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August 2021

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GoFund Me Crimes

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GoFund Me has been a wonderful tool. It’s allowed people, non-profit organizations, and more to quickly raise money for important causes and emergencies. While many great things can be said about GoFund Me, as always, there’s also a dark side. Shortly after GoFund Me started making waves, scammers flocked to the site and started working a variety of cons.

Albert Lonzo Adams III is a perfect example of someone learning how to use GoFund Me to run a scam and earn money. In Adams’ case, people thought that they were helping dogs in need. On his GoFund Me page, Adams explained that he was the owner of the Soaring Paws Charity which flew to various locations around the country and collected dogs who would otherwise be euthanized.

People loved the work they thought Adams was doing and generated an enormous amount of money to his GoFund Me campaign. During the four years that Adams was actively using GoFund Me, he managed to raise over $140,000. He also created a new campaign that was going to help him purchase another plane.

Eventually, some people became suspicious of Adams GoFund Me campaigns and an investigation was launched. It was discovered that Adams was collecting the donations under false pretenses and using them for personal use. He was arrested and eventually charged with multiple counts of organized fraud and making a false statement in support of an insurance claim.

Adams isn’t the only one who has created a GoFund Me fraud. Others have found that the donation platform is a great place to run a scam.

The good news is that there are some ways you can make sure that the money you’re about to donate to a GoFund Me campaign is going where it should.

The first thing you should do is run a reverse image scam. Many fake charity organizations like the one Adams ran will use pictures the orchestrator of the scam has found online. If a reverse search reveals that the images are consistently coming from a source that doesn’t match the GoFund Me organizer’s name, don’t give them any money.

Make sure the campaign has generated at least some comments. In most cases, the first comments posted shortly after the campaign goes live will frequently be from friends and family. These types of comments give the campaign credibility.

Look into the organization’s history, if you aren’t able to find any history then see that as a massive red flag and hang onto your money.

The best way to make sure you don’t accidentally fall into a GoFund Me page trap is by only donating to causes that you have a personal connection to.

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What to Do if You’re Being Stalked

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Every single year, approximately 7.5 million Americans become the victims of a stalker. If you suspect that you’ve attracted the attention of a stalker you must remain calm while simultaneously taking steps to protect yourself.

Don’t Dismiss the Threat

One of the biggest mistakes many stalking victims make is deciding that they are imagining things or that the situation isn’t all that serious. When it comes to a stalker, it’s best to be over-cautious. Being the victim of a stalker not only puts your mental health at risk, but it can also be life-threatening. The University of Gloucestershire conducted a six-month study that revealed that stalking was a component in 94% of the studied homicides.

As soon as you even suspect you’ve attracted the attention of a stalker, you need to take steps to protect yourself.

Block Your Social Media Accounts

Social media has made stalking easier than ever before. Routing posts provide an incredible amount of information that a stalker will use against you. When you feel that you’ve attracted the attention of a stalker, set all of your online profiles to private and stop posting updates, particularly updates that a stalker could use to figure out where you’re going and your routine.

Alert Loved Ones to the Situation

Even if you only have a funny feeling about someone, you should talk to your loved ones about the situation. Not only will they help you decide if you’re imagining things, but they can also take steps to make sure you’re protected. A perfect example of how alerting a loved one to the situation will help you out is that they’ll be willing to accompany you on errands. Not only is there safety in numbers, but the second pair of eyes means you will have a witness to the stalking which will strengthen your case if you have to press charges.

Start Keeping a Record

Pull out a notebook and start recording everything that relates to your stalker. This record should include gifts you’ve received, any time they’ve been in the same location as you, and all virtual and in-person conversations you’ve had with them. It’s a good idea to keep copies of these records in different locations. The data you collect will be a key piece of evidence against your stalker.

Get Serious About Personal Protection

You can’t afford to get casual with your personal protection. As soon as you feel that you’re becoming the victim of a stalker, you need to take a long look at your current situation and evaluate how you can make it safer. You need to lock your doors. You need to alert loved ones about where you’re going and when you’ll be back. Consider taking a self-defense class. Get into the habit of frequently checking in with loved ones. You may even want to consider staying with a friend or loved one until you can figure out how to resolve the situation.

Talk to the Police

As soon as you start to feel threatened by the stalker, it’s time to contact the police. The amount of protection they can provide will depend on your exact circumstances. Even if the situation hasn’t escalated to the point of you being able to obtain a restraining order or file charges against your stalker, contacting the authorities is always a good idea since it officially shows that you’re concerned about the situation and creates yet another record that strengthens your case. The police will also likely have some advice about additional steps you can take to protect yourself.

The most important thing to remember when you’ve attracted the attention of a stalker is to cut your ties with them and to trust your instincts.

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Be Prepared for a Blackout

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Electricity is one of those things you don’t appreciate until you suddenly find yourself in the middle of a blackout. The good news is that there are some things you can do to make sure you’re ready the next time the power goes out, even if the power remains out for several days.

Know Where Your Flashlights are

Instead of using candles, keep a large supply of flashlights and batteries on hand. Ideally, you should have one flashlight in every single room so you can quickly find them. Make sure that everyone in the house is in habit of putting the flashlights back after each use. The flashlights won’t do you any good during a blackout if you can’t find them.

Stock up on Power Packs for your Electronics

Pick up a few power packs and charge them up. These will come in handy if the power goes out for a long time. They allow you to keep your phone charged so that you can contact someone if there’s an emergency. During a blackout, you should try to conserve your cell phone’s battery by only using it for important calls. Don’t use the power packs to charge anything but the cell phones until the power comes back on.

Keep Some Food Staples in Your Home

Even if you don’t eat things like crackers and other non-perishables very often, it’s not a bad idea to have some stashed in your pantry so you can eat while you wait for the power problem to be resolved. Remember, without power, you’re microwave, hot plates, and electric stoves won’t work so there could be an extended time that you’re unable to cook food, so you need something that can be eaten straight out of the package.

In addition to making sure you have plenty to eat, make sure you also have plenty of bottled water on hand at all times.

Keep your Gas Tanks Full

If you’re in the middle of a city-wide (or larger) blackout, the gas stations won’t have power either. This is why it’s a good idea to always make sure you keep enough gas in your vehicle so that if something does happen in a blackout, you can at least drive to the nearest hospital.

Get a Carbon Monoxide Alarm

An increasing number of people are investing in generators, which allows them to use some things during a blackout. The bad news is that this also increases the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Having a few alarms in your home goes a long way towards keeping you safe if fumes somehow leak into your own home.

The most important thing to remember during a blackout is that staying calm makes the situation easier and that eventually, the power will come back on.

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4 California Bike Laws you Probably Don’t Know About

By | Bail Bond in Fresno, Bail Bonds in Bakersfield, Bail Bonds in Los Angeles, Bail Bonds in Tulare, Bail Bonds In Visalia, Carls Bail Bonds, Los Angeles Bail Bonds

Do you spend a lot of time biking in California? If so, there are some California bike laws you’re probably not familiar with.

Bikes and Crosswalks

Did you know that as a cyclist, you’re not supposed to stop your bike in the middle of a crosswalk? When you’re on a bike, you need to treat it the exact same way you would if you driving a car. Instead of pulling into the crosswalk, you’re supposed to stop at it. This gives pedestrians the opportunity and space needed to use the crosswalk.

Prep Your Bike For Nighttime Rides

If you’re cycling at any time between dusk and full-on morning sunlight, you need to have your bike properly equipped with enough equipment that motorists can easily see your bike. It’s not enough to simply rely on the reflectors the bike came with You should also have a red solid or flashing light attached to the back of your bike that can be easily seen from a distance of 500 feet away. On the front of your bike, you need to attach a white light that not only helps with your visibility but can also be seen from 500 feet away.

Ideally, you should wear clothing that has reflectors on it as well.

Keep One Ear Open

You see it all the time, cyclists cruising along with headphones in their ears, taking advantage of their ride to listen to audiobooks, songs, and podcasts. What you probably don’t know is that you can’t legally have two ears full of earbuds or be covered by a headphone while you’re cycling. CVC 27400 states that you must leave one ear uncovered while you’re riding your bike.

Stay Away from that Oversized Bike

If you think it’s okay to send your child out on the bike they haven’t quite grown into, or you’re tempted to purchase a massive bike you’ve been admiring each time you visit your favorite bike shop, you need to think again. California’s bike laws prohibit you from operating an oversized bicycle on public roads.

CVC 21201(c) states that,

    “no person shall operate upon a highway a bicycle that is of a size that prevents the operator from safely stopping the bicycle, supporting it in an upright position with at least one foot on the ground, and restarting it safely.”

Were you familiar with these bike laws?

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Stranger Danger

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The threat of your young child disappearing when they go back to school is far greater than you imagine. According to Child Find of America, approximately 2,300 children are abducted every single day in the United States. The National Center of Exploited and Missing Children reported that in 2020, an estimated 1 in 6 missing children were victims of sex trafficking.

Stranger danger and abduction prevention lessons are something you and your children should always be working on. With the start of school just around the corner, now is the time to sit down with your child and review everything they know about stranger danger and staying safe.

While you’re shopping for school supplies, use this time with your child to review the rules you should already have in place regarding accepting rides from strangers. The rules your child should already be familiar with include:

  • Never get into a stranger’s vehicle
  • Always staying several feet away from a stranger’s vehicle
  • Knowing that if a person makes them feel even the slightest bit uncomfortable, that they should immediately seek out the assistance of a trusted adult

Abductors usually don’t bother with children who are traveling in packs, which is why it’s important to teach your child that they should always have a friend or two with them wherever they go. The more friends they have with them while walking home from school, playing in the back, and riding bikes, the safer they will be.

Now is the perfect time to teach your child how to be aware of their surroundings. This is something you should do by example. Put your phone in your pocket and actively survey your surroundings when you walk to and from buildings. Teach your child to notices is strange people are hanging around places like the playground. Teach them to be particularly aware if they notice that the same person shows up in multiple locations your child is at and to let you know about this person.

Make it very clear that it doesn’t matter if a stranger has candy, is saying they are lost/hurt, or has kittens/puppies to play with that your child is not to approach them. That their best course of action is leaving the immediate area and finding a trusted, familiar adult.

Teach your child to scream. If the worse does happen and a stranger approaches your child, the screams will cause the adult to quickly decide that your child isn’t worth the effort and they will flee the scene.

Don’t assume that just because your child is older that you no longer have to worry about abductions. According to the Missouri Child Identification and Protection Program, 81% of abducted minors were 12 years old or older.

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Distracted Walking in California

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Everyone is familiar with distracted driving tickets, but few of us have ever heard of distracted walking laws. If you’re wondering if that’s even a real thing you’re not alone.

Rest assured, not only is distracted walking a viable concern, but one California city, Montclair, has already passed a distracted walking law. In April 2018, the city’s distracted walking law officially went into effect. Once that happened, anyone caught using their cell phone while walking across the street was subjected to a $100.

It seems like a silly rule, but if you take a few minutes watching people walking on the sidewalk and you can see why distracted walking is a concern. These days, people are completely glued to their phones and often unaware of what is happening around them. Some don’t even look up when they start crossing the street. This type of behavior has prompted more cities to explore the concept of distracted walking laws.

A team of researchers at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Newark highlighted the dangers and potential risks distracted walking causes on a person’s health. Researchers revealed that the number of medical emergencies that included head and neck injuries has substantially increased in the past 20 years.

Legally, drivers are supposed to be aware of pedestrians and do everything in their power to avoid hitting them with their vehicle. The problem that arises is how are drivers supposed to predict when a pedestrian who is texting will suddenly step into the path of oncoming traffic. What makes the issue even more challenging is that many of these pedestrians don’t even realize that they are now in the middle of the road and don’t behave rationally.

Do you think more cities should have distracted walking laws? If distracted laws became common and patrol cops started issuing tickets and fines, would you be more inclined to leave your phone in your pocket, or would you continue to talk and text?

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California’s Views on Illegal Pets

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If you think that as long as you’re responsible for their care, you can own any type of pet you want, you’re wrong. California has specific laws that restrict what types of pets you’re legally allowed to own.

Monkeys

As much as you might like the idea of having a pet monkey, as long you live in California, that little dream cannot come true. The only people who are allowed to own a monkey in California are individuals/organizations who have received special permits and those aren’t easy to get.

Hedgehogs

There is a great deal of confusion about hedgehogs in California. The problem is that while many states do allow people to own hedgehogs, California doesn’t. This has been particularly problematic for individuals who moved into the state before learning that their hedgehog wasn’t welcome.

Gerbils

Most kids who love animals have a gerbil. They’re small, do well in apartments, are inexpensive, and are considered a good starter pet. But you can’t have one in California. Gerbils made it onto California’s banned pet list because if they get loose, and many do, they can move into hidden areas, form colonies, and introduce diseases to native rodent populations.

Ferrets

Ferrets are the third common household pet that California residents aren’t legally allowed to own. California is one of only two states in the country that prohibit the ownership of ferrets. In this case, the ban was issued by California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife. The reason cited was that a loose ferret is a predator that’s potentially dangerous to California’s native wildlife.

Large Cats

When California lawmakers prohibited the ownership of large cats, they weren’t talking about common Maine Coon cats, but they are referring to exotic cats like tigers, lions, lynxes, and panthers. It doesn’t matter how long these exotic cats have lived in captivity, they’re still considered wild, unpredictable, and a danger to people. Without a special permit, you’re not allowed to own one.
The same is true for bears and many large reptiles.

If you’re caught owning a pet that is on California’s list of banned pets, the consequences are severe both for you and your illegal pet. In many cases, the pet will be euthanized and you could face both fines and jail time.

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Wet and Reckless in California

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If you’ve never heard of a wet reckless charge in California, you’re not alone. Very few people are aware of them. Most of the people who do know about wet reckless driving offenses are lawyers who specialize in DUI cases.

What is a Wet Reckless Driving Charge in California

A patrol officer won’t write a wet reckless ticket. The only way you’ll ever get such a thing is if you’ve been arrested for a DUI in California and your lawyer can talk it down to a wet reckless charge. The fact that it’s not a traditional driving violation is the reason so few people have even heard of wet reckless driving.

A wet reckless charge is a plea agreement the California lawyers use in drunk driving cases. They usually only apply the first time a person is involved in a DUI. The biggest difference between a wet reckless charge and a traditional DUI conviction is that the consequences connected to a wet reckless charge are milder than those attached to a DUI. In many cases, people find that having a wet reckless charge on their file doesn’t create as many problems when employers run a background check.

In the past, some lawyers haven’t been fans of wet reckless charges, but changes made in 2021 have altered their stance.

How a Wet Reckless Compares to a DUI

If you’re able to plea a DUI down to a wet reckless in California, there is no automatic suspension of your driver’s license, though there is an exception. If the DMV learns that your wet reckless charge resulted from a BAC of 0..08% they can still suspend your license, though the suspension might not last as long. It’s also important to understand that the charge will result in two points being added to your driving record.

A wet reckless charge doesn’t involve mandatory jail time. If the judge does sentence you to jail, the maximum amount of time you would serve is 90-days.

You’ll probably still be required to take a few DUI classes, but it’s normally far fewer than you’d have to take if you were charged with a formal DUI.

While there is still a probationary period connected to a wet reckless conviction, it’s significantly shorter. The probation for a wet reckless is generally one to two years, whereas for a DUI it’s three to five years long. This can have a huge impact on your life if you plan on moving out of state or doing much traveling.

Wet and reckless charges aren’t applicable in every single DUI situation. You’ll have to consult with a highly experienced DUI attorney to determine if this is the route you should take following a DUI arrest.

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California’s Most Common Traffic Citations

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There are a lot of different types of traffic citations you can be issued in California, but there are some citations that are seldom given and some that happen all the time. When you look at the types of traffic citations California’s police officers issue, you really start to get an accurate picture of the average Californian’s driving habits.

Speeding Tickets

The most common traffic citation issued in California is for speeding. Going just a few miles over the speed limit is all the justification a police officer needs to pull you over.

California has absolute speed limits. Exceeding the limits can result in a ticket. The absolute speeds limits in California are:

  • 55 miles per hour on all of California’s two-lane, undivided highways
  • 65 miles per hour on freeways and other highways

If the road has a higher posted speed limit, you’re allowed to drive that fast. An example of this is the freeways that are posted at 70 miles per hour.

It’s important to remember that if driving conditions are less than desirable, a police officer can pull you over and issue you a speeding citation even if you’re going the posted speed. The reason for this is because you’re supposed to adjust your speed for the road conditions. That means, if there’s dense fog and your driving 55 on a two-lane undivided highway, a police officer could issue you a speeding ticket and claim that you were driving too fast for the current conditions.

Using a Cell Phone While Driving

It doesn’t matter if you’re talking, taking a picture, or sending a quick text, if a California police officer sees you using your cell phone while you’re driving, they will likely issue you a citation. The only way you can use your phone while driving is if it’s set up in a way that doesn’t require you to use your hands at the same time. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration considers using a cell phone while you’re behind the wheel the leading cause of distracted driving incidents. Considering that 3,142 people lost their lives in distracted driving incidents in 2019 it’s not surprising that California has created expensive cell phones and driving tickets.

The first time you’re ticketed for driving and using a cell phone, the ticket will cost you $148. Each ticket you get for the same violation after that will cost $256.

While adults are allowed to use a hands-free cell phone system while driving, teenage drivers aren’t. Any driver under the age of 18 is not allowed to use a cell phone in any way while they are behind the wheel.

Failure to Stop

It seems like a pretty simple concept. When the traffic light turns red or you come to a stop sign, you stop the vehicle. Yet, failure to stop at lights and stop signs is one of the most commonly issued traffic citations in California.

What gets most drivers into trouble isn’t that they totally ignore the stop, but rather that instead of coming to a complete halt, they do what is called a rolling stop and then go through the intersection as soon as they see that there aren’t any cars coming. Many drivers don’t even realize that they haven’t stopped completely.

The best way to avoid getting a failure to come to a complete stop ticket is by making sure you remain at the stop sign for a full five seconds before continuing your journey.

Tailgating Other Drivers

Tailgating other drivers is a major problem in California, in large part because there is so much traffic. Tailgating is driving directly behind the car in front of you without giving yourself an adequate amount of space to avoid trouble if the lead car suddenly breaks.

The problem with tailgating is that not only does it increase the odds of you getting into an accident, but it can also make the driver of the car your tailgating nervous, causing them to make a mistake that leads to an accident.

If you’re pulled over for tailgating, the ticket and associated court costs will come to $238.00.

Reckless Driving

In all fairness, reckless driving is a catchall phrase that covers a variety of issues. Most police officers will issue a reckless driving ticket whenever they feel you’ve done something that could have created an accident.

Not only are the fines connected to all of these California traffic citations steep, but you could also see your car insurance premiums increase after you’ve been issued a ticket. The good news is that as long as you drive defensively and use good judgment, you shouldn’t have to worry about getting ticketed.

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Wildfire Prevention in California

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Wildfires have become a serious concern for anyone who lives in California. While lawmakers explore ways to help prevent wildfires, anyone who lives in or visits California is urged to take steps to prevent leaving a wildfire in their wake.

Don’t Set Off Fireworks

Yes, fireworks are a lot of fun, but they can also be incredibly dangerous. Even worse, they’re a fire hazard, which is why it’s best not to set them off, especially during California’s dry spells when a single spark can trigger a massive wildfire.

Don’t Smoke While Camping/Hiking

A surprising number of wildfires are started because someone got just a little careless while smoking. While they were hiking or camping, the individual didn’t think about the fact that the tiny bit of ash from their cigarette had the power to set the entire area on fire. All it needed was a few dry leaves.

If you’re going out hiking or camping, leave your cigarettes at home. If you’re smoking at home, make sure you always properly dispose of the ash/butts. It’s also a good idea to use a hose to thoroughly soak the area where you’re smoking. Damp grass isn’t likely to catch on fire.

Curb Your Off-Road Adventures

During the dry season, when the odds of a wildfire are high, you should put your plans to go off-roading on hold. There is too high a risk that your vehicle will somehow set off a spark that will ignite a wildfire. It’s safer to wait until the rainy season.

When the timing and conditions are right for off-roading, make sure you have your exhaust checked by a good mechanic. The purpose of this inspection is to make sure that your exhaust won’t throw any sparks that could leave a wildfire in your wake.

Be Smart While Camping

If you’re camping, you need to be smart and make sure you’re not doing anything that could result in a wildfire. Ideally, you should avoid starting a campfire, but if you do need a fire, keep it small, build the fire ring on the sand, and have plenty of water on hand. When it’s time to put the fire out, completely soak the ashes. Keep the campfire small and make sure you’re not building it under any trees. Don’t build a campfire if there is a strong wind. Don’t leave the campfire unattended, not even for a minute.

What steps are you taking to prevent wildfires in California this fire season?