Don’t Fall for this USB Drive Scam from China


USB Drive

USB Drive Received in the Mail

I definitely want to put this out to the masses – especially to people in my network within the promotional products industry. In my regular USPS mail, I received a key chain USB Drive that was packed-out in a small padded envelope. The product was addressed from Factory A, on Ground Floor Gee, Gang Ind Bldg., No 108 Lok Shange Road, Tokwawan KowLoon J-BSJ. Nothing else was inside the package but the device itself.

In addition to being a children’s picture book author, I also own a 21 year-old marketing business specializing in the wholesale distribution of promotional products (logoed merchandise). Needless to say, receiving a sample of this nature would be fairly commonplace, especially since we sell imprinted USB drives to our clientele – except the package was addressed to me personally and not to my promotional products business, Tagsource, LLC.  The mailing label also had my home phone number on it – a number that is never given out by me or anyone on my staff. That mere fact alone probably saved me from throwing the USB drive into the company sample bin or a desk drawer, or worse yet, letting curiosity get the better of me enough to plug it in to see what was on it.

So, I did a little research on this little USB, and discovered that the “probability” is high that the device has an autorun feature installed on it, malware or other potential virus. Plug it in and your laptop or desktop could be fried, or you may even expose yourself to identity theft. While I can’t be sure that this particular drive is part of a scam, I’m posting several links below which cause me a great deal of concern. Any additional shared insight from other promotional products professionals would be great. This is definitely something we should start talking about within the promotional products industry as a whole. Note that I have sent a tip to the FBI about the device I received. I will let you know if I hear back from anyone there about any known cyber attacks with USB Drives being sent via the USPS from China.

Perhaps maybe our days of reselling imprinted USB drives should be over?

http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2010/10/dont_stick_it_in.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2997401/The-killer-USB-FRIES-laptops-Malicious-drive-uses-high-voltage-destroy-computer-s-circuit-board.html

https://www.reddit.com/r/sysadmin/comments/1ozisp/this_suspicious_little_usb_device_that_our_it_got/

http://www.wired.com/2014/10/unpatchable-usb-malware-now-patchsort/

http://www.ucs.cam.ac.uk/support/windows-support/winsupuser/usbinfections

http://magazine.promomarketing.com/blog/yes-we-should-be-scared-about-bad-usb-drives-dale-denham

Tonia Allen Gould/CEO

Tagsource, LLC

www.tagsource.com

#USBSCAM

biobag_specsUpdate:  We took the liberty of querying one of our USB Drive suppliers, iClick, about the security risk.  Here’s their response on the matter:

From: Jacquie Little [mailto:jacquiel@iclick.com]
Sent: Wednesday, August 26, 2015 2:21 PM
To: kelley@tagsource.com
Cc: TJ Vail

Hi Kelley,

Thanks for sending this our way. We have been aware of these types of scams and our solution to combat was to provide a sealed security packaging for all of our USB drives. See the specs attached. This may be something you would like to share with your team.  It’s another element of our commitment to product safety and protecting our customer’s from potential hazards associated with USB distribution.

If you have any questions or further concerns, please let me know how I can assist.

Thanks for reaching out and have a great day.


Jacquie Little
Decorate and Customer Resolutions Lead / iClick

Custom Ninja USB Drive produced by Tagsource.com

when thought turns to hate


IMG_1385.JPG

What makes discussion great is when thought leaders advocate, debate, pontificate, commiserate, relate, educate and collaborate…until thought turns to spate, promotes hate, carries weight, problems accelerate, personal ideals dictate, ideas deflate, people turn irate. And, then it’s too late.

-TA Gould

LinkedIn Pro Tip from a Social Butterfly


Let someone you invite to your network know how you came to find them or be referred to them. It can be as simple as, “I’m long time friends with so and so and I found your contact through her and think our connection here may be mutually beneficial.” Anything less than that is just creepy like the stock messages I’ve been getting on LinkedIn, “Please join my network.” My knee-jerk thinking is, “What do you think this is? Twitter or something? I don’t know you! I only talk to complete strangers on that social network.

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Finding Value in Creativity


Copyright Tonia Allen Gould, All Rights Reserved

Copyright Tonia Allen Gould, All Rights Reserved

 What’s an idea? The mere concept of an idea is difficult, maybe even impossible to perfectly define. Even notable philosophers couldn’t seem to agree on what an idea truly means. The Free Dictionary Online indicates that according to the philosophy of Plato, the definition of an idea “is an archetype of which a corresponding being in phenomenal reality is an imperfect replica.” The web source goes on to say that according to the philosophy of Kant, “an idea is a concept of reason that is transcendent but nonempiral.” But, even Hagel said it differently. He claimed that an idea means “absolute truth; the complete and ultimate product of reason.” In the dictionary, the definition of an idea reads “something, such as a thought or conception that potentially or actually exists in the mind as a product of mental activity.”

To me, an idea is something that begins as a glimmer; a mere flicker in the mind that can suddenly grab hold, and unfold through any period of time, like the single root of the ivy plant that grounds itself deeply into the soil before it grows upwards, clinging to a wall with its tiny tentacles, reaching out and hanging on, until it forms its own shape and dimension. The ivy grows and grows, like no other ivy plant in existence, and reaches for the sun in a way that suits itself in order to flourish. Like an idea, the ivy didn’t plant itself. Someone had to place it there. The gardener of the ivy had to have foresight to buy or rent the house, invest in the fertilizer and the soil and the tools; he had to invest in the plant and spend his time digging the hole and planting it in the hopes that it would grow.

Like the gardener; creative professionals must make an investment in time, be committed to the outcome, and diligently work to understand and meet the project objectives.  That’s a lot of footwork and fancy dancing already.  But, what about the ideas you generate…those tiny seedlings of thought, that grew and took shape and added a dimension to the project that were unlike every other idea before it…those absolute truths…those nonempiral transcendent concepts of reason…those imperfect replicas…what about those? Those ideas, my friends, have value and they are your greatest asset. Sometimes, we forget that and give them away too freely, as if they have no value.  So if you’re questioning your creative worth, maybe you should start looking first at your assets.  #yourideashaveworth

Remember Who You Are


Simba: Father?!
Mufasa’s ghost: Simba, you have forgotten me.
Simba: No! How could I?
Mufasa’s ghost: You have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me. Look inside yourself Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the circle of life.
Simba: How can I go back!? I’m not who I used be!
Mufasa’s ghost: Remember who you are.
©Disney

My father was a salesman. I don’t think I realized this when I was a little kid growing up in the Midwest, but he definitely was one, even though his real occupation was working as a foreman for the Indiana State Highway Department. Back then, I’d spend time with my dad who was always looking to find ways to supplement his income to make an honest living. On weekends, Dad would drive me around in one of his old, beat-up cars or trucks he fixed-up himself. My family and I wouldn’t get too used to whatever vehicle he was driving at the moment, as it generally wouldn’t stay around long. The car merely served as a short-term means of transportation, and a roving billboard that advertised its own sale. While he didn’t have any long term relationship with the vehicle, he did have a certain attachment to it that came from having pride in his work, illustrated through his own mechanical abilities, which enabled him to fix things that were broken.

On any given Sunday, Dad and I would be out on a mission, looking for other “For Sale” signs on tractors, lawn mowers, cars, trucks, boats or trailers parked haphazardly in some stranger’s yard. We’d spend hours on end in search of whatever we could find that not only suited Dad’s liking but also matched his mechanical skills to buy, fix-up and sell again for a profit.

On any one of those days, my handsome dad would pull our car into some random driveway, climb out, smooth back his hair, hoist his pants and walk confidently up to knock on the stranger’s door as I stayed lingering, paces behind. “I’m here about the lawnmower you’ve got for sale out front,” he’d say, and then he’d follow the owner out to the yard to look the product over, while I stood quietly nearby.  I learned a thing or two about the basics of selling alongside my dad back then. After all, he was the master of the “wheel and deal,” and one of the best negotiators I’ve ever met. But while my father would sometimes negotiate the terms of the sale or offer a barter or trade when he didn’t have just enough money, the biggest lesson I learned back then is that my father, ultimately, didn’t mind paying a fair price for the right product.

Part of my father’s “business plan” included his self-reliance on his mechanical knowledge and his ability to fix-up something that was broken, while still keeping in mind its full potential or value. This is what differentiated him from other buyers and sellers in the local area. He understood the cost of parts and labor as well as what was involved in buying something that needed to be fixed for resale. He’d buy it, only if he felt he could breathe new life into it and if he was guaranteed a profit for it when he turned the product.

Looking back on all this now, I realize my father would have made an amazing entrepreneur/business owner. He had the right mindset and business acumen. He never compromised who he was or deviated from his goal of turning a profit to put food on the table or to simply provide for his family. He’d buy something. He’d fix it up. He’d resell it. And, then he’d start that process over and over again, honestly and fairly, always being mindful of his profit margins along the way. If he were still around today, and if he had an actual business, I know that he wouldn’t have wavered from his business approach much along the way. After all, he was in the business of making money.

While all of this may be nothing more than simple lessons I learned early on in life, they made a fairly significant impact on me, nonetheless. In this crazy, mixed-up economy we are experiencing today, it’s so easy to become desperate and to sell yourself, your qualifications and your talents short. If you devise the perfect formula for success, it should include differentiating yourself to create value, to make an impact and to stand out, while still minding those margins to make sure you get fairly compensated in the process of all of that hard work and steadfast determination. For my promotional products industry friends, remember to rely more heavily on what you know: Buy a product, fix it up with your client’s brand and sell it–at a fair and honest price. Showcase your skills and knowledge, and this will differentiate you from the masses. “Remember who you are,” but most importantly, don’t compromise yourself along the way.

 

Remember Who You Are


ImageOriginally Written by Tonia Allen Gould for PromoKitchen.com.

Simba: Father?!
Mufasa’s ghost: Simba, you have forgotten me.
Simba: No! How could I?
Mufasa’s ghost: You have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me. Look inside yourself Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the circle of life.
Simba: How can I go back!? I’m not who I used be!
Mufasa’s ghost: Remember who you are.
©Disney

My father was a salesman. I don’t think I realized it when I was a kid growing up in the Midwest, but, still he was one, even though he worked as a foreman for the Indiana State Highway Department. Back then, I’d spend time with my dad who was always looking to supplement his income to make an honest living. On weekends, Dad would drive me around in one of his old, beat-up cars or trucks he fixed-up himself. My family and I wouldn’t get too used to whatever vehicle he was driving at the moment, as it generally wouldn’t stay around long. The car merely served as a short-term means of transportation, and a roving billboard that advertised its own sale. While he didn’t have any long term relationship with the vehicle, he did have a certain attachment to it that came from having pride in his work, through his mechanical abilities, which enabled him to fix things that were broken.

On any given Sunday, Dad and I would be out on a mission, looking for other “For Sale” signs on tractors, lawn mowers, cars, trucks, boats or trailers parked haphazardly in some stranger’s yard. We’d spend hours-on-end in search of whatever we could find that suited Dad’s liking and matched his mechanical skills to buy, fix-up and sell again for a profit.

On any one of those days, my handsome dad would pull our car into some random driveway, climb out, smooth back his hair, hoist his pants and walk confidently up to knock on the stranger’s door as I stayed lingering, paces behind. “I’m here about the lawnmower you’ve got for sale out front,” he’d say, and then he’d follow the owner out to the yard to look the product over, while I stood quietly nearby. I learned a thing or two about the basics of selling alongside my dad back then. After all, he was the master of the “wheel and deal,” and one of the best negotiators I’ve ever met. But while my father would sometimes negotiate the terms of the sale or offer a barter or trade when he didn’t have just enough money, the biggest lesson I learned back then was that my father didn’t mind paying a fair price for something he wanted.

Part of my father’s “business plan” included his self-reliance on his mechanical knowledge and his ability to fix-up something that was broken, while still keeping in mind its full potential or value. This is what differentiated him from other buyers and sellers in the local area. He understood the cost of parts and labor as well as what was involved in buying something that needed to be fixed for resale. He’d buy it, if he felt he could breathe new life into it and if he was guaranteed a profit for it when he turned the product.

Looking back on all this now, I realize my father would have made an amazing entrepreneur/business owner. He had the right mindset and business acumen. He never compromised who he was or deviated from his goal of turning a profit to put food on the table or to simply provide for his family. He’d buy something. He’d fix it up. He’d resell it. And, then he’d start that process over and over again, honestly and fairly, always being mindful of his profit margins along the way. If he were still around today, and if he had an actual business, I know that he wouldn’t have wavered from his business approach much along the way. After all, he was in the business of making money.

While all of this may be nothing more than simple lessons I learned early on in life, they made a fairly significant impact on me, nonetheless. In this crazy, mixed-up economy we are experiencing today, it’s so easy to become desperate and to sell yourself, your qualifications and your talents short. If you devise the perfect formula for success, it should include differentiating yourself to create value, to make an impact and to stand out, while still minding those margins to make sure you get fairly compensated in the process of all of that hard work and steadfast determination. Rely more heavily on what you know: Buy a product, fix it up with your client’s brand and sell it–at a fair and honest price. Showcase your skills and knowledge, and this will differentiate you from the masses. “Remember who you are,” but most importantly, don’t compromise yourself along the way.

Tonia Allen Gould is President/CEO of TAG! The Creative Source, a consumer promotions and marketing agency headquartered in California.

1993 and the Rena Lopez Story


The year was 1993, and I just landed a sales job in downtown Los Angeles working for a national digital imaging and photographic lab that catered mostly to clients in the cosmetic, architectural, advertising and entertainment industries. It was my first corporate job, and one where a suit and high heels were my standard, typical attire. I’m pretty sure, back then, the term “business casual” had not yet been invented.

The offices were stunning, and the location at Sixth and Olive was ideal for me, the new recruit whose assigned territory was downtown LA to the Mid-Wilshire area. I had the one enviable job of being able to walk to many of my client’s offices, or at most, have to endure a ten-minute drive across town to get to wherever I was going, unlike some of my counterparts whose territories were spread across the Greater Los Angeles area.

The offices were stunning and beautiful with black and white checkerboard floors and splashes of red throughout the interior. I loved hearing the echo of my high heels clip-clapping across the floor at my new corporate gig every morning as I arrived at my cubicle. Once there, I’d drop my briefcase on the floor and reach in it and grab my Franklin Day Planner and start my busy day. The best tools I had were my pen and phone. Outside of those two things along with my planner, files on my desk, some notes and a gun metal grey recipe card box; my desk area was almost always free from clutter. On the occasion that I had to write a client letter to pop in the day’s mail; I’d turn around in my swivel chair and check to see if anyone else was on the one office computer stationed towards the back of the room. Life sure seemed easier back then.

Every Thursday morning from the hours of 10:30-12:00; all the salespeople in the company had to be at their desks for our scheduled “Phone-a-Thon”. This is the one day in the week where we’d make prospecting phone calls to targeted accounts from caveats used to train us to overcome objections. During this set allotted time; we weren’t allowed to take incoming phone calls or schedule meetings outside of the office. My boss, Deirdre, made sure of it. Afterwards, we’d all meet in the conference room to talk about our success and failures from the phone calls we made.

Every Thursday morning before I began my cold-calling routine, I would open up my recipe card box and review each card with my “future” client’s names on them. On the back of each card; I’d check my last date of contact. One lone divider separated the cards. All my prospective leads went to the front of the box. If I got someone’s voice mail, I would move the card to the back of the first deck in front of the divider. I would also move the cards of people I couldn’t get an appointment with behind the divider, thinking I’d try them again in three months. Looking back on it; it may have been an archaic system, but it worked for me and helped me to get the job done.

Each Thursday, I would try to get a gal named Rena Lopez from First Interstate Bank on the phone; and every Thursday morning, week-after-week; I’d get her voice mail. I’d always leave some new and different message telling Rena that I would try her again the following week, and I always did just that. For ten weeks; I never gave up on Rena. I was after all, committed to her and she had by then, represented somewhat of a significant challenge to me. On the eleventh week; assuming I was getting her voice mail again; I began to leave a message with my standard, “Hi Rena,” when she finally spoke. “Tonia?” she said, “Oh good! It is you! I’ve meant to call you. Anyway, you are one of the most pleasant pains in the derriere, I’ve ever come across! What you don’t know is that every week, from 10:30 to noon, I’m in a meeting with my boss! You only got me today, because he’s out sick!” I laughed and said that I was so glad to finally reach her. She asked me to walk up Bunker Hill to see her right away. If you’ve ever worked downtown LA; you’d know that that’s an arduous hike straight up an oddly placed, giant hill. I remember it was a brisk walk and I was feeling elated and confident the whole way. I couldn’t wait to meet Rena Lopez!

Long story short, I stepped away from that meeting with a rather large purchase order. I didn’t have to sell myself or my company to Rena. By then I had already established rapport. I think it’s fair to say, a “typical” sales professional would have already given up on Rena, but I was no typical sales professional. I loved a good challenge!

There are some significant lessons in all of this pondering back to my days of yore. I’m not suggesting you give up on technology and lose your computer or your Microsoft Outlook program. Clearly, those technological advancements and others like them since the early 1990’s, have come a long way, and have made my life as a business owner and sales professional improve immensely. But, there’s something to be said about a good, solid system that keeps you grounded and focused, like mine and my trusty, old recipe card box.

My success with Rena Lopez, and other clients like her also had to do with the set date and time every week that I put away to prospect. Be sure to carve out some time on your calendar and stick to it, and also be sure to implement software (or, a recipe card box if you prefer!) that tracks your leads and calls. And most importantly, don’t give up too soon on prospects who haven’t called you back. People are shuffling a lot of work around these days and they may not have the time to get back to you. Consistency really pays off. Who knows, your next prospect could be your Rena.