste of Pepsi cola. We couldn’t be more excited to partner with IHOP on this special initiative, as it isn’t often we get to bring together two iconic brands to satisfy the cravings of pancake and Pepsi lovers alike,” Chief Marketing Officer for Pepsi Todd Kaplan said in a press release. “We can’t wait to celebrate those who have an unapologetic love of pancakes by giving the limited-edition cans to 2,000 fans who #ShowUsYourStack online.” 

Pepsi Maple Syrup Cola—which we can only assume tastes exactly how it sounds—follows similar innovations from the drink manufacturer, including a Peeps-inspired PepsiPepsi Apple Pie, and Pepsi x Cracker Jack.

“At IHOP we celebrate our history of bringing folks together and providing a sense of togetherness, belonging and joy when they dine with us,” chief marketing officer for IHOP Kieran Donahue added in the release. “We are thrilled to partner with Pepsi to have some fun and create a moment for our guests to bring home an additional source of happiness with this limited-edition Pepsi Maple Syrup Cola.” 

Source: Thrillist

How I Became A Texan Muslim (Religion Documentary)

In the wake of the terrible events of 9/11, anger and suspicion about Islam and its teachings spread throughout the United States. For a few Americans, these events led to an awakening to the rich traditions of this major world religion. Curiosity turned to admiration of a faith that in its core offers peace and solace. How would these converts adjust to life as strangers in their own hometowns?

“You Can Steal Our Images, But You’ll Never Steal Our Taste” — KFC Launches ‘ChickenStock.Net’ Image Library For Others To Steal Their High-Resolution Photos, For Free

Success invites imitation, and there is little doubt that international QSR brand Kentucky Fried Chicken—or KFC if brevity is more your thing—has ruled the roost when it comes to tasty morsels of deep-fried poultry and sides. So many copycats have hatched over the years that KFC has decided to address the phenomenon again with a cheeky website called Chicken Stock.

Styled after popular stock photography websites, Chicken Stock offers free-to-use high-resolution images of KFC’s menu items. On Chicken Stock’s about page, the QSR brand explained that it had noticed many competitors using fuzzy, pixelated pictures of its signature chicken. Rather than let its food get poorly represented, they’re making available quality photography. KFC explains that “even though they [competitors] can borrow our pictures, they will never borrow our taste.”

It’s not the first time KFC has used copycats to remind folks of the real deal, made with a secret blend of 11 herbs and spices. In 2019, the brand ran its “Guys, we’re flattered” campaign that featured a clever poster composed of different imitators’ store signs arranged alphabetically, in addition to TV advertising.

While the Colonel takes no umbrage with all the Kentucky Fake Chickens, there is a limit, of course. In 2013, the brand threatened to take legal action against a Thailand restaurant with a trade dress styled after KFC’s that replaced Sanders with Adolf Hitler.

Source: The Dieline

Your Earthquake Kit Should Include Cash. But How Much?

Dear Liz: In these uncertain times, I decided I need to have cash on hand. I withdrew $500 in small bills from the bank and put it in a fireproof pouch. Is there a recommended amount of cash one should have available for emergencies?

Answer: The appropriate amount depends on how much you spend and how paranoid you are.

Many financial planners recommend storing a few hundred dollars somewhere safe in your home in case a widespread electrical outage — after an earthquake, for instance — affects ATMs and point-of-sale devices. The idea is that you’ll want enough cash to cover spending for a few days until the power comes back on. Smaller denominations are better than larger ones because you may have trouble finding anyone to give change for $50 or $100 bills.

Emergency preparedness sites tend to recommend storing even larger amounts — $1,000 to $3,000, or whatever you would need — in case access to ATMs and credit cards was affected for a few weeks.

Obviously, storing cash has its perils. The money could be lost, stolen or destroyed in a disaster. You’ll have to weigh those risks against the possibility of needing the cash, and make your own call.

Dear Liz: You mentioned in a recent column that people should check estate plans created before 2010 because they might contain bypass trusts that are no longer needed. The classic AB Trust, although not necessary now for the estate tax exemption for most people, still can be useful if one spouse wants to ensure her half of the estate goes as she desires if she is the first to die.

Answer: Possibly, but people should make the decision proactively by having their estate plan reviewed and discussing their options with an experienced attorney, since these trusts have some significant disadvantages.

Bypass, or AB, trusts were a routine part of estate planning even for middle-income couples when the estate tax exemption limit was just $675,000. When the first spouse died, a portion of the couple’s assets went into an irrevocable trust that would avoid estate taxes when the surviving spouse died. Because the trust was irrevocable, the surviving spouse couldn’t change its terms and had limited access to the assets.

Also, assets in the irrevocable trust don’t get a step up in tax basis when the survivor dies. That means the ultimate beneficiaries could wind up paying higher capital gains rates when they sell the assets. When the estate tax exemption limit was low, couples were gambling that the estate tax savings would outweigh the future capital gains cost.

Today, far fewer families have to worry about estate taxes. The exemption limit for 2022 is over $12 million per person and over $24 million per couple. Even after the current limit sunsets in 2025, individuals would be able to exempt over $6 million and couples over $12 million from estate taxes. Estate tax exemptions are also now “portable,” which accomplishes much of what the AB trust was designed to do in ensuring the exemption of the first to die wasn’t “wasted.” Now the amount of the exemption limit that isn’t used by the first spouse to die can be transferred to the survivor’s estate.

Bypass trusts are still routinely used for wealthier people and those who live in states with low estate tax exemption limits, but for many people this estate planning tool has outlived its usefulness.

Dear Liz: You recently stated Social Security numbers were never intended to be used as a universal identifier. I’ve found that every place asking for my number has other means of identification and will ask for my mother’s maiden name or my place of birth when I tell them I don’t use my Social Security number for identification purposes. This also works for financial institutions that have a legitimate claim for having it.

Answer: To clarify, you probably had to disclose your Social Security number when you applied for accounts at your financial institutions. You also typically need to disclose it when you apply for credit, employment or government benefits.

But you don’t necessarily have to cough it up on demand to verify your identity or to do business with the many, many other companies and organizations that ask you for it without good reason to do so.

Source: LA Times

Outrage After Trans Swimmer Lia Thomas Wins NCAA Contest: ‘Our Daughter’s Sports Are Not A Plan B For Failed Male Athletes’

Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas — the biological male who competes on the women’s swimming team for the University of Pennsylvania — won a 500-yard freestyle this week, at the 2022 NCAA Championships.

UPenn celebrated the news, calling Thomas “the first Quaker female swimmer to win an NCAA individual title.” In addition, CNN hailed Thomas as the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division 1 title.

Thomas set a “program-record time” of 4:33.24, more than one second faster than second-place swimmer Emma Weyant, who earned a time of 4:34.99.

The UPenn swimmer has pushed back against those who note that, biologically, Thomas is male.

“The very simple answer is that I’m not a man,” the athlete told Sports Illustrated. “I’m a woman, so I belong on the women’s team. Trans people deserve that same respect every other athlete gets.”

One USA Swimming official, Cynthia Millen, decided in late 2021 to resign in protest after more than 30 years in the industry. Millen took issue with the rules at the NCAA and USA Swimming that allowed Thomas to compete against biological females.

“I thought, ‘This is wrong. This betrays all of this fairness,’” she told CBN. “I mean, if a swimmer was wearing an illegal swimsuit we would tell the swimmer ‘go change your swimsuit. That’s not the right fabric. It’s giving you an advantage.’”

Among the complainants is the group Concerned Women for America, which filed legal paperwork with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights against UPenn, claiming that permitting Thomas to compete on the women’s team violates Title IX.

“We plead for you to issue clear, decisive guidance to clarify the law and prevent colleges and university athletic programs from violating women’s rights by allowing biological male athletes to compete in the women’s category of sport,” stated the court filing. “Protecting all female student-athletes from this type of injustice is the very essence of OCR’s mission to ensure equal access to educational opportunities and benefits the law requires under Title IX.”

The American Principles Project, a conservative think tank, also spoke out against Thomas.

“Lia Thomas spent 21 years of his life as a man,” tweeted the group. “He started competing against women in swimming this year and became a national champion. Our daughter’s sports are not a plan B for failed male athletes.”

Source: CBN News

Man Who Moved Into His Work Cubicle To Save On Rent Fired After His TikTok Did 12 Million Views

In a video that’s racked up more than 12 million views, Chibuzor Ejimofor — who said he goes professionally by the name Simon Jackson — can be seen unpacking his belongings at an office cubicle and putting them away into work shelves and drawers.

“I’m moving from my apartment into my cubicle at work,” the 28-year-old said in the video. “They do not pay me enough to do both, so as a matter of protest, I am just going to live at my job, and we’ll see how long I can get away with this.”

It turns out his cubicle staycation only lasted four days and three nights before the engineering consultancy firm Arcadis — Jackson’s employer — forced him to pack up his things. Then, he said, he was fired.

“I wish they approached the TikToks differently and maybe had a conversation with me about whether there was something more serious going on in terms of money. But do I understand their response? 100%,” the construction project manager told Insider, adding that he’ll “take the opportunity to get away from the corporate world” for a while.

“I’ve gotten so many views now, so maybe I can take that and work on building my brand. I can always find another job if that doesn’t work out,” he added, speaking from an Airbnb room in a Seattle suburb.

“Honestly though, if I hadn’t posted the videos on TikTok, I think I could have lived in the office for at least six months with no issue.”

When Insider reached out to Arcadis to confirm that Jackson had been an employee, a representative from the company said: “Due to privacy concerns relating to personnel information, the company is not at liberty to disclose any matters regarding current or former employees without express employee permission.”

Jackson’s posts from his cubicle ‘home’ garnered millions of views in a matter of days.

It all started last Monday, when Jackson says he “spontaneously” decided to start living in Arcadis’ downtown Seattle offices.

Mounting student loans and a rent increase (his rent went from $1,300 a month to $1,500 a month) made it difficult for Jackson to afford his apartment.

It’s a common problem in Seattle, where the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment jumped 27% year over year.

So Jackson came up with a novel solution to his money woes.

“The office is pretty much empty because everyone’s working from home, so I just thought, why not move there? I told my friend about it, who thought I was joking, but I started packing and just did it,” he said, adding that he managed to stuff his belongings into two suitcases, four boxes, two backpacks, and a few duffel bags.

He filmed what he was doing in a hyperlapse video — “I film content all the time anyway” — and uploaded it on TikTok the next day. It didn’t take long before the video got the attention of a lot of people.

“It got 60,000 views, then 200,000, and then a million. I was like, ‘Oh shit, what do I do now?'” he recalled.

He decided to continue making more TikToks about his new living quarters.

Jackson cataloged his sleeping quarters — a sleeping bag under his desk, covered by a large cloth — and his meal routine — ham and canned pineapple, which he insisted is his usual diet anyway.

To maintain personal hygiene, he used shower facilities available in the office bathrooms, complete with towels. “I’ve thought this out, baby!” he said in the video.

During his short stay at the office, he said he only bumped into three co-workers. None of them raised an eyebrow about his cubicle set-up. “I think living in the office is something that is so unfathomable that they never even thought of it as a possibility,” he said with a chuckle.

His company’s HR department was less relaxed, however. Jackson said he got a call ordering him to remove his things from the cubicle, and then a written warning to delete his TikToks — or face termination.

He chose the latter.

“Honestly, getting the attention of so many people online — this happens once in a lifetime,” he said.

“I’ll travel a bit and stay with friends in different cities. I have a side business selling rompers, and I’m interested in running events, so I’m just going to roll the dice and see where it all takes me. I want to spread some good energy around.”

Source: Yahoo