Less than a week after writing a blog about staying safe online and protecting your confidential information from thieves, I made a rookie mistake. It’s embarrassing to admit that even though I know better, every now and then I throw caution to the wind and make a payment online using an unsecured wireless network on a site without proper encryption technology. This is the equivalent of inputting passwords on a public computer (Very bad). What happened to me is a cautionary tale that won’t happen to you if you’re reading this and take heed.
The office building where I work has an unsecured wireless network that essentially everyone in the building has access to. Guests and visitors can’t access it without the password, but the hundreds of other people on this floor are all sharing the same WiFi. For the four years of my business residence, this has been a non-issue. Then, suddenly I found the perfect guitar accessory online: a gold capo. For the non-musicians out there, a capo is a clamp that you use to change a guitar’s pitch for certain songs. The best part about this capo? It costed a mere $2.14. I was sold.
When I processed my payment, I used my credit card, pressed order and went on about my day. I received the capo about a week later, and life was good. Until a few days passed, and I noticed an email receipt for $5.00 at Coca Cola. Strange. I don’t recall buying anything for that amount. A few minutes later, I got an email receipt for $12.54 at a costume store in Las Vegas, Nevada. I knew foul play was afoot. Immediately, I called the bank and started the dispute process and hung my head in shame. How could I advise people on protecting their information when I’m online buying guitar accessories with reckless abandon?
I’m not sure if one of my coworkers stole my card information right before vacation or if a random teenage internet hacker caught me by surprise to teach me a valuable lesson. In any case, the hyper vigilance campaign is on. Learn from my mistakes and be smarter online and in life. Change your passwords often. Make your online purchases from reputable websites with payment encryption in place for their transactions. And never ever, under any circumstances, trust your fellow travelers on an unsecured network. You don’t know who you’re surfing with at that coffee bar or restaurant, so why take the risk?
For legal advice when it counts, contact me at (713) 574-8626
Unfortunately when discussing divorce and family law issues sometimes people reveal potentially damaging information about their behavior and attitudes toward their children or, more commonly, their stepchildren. In my practice, I have encountered individuals so riddled with grief and despair threaten to kidnap and even kill their young children in a desperate attempt to change their situation. What they may not realize is that I have a legal obligation as an attorney to report abuse or neglect as well as potential abuse or neglect. The Texas Family Code makes it a Class A misdemeanor for a lawyer to fail to report incidences of child abuse or neglect. In fact, if it is shown that a legal professional intended to conceal the abuse or neglect, he or she faces a state jail felony.
Lawyers are held to the same standard as teachers, doctors, nurses, and daycare workers under Chapter 261 of the Family Code. We must report suspected abuse within 48 hours to a law enforcement agency or the Texas Department of Family Protective Services. We are entrusted by the state to look out for the well being of those who cannot speak up for themselves. Children are a vulnerable population, and when lawyers fail to act out of a desire to protect our clients, we are violating our duty to the state of Texas. A client or prospective client who has harmed a child or threatened to harm a child and let a legal professional know about it has opened himself up to prosecution. If the lawyer remains silent, his or her life and livelihood could be on the line.
Although we are trusted advisers and counselors, we are also officers of the court and representatives of the state. We have duties to be truthful and honest in our dealings with clients and with the public. It can sometimes to be difficult to balance our obligations to the client to protect his or her privacy with the duty to report child abuse and neglect. Reporting these incidents could cause problems for the client, but not reporting could result in criminal penalties for us. It is my policy to let clients know my legal obligations during family law cases. Transparency is important to building trust in any relationship, but the public at large should also know about what an attorney’s duties are in these cases. For questions about this or any other family law issues, please give us at call at (713) 574-8626.