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Fingerprint access

Last week I discussed how mobile phone numbers are coming to represent the identity of the user. One related topic I found fascinating is the Indian Identity Project. The Indian Identity Project, or Aadhaar, is an ambitious project to provide a digital identity for every Indian citizen, members of the second most populous nation at 1.2B people.  Over 400 million Indians live at what is known as the “bottom of the pyramid” or under $2 per day.  For these Indians, poverty has kept them out of many institutions and the general prosperity of the Indian economy.

The idea behind Aadhaar is very similar to the social security number in the U.S. except that it uses modern technology such as biometrics, smartphones and cloud computing.  Each person gets an iris scan, fingerprint scan, photo and a 12-digit identity number.  The images are stored digitally and can be easily retrieved to identify people with basic smartphone technology. The benefits of a digital identity are numerous.  It helps people get bank accounts, book tickets online and maintain health records. Plus there are no cards, which are usually counterfeited or stolen.  Because identity based on biometrics cannot be faked, Aadhaar can also be used to ensure those eligible to receive government assistance receive their full benefits without the middlemen who often take a significant cut of money and rations meant to help the poor.

Aadhaar is the largest and most ambitious project of its kind.  While the idea of a centrally maintained identity database based on biometrics would make privacy advocates in Western countries cringe, the program has widespread support amongst the general public. The benefits of a digital identity, available “anywhere, anytime, any way,” is seen as a means to participate in the economy and be recognized by institutions.

The project hit a speed bump in 2013 when the BJP government was elected to power.  Because Aadhaar was started by the previous administration of the Congress party, many in the new government wanted to cancel the program.  Thanks to Arvind Gupta, Technology and Innovation Head of the BJP, and others who faced political headwinds, the program kept going.  How the Indian Identity Project progresses and the value it creates for its citizens will be closely watched at Whitepages where a real identity for everyone in the world is our central mission.

 

No-Scam-Sign

I don’t think I know anyone who’d be excited to get a call from the IRS. But that being said, if I saw them ringing through on my caller ID, I would answer. I mean, wouldn’t you? A problem with our taxes is something we’re eager to get mopped up quickly because we’re all aware that the repercussions can be very serious.

Well that’s exactly the type of thinking being manipulated by one of the most pervasive phone scams of all time. If you’ve seen it in the news, then you know that the IRS Phone Scam has been going on nationally for about a year now, and it shows no sign of slowing down. The Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration have received over 90,000 complaints and identified approximately 1,100 victims who have lost an estimated $5 million from these scams. If you’re saying “Yikes” right about now, then we’re on the same page. Let’s take a closer look at what’s going on with this scam and explore how to avoid these IRS impostors.

We’ll start by going through the typical way these scam calls go down. The scammer will identify her or himself as an IRS agent with a generic American name like Julie Smith or John Parker. (My personal favorites are from the scammers who took a page out of Hollywood when they picked their pseudonyms—Steve Martin and Leo DiCaprio’s “Titanic” character Jack Dawson are real examples.) The scammer will report alleged charges against you including defrauding the government, money owed for back taxes, law suits pending against the recipient, and nonpayment of taxes. But it’ll all go away if you make an immediate payment via a prepaid money card or wire transfer.

The IRS never asks for immediate payment over the phone

The IRS never asks for immediate payment over the phone

If you protest, then that’s when the threats start piling on. “You’ll go to jail,” “This will cost you thousands in legal fees,” “We’ll freeze your bank accounts,” “You’ll be deported…” The list goes on, and the tone of these scammers turns abusive fast. And while all of this seems like it should be pretty obvious that this is a hoax, the scammers do a few things that have thrown their victims for a loop:

  • They rig caller ID to show an IRS number
  • They can rattle off the last 4 digits of your SSN
  • They know some of your other contact info and will follow up with an email or more phone calls

Long story short, these IRS scammers are a real pain in the rear, but I’ve got a few tips that will keep you outsmarting them at every turn.

  1. The IRS almost never calls people about back taxes, they’d send you something in the mail.
  2. The IRS would never ask for immediate payment over the phone.
  3. The IRS would not call after normal office hours nor would they get abusive on the phone.
  4. Get yourself a caller ID service that offers spam score. Whitepages Current Caller ID shows an alert on your phone when an incoming call is suspected of spam.
  5. Perform a Reverse Phone Lookup if you feel something suspicious happening. Whitepages encourages its users to be a force in fighting spam. We have a field on every number’s page where you can leave a comment to report the number as spam.

Hopefully you won’t ever have to deal with one of these IRS scammers, but if you do, you’ll know how to handle them. And don’t forget to send the IRS a tip about them. File a complaint about an IRS scammer using the FTC Complaint Assistant.

 

We’ve got exciting news about our Android app Whitepages Current Caller ID. Say hello to our latest feature, Spam Score.

Here’s how it works. When an incoming call is suspected spam, users will be notified immediately. Then when they open the app, they will see important tidbits like the spam level based on a score of 0-10, the amount of spam reports made on the number in the last 90 days, and comments written by other Whitepages users. In addition to that, we’re also empowering Whitepages Caller ID users to warn other members of the community by leaving their own spam reports on numbers that turn out to be scammers or fraudsters. It’s an easy-to-use system that helps build a community of people who care about personal privacy and want to do a good deed in the process.

current_spam_screen (2)

At Whitepages, we worked hard to develop the most advanced spam identification system in the market. Whitepages Caller ID offers real-time analysis on billions of calls, texts and phone lookups from all of Whitepages’ 50 million users. Along with Spam Score, Whitepages Caller ID also blocks unwanted numbers from calling your Android. It’s just another way that Whitepages helps you maintain your privacy.

And in today’s world, features that put privacy back in the hands of users are more important than ever. Recent data from Whitepages Caller ID shows that approximately one out of three unknown calls are a suspected spammer. Whether that’s a marketing or sales call, or something more pervasive like the scams that emerged earlier this year, such as “One Ring,” “Grandparent’s Scam,” and the most recent “IRS Phone Scam.” By offering another layer of information on incoming calls, Whitepages Caller ID protects users and lets them know about potential spam before they take the call—and that’s something we feel pretty good about.

Check out the latest release of Whitepages Caller ID in the Google Play Store and read more about it in PandoDaily.

 

 

Whitepages staffers at Grace Hopper Conference #GHC14

Whitepages staffers at Grace Hopper Conference #GHC2014

This past week I attended the 2014 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Phoenix, Arizona along with some of my fellow female coworkers from Whitepages. At the conference, I met women (and a few men) from all over the world, listened to technical speakers, participated in career workshops, and learned about some of the challenges women face in the technology field—those include the gender gap, unconscious bias and the imposter syndrome.

One of my favorite talks was by Lorrie Faith Cranor, director of the CyLab Usable Privacy and Security Laboratory as well as a professor at Carnegie Mellon University. Cranor spoke on her research for creating secure and usable passwords.

Friday night we had dinner with a group of attendees from Time, Inc. We reflected on the conference, chatted about our experiences in the technology industry and shared our personal interests—so great to meet other women in the tech field!

But there was one particular point stressed throughout the conference that turned out to be one of my main takeaways: the importance of mentors and sponsors in your career. Mentors provide knowledge and guidance when you need it, while sponsors advocate and promote you within the company. And last but certainly not least, the GHC was a great chance for me to bond with my fellow female Whitepages engineers!

If you are interested in hearing more about women in computing, there are some interesting documentaries coming out soon on the topic of women in technology. Be sure to check out Girls Rising, Big Dream, and Code – Debugging the Gender Gap.

 

 

 

Stars are always starting new trends, and the names they choose for their children are no exception. In honor of some of 2014’s latest A-list infants, we took a look at the popularity of 20 names in the country shared with this year’s celebrity offspring, and Parents magazine’s In Name Only blog joined us. Scarlett Johansson’s daughter Rose is this list’s blockbuster, with 399,967 people in the U.S. sharing the name – with the most residing in the appropriately nicknamed Garden State, New Jersey.

What’s In a Name?

Here are some of the top name trends that are in vogue in 2014:

  • Old Hollywood: Scarlett Johansson, Olivia Wilde, and Emily Blunt all chose names for their children that peaked in popularity before the 1920s – Rose, Otis, and Hazel, respectively.
Scarlet Johansson

Scarlet Johansson

  • 12 And Under: Over 90% of people named Jaxon (Kristin Cavallari’s son), Alijah (Kendra Wilkinson’s daughter), Lyric (Soleil Moon Frye’s son), and Ava (Stacy Keibler’s daughter), are under the age of 12, showing that these famous tots will be in good company in their school years.
Kristin Cavallari

Kristin Cavallari

  • Uniquely Unisex: River and Frankie, the names of Kelly Clarkson and Drew Barrymore’s daughters, are increasing in popularity from their primarily male origins. Females named Frankie (33%) are rapidly catching up to their male counterparts (67%).
River Phoenix

River Phoenix

Much like Prince George, whose name has increased in popularity since his birth last year, we expect that many of these names may also see a surge in popularity in the years to come. Some of these names, like Ava, are already in the Top 10, while Alyssa Milano’s daughter, Elizabella, has the most unique name on the list, with only seven people in the country sharing it.

Prince George

Prince George

The list also breaks down the states where the most people with these names are living. Interestingly enough, Kerry Washington, star of the political thriller Scandal, named her daughter Isabelle – a name most popular in Washington, D.C.!

Drew Barrymore, Olivia Wilde, Kerry Washington

Drew Barrymore, Olivia Wilde, Kerry Washington

Top 20 Names Shared with 2014 Celebrity Babies

  1. Rose (Scarlett Johansson): 399,967; NJ has the most
  2. Harper (Jenna Fischer): 172,123; WV has the most
  3. Oliver (Ginnifer Goodwin): 156,415; AL has the most
  4. Hazel (Emily Blunt): 114,866; MS has the most
  5. Frankie (Drew Barrymore): 55,904; MS has the most
  6. Summer (Christina Aguilera): 49,770; OK has the most
  7. Booker (Thandie Newton): 48,752; MS has the most
  8. Otis (Olivia Wilde): 43,862; MS has the most
  9. Ava (Stacy Keibler) : 23,404; MS has the most
  10. Isabelle (Kerry Washington): 22,564; DC has the most
  11. Royal (Lil’ Kim): 20,788; NC has the most
  12. Vale (Savannah Guthrie): 1,798; VT has the most
  13. River (Kelly Clarkson): 1,499; WY has the most
  14. Apollo (Gwen Stefani): 924; HI has the most
  15. Lyric (Soleil Moon Frye): 781; WY has the most
  16. Jaxon (Kristin Cavallari): 546; ID has the most
  17. Alijah (Kendra Wilkinson): 200; VT has the most
  18. Meilani (Jenni “JWoww” Farley): 162; HI has the most
  19. Bodhi (Megan Fox): 148; ME has the most
  20. Elizabella (Alyssa Milano): 7; HI has the most