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Judith Coburn


Story by Sigrid Duesberg, photo by ...


On Thursday, May 16, AV volunteer Judith Coburn came to AV to talk about "SCAMS, HACKS and SPAM: How to avoid rip offs on the Internet and your smart phone."

Judith Coburn has been a private investigator for 13 years. Before that, she was a journalist for 40 years, covering the wars in Vietnam, Central America and the Middle East for many media outlets including The Village Voice, the Sunday magazines of the LA Times and SF Chronicle and Mother Jones. Judith pointed out right away that she is not a “techie”, but knows how to detect problems on the internet. In the following are suggestions and information that Judith gave in order to avoid problems and rip offs.


Current hacks into Google, Uber and Amazon accounts prove that there is no 100% security on the internet. But there are a few things you can do in order to avoid problems:

  1. Password: Do not use a password more than once, do not use words, but random letters and numbers. Keep your passwords in a folder -not your computer- at home. Set up accounts with websites – this will protect your computer better if it gets hacked. Don’t click on pop-up windows.
  2. Never give out any information when asked in emails that pretend to come from institutions like IRS, banks, social security, financial advisors etc. If in doubt better delete more than less.
  3. Don’t use your smart phone in the streets, don’t leave your laptop out of sight in public areas like cafes – lots of rip offs are going on (the area around campus in Berkeley is particularly vulnerable).
  4. If you don’t recognize an email address, hover with your mouse over the email address. That will get you the real email info.
  5. Don’t click on “pop up emergency boxes”! These are hackers!
  6. Never answer an email from “Apple”. They never call or email!
  7. Beware of Ransomware! These are messages popping up on your computer that threaten to publish the victim's data or perpetually block access to it unless a ransom is paid.
  8. Backup: It is better to backup on your hard drive or time machine, the Cloud is not secure. Back up your data regularly!
  9. 2-factor authentication important (fingerprint and password)
  10. Turn off “location” on your phone or computer. You can turn it back on if you want to find a local business.
  11. Put a tape over the camera on your computer.



Thank you to Judith, for a very timely and important presentation. We hope to have her back soon!




   Judith Coburn

Judith Coburn

Judith Coburn talk
At Judith's Talk