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12 Ways Companies Are Spying On Us Daily

We are all aware that companies use electronic consumer data to tailor their marketing strategies. The question is: How much do they know about you?

Come to think of it, more often than not, I get asked at any check-out: “postal code? phone number? age?”

What Dirt do Companies have on You?

More than you can imagine. A vast array of personal information can be gathered by data from public archives, such as courts, police records, airlines, credit card companies, retail stores, insurance agencies, mobile providers, banks, pharmacies, search engines, websites, social networks, you get the picture. Be aware of how much of your personal information can be retrieved from public archives:

  • Full Name
  • Home Address
  • Email Address
  • Telephone Numbers
  • Age/Date of Birth
  • Court Records
  • Arrests
  • Convictions
  • Birth Certificates
  • Marriage Certificates
  • Death Certificates
  • Social Insurance Number

NATIONAL BANK OF CANADA released the following article under Clear Facts, written by David Pye, March 9, 2012:

12 ways companies are spying on us daily

As outlined in a Business Insider report, data mining has become a $100 billion industry as major corporations use increasingly sophisticated statistical analysis to better target their customers.

According to a book called “Brandwashed”, written by Martin Lindstrom, here are 12 of the most intrusive ways we’re being watched on a daily basis:

  1. Stores use customer loyalty cards to track and predict customer spending habits;
  2. Information stored in your online dating profile can be sold to other companies;
  3. Every credit card transaction provides companies with information about your spending habits;
  4. Mobile loyalty apps are convenient, but they’re designed to provide the companies with more data to track you;
  5. Facebook uses software to track user activity on sites across the Internet;
  6. Companies use cookies to monitor your Internet search habits;
  7. Digital coupons include bar codes that may include your IP address;
  8. Online music providers commonly share your personal information with third parties;
  9. While Walmart allows customers to cash their paychecks, the required driver’s license and Social Security data you provide ends up in the company’s digital database;
  10. Retailers and supermarkets track your physical movements in stores using video cameras and motion detectors aimed at helping them create better customer experiences;
  11. High-tech electronic meters allow utilities to view their customer’s power consumption in real time;
  12. From the parking lot to the checkout counter, every part of the supermarket experience is designed to make you spend money and buy more food than you need.

And then there is the Internet. It should be obvious to you that what you say and do online is public, and could come back to haunt you. Any data broker is able to collect a huge amount of information on you and then sell it for his financial gain. Guess where that information may come from:

  • Every website you visit
  • Google searches
  • Forum comments
  • Blog posts
  • Tweets
  • Search results that include your data
  • Aliases, usernames, nicknames
  • Online purchase history
  • Data about your Facebook friends
  • Facebook likes
  • Geolocation data via mobile apps

So remember, you are being watched. Be careful about what you say and what you do online. Almost nothing online is private. While the Internet is an amazing tool, our privacy has gone to the wayside!

If you don’t have a security system, are not happy with your current security provider or don’t have your system  monitored, call me for a free, no-obligation consultation. You will be glad you did!

Ulli Robson, Security Specialist, (780) 288-2986


Can We Still Feel Safe In A Crowd?

In the aftermath of the terrible shooting incident in Colorado, I came across the following article that I think puts things in perspective and want to share it with you.

Published by Armorbearer International Security and Safety 2011:

Can we feel safe in a crowd anymore?

In the aftermath of the massacre in Aurora, Colorado, various pundits and experts will ask whether anyone can feel safe enough to enjoy a concert or movie. It’s not an unreasonable question.

The answer sounds distant and cool, but it is empirically correct: Murders at concerts, movie theatres and sporting venues are statistically small given the sheer number of persons who attend them.

They are rarely caused by people who have a grievance to settle with another patron or fan; they are more commonly caused by people with profound mental illness who recently experienced negative milestones in their life, such as a divorce or mental breakdown. They seek revenge, but have no specific target. They seek to incur maximum lethal damage in order to by memorialized. In short, by causing untold pain to strangers, they are able to achieve whatever notoriety or accomplishment that eluded them previously.

It will take weeks, if not months, for us to understand the motivations behind this crime as well as whether the suspect, James Holmes, shared signals with others in advance, such as on a blog or with friends. That he was in the process of withdrawing from an esteemed graduate program in neurosciences is probably not insignificant. The question that parents, friends and all of us now seek an answer to – “Why?” – parallels the very same questions posed in the aftermath of Columbine, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood and the nearly 200 public shootings that have occurred over the past 10 years in the United States alone.

The challange for all of us is whether we will choose to avoid movies, festivals, state fairs and other activities out of fear, or whether we will choose to be aware and alert while also enjoying ourselves at these events.

We should remember that the citizens of New York, after an appropriate grieving period post 9/11, chose to return to Broadway, take the subway, shop Fifth Avenue and yes, commiserate the loss of friends and strangers – rather than isolating themselves in group fear. We can learn from them: Through prayer and reflection, we remember the victims. Through our actions and refusing to be intimidated by assassins, we are like those who have lived in Israel, Northern Ireland or Bali in the midst of terrorist events. We must re-engage, yet with heightened awareness.

I have studied more than 2,800 attacks on civilians at workplaces since 1981 and have helped many Fortune 500 companies identify persons at risk before they persued suicide or homicide. Here are some of the lessons I would share with you:

  • Your intuition is a gift. If you find yourself in a public venue where someone, or something, seems out of place, act without hesitation to leave. Those who linger can engage in what medical specialists call “milling” – a sense of “this can’t be happening to me.” Think about those who fled from the Pentagon immediately upon guessing that a plane had crashed into their building in 2001, likely saving their lives.
  • Your plan for safety cannot be improvised. When you attend any public event, and that includes a service in a house of worship or an Olympic event, routinely look for and remember the location of exits in advance. If a perpetrator enters through an exit, such as in the Aurora shooting, a group assault on the individual may be the only tangible way to end a massacre. A few may lose their lives, but others will be spared. It is in these moments, in the military or civilian life, where heroes emerge.
  • Pay attention to signals. Year after year, according to my research, about 70% of those who commit suicide or homicide have told someone in advance of their possible intentions. If you sense that someone my be on a path to violence, contact law enforcement and allow them to manage the situation. They are experts and know how to address people with mental illness, substance abuse, anger and related issues.

So it is really up to each one of us if we can still feel safe in a crowd. Box office statistics show that attendence has actually increased since the Aurora, Colorado incident. And I am certain that the Edmonton Folk Fest will be yet another huge success with record attendence.

Just use your intuition and stay safe!

If you don’t have a security system, are not happy with your current security provider or don’t have your system  monitored, call me for a free, no-obligation consultation. You will be glad you did!

Ulli Robson, Security Specialist, (780) 288-2986

Don’t Invite Burglars To Your Garage Sale!

Summertime and Garage Sales go hand in hand. You have accumulated boxes of stuff that you no longer use. Why trash it if it can be sold. Other than items that are broken, dangerous or prohibited, there is always someone who may be looking for that exact thing. So you are planning to hold a Garage Sale.

Rules for Garage Sales in Edmonton

As of March 1, 2009, you no longer require a permit to hold a garage sale in Edmonton. According to the City of Edmonton, the following rules still apply to garage sales in Edmonton:

  • A maximum of 3 garage sales per calendar year may be held from one location and for no longer than 3 consecutive days.
  • Garage sale holders are liable and obligated to ensure the items sold at a garage sale are safe and have not been recalled by the manufacturer for the product.
  • For a listing of items that should not be sold, please visit Health Canada or view Facts for garage sale vendors.
  • Garage sale signs must not be posted on City property.
  • Holding garage sales longer than the allotted times requires a development permit and business licence.

Date and Time for your Garage Sale

Keep in mind that holiday weekends are not a good bet for attracting a lot of people to your garage sale. A much better idea is to plan your sale around common pay days. Most people receive their paycheques on the 1rst and/or the 15th of the month and will be more likely to spend after payday than when they are strapped for cash.

Garage sales attract early birds. Unless you want people locking on your door at 6am, choose a firm starting time.

Advertise your Garage Sale

Planning your garage sale well in advance gives you the opportunity to advertise your event in serveral venues and increases your chance for a profitable garage sale. Take advantage of free advertising in your community paper (Edmonton Examiner), and on bulletin boards at your local schools,churches and grocery stores.

Let your neighbours know and ask if they want to participate.

Keep in mind that signs are not allowed on City property. Make sure your signs can withstand possible rain. Post your address and a big arrow pointing the way on every sign. Remember where you place your signs and take them down as soon as your garage sale is over.

Stay safe during your Garage Sale

You want to protect yourself, your items and your visitors during your garage sale. Please follow these steps:

  • Never hold a garage sale alone.
  • Protect your items from theft. If they are close to the street, it will be easy for people to steal. Lock up any items that can be carried away.
  • Make sure sharp objects are kept separately from other things. You don’t want a customer rummaging through a box of kitchen utensils to cut themselves.
  • Make sure someone is watching the cash box at all times.
  • Post a sign: “All Sales Final”.

So here is the bad news:

Garage Sales May Invite Burglars Into Your Home

You advertise your address and map the way with signs and balloons. Keep in mind that you may be attracting would-be burglars. They are finding all the information they need to destroy your privacy and security. They can quickly size up your spending habits and lifestyle from the items to be sold. Most likely your garage door is open during your garage sale. A would-be intruder may judge you by the make of your vehicle parked in the garage, your golf clubs and other expensive possessions obviously not part of your sale.

A professional burglar can quickly memorize how access can be made into your home via a side door, back door, or basement window. They may even be asking your children about personal details of your life.

Unless you have signage indicating a monitored security system in your home, be very aware that you are giving away your privacy when holding a garage sale!

If you don’t have a security system, are not happy with your current security provider or don’t have your system  monitored, call me for a free, no-obligation consultation. You will be glad you did!

Ulli Robson, Security Specialist, (780) 288-2986

Rudes Of The Road

If you live in Edmonton, chances are you are frequenting our infamous Whitemud Freeway.

What is it with aggressive drivers on the Whitemud? Do they think there is some kind of a contest? ie: let’s see who gets into the far left lane the fastest? And “dude”, make sure you stay in that far left lane, no matter that you are going slower than everyone else.

When I recently came across “Live Safely in a Dangerous World/Road Rage”, written by John C. Myre and  published by Safety Incorporated,  I thought  of my daily struggle on the Whitemud (and the Yellowhead, if you want to get me really going.)

Rudes of the Road

Larry is as macho as the next guy. He played all the sports, had a couple of rousing fistfights in his youth, and hunts and fishes on the weekends. So, when Mr. Inconsiderate rudely cut off Mr. Macho on the interstate, Larry flashed an obvious signal of disapproval. A mile or so later, he and Mr. I. sat side by side at a stoplight. Larry glanced over and saw that he was staring into the barrel of a huge handgun. He froze in fear. The driver looked at him stonily, shook his head, then lowered the pistol and drove off. As you might imagine, Larry has since become much more tolerant behind the wheel.

The highways have always been dangerous, but increasingly, people are using their vehicles as weapons, or worse, using actual weapons to prove a point about their driving.

A recent six-year study by the American Automobile Association found more than 10,000 violent road clashes that resulted in 218 deaths and 12,000 injuries.

Hey! Who You Calling Aggressive?!

Aggressive drivers are more likely to speed, tailgate, fail to yield, weave in and out of traffic, pass on the right, make improper lane changes, run stop signs and lights, make hand and facial gestures, scream, honk, and flash their lights. To coexist with aggressive drivers:

  • Be patient and flexible. Practice cooperative driving behavior.
  • Don’t be goaded into confrontation.
  • Don’t take other drivers’ behavior personally.
  • Do not respond by blaring your horn, following too closely, cutting people off, or tapping your brakes.
  • Give other drivers plenty of space, especially those behaving competitively or aggressively.
  • If you make a driving error that upsets another driver, try to signal an apology with a smile and a wave of your hand.
  • Drive in the right or center lanes unless passing. If you’re in the left lane, even driving the speed limit, and someone wants to pass you, let him. It’s common courtesy to move over if you can.
  • Use turn signals when changing lanes or turning.
  • Use your horn sparingly.
  • Dim your high beams as you approach another vehicle.
  • When you merge, make sure you have plenty of room.
  • If someone cuts you off, slow down and give him room to merge into your lane.
  • Don’t tailgate. Allow at least a three-second space between your car and the one ahead.
  • If you feel you’re being followed too closely, signal and pull over, or slow down slightly without braking, to allow the other driver to go by.
  • Few things make another driver angrier than an obscene gesture. (If you don’t believe us, ask Larry.) Keep your hands on the wheel. Don’t even shake your head in disgust.
  • Avoid eye contact. Looking or staring at another driver can turn and impersonal encounter between two strangers into a personal duel
  • Open doors carefully in parking lots.
  • If a situation is getting out of hand, use your cell phone to call for help, or drive to a place where people are around, such as a police station or convenience store. Use your horn to attract attention. Do not get out of your car. And definitely do not go home if the other driver is in sight.






To Calm the Beast in You

  • Adjust your attitude. Strive to be the most courteous person on the road; others might follow your lead.
  • Forget winning. Driving is not a contest.
  • If you feel like you’re loosing control, refocus your thoughts and take deep breaths. Think of a pleasant situation or memory.
  • Relieve stress by allowing plenty of time to reach your destination.
  • Listen to soothing music or a book on tape.
  • Consider that you might know the other driver, or that he or she might have a reason for driving erratically.
  • If you think you have a problem with anger management, seek professional help.

If you don’t have a security system, are not happy with your current security provider or don’t have your system  monitored, call me for a free, no-obligation consultation. You will be glad you did!

Ulli Robson, Security Specialist, (780) 288-2986

Why Do Teens Commit Break-ins?

What terrible news recently of a young girl slain during a break-in in Edmonton.

Published in the Edmonton Journal, Mariam Ibrahim, July 4, 2012:

Girl slain during break-in

Teen charged with murder after victim, 16, stabbed in neck

It was not quite dawn when the teenager, whose father called her “an angel” on loan from heaven, woke to find a stranger in the room.

It was the last thing she ever saw.

Now the 16-year old is dead and a boy the same age faces a charge of second-degree murder for what police are calling a “senseless act of violence” during a random break-and-enter at a north Edmonton home.

The accused had been at a Canada Day party that began Friday night and continued into the early hours of Saturday at the home next door to where the girl was staying, Staff Sgt. Bill Clark said.

The girl did not attend the party.

The boy didn’t live in the neighbourhood.

While Clark declined to answer questions about how the boy got into the home, he did say it “wasn’t a case where he just went in through the open door.”

Why Do Teens Commit Break-ins?

The William Gladen Foundation points out in their book “Juvenile Theft”:

Surveys show that almost all children admit to having taken something that does not belong to them. For most children, theft is a rare occurrence that results from a combination of poor impulse control and the need for peer acceptance. Many children get a thrill from the experience and give little thought to the possible consequences. Juvenile burglars tend to have the same motives as other types of juvenile thieves. They may steel for adventure, profit and peer acceptance or to support a drug habit. Most juvenile burglars do not like to take the risk of stealing in the presence of their victims. To avoid confrontation, most juvenile burglars will choose an unoccupied home or business to break into.

While I never sell a security system based on fear, I do find the news of the recent break-in gone so terribly wrong quite disturbing and absolutely senseless. 

Did you know that your chance of a break-in goes down by 400% with a monitored security system?

These statistics are real. The insurance industry recognizes them. You will receive a discount on your insurance rate. If a would-be intruder has a choice of breaking into a home that has alarm stickers displayed or a home without, he/she will pick the one without.

Intrusions are usually quick and easy opportunities, usually not planned in advance. So protect yourself. 

Here are a few ideas that will keep you and your loved ones safe:

  • Don’t leave your garage door open while you are doing your gardening in the back.
  • Lock your front door. Why do so many people leave their doors unlocked. Do you think it won’t happen to you?
  • Install motion lights that will come on when someone nears your house. Light is a huge deterrent.
  • Activate your alarm system every time you leave your house. Don’t think nothing will happen while you quickly run to the mailbox. Someone could be watching and take advantage of the situation in split seconds.

If you don’t have a security system, are not happy with your current security provider or don’t have your system  monitored, call me for a free, no-obligation consultation. You will be glad you did!

Ulli Robson, Security Specialist, (780) 288-2986

Did You Know That A Simple Flood Detector Protects Against Property Damage?

Did you know that damage in a home or business due to flooding is one of the top claims to insurance companies?

Just one inch of flood water can cause severe damage to your home or business!

Not only can water completely destroy precious mementos but it can also wreak havoc with structural items such as floors, walls and electrical systems.

Flood damage issues are very expensive to fix and can increase future insurance rates.

Early water detection can easily save on insurance claims and reduce the hassle of costly repairs.

Adding a Flood Detector to your Security System should be your first line of protection against property damage & property loss.

Having a Security System with a Flood Detector means you have an early Warning System that provides true Peace-of-Mind.

It does not matter if you have a wireless or hard-wired security system.  Adding a Flood Detector is very simple and inexpensive.  Everyone should have this early warning system in place!

A Flood Detector senses the presence of water in basements, laundry rooms, bathrooms, kitchen and numerous other areas where water may leak or flood, prompting advance warning of potential flooding.

Flood Alarms are usefull for business, your own home and seasonal cottages that are not occupied year round.  Flood Alarms will alert you to leaks, septic backup and overflow, broken pipes, power outages, cracked foundations and storm flooding.

Flood Detectors can also be integrated with a valve control unit that shuts off a given water line when prompted.

Although Flood Detectors will simply sound an alarm and not actually stop the leak, the sensors will give an early warning sign that a leak needs urgent attention.  This gives you some time to move valuable furniture and belongings out of the way.

When considering a Flood Detector, you want to make sure that it is immune to false triggers such as floor mopping.

Should the Flood Detector ever be damaged or tampered with (perhaps if the wire between the transmitter and the probe is cut), the Security System needs to be capable of identifying the trouble status immediately.

Installing a monitored Flood Detector is such a simple step in protecting against property damage!

If you don’t have a Flood Alarm, don’t even have a Security System or have one that is not monitored, call me for a free, no-obligation consultation.  You will be glad you did!

Ulli Robson, Security Specialist, (780) 288-2986

Stressed-out Dogs Now The Norm

Prozac for pooches coming soon.

Did you read the article in yesterday’s Edmonton Journal? Aparently 80% of dogs exhibit some sort of bahavioural problem. Rather than spending enough time with our pet, we are now turning to drugs that compare to human anti-depressants? Below are some suggestions to avoid the need for a “Pet-Prozac”:

Moving to a new home can and should  be an exciting experience for you and your family, filled with anticipation and plans for a new chapter in your life.

When it comes to your dog, acclimating him or her to their new environment can be very stressful.

Below are some tips on how to minimize the impact of your move and to help your pet become more comfortable within the new surroundings:

  • Create a dog-proofed room or area in your house. If the dog is already crate trained, this is where the crate should be, along with some fun toys and chews. This is very important as this is where you will keep the dog (at least initially) when you cannot keep an eye on him. He should be confined to this dog-safe area when you are not at home.
  • Take your dog outside often so he learns “where the bathroom is”. Dogs can be very particular about where they do their business, so be sure to give him a few extra bathroom trips each day as well as extra time during those trips. This will not only help him learn where “outside” is in this new environment, but will allow him time to sniff around to find his favourite spots.
  • Keep the dog with you around the house. When the dog is out of his dog-proofed room, be sure to monitor him. Things are likely to seem very new to him. He will be curious and may engage in unwanted behaviors, such as chewing, etc. Whatever room you are in, the dog should be in as well. When you are unable to physically manage the dog, he should be returned to his dog-proofed room/area with a nice stuffed animal or chew to keep him occupied.
  • Select feeding and sleeping areas and stick with them. Dogs are creatures of habit and routine. Creating familiarity with essential resources such as food, water and bedding is important.
  • As the dog gets used to his surroundings, you may begin easing his restrictions (ie: expand his dog-proofed area gradually, reduce the number of trips outside to a more normal amount, leave him unsupervised for longer and longer periods, etc.)
  • Most importantly, make your dog feel at home in his new surroundings. An abrupt change in living arrangements can be stressful for people and animals alike. Your dog depends on you to make this new home as friendly and safe as his old one.

Who Is Going To Protect Your Dog?

How often do I hear the proclamation: “We don’t need an alarm system in our new home. We have a dog.”
Dogs are excellent for security. They will risk their lives to protect you and your loved ones. Unfortunately, when intruders have been able to enter your home, their minds are already set on doing whatever they intended to do. Not much will stop them, not even your dog.
Your dog might bark at the stranger, hopefully even attack. You need to keep in mind that intruders are prepared for these types of encounter. Did you know that a can of oven cleaner can completely disable your dog?
Don’t take that risk. A monitored security system is such a small investment. Combined with proper signage and indication of a valid alarm permit, it will reduce your chance of a break-in tremendously and provide you with peace of mind when it comes to the safety of your family and pets.

Pets And Fire

Who is going to hear your regular smoke detectors going off when nobody is at home but your pets? monitored smoke detector will send a signal to the monitoring station. They will dispatch the fire department with instructions that there are animals in the home that have to be rescued. Monitored smoke detectors can be life savers not just for your family but for your pets as well.

Be Prepared

(Suggestions provided by the American Humane Association)

  • Plan a safe evacuation that includes your family and pets in advance.
  • Remember your pets’ usual hiding and sleeping places.
  • During a fire, your pets will be terrified, and are likely to hide in their favorite retreats.
  • If possible, escort your pets to safety on leashes, in crates or in cages.
  • Your cat can be safely carried inside a pillow case.
  • Obedience-trained dogs will be more likely to co-operate with their owner during an evacuation and ensuing chaos.
  • Include pet food in your family emergency kit.
  • Include your pets’ health records in your family emergency kit. Any boarding kennel will require these documents.
  • Always identify your pets with collars, current license and vaccination tags. Proper identification is crucial when pets and their owners are separated during or after a fire.
  • Take your pets to a vet as soon as possible. Keep in mind that animals suffer from serious smoke inhalation in a matter of seconds.
  • Have a pet-friendly security system with monitored smoke detectors.
If you don’t have a security system, if your current system is not monitored or if you are not happy with your current security provider, call me for a free, no-obligation consultation.
You will be glad you did!
Ulli Robson, Security Specialist, (780) 288-2986