Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Holiday Scams; Protect Yourself!

We truly live in the digital world. Everything has the potential to come faster. We live fast, we shop fast, we eat fast and we can be scammed fast. With the Christmas [shopping] holiday upon us it is a good idea to review some of the most notorious holiday scams and how to prevent them from taking you down.

Fraudulent Charities - Public enemy number one, fake charities are at the top of my list during the holiday season. These scammers will solicit your money through phone calls, email or snail mail. They will attempt to tug at your heart strings in any fashion possible. Never give to a charity that you have any doubts about. If you are looking for a charity to donate money to and you want to verify their legitimacy, try some of these links:
Phishing - If this were not the holidays, this would be at the top of the list. So at this giving time of year, it is second from the top. Phishing is the practice of defrauding an individual or company of financial information by posing as a legitimate company. This practice, much like fraudulent charities, is done through telephone, email, text and snail mail. These scammers will portray themselves as everything from a travel agency giving away "GREAT" deals to the "IRS" demanding back payment from your Christmas bonus. If it sounds too good to be real, then it most likely is not. Be vigilant and think before you respond. Do not open emails from unknown persons or suspicious looking email from friends or colleagues.

Name A Star - Okay, I admit, I purchased a star for my wife many moons ago. I thought it was legitimate but now we have a fancy certificate a guide to her part of the universe and someone has my $49.99. So here is the truth; the International Astronomical Union is the only organization that names stars and they will not sell you the right to do so yourself. However, if you want a nice certificate, call me (wink..)

Online Shopping - This is a difficult one to convey because we all love the convenience of shopping online and not dealing with the mobs in the malls. However, there is a rise in cyber crime so bad that legitimate websites are being "skimmed" so that they can capture your credit card information. In most cases, the websites do not know. Malware is being delivered in ads displayed on your favorite shopping sites. Be sure that you use additional verification steps, if possible, on all the websites that you use for shopping or otherwise to be sure that you are on the actual legitimate website. Using sites like PayPal adds extra protection by making sure that your transaction is secure.

The holidays are a time for celebration, family and joyfulness. Take some extra precautions to keep yourself from getting snowbound by malicious thieves.

Thursday, April 7, 2016


My friends, I know that you might hear this from me a lot, but the issue with these fake #tech #support #scams, which come by way of Pop-up windows, pop-up windows with AUDIO and telephone calls is becoming ever so more serious. I have been inundated with clients dealing with these issues daily which tells me that they are on a steady rise. These scams are not going to go away because it is a multi-billion dollar (annually) industry.

Here are some questions I am getting and I pass this on to you. Feel free to pass this on to friends and family and SHARE my page so folks can find me if they find themselves in peril with their computers.

What did I do wrong to get this pop-up? Likely, nothing. These pop-ups are generated by scripts that are placed into websites unknowingly by the website owner so it is passed to you when you land on an otherwise legitimate website. One of the newer ways this is happening is that the malicious code is tied to advertising on webpages, which again, will auto-launch when you land on the page.

I have a pop-up, what do I do? The first thing to do is realize that it is FAKE. No one from #Microsoft or any other company knows if you have viruses or such. But you have to get this off your screen and fast, right? So you might notice that you cannot just close the browser so you have to open your Task Manager. To do this, Right-Click on the taskbar that lays across the bottom of your screen. Select the Task Manager. When that loads, you can click on the web browser that is open (Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer...) and click End Process. That should close the browser and all associated windows/pop-ups along with it. If that fails, you can always hold your power button in until the computer shuts down (NOTE – I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS SHUTDOWN PROCEDURE).

Now am I infected? You might be. There is no guarantee that the pop-up did not drop a drive-by downloader off when the pop-up activated. To be sure you should check your system fully or have a qualified technician look it over for you. If in doubt, have it checked out.

Until we cut off the money supply these types of scams will not only continue but they will continue to outsmart the human element to get what they want. Using some common sense decisions will prevent the cyber criminals from winning.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

"We don't need no stinking recovery discs"...Wait, I do?

When I first began my career in the technology field, computer manufacturers would always send you set of recovery discs in the event that something drastic happened to your system and you needed to set things back to factory condition or far worse, change your hard drive. As years went by, they began placing this "system restore" on a separate partition of the hard drive and with a few commands, you could reset your computer back to factory condition. This was pretty convenient and they would still include the recovery discs so you had them. A little while later, the discs were no longer included but, if disaster struck, you could buy a set for $25 or $35.

There is your quick history lesson.

Recently, I had several clients who had hard drives that failed. This left them in that critical stage of "what do I do now". The good news is that all of the clients issues were worked out in a speedy and satisfactory manner but I want to discuss the importance of the recovery discs. Almost every computer will ship with an annoying blurb that returns now and again reminding you to create your recovery media. This is something that everyone should do. It is very convenient to have that recovery partition on your hard drive, but what will you do if your hard drive fails? You need the recovery discs. After the hard drive fails is not a good time to find this out. I recently learned that some manufacturers only maintain recovery libraries for their computers for a limited amount of time. That means after a few years, you may not be able to obtain the recovery media from your manufacturer.

It is a simple process and worth the time spent doing this when you first setup a new computer. It is even more valuable now if you have had a computer for some time. Create the discs. Get yourself a couple of DVD writable discs and locate the "Backup and Recovery" section on your computer and start the process. The process will walk you through every step telling you what to do and when to do it. Once you are done, you will now be equipped with the recovery tools needed in the event of an UN-recoverable hard drive disaster. While you're at it, make sure that you are regularly backing up your important data (documents, pictures, etc.).

Now, let's get started on that recovery, shall we?

NOTE - There are other good options for making an exact image of your drive that I will discuss in a future article.