Ancestry Security Team Confident Family Tree Maker Vulnerability Has Not Impacted Ancestry’s Systems

The following is an announcement from

“We have been alerted to a potential security vulnerability at the MacKiev Company, which owns Family Tree Maker software. While we no longer have formal affiliation with the company, Family Tree Maker is used by some Ancestry customers to sync family trees between Family Tree Maker software and Ancestry. Based on our investigation, we do not believe that any Ancestry systems or data have been compromised. The Ancestry-Family Tree Maker sync uses OAuth2, a widely- used authentication protocol to provide Family Tree Maker permission to access Ancestry resources without exposing user passwords.

“As a best practice, we recommend Ancestry customers who have used their Ancestry credentials to access Family Tree Maker software change their password and enable two-factor authentication.”

Security Alert: Malicious Phishing Attempt Detected, Possibly Connected to GEDmatch Breach

A new scam has surfaced that is trying to trick genealogists and others into revealing their user name and password for Luckily, knowing about the scam now will help you avoid it in the future. The scam is obvious if you know what to look for.

The following is a quote from the MyHeritage Blog:

“We want to alert MyHeritage users about a malicious attempt to steal credentials that we identified several hours ago and is still ongoing.

“Perpetrators whose identity is unknown set up a fake website called (same as MyHeritage, but with the letter Q instead of the letter G). They started setting up this fake website yesterday, July 20, 2020 according to whois information, which is the date on which this domain was created and registered. They used an anonymity service to hide their identity. They exploited the fact that it’s hard to differentiate between the letters q and g, especially on mobile phones.

Men Plead Guilty in Pittsburgh Carnegie Library Rare Books Theft

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

From an article by Paula Reed Ward in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

“The two men accused of taking more than $8 million worth of rare books and parts of books from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and then selling them to collectors pleaded guilty Monday to theft.

So Why Lock Up the Birth Records?

It seems that every week we hear of one more situations in which some politician or bureaucrat is trying to restrict access to public domain vital records. Everybody is trying to lock out everyone, including genealogists. Our right to access to public domain birth, marriage, and death information is being threatened constantly under the guise of “preventing identity theft.”


(That’s as strong a word as I will use in this family-oriented publication.)

I am sure that the politicians love the limelight back home when they can brag that they have taken action to “prevent identity theft.” Heck, nobody is in favor of identity theft, right? Therefore, just proclaiming to have taken some token action under the smoke screen of “preventing identity theft” is sure to win a few more votes in the next election.

“Facts? What facts? Don’t bother me with facts, I’ve got a re-election campaign to win.”

Genetic Testing Scam Preys on Seniors’ Cancer Fears and May Be Costing Taxpayers Millions

This article is slightly “off topic.” That is, the article is not about genealogy, history, or related topics. However, I know many readers of this newsletter are interested in all sorts of DNA-related topics so I am publishing a link to an article about a DNA-related scam that has become popular in recent weeks. You need to be aware of this and perhaps you should also warn your friends who have not yet heard about this scam.

A story in the CBS News web site tells of a scam that recently victimized a pair of retirees from Austin, Texas:

“There was a couple of people in there saying ‘come get your DNA tested,'” Judy recalled. The company, Genexe Health, billed itself as a genetic testing “one-stop shop.” With a quick cheek swab, the Johnson’s could learn if they carried any genes that made a cancer diagnosis more likely.

Beware of the Websites Selling Fake DNA Kits

An “epidemic” of counterfeit products being sold online is duping millions, according to the Better Business Bureau.

One woman thought she was buying a real AncestryDNA kit online, a gift for her parents and her 100-year-old grandmother in Puerto Rico. She found the DNA-testing kits on a website called After she paid $200 on her debit card, her relatives actually received authentic-looking kits. They followed instructions, filling vials with saliva and mailing them. But when she called the company to check on results, Ancestry told her the vial numbers were already used to test someone else’s DNA.

3 Arrested in France for Looting the Archives of Libraries Throughout Europe

The following is a press release from Europol:

With the support of Europol, the French National Police (OCBC – National Unit in charge of Cultural goods trafficking) and the Spanish Guardia Civil (UCO) have dismantled an organised crime group suspected of stealing maps in the archival collections of libraries throughout Europe.

On 20 May, 6 properties were searched simultaneously in France and Spain and 3 suspects arrested. 3 vehicles and €6 000 in cash have also been seized.

Scammers May Be Using DNA Testing to Defraud Medicare and Steal Identities

NOTE: This article has nothing to do with genealogy, history, or any of the other “normal” topics of this newsletter. However, it involves DNA which is of interest to many genealogists so I am mentioning it here.

If anyone offers to test your DNA free of charge or even offers to pay you $20 for DNA swabs and supplying your health insurance information, don’t do it!

Details may be found in an article by Kristen V Brown in the Bloomberg web site at:

Genealogist Discovers Man has been Using Dead Baby’s Identity for Decades

A Pennsylvania man has been using a dead person’s identity for more than 21 years. Authorities got involved after a relative of the deceased used to put her family tree together. The woman was searching for family information on Ancestry last year and her nephew Nathan Laskoski popped up. She saw he got married and he moved around the country, from Texas, to Mississippi, to Tennessee and eventually to Pennsylvania.

But the problem is Laskoski died in 1972 when he was just two months old.

Authorities say 44-year-old Jon Vincent, back in 1996, escaped from a halfway house in Texas, went to a cemetery to find someone born around the same time he was.

Beware of the Transparency Market Research Report Now Available: “Genealogy Products and Services Market – Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends and Forecast 2016 – 2024”

It is difficult to measure the size of the genealogy marketplace. Obviously, genealogists spend millions of dollars every year, but nobody seems to know how many millions. Now Transparency Market Research (TMR) has issued a report claiming to measure the marketplace. However, a quick glance at the company’s announcement of the report raises more questions than it answers.

TMR states that the report, titled Genealogy Products and Services Market – Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends and Forecast 2016 – 2024, offers a comprehensive overview of the genealogy market. It focuses on the growth of the global genealogy products and services market across various geographical and application segments and the factors influencing it. The description goes on and on describing the “genealogy products and services market.” However, the description of the report seems to focus mostly on DNA testing and then gives some passing remarks about traditional (non-DNA) genealogy research, such as looking at original records on paper, microfilm, or computer screens.

The announcement of the report states:

Beware the Flash Drive Scam

Did you see an advertisement for a flash drive with 1 terabyte of memory or some other large amount of storage selling for about $10? If so, don’t fall for the scam. It isn’t what it claims it is.

Hackers in China are listing flash drives for sale on eBay and elsewhere claiming the drives contain huge amounts of storage, 500 gigabytes, one terabyte, or even more. Prices are unbelievably low, typically $10 or so. There is but one problem: it is fake.

Plagiarism Raises Its Ugly Head Again within the Genealogy Community

Here is a quote from


  • to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own
  • to use (another’s production) without crediting the source
  • to commit literary theft
  • to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source

In other words, plagiarism is an act of fraud. It involves both stealing someone else’s work and lying about it afterward.

Plagiarism has been found in genealogy books and magazines for probably a century or more. However, with the explosion of publishing on the Internet, plagiarism appears to be more popular than ever. Sadly, one individual has been caught before in the act of republishing other writer’s words without crediting the source. In fact, he was even sued for doing so although the case was later settled out of court. Even though already being notorious for such actions, he continues the practice even today.

The National Records of Scotland Genealogy Service Has Been Closed Until Further Notice Due to a Computer Virus

The public search rooms, at New Register House in Edinburgh, were shut on Wednesday 23 March
It followed the discovery of “ransomware” in an admin file. A spokeswoman said the virus, which can restrict access to files and then demand payment for them to be released, was caught before it could do any damage.

The damage apparently is limited only to the public search rooms, not to any online databases of the records from the National Records of Scotland. Also, the announcement clearly states that the virus “was caught before it could do any damage.”

Newspaper Archive Inc. pays $100,000 for Deceptive Online Practices

NA_LogoStackedIn the June 24, 2014 newsletter, I published an article entitled Heritage Microfilm and Under State Review After Complaints. The article is still available at Newspaper Archive Inc. provides online access to digitized newspapers from across the country. The company’s customers are mostly genealogists, historians, and others interested in retrieving old newspaper articles. The article stated:

“Heritage Microfilm and, 855 Wright Brothers Blvd., Suite 2A, [Cedar Rapids, Iowa] are accused in dozens of complaints filed with the state and the Better Business Bureau of not allowing subscribers to cancel services, refusing to grant refunds and failing to answer calls or emails.”

It took a while but the case has now been settled.

Protecting the 2020 Census from Fraud

Census2020-1The U.S. national census in 2020 will be the first to rely primarily on the Internet for collecting census data, thereby creating new avenues for fraud and disruption. A new report from the JASON scientific advisory panel describes the problem and outlines some solutions.

The report says, “Several distinguishable types of fraud against the census must be considered, including: hacking the census for fun or bragging rights; social media attempts to discredit the census and reduce cooperation; mimicry of the census forms or apps for purposes including phishing; city or district-level attempts to changes population numbers or distributions; large scale attempts to affect apportionment of the House of Representatives; individual mischief and anti-government protest.”

I Received a Fake IRS Telephone Call

I received a phone call this week from the Internal Revenue Service. At least, the caller on the pre-recorded message said she was calling from the officer of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) in regards to my case of being in default for payment.

In the pre-recorded message, “Officer Julie Smith” asked me to call a certain telephone number to make immediate payment. She said I could pay by a prepaid credit card over the phone or by a direct wire payment from my bank. She also warned that if I did not take action immediately I would face court action and possible imprisonment.

I laughed.

Heritage Microfilm and Under State Review After Complaints

Here is an extract from an article written by Erin Jordan and published in The (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) Gazette:

The Iowa Attorney General’s Office will investigate a Cedar Rapids company that digitizes newspapers and other documents after complaints from across the country about “deceptive and misleading” practices that include charging subscribers for involuntary donations to a charity run by the company’s founder.

Heritage Microfilm and, 855 Wright Brothers Blvd., Suite 2A, are accused in dozens of complaints filed with the state and the Better Business Bureau of not allowing subscribers to cancel services, refusing to grant refunds and failing to answer calls or emails.

Beware the “Microsoft Windows Virus” Scam!

I received a Skype phone call this morning that made me laugh. The caller had a very thick accent and announced that he was calling from Microsoft Support. He claimed that Microsoft had detected a virus in the Windows Registry of my computer and that he was calling to help delete the virus.

I found that amusing because I use a Macintosh! Macs don’t have a “registry” of any sort and almost never get viruses.