+
upworthy
Science

17 tips to avoid getting hacked that you might have forgotten—or never even knew

A few lessons from IT professionals about securing your personal data.

identity theft, getting hacked, hackers, computer protection
Canva

There are unsavory people interested in your information.

True
Mozilla

In 2009, Scott McGready stumbled on a massive phishing scam targeting his company's email server.

Thousands of emails bombarded the company in a short period of time. They all came from the same source, pretending to be someone or something they weren't in order to lure people into clicking on shady links and giving up their personal data.

"While investigating it, I stumbled upon the phisher's database which had [the] personal data of thousands of people," McGready says. "I was surprised how little effort was required on the fraudster's part to acquire such a trove of information."


This discovery sparked McGready's interest in information security and teaching others how to protect themselves from fraud. Since then, this journey has taken him from the U.K.'s National Trading Standards department to the documentary series "Secrets of the Scammers" to his own company and beyond.

Here are just a few lessons from McGready — and some other IT professionals — about securing your personal data:

data hacking, browsing, protection, financial

Is your information protected online?

Stomchak/Wikimedia Commons

1. Know there is a LOT of data about you online.

"Having data readily available online means that things like phishing emails can be automatically tailored to targets without much effort," McGready says.

But what does "data" really mean in this case? Um. Er. Pretty much everything. Even if we don't realize it. Something as simple as your basic browsing habits and location history can actually reveal a lot about you. Even if your name's not attached to it, a savvy social hacker could still figure something out.

2. Be aware that your friends may expose info about you — even if you're not on social media.

"We tend to share every detail of our lives on social media because we feel obliged to by peer pressure — whether that be adding your birthday to your Facebook profile because the website keeps asking for it," McGready says. But it's worse when your friend tags you in that photo from high school with your school mascot in the background and — oops. There goes another security question.

social media, data leak, Facebook, friends

Things don't always go as planned with technology.

Photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash

3. Pay attention so you can mitigate the risks (though probably not completely avoid them).

McGready recommends keeping your social media profiles as private as possible and asking your friends and family to do the same. "Even those that intentionally aren't on social media may be easily findable by their friends or family that share the 'dinner table selfie.'"

4. It's better to be proactive than wait until you're compromised.

"We hear about data leaks almost every week, it seems," McGready says. "The general public are no longer asking 'if' their data is compromised, but rather 'when.'"

This might sound scary. But it's also a good reminder to stay sharp.

public, risk, education, accounts

Do you know everyone that's using your computer?

Image via Pixabay.

5. Check the Facebook apps and third-party services that might have access to your account.

"It's worth checking what data you share with specific companies and only giving out the bare minimum in case of a data breach in the future," McGready explains.

For example: Does Bejeweled Blitz really need permission to access everything you've ever put on Facebook, to post on your behalf, and to spam your friends and family? It's not just annoying — it puts you at risk if that information leaks.

6. Take some time to get rid of those old accounts.

A clever hacker might still be able to figure out something through your iwasdefinitelyacool15yearold@aol.com email address. "Many of us, myself included, also have a large number of 'dormant accounts' on websites that we no longer use," McGready says. "I'd fully recommend logging into these accounts and changing all the profile information before deleting the account."

science, history, websites, companies

It's important to know what accounts are open in your name.

Photo from Daderot/Wikimedia Commons.

7. Don't feel bad if it happens to you. Even IT professionals fall for it!

Georgia Bullen, technology projects director for New America's Open Technology Institute, recounts how she was hacked:

"My password wasn't secure enough and so someone had built a program that was logging into not-secure-enough accounts and then spamming."

What she felt at the time is all too familiar for anyone who's been hacked: "Embarrassed, confused, and then really worried that someone else was going to click on something from me."

8. Be smart, pay attention, and know what you're getting into with any website or service you sign up for.

This bears repeating because a little awareness can make a big difference.

security, passwords, service, defense

What type of security for your accounts do you have?

Photo by Marcello Casal Jr/ABr/Wikimedia Commons.

9. Have a solid P@$w0rds plan.

Passwords are the Achilles' heel of the modern world — but there's a trick.

"It's totally possible [for hackers] to take one password, see where you've re-used it, and then get access to those accounts as well. And that's where the bigger danger happens," explains Harlo Holmes from the Freedom of the Press Foundation.

That's why, in general, passwords should be different for every website or service used, and consist of three random words, interspersed with special characters; a DiceWare password like "correct horse battery staple" is a good place to start.

Password managers can help out by creating unique passwords for you. Which leads to...

10. Use a password manager.

Password managers can generate strong, random passwords for you. And they keep track of all of your different passwords so you don't need to memorize them yourself.

All you need to do is remember one super-secure master password in order to unlock every other possible password combination. That way, says Bullen, you can't even make the mistake of verbally giving your password away because you genuinely don't know it yourself! (Unless it's your master password, in which case, ya know, don't do that.)

11. Set up two-factor authentication (2FA) for added security.

Safety is good, but a back-up plan is even better. 2FA sends a code to a device on your person just to make sure that the person logging in is really you. Even if your password does get compromised, the hacker probably doesn't have access to your smartphone, too. (Probably.)

Mozilla's Amira Dhalla explains how it works:

12. Consider using a separate email address — with a separate strong password — for important accounts like banking.

That way, even if you do use the same password elsewhere, hackers will have a harder time getting in to your important accounts. (Make sure this secondary email account has two-factor authentication, too!)

13. Be sure to hover over links before you click them.

"Links may look legitimate, but upon hovering, they actually redirect to a completely different place," McGready says. (Don't believe me? See what happens when you click on www.upworthy.com/definitely-not-an-upworthy-page.)

14. Always double-check the URL in the address bar. (But even that's not always safe.)

Ever notice that green padlock in your browser bar? It's a good sign! ... except when it's not. As McGready explains, "While it's true that this means your data is encrypted between your computer and the website itself, it doesn't legitimize the website."

routers, world wide web, computers, Wi-Fi

Using default passwords on the computer router can leave you vulnerable..

Photo by Michael Geiger on Unsplash

15. Secure your router.

It may seem harmless to use the default password for your router, but that can actually leave you vulnerable to hackers (there are even websites that can be used to find out different routers' default settings). And someone accessing your router can access pretty much your entire home network. So it's worth taking that small extra step of setting up a strong user name and password.

16. Be wary: These days, the internet is in everything from lightbulbs to baby diapers. Which is super cool! And bad.

McGready sees "the internet of things," or IoT, as the biggest online threat on the horizon. Even if you have worried about Amazon spying on you, you probably didn't consider who else could be spying on you through a vulnerable Wi-Fi or Bluetooth system built into your smart home. "The issue comes when these wireless chips are integrated by default on all products, whether the customer wants them or not," McGready explains.

17. Exercise a little extra caution.

It all boils down to the fact that humans are too trusting.

We trust that our friends aren't going to expose our address over Twitter. We trust that some disgruntled Angry Birds employee won't hijack our linked Facebook page because we didn't pay attention to permissions. We trust the green padlock in the browser bar that keeps our credit cards secure, even if the website taking that information wants to use it for a shady purpose.

Simply put, we trust that the internet is mostly good and that people are, too.

It's hard to solve a problem you can't see — which is why McGready is so passionate about teaching online safety.

"Show the public exactly what is possible and what they should be watching out for," McGready says. "It's one thing to tell someone that a scammer can send a text which appears to be from a legitimate company or a known person; it's another thing entirely to send a text to that person's phone which comes from 'Mum.'"

There's no "one weird trick" to protect us from the dangers of technology. But we can do our due diligence — as long as we know where to start.

This article originally appeared on 06.19.17

Science

A juice company dumped orange peels in a national park. Here's what it looks like now.

12,000 tons of food waste and 21 years later, this forest looks totally different.


In 1997, ecologists Daniel Janzen and Winnie Hallwachs approached an orange juice company in Costa Rica with an off-the-wall idea.

In exchange for donating a portion of unspoiled, forested land to the Área de Conservación Guanacaste — a nature preserve in the country's northwest — the park would allow the company to dump its discarded orange peels and pulp, free of charge, in a heavily grazed, largely deforested area nearby.

One year later, one thousand trucks poured into the national park, offloading over 12,000 metric tons of sticky, mealy, orange compost onto the worn-out plot.



The site was left untouched and largely unexamined for over a decade. A sign was placed to ensure future researchers could locate and study it.

16 years later, Janzen dispatched graduate student Timothy Treuer to look for the site where the food waste was dumped.

Treuer initially set out to locate the large placard that marked the plot — and failed.

The first deposit of orange peels in 1996.

Photo by Dan Janzen.

"It's a huge sign, bright yellow lettering. We should have been able to see it," Treuer says. After wandering around for half an hour with no luck, he consulted Janzen, who gave him more detailed instructions on how to find the plot.

When he returned a week later and confirmed he was in the right place, Treuer was floored. Compared to the adjacent barren former pastureland, the site of the food waste deposit was "like night and day."

The site of the orange peel deposit (L) and adjacent pastureland (R).

Photo by Leland Werden.

"It was just hard to believe that the only difference between the two areas was a bunch of orange peels. They look like completely different ecosystems," he explains.

The area was so thick with vegetation he still could not find the sign.

Treuer and a team of researchers from Princeton University studied the site over the course of the following three years.

The results, published in the journal "Restoration Ecology," highlight just how completely the discarded fruit parts assisted the area's turnaround.

The ecologists measured various qualities of the site against an area of former pastureland immediately across the access road used to dump the orange peels two decades prior. Compared to the adjacent plot, which was dominated by a single species of tree, the site of the orange peel deposit featured two dozen species of vegetation, most thriving.

Lab technician Erik Schilling explores the newly overgrown orange peel plot.

Photo by Tim Treuer.

In addition to greater biodiversity, richer soil, and a better-developed canopy, researchers discovered a tayra (a dog-sized weasel) and a giant fig tree three feet in diameter, on the plot.

"You could have had 20 people climbing in that tree at once and it would have supported the weight no problem," says Jon Choi, co-author of the paper, who conducted much of the soil analysis. "That thing was massive."

Recent evidence suggests that secondary tropical forests — those that grow after the original inhabitants are torn down — are essential to helping slow climate change.

In a 2016 study published in Nature, researchers found that such forests absorb and store atmospheric carbon at roughly 11 times the rate of old-growth forests.

Treuer believes better management of discarded produce — like orange peels — could be key to helping these forests regrow.

In many parts of the world, rates of deforestation are increasing dramatically, sapping local soil of much-needed nutrients and, with them, the ability of ecosystems to restore themselves.

Meanwhile, much of the world is awash in nutrient-rich food waste. In the United States, up to half of all produce in the United States is discarded. Most currently ends up in landfills.

The site after a deposit of orange peels in 1998.

Photo by Dan Janzen.

"We don't want companies to go out there will-nilly just dumping their waste all over the place, but if it's scientifically driven and restorationists are involved in addition to companies, this is something I think has really high potential," Treuer says.

The next step, he believes, is to examine whether other ecosystems — dry forests, cloud forests, tropical savannas — react the same way to similar deposits.

Two years after his initial survey, Treuer returned to once again try to locate the sign marking the site.

Since his first scouting mission in 2013, Treuer had visited the plot more than 15 times. Choi had visited more than 50. Neither had spotted the original sign.

In 2015, when Treuer, with the help of the paper's senior author, David Wilcove, and Princeton Professor Rob Pringle, finally found it under a thicket of vines, the scope of the area's transformation became truly clear.

The sign after clearing away the vines.

Photo by Tim Treuer.

"It's a big honking sign," Choi emphasizes.

19 years of waiting with crossed fingers had buried it, thanks to two scientists, a flash of inspiration, and the rind of an unassuming fruit.


This article originally appeared on 08.23.17

A Taco Bell drive-thru.

Natasha Long, a mother in Pennsylvania, is calling Taco Bell Manager Becky Arbaugh her “guardian angel” after she saved her 11-month-old son who stopped breathing. Long was out running some errands with her son when she pulled into a Taco Bell drive-thru in Richboro when she realized that something was wrong.

"I ran out of the car and ran around and opened the car door," Long told ABC affiliate WPVI. "I pulled him out and he turned completely blue and was lifeless. At that point, I just completely blacked out. I didn't know what to do."

Arbaugh, who was busy working the lunch rush, heard Long call out for help. "I heard a scream, and then someone yelled out, 'Call 911, the baby isn’t breathing!'" she told Good Morning America. Arbuagh wasted no time running to Long’s aid while one of her employees dialed 911.

"I threw my headset and ran outside to the baby. The mom was panicked. I told her to give him to me and I performed CPR," Arbaugh recalled. "I was trying to calm her down and comfort her and reassure her that he will be fine."


"The baby finally started to breathe. The ambulance came pretty quickly and then they took over," Arbaugh said. "The EMT said I saved his life."

Pennsylvania Taco Bell manager helps save baby who couldn't breathe

Arbaugh, a mother of 2 boys and 2 girls, was well-versed in how to perform infant CPR and understood the importance of staying calm. "When my kids were little, my daughter had a similar incident, so I knew what she was feeling," she told WPVI. "I knew if I kept her calm and I stayed calm, there was no thought in my mind that the baby wasn't going to breathe again."

Taco Bell’s employees are proud of Arbaugh’s heroic deed. "We are incredibly proud of Becky from the Taco Bell brand’s Richboro, PA, location for her heroic act earlier this week. We are getting in touch to express appreciation for her quick actions and kindness,” the company said in a statement to People.

Since the incident, the women have been in contact with each other and are friends on Facebook. Long has been sharing pictures and videos of her son with Arbaugh to remind her of the precious life she saved. Even though Arbaugh performed the ultimate good deed, saving a baby’s life, she doesn’t consider herself a hero—just another mom looking out for her own.

"I’m just a mom helping a mom. I didn’t do anything different from what anyone else should be doing," Arbaugh told NBC. "I knew how that was, and I heard it, and I felt it instantly and I had to go and help her cause I knew it’s painful. You’re just so helpless as a mom when that happens."

This incredible story out of Pennsylvania is a reminder for every one of the importance of learning CPR. You never know when—just like Arbaugh—you may find yourself in the position to save a life.

To sign up for a class and learn how to perform CPR, visit RedCross.com.




"The baby finally started to breathe. The ambulance came pretty quickly and then they took over," Arbaugh said. "The EMT said I saved his life."

[Video]

Arbaugh, a mother of 2 boys and 2 girls, was well-versed in how to perform infant CPR and understood the importance of staying calm. "When my kids were little, my daughter had a similar incident, so I knew what she was feeling," she told WPVI. "I knew if I kept her calm and I stayed calm, there was no thought in my mind that the baby wasn't going to breathe again."

Taco Bell’s employees are proud of Arbaugh’s heroic deed. "We are incredibly proud of Becky from the Taco Bell brand’s Richboro, PA, location for her heroic act earlier this week. We are getting in touch to express appreciation for her quick actions and kindness,” the company said in a statement to People.

Since the incident, the women have been in contact with each other, becoming friends on Facebook. Long has been sharing pictures and videos of her son with Arbaugh to reminder of the precious life she saved. Even though Arbaugh performed the ultimate good deed, saving a baby’s life, she doesn’t consider herself a hero—just another mom looking out for her own.

"I’m just a mom helping a mom. I didn’t do anything different from what anyone else should be doing," Arbaugh told NBC. "I knew how that was, and I heard it, and I felt it instantly and I had to go and help her cause I knew it’s painful. You’re just so helpless as a mom when that happens."

This incredible story out of Pennsylvania is a reminder for every one of the importance of learning CPR. You never know when—just like Arbaugh—you may find yourself in the position to save a life.

To sign up for a class and learn how to perform CPR, visit RedCross.com.



@geaux75/TikTok

Molly was found tied to a tree by the new owners of the house.

Molly, an adorable, affectionate 10-year-old pit bull, found herself tied to a tree after her owners had abandoned her.

According to The Dodo, Molly had “always been a loyal dog, but, unfortunately, her first family couldn’t reciprocate that same love back,” and so when the house was sold, neither Molly nor the family’s cat was chosen to move with them. While the cat was allowed to free roam outside, all Molly could do was sit and wait. Alone.

Luckily, the young couple that bought the house agreed to take the animals in as part of their closing agreement, and as soon as the papers were signed, they rushed over to check in.

In a TikTok video, April Parker, the new homeowner, walks up to Molly, who is visibly crestfallen with teary eyes. But as soon as Parker begins cooing, “Baby girl…you’re gonna get a new home,” the pitty instantly perks up—all smiles and tail wagging.

“We are going to make her life so good,” Parker wrote in the video’s caption. “She will never be left all alone tied to a tree.”

@geaux75 The people that sold our house to us left behind their 10yr old dog they had since it was a puppy. I was so stressed we wouldnt get the house and something bad would happeb to her. We are going to maje her life so good. She will never be left all alone tied to a tree. 😭😢@roodytoots ♬ Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God) [2018 Remaster] - Kate Bush

The video has been seen upwards of 4 million times. Countless people commented on how enraging it was to see a dog treated so carelessly.

“I’ve had my dog since she was 7 weeks old. She just turned 10 a few days ago. I literally cannot imagine doing this,” one person wrote.”

Another added: “The tears in her eyes…she doesn’t understand why they could just leave her, it breaks my heart. People like that shouldn’t be allowed to be pet owners.”

Subsequent videos show Parker freeing Molly from her leash and introducing the sweet pup to her husband, with whom she was instantly smitten. It’s clear that this doggo was both relieved and elated to be taken in by her new family.

Since being rescued, Molly has accompanied her new mom and dad everywhere.

@geaux75 Replying to @ohitscourtney ♬ Lucky Girl - Carlina


“She’s sticking to our side,” Parker wrote. “She won’t stop following us around. It’s so sweet.”

Parker has created an entire TikTok channel documenting her newfound pet’s journey, aptly named “Molly’s New Life,” showing Molly enjoying warm baths, plenty of treats, cuddles…all the finer things in life.

But what Molly seems to enjoy most of all is car rides:

@geaux75 Taking Molly to get a treat! Stay tuned!! #mollysnewlife #goodgollymissmolly ♬ original sound - Mollysnewlife 🐾🐕💗

And in case you’re wondering, the kitty is doing well, too, though it still prefers to stay outdoors.

Molly also has two indoor cat siblings who instantly welcomed her into the family. The video below shows one of them, Joofus, comforting a trembling Molly with kisses during a thunderstorm.

@geaux75 We had a big storm this morning and Molly was having a hard time. Joofus got on the bed and started comforting her. It was the sweetest thing. They got snuggled up and Molly went to sleep. Animals are amazing. #mollysnewlife #petsarefamily ♬ I Won't Let Go - Rascal Flatts

It seems that Molly has gotten the safe, loving home she’s deserved all along.

We know that animal abandonment is fairly common. According to The Zebra, almost 4 million dogs are either given up to shelters or abandoned each year. And still, it’s really hard to fathom how humans can treat such innocent creatures with such blatant disregard when they provide so much pure joy.

Thankfully, there are folks out there like the Parkers who know that taking care of animals like Molly is one of life’s most precious offerings.

Stay up-to-date with the rest of Molly’s journey by following her on TikTok.


This article originally appeared on 5.31.23

Pop Culture

Sports? The Royal Family? Joe Rogan? 15 things people can’t believe adults take seriously.

"Sports. I get it. It's entertainment. But calm down. You aren't on the team."

Should adults take sports or Joe Rogan so seriously?

When we take a look at humanity, there are countless things we take seriously, that may not matter in the grand scheme of things. Many of us also have a soft spot for ideas that aren’t exactly scientific.

No one is perfect, and it's okay for us to take pleasure in being invested in some forms of inconsequential entertainment simply because they are fun. The trouble comes when people waste their lives and resources on ridiculous things that do more harm than good.

The key idea is that no one is immune from taking something seriously that others may think is a waste of time. But, to each their own or vive la différence as the French put it.


A Redditor who goes by the username Hogw33d asked the AskReddit forum, “What is something you can't believe real grownup people take seriously?” Many people responded that they don’t understand how some people can invest so much time and energy into things they deem frivolous.

The list was a great way for some to vent but it also provides a solid skeptics guide to some of the pitfalls we may unwillingly fall into in life.

Here are 15 things people “can’t believe” that “real grownup people take seriously.”

​1. Community theater

"This is niche but community theatre. The DRAMA among grown adults is insane, worse than when I was in high school. Like yall, we are singing and dancing and wearing silly costumes. It’s not that serious." — MediocreVideo1893

2. MLMs (multi-level marketing)

"I just don't understand how people keep falling for it. They always think that there's a difference. It's all the same pyramid scheme y'all." — IsItTurkeyNeckorDick

"I think we should take them way more seriously. They can do massive damage to a person's financial and mental health. We need to stop treating them as a cute thing that naive people get sucked into, and ban them for the scam they are." — Hydro123456

3. Flat Earthers

"I think it actually started as a sort of debating society. Just for people to practice and become better at rhetoric. But, they actually convinced some people and now, this is what we have." — Addicus

"There’s one of those apocryphal quotes that goes along the lines of, 'Any group of people that get their laughs pretending to be idiots is bound to be taken over by actual idiots who think they’ve found good company." — RilohKeen

4. Social media outrage

"Social media in general. Too many people believe every clickbait headline or buy into whatever trend is taking over. Feels like people can't self soothe and need the validation or something, it's just weird." — Cynn13

"'Outrage over Z' 'People slam Y' And it's only like a few people on Twitter or Reddit and they present it as some huge backlash or major issue lol." — Sclubadubdub

"The political news channels do almost nothing other than this. They tell viewers the other party is outraged about something that you never find a real person outraged by and create culture wars that no one is actually fighting." — Herbdontana

5. Reality TV

"It's all fake, too. An acquaintance of mine works at a major studio. Those shows are all scripted and fake." — SpaceMoneky3301967

6. Sports fans

"People take being a fan of a sport (or team) way too seriously, imo. I promise you don't need to riot because 'your team' lost." — AdmirableProgress743

"My husband works himself into such a state over something he can't control and is, imo, of absolutely no consequence to his life. He's toned it down because I told him the screaming and cursing terrorize me and our daughter. But he stews and mutters obscenities." — Complex_Yam_5390

7. Scientology

"Might as well just say every religion. They're all coocoo bonkers." — JenniferC1714

8. Gossip

"Gossip in general. I live in a small town and it is maddening how people here are so serious about it. It's not light fun chatting, it's all SCANDAL and we need to take ACTION. I swear a lot of people's problems would be immediately solved if they just stopped giving a sh*t what everyone else does (to an extent)." — Buffalopantry

9. Facebook

"My mom will literally call me up if I didn't like a recent post of hers. There have been a few times where she asked why I didn't like every photo she just posted. It's maddening. I've also had periods of deactivating my fb only for my mom to guilt me into reactivating it." — Zealousideal_Mix6771

10. Billionaire 'geniuses'

"Elon Musk and other billionaire 'geniuses.' People are pretty freaking gullible." — GladysSchwartz23

"Most average people don’t realize that being incredibly smart doesn’t automatically mean you are good at doing things like running a large company. They tend to assume people at the top must be there based on merit. In reality, there are some massively stupid people running huge companies, and there some brilliant people who are shoveling shit for a living." — Captcha_Trampstamp

11. The royal family

"I have a news app on my phone and no matter how much I tweak my interest to avoid any gossip BS I still get "Breaking News! Some insignificant bullshit about the Royals". It's not news, it's not interesting, stop reporting this utter drivel." — Sclubadubdub

12. Religion

“The creator of the universe impregnated a virgin, only to deliberately kill the child 30 years later, to save people from…himself.” — Opteryx5

"I grew up figuring everyone was just roleplaying and was shocked to learn religion is taken seriously by many people. It was a real eye-opener for someone who grew up in a secular environment." — Kilterboard_addict

13. Vaccine skeptics

"I work in medicine and am starting to get really worried about the vaccine skepticism. It used to be a little more rare, so I would counsel, they spout incorrect information, I tell give a little retort/response, and then move on because time is tight. But now it’s happening so often that I’m working way harder to persuade because I feel a strong obligation to fight all the bullshit info that has obviously taken hold." — KellyNJames

14. Loud exhaust systems on cars

"As someone who lives next to traffic lights and can hear all y'all shi**y music and loud exhausts all day... I approve this message." — Rainbow-Singbird

15. Joe Rogan

"The whole 'I’m just an idiot don’t pay any attention to what I say' schtick doesn’t really work anymore." — FoucaultsPrudendum

"It was great when he had a guest that was in academia, like a physicist or something. I would skip over most of the comedy buddy circle jerks he would host. Then when COVID happened I had to stop entirely. He fully went off the deep end then. Still, he introduced me to Dan Carlin's work, for which I am very grateful." — Xczechir

Lost girl mistakes Mariska Hargitay as a real police officer

There's not much scarier for a parent or child than to temporarily lose sight of each other. Kids do all sorts of things that they may find funny that can give their parents a mini panic attack. Nearly every person has taken their turn hiding in a clothes rack at their local department store as a child, momentarily giving your parent a fright.

But sometimes it's not just a quick break in visual contact. Sometimes parent and child find themselves separated for more than a few seconds while in public. That's when panic sets in as both parties frantically search for the other. One mom and daughter found themselves in this very scary situation while at Anne Loftus Playground in New York City while Mariska Hargitay was filming an episode of Law & Order: SVU.

The little girl spotted Hargitay dressed as her character, Olivia Benson and assumed she was an actual police officer due to her badge. Instead of redirecting the little girl to resume filming, the seasoned actor halted production to try to help.


In an interview with People before the premier of the 25th season of the hit procedural series, Hargitay reveals, “We’ve been on a parallel journey,” she said. “There’s a thing: WWOBD, ‘What would Olivia Benson do?’ The fans would always talk about it, and one day it hit me. I also have those moments where I’ve sort of slipped into her. If there’s a crisis, I just take over and lead like that. Being strong and fearless. It’s sort of this perfect feminist story.”

Turns out that method is true. Fans captured the unscripted scene where the pretend detective helped a real missing little girl find her mom. You can watch the entire thing unfold below in still pictures from fans who watched the selfless moment. According to PIX11 News, Hargitay's selfless act halted production for over 20 minutes, but ultimately the girl was reunited with her mom.