Current Scams to Watch Out For

Well, the scammers DO keep shifting around. Please be allergic to ANYTHING that smells even the slightest bit fishy, folks.

Here are the two newest ways that tricksters are getting past people’s defenses:

– The “I know your PASSWORD, and here it is! Gimme MONEY!” trick. Within the last year, Yahoo made a sorrowful confession… “Ummm, remember when we said that a BILLION people’s emails and passwords were stolen? Well, gosh. It was actually THREE BILLION identities stolen. Our bad!” Scammers bought that info, and are now flashing their stolen info to scare gullible people into thinking that their data is going to be stolen, unless they call RIGHT NOW and give money. As long as you have NOT been using that same password for everything, you’re in no danger. When the newest operating system (“Mojave”) comes out, all of this will become a thing of the past. Mojave will force you very pleasantly to make much, much more secure passwords, and the operating system will handle it all for you, safely and automatically. No more hand-scrawled password lists.

The other new one has to do with urgent-sounding calls from “Apple Support.” Apple doesn’t do this. Bombay tricksters do. One of my clients in his mid-80’s fell for this one. The woman on the phone was digging through his computer. She LOGGED ONTO PAYPAL and attempted to send herself money. As she did so, he asked her “Are you trying to scam me?” and she says “No, no- I’m FIXING your security.” Shameless. When he FINALLY thought to call me, the first words out of my mouth were “Hang up, call the number on the back of your card, and cancel any payments! ” He did, and his bank found just under $1,000 of scam purchases.

These scams don’t leave any damage on the afflicted person’s computer, usually. They just want to impress you with snappy patter while they are trying to rob you. They tend not to stick around, preferring to smash and grab.

Here’s another scam: If you try to get support from a major corporation, and they ask you for money, or payment in store gift cards, they re NOT representatives from that large corporation. They are tricksters.

NEW Scam

One of my clients called me to complain that he had gotten an email “from Apple” that told him that his Apple ID is being used by somebody in another city. He called me to talk about it, and I walked him through several steps:

Did the email use his actual name, anywhere in it? No. A REAL email from Apple uses your actual name, clear as can be.

Did he see the same message on his iPhone? No. The iPhone is your primary security device. It’s a beast of security. Any crook can send you fake-o email alerts, but ONLY Apple can pop up security messages, right spang in the middle of your iPhone’s screen.

If you get a suspicious email from ANYBODY making a claim of authority, and you are using the Mail app on your Mac, click on the little “v”-shaped character next to the name of the sender. It reveals the TRUE sender’s address. If there’s no “apple.com” in there, they are attempting to fool you.

——

Here’s some security wisdom:

The FBI, NSA and CIA have standardized upon Macs for all of their computers. Why? Because they can’s be hacked into over the Internet, or WiFi. You can take a Mac laptop into a Starbucks, sign onto their free, public WiFi, and your Mac is invisible to bad people. Even if they CAN make guesses and locate your Mac out of 256 possible local addresses, they get exactly THREE tries to guess your name and password. On the fourth try, they are blocked forever from trying again.

So, since bad people can’t hack their way in, they can only FOOL YOU into giving away your secret information, and, best of all, give them money that they don’t deserve.

My client-list is crammed full of sweet, neighborly and kind-hearted people. Scammers see you as chumps and rubes. Don’t be fooled!

Current Mac Scams

I’m distressed right now, because way too many of my clients are being harmed. I’m posting this warning here, to reach as many people as possible:

If you get a phone call, or a web-page, warning you that there are viruses or other problems with your Apple devices, IT IS A LIE. There is no earthly way for anybody who is not in physical contact with your device to KNOW anything about its condition.

Unfortunately, these big-city sharpies are taking advantage of people’s kindness and gullibility, to the cost of around $200, all of the way up to about $2,000. They will leave your Mac cluttered with adware (trying to sell you stuff), and hijack your web-browser to monitor your activities.

These scammers (from India, in every single case) don’t have your best interests in mind. At all.

Some tips to keep in mind:

– There is only ONE, actual, valid phone number for Apple corporate support: 1-800-MY-APPLE. Anything else is bogus.

– Apple hires plenty of fine support-staff who come from India. NONE of them have heavy accents, since this just frustrates customers. Heavy accent? Scammer, pretending to be from Apple.

– NEVER give your passwords to anybody over the phone. Apple Inc. never asks.

– There is only ONE safe, trustworthy method of updating your Flash player: Pull down the Apple Menu, go to System Preferences, and then to Flash Player. Then, click on “Updates’ at the top, and click on “Check now”. ANY other method (such as web-pages saying “Your Flash Player Is Out Of Date”) is most likely a scam, trying to induce you to install multiple bad programs onto your Mac.

– If you need support for your other devices, beware. Scammers have paid Google to let them mess with you. Try this: Go to Google, and type in “HP Printer Support”. Look at the first few, bogus listings. None of them have “hp.com” in their web-addresses. HP offers FREE phone-support, but the scammers at the top of the list want to hook you into paying.

– KEEP UPDATING YOUR DEVICES. Apple can’t protect you, if you’re not up to date: On the iPhone or iPad, go to Settings – General – Software Update. On the Mac, go to Apple Menu – App Store – Updates. If your Mac is able, download and install High Sierra.

– If you HAVE been financially taken advantage of, call the number on the back of your debit or credit card, and cancel the payment. If this outrages the scammers, and they call you, say the phrase “The police have been informed of this scam”, and then hang up. They won’t call back.

– You do NOT need anti-virus programs added to your Mac. The finest one in the world is built into every Apple device. It is called “Gatekeeper”, and it protects you far better than any purchased software. The problem is, people don’t see it, and they assume that they need something, anything to protect them. As long as you keep adding every software update when requested, you are protected and up-to-date.

The Scams Continue…

Apple iCloud Scam
Beware Apple people! We received 3 calls today from 858-795-6870 that caller ID identified as Apple Inc. First two were on our voice mail and just after listening they called again. I answered and it is a recorded message stating there is a security breach with the Apple iCloud and urges you to use your Apple device to call 844-871-7945 or to press 1 if you want to speak with a support advisor now, or 2 if you want to hang up. I pressed 1 and a male voice speaking with a foreign accent answered. I said “you are not with Apple, you are fake and a scam”. I’m not sure at what point he hung up.

Googling 844-871-7945 shows a whole store full of scam ideas that use that number.

From Tony:

It’s not just that number, as I’m sure everybody already knows. Most of my Mac clients have been getting hammered by such tricks. The CURRENT, NEWEST scam is the “Six Numbers” deception:

My phone number starts with “619-804-….” If you get a call from a number with your OWN six personal digits, it is very likely to be a scam. Bad people are now having their Caller ID numbers camouflaged to match your own number.

For folks with iPhones, I still stand by my advice for you to go the App Store on your iPhone, click on “Search” at the bottom, and get the free app called “Hiya”. It has spared me at LEAST a hundred such crappy calls since I installed it.

Also: If a stranger calls, and they sound East Indian, HANG UP. My consulting clients are getting swamped by such scammers. They are like whales… They need lots of small fry to succeed. They may only rip you off for between $200 and $700, but that’s still a big deal for most of us. Then, they sell your contact-info to other scammers, and then even more of them, eager to hound you even more. So, do NOT cooperate, or engage with them at all. Since they are outside the USA, the “DO NOT CALL” list is no protection.

Here is why they exist:

Ever since OS X came out, Apple has been diligently adding more and more security to all Apple devices.  THEN, the FBI tried to arm-twist Apple into building-in a “secret” back door, that I predict would immediately become public as soon as possible, and we would all be screwed.

Remember the “Patriot Act”?  It’s still in force.  That means, if a corporation agrees to cooperate with a government agency, it is a FELONY for them to talk about it.  That is why Tim Cook and others from Apple are loudly broadcasting “We are NOT COOPERATING!”  If they ever go silent, that’s when it is truly time to panic.

So, in the two or so years since the big fight between Apple and the FBI, there have been two (soon to be three) major updates to all of Apple’s operating systems.  Each one has been a big, screw-you to the FBI, adding much more draconian security features.  We are now at the point where a high-end Apple Tech (like me), has to struggle to fix problems that are very hard to access and trouble-shoot now.

Security on Apple devices has continued to escalate.  iPhone theft in New York City has dropped 99% in the last two years, due to Apple locking everything down, making a stolen device useless.  This means that the weak link in the security chain is YOU.  That is why the scammers are hitting on you… they can’t break in, any other way.

Warning About Current Tricksters and Scammers

This advice is for anybody using computing devices, even though my professional specialty is Apple equipment:

I’m now hearing of random phone-calls telling my clients that they need to change their Apple ID password, and claiming to be from Apple. I have also heard that there are “Microsoft Support” folks out there, doing the same thing for Windows… “A virus has been found on your computer”.

IT’S ALWAYS A LIE. Don’t fall for it. For that matter, if you get a random phone call from somebody with an East Indian accent, they are NOT on your side, and want to scrape some money off of your hide.

Lately, I am hearing about this stuff at an increasing rate. Since I don’t charge folks for calling me and asking questions, I get a good amount of feedback, which is my intention – I want to keep my finger on the pulse of what is happening outside of my home business.

Here is my theory of WHY this is accelerating: Windows 10, MacOS and IOS operating systems are getting truly stout and secure, so the only way that the big-city sharpies, scammers and confidence men can succeed is if they can FOOL nice, open-hearted neighborly folks, like everybody on NextDoor.com.

It’s best to be suspicious, in 2017 and beyond. The lack of reputable, certified and competent support-people out there has created a huge gap for the swindlers to step into. Folks are so desperate for help, they will allow some stranger in a foreign land to have remote access to their device. MOST times, the faceless stranger just makes the screen do flashy and important-looking things, while the clock runs, and the costs ticks ever upward.

As I have written here before:

– Don’t fall for it. If it seems suspicious, hang UP, without being nice about it. If they call back, tell them “The police have been alerted to your scam. Remove me from your list”. If you don’t, they will sell your information to other scammers. That seems to work, most of the time.

– If they have succeeded in charging your card, call the toll-free number on the back of the card and cancel the payment. They didn’t earn it, and they don’t deserve it.

– DON’T USE THE SAME PASSWORD FOR EVERYTHING!@#$!%! One of my clients got ripped-off for $400,000.00 two years ago. She used the same password for her Gmail account, as well as her Cayman Islands tax-dodge, which contained their entire nest-egg. Funny thing: If my credit union detects a suspicious transfer of money (six bucks, even), they cancel the card and I get an alert. Those dodgy Cayman Island accounts, not so much. I had warned her for years to change her passwords, and when she called, the first thing she asked was “Is there any way to un-do this?” No. There isn’t.

– Our brains are not evolved for the Password Wars. Every one of my clients has a book, or a few sheets of paper next to their computer. These have zillions of entries, crossed-out and scrawled in the corners. They are never 100% up-to-date, because of course… We simply can’t keep up, and I include my 61-year-old self. So, we have to have a SYSTEM:

– Let’s say that my tired, weary brain can only easily come up with one killer, secure and memorable password. Anything else is a chore and a burden. Something like “TonyL1nds3y”, which is a random example that I am using for illustration, and not my actual password. It’s my name, with some capital letters, and some numbers swapped in. If I create a new online account, then my password could be “TonyL1nds3y” with a capital letter at the end:

– Gmail: TonyL1nds3yG
– Apple: TonyL1nds3yA
– Whole Foods: TonyL1nds3yW

See the pattern? Why would it be secure? Because the scammers are like whales – They need lots of teensy prey in order to profit well. They will only dedicate teams of bright people to follow you all over the Internet, and analyze your overall pattern if you are a billionaire. I assume that you are not.

On Apple devices, there is a built-in system called “Keychain In The Cloud” – This is a really good way to have all of your Apple devices handle all of your passwords automatically. Once it has been set up, here are the rules:

– ONLY use Safari as your Apple web-browser for password-related transactions. No more Chrome or Firefox. They save your passwords, alrighty, but don’t allow the same info to flow to all of your current and future devices in the easy-to-access way that Safari does.

– If Safari asks if you want to save or update your password, ALWAYS SAY YES. YES YES YES. Why? Because the folks out there on the other end (Target, Yahoo, whoever) have screwed up really, really spectacularly in the past, and are no longer allowed to ask that question. If Safari asks if you want to save the password, it is because the loving, helpful device in front of you is going to handle it for you from now on, and you can TRUST it. Nobody else has access of any kind to your password: Not Apple, the FBI, scammers. Nobody.

If you are running Windows, there are plenty of excellent password managers out there, of which I know nothing. I will happily defer to my excellent, competent and wise PC buddy Dave Ussell in San Diego (dussell @ ascii27.com) to share any of his recommendations. I only work on Apple devices, and he only works on everything else.

Blocking spam phone calls on an iPhone, for free.

After about a month of daily use, I can recommend “Hiya” for the iPhone. It’s a free app that helps me avoid junky, spammy telemarketers. It is simple, easy to set up, with no annoying ads, and it is free.

After following the setup process, here is how it works:

My iPhone is set up to say “Unknown Caller”, out loud, if they aren’t in my Contacts list. To make this happen on YOUR iPhone, go to Settings -> Phone – Announce Calls.

The phone rings. I hear “Unknown Caller”. I glance at the iPhone’s screen, and right below the incoming number, it says “Telemarketer” or “Scam or Fraud”. If given my wish, it would also emit a loud “AAHH OOOH GAAH!” sound. So, I hit the power button on the side of my iPhone to stop the ringing.  YOUR power button may be on the top right corner.

In any case, I’ve missed a good thirty such calls so far, and I am content.

Intermittent, Flaky Internet, Fixed AGAIN

From Frank:
I don’t want Cox anymore, Fed up!
Does anyone know of a better internet service provider than COX. My connection sucks and it’s 80$ a month. Can anyone recommend a better provider?

From Tony:
The problem is NOT with Cox Cable. You have a middle-aged cable modem. The Internet itself is changing. Your modem cannot keep up, and it crashes.
I fix this problem every working day, professionally:
91dpZlsBCUL._SX355_
Go to Amazon.com, and purchase an Arris SB6190 modem for $112. It is the most modern, high-speed cable modem that I know of, anywhere. I own one, myself. I had the exact same problem, before I got one.
When it arrives, call Cox technical support at (619) 262-1122 and let them know that you have a new cable modem. Make sure that they know that it has been purchased by you, from Amazon. That will save confusion.
When they ask you to read them the numbers off of the box, have the tech repeat them back to you. This will save you possible frustration.
Once they have certified the new cable modem, you will never have intermittent issues, ever again. I stand by that, 100%. Quit suffering, and have really, really good, FAST Internet from now on.
Cancel your home phone line (it has no useful function in case of disaster and loss of power, despite the lies you will be told), and trim the channels that you are paying for.  Make your Internet bill as trim as possible, with highest speed as your highest priority.
If you are currently RENTING your current cable modem, do not get off the phone before they tell you where to deliver the cable modem. They will keep charging you for it, until you bring it back to them.
Oh, and by the way…
There is no good reason on this earth to ever, EVER go with AT&T. It is a pure rip-off. My clients who are using a new cable modem with Cox cable have internet speeds that average between 60 and 189, in the local area.
On AT&T?
Between 3(!) and 30. They will never go any faster, using the current technology. The farther you are from their local station, the slower your Internet will remain. If you are paying for that kind of low speed, you are being screwed.
Oh, and I will believe AT&T’s baloney about “gigablast fiber technology” when I see it. When Net Neutrality became law, AT&T swore that they were never going to finish their fiber project, just to show the rest of us who was boss.
When someone comes to your doorstep and tries to sell you the Miracle of FIBER!!!, ask them how fast it actually is, once it is installed. If it tops out at 30, you’re still looking at plain old phone wires coming into the house, yet again. The fiber stays out on the street, where it doesn’t bring YOU any advantage.

How to turn off Facebook’s “So-and-So is live now” Alerts

Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m old, but I believe that I have enough of a life that I don’t care about somebody on Facebook having live video waiting for me.

In my case, I have an Apple Watch, and the pesky buzzing from my wrist tell me “Joe Shlemiel is live now” has become annoying.  I have LOTS of folks on Facebook who know me, and I see the trend increasing.

So, I did some Googling, and found this:

How to Turn Off Facebook’s Pesky Live Video Notifications

Crap. Yet another, NEW way for Macs to be harmed. Free and Easy Fix.

This is new – I just found about it today:

ddos-email-client

Imagine having endless new emails being generated, wildly out of control, with a message saying :”Call this number to end the problem”.  That’s basically the newest hassle.

It’s REALLY important that Mac users upgrade to the newest version of the operating system that their Mac can handle. Apple’s on the job, issuing fixes, but we have to do our part, too.

Here’s how:

Chances are good that your Mac can handle the newest operating system. Click here to see if your Mac complains when you try to install it. SOME Macs are too old:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/macos-sierra/id1127487414?mt=12

If it refuses to instal due to your Mac’s age, then you should be updating to the newest operating system that you can – Call 1-800-MY-APPLE and ask them how to get the newest security updates.

Why do I suggest calling Apple?  Because they removed the older stuff that would benefit aging Macs, so THEY should deal with the folks they have abandoned!

FINALLY – an entirely new, EASY way to get those old photos scanned!

I am very excited. This is a free, totally-useful and fast way to get all of those old photos digitized.  I HAVE a scanner, but I don’t use it.   I have access to other people’s really big, powerful scanners. And yet, decades after having the means, I STILL have three big boxes of miscellaneous old photos that have never been scanned, lurking under my stairs.

Now, there is PhotoScan, a free app from Google that just WORKS with iPhones and Android phones:

I just scanned fifteen old images perfectly, clearly and QUICKLY. No thinking at all – I can listen to an audiobook as I crank through a big pile of images.

I prop up an image in a daylit area so that there is no glare. I make sure that the phone’s flash is turned OFF, to avoid glare. I frame the image on my phone’s screen, and click the button. Four dots appear on the image corners. I move the phone to overlap each corner, and after the fourth dot is touched. it’s done. Next!

This is enormously better than using the slow scanner. In my brief time trying it out, I have achieved what I consider to be perfect results, without any effort at all.img_9098Was it really 42 years ago, when I looked like that?

In my opinion, the final results show up exactly as they appeared in the original photo, with no extra work to be done. Now, I want to schedule some scanning time every morning.