Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

The 12 (Cyber) Scams Of Christmas – 2011 Version

We are now in prime cyber crime season, and the experts all predict this year will be the worst yet. Here are one security company’s Top 12 scams to be on the lookout for this holiday season, and some tips for protecting yourself. There are changes from last year’s list, so please take a look.

McAfee’s 12 Scams of Christmas

1. Mobile Malware: 

A recent National Retail Federation (NRF) survey, dated October 19, found that 52.6 percent of U.S. consumers who own a smartphone said they will be using their device for holiday-shopping related activities—whether it’s to research products, redeem coupons, or purchase holiday gifts. Malware targeted at mobile devices is on the rise, and Android smartphones are most at risk. McAfee cites a 76 percent increase in malware targeted at Android devices in the second quarter of 2011 over the first, making it the most targeted smartphone platform.

New malware has recently been found that targets QR codes, a digital barcode that consumers might scan with their smartphone to find good deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, or just to learn about products they want to buy.

2. Malicious Mobile Applications:

These are mobile apps designed to steal information from smartphones, or send out expensive text messages without a user’s consent. Dangerous apps are usually offered for free, and masquerade as fun applications, such as games. For example, last year, 4.6 million Android smartphone users downloaded a suspicious wallpaper app that collected and transmitted user data to a site in China.

3. Phony Facebook Promotions and Contests:

Who doesn’t want to win some free prizes or get a great deal around the holidays? Unfortunately, cyberscammers know that these are attractive lures and they have sprinkled Facebook with phony promotions and contests aimed at gathering personal information.

A recent scam advertised two free airline tickets, but required participants to fill out multiple surveys requesting personal information.

4. Scareware, or Fake Antivirus software:

Scareware is the fake antivirus software that tricks someone into believing that their computer is at risk—or already infected—so they agree to download and pay for phony software. This is one of the most common and dangerous Internet threats today, with an estimated one million victims falling for this scam each day. In October 2010, McAfee reported that scareware represented 23% of all dangerous Internet links, and it has been resurgent in recent months.

5. Holiday Screensavers:

Bringing holiday cheer to your home or work PC sounds like a fun idea to get into the holiday spirit, but be careful. A recent search for a Santa screensaver that promises to let you “fly with Santa in 3D” is malicious.  Holiday-themed ringtones and e-cards have been known to be malicious too.

6. Mac Malware:

Until recently, Mac users felt pretty insulated from online security threats, since most were targeted at PCs. But with the growing popularity of Apple products, for both business and personal use, cybercriminals have designed a new wave of malware directed squarely at Mac users. According to McAfee LabsTM, as of late 2010, there were 5,000 pieces of malware targeting Macs, and this number is increasing by 10 percent month on month.

7. Holiday Phishing Scams:

Phishing is the act of tricking consumers into revealing information or performing actions they wouldn’t normally do online using phony email or social media posts. Cyberscammers know that most people are busy around the holidays so they tailor their emails and social messages with holiday themes in the hopes of tricking recipients into revealing personal information.

• A common holiday phishing scam is a phony notice from UPS, saying you have a package and need to fill out an attached form to get it delivered. The form may ask for personal or financial details that will go straight into the hands of the cyberscammer.
• Banking phishing scams continue to be popular and the holiday season means consumers will be spending more money—and checking bank balances more often. From July to September of this year, McAfee Labs identified approximately 2,700 phishing URLs per day.
• Smishing –SMS phishing—remains a concern. Scammers send their fake messages via a text alert to a phone, notifying an unsuspecting consumer that his bank account has been compromised. The cybercriminals then direct the consumer to call a phone number to get it re-activated—and collects the user’s personal information including Social Security number, address, and account details.

8. Online Coupon Scams:

An estimated 63 percent of shoppers search for online coupons or deals when they purchase something on the Internet, and recent NRF data (October 19, 2011) shows that consumers are also using their smartphones (17.3 percent) and tablets (21.5 percent) to redeem those coupons. But watch out, because the scammers know that by offering an irresistible online coupon, they can get people to hand over some of their personal information.

• One popular scam is to lure consumers with the hope of winning a “free” iPad/iPhone. Consumers click on a “phishing” site, which can result in email spam and possibly dealing with identify theft.

I get one of these almost every day...

• Consumers are offered an online coupon code and once they agree, are asked to provide personal information, including credit-card details, passwords and other financial data.

9. Mystery Shopper Scams:

Mystery shoppers are people who are hired to shop in a store and report back on the customer service.  Sadly, scammers are now using this fun job to try to lure people into revealing personal and financial information.  There have been reports of scammers sending text messages to victims, offering to pay them $50 an hour to be a mystery shopper, and instructing them to call a number if they are interested.  Once the victim calls, they are asked for their personal information, including credit card and bank account numbers.

10.  Hotel “Wrong Transaction” Malware Emails:

Many people travel over the holidays, so it is no surprise that scammers have designed travel-related scams in the hopes of getting us to click on dangerous emails. In one recent example, a scammer sent out emails that appeared to be from a hotel, claiming that a “wrong transaction” had been discovered on the recipient’s credit card.  It then asked them to fill out an attached refund form. Once opened, the attachment downloads malware onto their machine.

11.  “It” Gift Scam:

Every year there are hot holiday gifts, such as toys and gadgets, that sell out early in the season. When a gift is hot, not only do sellers mark up the price, but scammers will also start advertising these gifts on rogue websites and social networks, even if they don’t have them.  So, consumers could wind up paying for an item and giving away credit card details only to receive nothing in return. Once the scammers have the personal financial details, there is little recourse.

12. “I’m away from home” Scammers:

Posting information about a vacation on social networking sites could actually be dangerous.  If someone is connected with people they don’t know on Facebook or other social networking sites, they could see their post and decide that it may be a good time to rob them.  Furthermore, a quick online search can easily turn up their home address.

We don’t want consumers to be haunted by the scams of holidays past, present and future,” said Jim Walter, manager at McAfee Labs. “With the increase in malware and other attacks on smartphones, tablets and Macs, users need to stay vigilant and ensure they protect all of their devices, not just their home PC – they can’t afford to leave the door open to cyber-grinches during the busy holiday season.

How to Protect Yourself
Internet users can protect themselves from cybercrime with the following quick tips from McAfee:

• Only download mobile apps from official app stores, such as iTunes and the Android Market, and read user reviews before downloading them.
• Be extra vigilant when reviewing and responding to emails.
• Watch out for too-good-to-be-true offers on social networks (like free airline tickets). Never agree to reveal your personal information just to participate in a promotion.
• Don’t accept requests on social networks from people you don’t know in real life. Wait to post pictures and comments about your vacation until you’ve already returned home.

I am not sure I agree with the order they chose to put these in.. but I assure you this is good information here.

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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November 29, 2011 Posted by | advice, cyber crime, hackers, how to, Internet, security | , , | 6 Comments

It’s Cyber Monday!

I hope you all had a great weekend. Well, I may as well “go with the flow” and write about how everybody is expected to shop! shop! shop!!! this so-called “Cyber Monday” (a reference to how you are not working, there at work, today, but just pretending to while you surf for bargains online).

I will say, again, be careful of online scams, and look for the “s” (https://) on shopping cart pages, and then point you to some geeky savings. Remember, try to go to the website directly — criminals are ‘poisoning’ search results, so you’ll get directed to their site, and get infected with a virus.

* Genie-soft, makers of the Timeline backup program (see my review here) are offering a 50% off deal here.

* Amazon has special discounts on all categories of items (not just ‘tech’). Their over-view page is here.

* TigerDirect’s “Pink Friday Sale” (named that as they will be donating a minimum of $100,000 to a breast cancer charity) is still available. Check out their discount items here.

* Buy.com says some items are discounted up to 83%.. but it is “while supplies last”, so.. don’t dawdle, click here.

Sometimes, it’s best to cut out the middleman.
* Hewlett-Packard has some deals (includes free shipping) here.
* Dell, for one day only, has savings of up to 80% on select products, here.
* Apple is offering savings on accessories (ahem.. accessories?) here.

Don’t forget Office Depot. I know it isn’t the first place you think of, but sometimes I think it should be. See their “while supplies last” deals here.

There.

That ought to help you be non-productive for a while. Have fun browsing!

Tip of the day: If you have a great friend, take the time to let them know that they are great.

Today’s quotable quote:Thanksgiving comes to us out of the prehistoric dimness, universal to all ages and all faiths. At whatever straws we must grasp, there is always a time for gratitude and new beginnings.” ~ J. Robert Moskin

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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November 28, 2011 Posted by | computers, gadgets, shopping for, tech | , , , , | 2 Comments

Sunday Beauty #68

Another interesting picture for your (holiday) Sunday..

Click on image to see more from this artist

“got the woodstove burning good tonite” by faster panda kill kill, courtesy of Flickr Commons

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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November 27, 2011 Posted by | Digital Images | Leave a comment

Friendly, Festive Documents (A How To)

Font Trick Makes Letters Merrier

It is the Holiday time of year. Each year at this time, I post this article which demonstrates some tricks to make your Season’s Greetings letters more joyous, and your documents more visually interesting. Many of you already know the A-B-C basics of manipulating fonts and formatting, and so this will be review.. and loyal readers may remember this one..

Tip of the day: Add some festivity to your documents with fonts and color. MS Word (as do most text editors) has a lot of features and options built into it that allows for some very creative elements to be added to your correspondence, and is not at all limited to cold, “professional” documents. I’ll use Word for this demo, but you can do this in most text editors, and e-mail programs.

Today I’m going to use a hypothetical holiday greeting letter to show how to add some fun. By default, Word sets the font to Times New Roman at 12 “points” in height. I have typed in my text, to get things started, and will demonstrate using this letter’s “opener”. As it is a header, I have “centered” the text.

1.jpg

As you can see, this font and text does not quite convey the joy and cheer and “best wishes” I am hoping to express. In fact, this may as well say, “Memo from Giganti Corp.” Yawn! So first thing I’m going to do is ‘tweak’ the font style, and make some word bigger (louder), to express a less formal tone.

2.jpg

I “highlighted” Season’s Greetings, and used the Font drop-down arrow and selected a cursive font– Lucida Handwriting (explore Words various fonts, and find the one you like best). I set the point size to 36. I repeated the process on the second sentence, but set the type smaller.. only 18. I think you’ll agree, this is much more “friendly” than the default’s look. But this is just not Festive enough! Let’s use some color and improve things some more.

3.jpg

I have again “highlighted” season’s greetings to select this font, and then clicked the Font Color button on the Formatting toolbar (If this is not showing, click here to read how to customize your toolbars). I then clicked on the little red box in the color-picker. Now season’s greetings is red. I want to alternate letters in green, so I hold down the Ctrl key and use my mouse to “select” every other letter.

4.jpg I didn’t really like the greens available on the color-picker, so I clicked on “More Colors”….

5.jpg

… and selected a green that contrasted nicely with the red– as the box in the lower right corner shows. This is the result of these steps.

6.jpg

Much more jolly! But, something’s missing…

9.jpg

Let’s add one more thing– a picture of a candy cane. I went on the Internet and found a Royalty-free graphic (though a piece of Clip Art would do just as nicely) and…

10.jpg

Voila!I could ‘go crazy’, and get carried away with adding things here… but I hope you will be able to see by this little demonstration — using only two of Word’s functions — that you are limited only by your own creativity, and that it’s easy to personalize and ’spice up’ your documents.

Like free software? Click here to see my article telling of three giveaways (not contests – giveaways!)

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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November 26, 2011 Posted by | advice, how to, MS Office, MS Word | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Giving Thanks – 2011

Dear Reader, please accept my holiday wishes..

And folks, please remember — we are now in prime Cybercrime Season. Let’s be careful and cautious out there.

It seems we have three football games today, which fits in with my plan of doing as little as possible today.

Bonus:

Found that in a drawer I haven’t dug to the bottom to in a while.. Some of you may remember those…
(Note the stay-fresh packaging? Ha! Must still be good.. was never opened..)

Today’s quote:And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” ~ John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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November 24, 2011 Posted by | advice | 6 Comments

Holiday Spirit

Getting ready for turkey day here. How about some free software? (As in “giveaways”!)

BDlot DVD Clone Ultimate

“Based on inherent excellent DVD decrypt & backup performance, now BDlot DVD Clone Ultimate upgrades to add ISO Mounter and DVD Burner feature which gives you a Ultimate DVD backup solution.”

WinX DVD Ripper Platinum Thanksgiving Edition

“No. 1 fast speed to rip any DVD to AVI, MP4, H.264, FLV, MOV, MPEG, WMV, 3GP, etc, as well as backup DVD to iPhone/4S, iPad, Apple TV, Android, HTC, Samsung, XOOM, Galaxy Tab, Kindle, ThinkPad, DELL Streak, PSP, etc. Support the latest encrypted DVDs, such as Thor and Transformers 3.”

Picture Collage Maker Pro.

Picture Collage Maker Pro is an easy-to-use program that can turn ordinary photos and pictures into stunning photo collage, scrapbook and cards to share with family and friends, and it is ideal for showing your gratitude and appreciation for the people in your life.

We have released Picture Collage Maker Pro for Thanksgiving Day, it contains new 16 professional Thanksgiving add on templates.

Are we all set for a little thanksgiving? I’ll start things off: I am thankful that my family is healthy, and currently temporarily sane.

In the news: (caution: not the cheeriest) AT&T struck with “organized” hacking attempt

“AT&T on Monday revealed that it was the target of an “organized” hacking attempt to obtain information about customer accounts, though there was no compromise.

The attackers attempted to use automated technologies to link AT&T telephone numbers with online accounts, spokesman Mark Siegel said in a statement sent to SCMagazineUS.com.” Read more..

Today’s quotable quote:As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” ~ John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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November 23, 2011 Posted by | computers, free software, software, tech | 9 Comments

Fun with Fotos Giveaway | Beware the eCards

Folks, this is a bit different than what I usually offer here, but the first 20 responders will receive a $40 program.

Got your attention? Pearl Mountain software has generously donated some licenses – to help us celebrate Thanksgiving – for their Picture Collage Maker Pro.

Picture Collage Maker Pro is an easy-to-use program that can turn ordinary photos and pictures into stunning photo collage, scrapbook and cards to share with family and friends, and it is ideal for showing your gratitude and appreciation for the people in your life.

We have released Picture Collage Maker Pro for Thanksgiving Day, it contains new 16 professional Thanksgiving add on templates.

Here’s a screenshot..

Click on image to see larger

Now, frankly, ‘ole Tech Paul doesn’t know doodly-beans about “scrapping”, as this kind of creative use for photographs is known as – but I do happen to know a pro. I asked her to look at this program. Her response was that the templates look quite dated, and not all (of them) are attractive, but on the plus side..

It does seem quite user friendly and easy with a basic drag and drop load. You can add your own photos, change their shape, add a frame, type in text, and add clip art. They do offer hundreds of free templates to choose from, including basic photo collages, scrapbook pages, greeting cards, and calendars. You can print or send via email. Set as your computer wallpaper.

So if you would like a copy so you can have some fun with your digital photos – or you know someone who would – residents of the US and Canada only can leave a comment – click on “comment” (below) – and enter a name and a valid e-mail (so I can send you the license key). To take a look at this program and/or the templates, (aka “get the 4-1-1”), click here.

This is not a contest – it’s a straight-up giveaway. (But act now.) My thank to Pearl Mountain software.

*    *     *     Tis The Season For Scammers     *    *     *

Every year I warn people that in this holiday season the criminals like send poison Ecards. I got my first one today. It uses classic methods: You have an e-Card!

But how can I tell it’s criminal?

For one thing, I am not now, nor have I ever been, riskai@hotmail.com. For another, when I hover my cursor over the link “click here”, by looking at the URL shown in the lower right of my browser..

I see that it would take me a Russian (dot ru) website. (Cleverly named “e-cards-fast”..)

Um… No, thank you.

So let’s review:

  • Don’t send Tech Paul e-Cards. I never open them.
  • Delete, unopened, any email from strangers.
  • Never click the links in emails.

Come on.. need I say it? Pay attention. (aka “pull your head out”) Be PARANOID on the Internet. Because they are out to get you.
Direct2YouN.com??? Yeah. Right.

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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November 22, 2011 Posted by | Digital Images, free software | , , , , , , | 18 Comments