In The Community
Congratulations—you have just been named the recipient of some much-needed and well-deserved funding!
The bad news? Well, now you need to be on high alert for cyber scams. That press release listing you as a recipient of a major award may have put a bullseye on your back. Your name and the award have probably landed you on the radar of some hackers.
But before your eyes glaze over and you think this is just another overblown warning: this has already happened to other organizations like yours. Some of them were wiped out within weeks of receiving huge grants that were about to transform their world. In 2016 after raising millions of dollars for the Standing Rock Sioux Native American tribe protests, a quarter million dollars was inadvertently wired by the political non-profit Our Revolution to scammers who posed as trusted business vendors. In 2017, Save the Children was phished into sending $997,400 to a scammer. The most recent victims are keeping the incidents confidential, as you can imagine.
Even if you haven’t (yet) received that kind of windfall, it’s important to know these various types of scams continue to make their way through the nonprofit world as well as the for-profit.
There’s good news though: there are three steps you can take to protect yourself, and they don’t require you to find extra money to hire an IT consultant.
Not a Masters in Fine Arts, but the other MFA: Multi-Factor Authentication. This is the security measure used by financial and other websites to send you a code on your cell phone before you can log in. Does this kind of security seem like a pain? Maybe, and sometimes it actually is, but think of the pain of having your accounts wiped out or getting locked out of your essential business operations. Also, where possible or when given a choice, go with the Google Authenticator or similar app-based authentication codes as opposed to text or email message-based codes.
Don’t stop protecting your own accounts though. Ask your partners, vendors, advisors, and even donors to do the same as soon as possible. It’s an interconnected world, and the account that you are linked to for an automatic payment could be the one that leaves an open door for hackers. Any communications system such as email, Slack, or chat could be a risk, in addition to your financial and accounting systems, and your banks.
Contact Info and Security Word
Collect contact info for the authorized contacts of your vendors, your advisors, and your partners, ideally during a call or video meeting—not in an email. Get a cell phone, work phone, WhatsApp, or Signal contact info—and don't allow it to be changed without verbal confirmation. Especially for donors and significant financial partners, create a code word you share and agree to include in any information update requests.
There’s a reason that websites ask you for those annoying and obscure details like the name of your 7th-grade science teacher (no offense, Mrs. Martinez). Hackers can find a lot of personal information online (um, yes Facebook, thanks for telling the whole world the name of your cat), so look for something that would never be online and that you don’t plan on announcing online, ever.
Even with social media accounts that are set to “private,” most people are overconfident in the privacy that exists online. Move around in the digital world as if you have no privacy at all (because in many cases you don’t) and treat your personal information accordingly.
Outbound Calls Only
Here is a really big tip: don’t change anything or say yes to anything on an inbound call or through text. Don’t give any information in response to an email query (phishing scams are a lot more sophisticated these days than the old “wire me some money” spam). Confirm all wire/ACH transactions via an outbound phone call to one of those pre-collected contact numbers above. Do not accept an inbound call for verification, and never click on links sent via text even if they look legitimate. If your bank ever does need to verify any account activity, that message will be waiting for you when you log into your account, or when you call their customer service line.
In short, just make it a habit to never click any links or give any personal information from an inbound call, email, or even a mailed letter (scammers are going old-school these days).
All this work may seem like a lot to deal with, but it’s nothing compared to dealing with what security professionals call the “attack pattern.”
a. Your organization receives funding
b. Your organization is infiltrated
c. Your organization is scammed through payment fraud
You know how much work went into getting those funds in the first place, so consider the advice of security folks. They have a saying: there are two kinds of people. People who have secure processes in place, and people who are going to wish they did.
Professionalism has been defined to me in a myriad of ways, but I distinctly remember being told once early on in one of my first office jobs that my facial expressions were “unprofessional” and “overly expressive” for the nature of my role.
This feedback was met by me with confusion. After all, what does my face have to do with being a professional? I soon realized that this feedback was given by a coworker of mine who frequently engaged in microaggressions towards me, her attributing my normally loud voice, clothing, hairstyle, direct communication style, and overall expressiveness to me being “such a Latina.”
I’ve had this conversation a lot recently with my friends. We’re finding that although we’ve always worked to be in professional roles, we’re also finding out that these “amazing” jobs we’re given aren’t all they appear to be.
Many of us grew up in homes where going to college and landing a professional job would be considered the pinnacle of success. To many Latine and immigrant parents, having their children occupy professional spaces complete with degrees and fancy benefits is the ultimate dream.
However, once we’re in these spaces, many of us discover that we’re not in a place to express anything negative with either the work or the office, only to be told “be grateful for having a job like yours, mija!”
Expressing any of this means running the risk of being dismissed as too picky and being told to be grateful for the opportunities. But doing so means we’re compromising some of the best skills in our professional toolbox: autonomy to make decisions and advocate for ourselves.
I’m far from the only Latina who has been told to deal with mistreatment from employers and that I should be happy to be included. Which is why we need to redefine how professionalism works for us.
It’s time to set the record straight on why Latina professionals shouldn’t be grateful to just be included in these spaces.
Latinas are setting the new normal of what it means to be an accomplished professional through advocacy for our working lives. Being a professional woman, especially a Latina, doesn’t mean we let ourselves become doormats to our employers. Inclusivity isn’t a reason to take mistreatment or abuse from an employer.
With a good title and salary also comes stress, obligations, and an overcommitment to work and situations we weren’t initially prepared to navigate. The leadership skills we develop can end up being reframed as too “aggressive,” while being expected to adjust to microaggressions and workloads that don’t give us any space to exist outside of our jobs. On top of all of this, the shiny benefits like paid time off don’t actually get used when we’re stressfully checking emails after working hours.
There’s real value in being a Latina professional that’s able to advocate for herself. This includes joining Latino-focused, professional development groups, finding an online community to network, working to create your own spaces/groups in your field for others, and forming camaraderie among your professional contacts that are feeling just as displaced as you are.
While I will always disagree with the notion that Latinas need to be expected to say “gracias!” for even having a space at the table, I know it’s important to use our positions of power to make sure there’s a seat for the ones coming after.
Rare cardiovascular subclavian artery aneurysm. That wasn’t on my bingo card. But then again, not much of these last few years was on either mine or anyone else’s bingo cards, and yet, here we all are, just trying to deal.
In many ways, my entire life has been a series of unexpected twists and turns, some planned, some not, but they all follow the same theme: how can I turn this experience into a net positive? But it wasn’t always this way. Let me take it all the way back for a moment.
When I was 9 years old, my mother decided mothering wasn’t for her, and she left.
Little 9-year-old Lucy didn’t take it well. She rebelled, she found solace in local gangs, she blamed her dad, she blamed just about anything and anyone she could find, and she happened to grow up in an environment where kids with needs aren’t treated like kids with needs; they are treated like everyday criminals, and it doesn’t matter if you’re just a child.
Being arrested, put in handcuffs, and in the back of a police car, then transported to the juvenile detention facility where I was mug-shotted, fingerprinted, strip-searched, put in an orange jumpsuit, and locked up in a cold cinder block jail cell was just another Tuesday in my neighborhood - and that was just for ditching school.
These early traumatic years have informed my life perspective and approach ever since.
Fast forward to the moment a few months ago when my phone rang after a CT scan of my neck was done because of a mysterious neck strain.
“Hi Lucy, it’s Megan (my doctor is a physician assistant, so she chooses to go by her first name).” My mind immediately started racing. “This isn’t good news,” I said to myself, “They never call when it’s good news.”
She begins to deliver the news as best as possible so as not to inspire immediate panic. “Well, it seems you might have an aneurysm in your subclavian artery. It was at the bottom of your scan, and we’re not entirely sure, but you need to get it checked out.” My mind processes the only thing I know about aneurysms - am I bleeding out internally right now? Isn’t that what an aneurysm is??? (turns out that’s not what an aneurysm is) Am I DYING???
Sensing my obvious confusion as to why I’m not already dead or if I might be dead at any moment, she begins to calmly explain that they don’t believe the possible aneurysm poses an immediate threat, and theoretically, we could wait and get scheduled with a vascular surgeon in a few days for follow up but aggressively “suggests” that going to an ER without delay is the better choice.
I understand immediately.
I finish up a work call, call my brother and give him my pin and passwords and instruct him to empty all my accounts should I die so as little as possible gets stuck in probate (like most Americans and especially people of color, I have no will or trusts set up - that’s obviously changing).
Facing possible death is a hell of a thing.
We all know we’re going to die eventually. We all understand that it can be at any moment. Many try to live with that in mind and embrace the carpe diem mentality. Or if you’re an elder millennial like me, YOLO, but with only the possibility in mind, it’s pretty easy to forget that we truly aren’t guaranteed another day and fall into our old ways of letting dumb shit steal far too much energy.
There are still too many details about my condition that are unknown to determine what the actual risk of sooner-than-expected death is, but rather than causing additional consternation; it instead added a certain amount of freedom from the shackles of everyday worry. While my vascular surgeons figure out the best solutions and paths forward (my condition is so rare that there are virtually no identical cases that inform an accepted and clear treatment path; leave it to me to continue to choose the path less traveled...), all we can do is cross the decision bridges when we get there.
In the meantime, rather than focusing on what could be a premature death or other less-than-desired outcomes like permanent disabilities, my focus has gone to the now. My life. My business. My loved ones.
My personality is a problem-solving one. With that same determination inspired by my experience growing up in (and still living in) a white supremacist, class-based oppressive system that almost claimed me as one of its millions of unlucky victims, I immediately turned to how I was going to keep both the media company I launched and me alive at the same time.
I’ve always been absolutely astonished at just how many Latinos live in the U.S. and how little power we wield.
There are 60 million+ Latinos in the U.S., the majority of whom are bilingual and are English-dominant, not the other way around as mainstream media would have everyone believe. And yet, name other media outlets besides the well-known Spanish-language brands we all know.
Movie studios continue to ignore us. History tellers continue to erase us. And brands everywhere continue putting “Hispanic” audiences in their minuscule multi-cultural budgets despite Latinos continuously leading consumer-spending numbers and trends.
But why would they care when no one makes them care? They still reap the rewards of Latino dollars without having to put in any additional effort at all. Why fix what’s not broken for them, right?
That’s where media brands like Luz Media, Remezcla, Hip LATINA, Futuro Media, Latina Media Co. and even white-owned mitú who just recently merged with John Leguizamo’s NGL Collective, come in. None of these brands, however, will amount to much of anything if they don’t thrive and grow into nationally recognized brands. Latinos can make that happen.
Ultimately, Luz Media decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign because 1) I just don’t have any quit in me even when I really want to, and 2) I can’t possibly imagine the pitiful state of affairs for Latine media with even less Latina-owned media, rather than more. At the end of the day, we’re really just hoping the Latino community will fight for us as hard as we fight for them.
I’m confident that years from now, when Luz Media and I are still here, we’ll look back on these tough days and be proud of all that our community was able to accomplish - together.
You can support Luz Media here and watch our story below:
The Luz Media Story Hits a Bump in the Road youtu.be