Posts Tagged ‘security’

IRS Scam – FYI below came from my credit union…


IRS-Impersonation Telephone Scam

Posted on January 16, 2015 Security Center

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently issued a consumer alert regarding an IRS-impersonation telephone scam. The scam artists are calling consumers claiming to be IRS employees. The callers may know information about you and also alter the caller ID information to make it look like the IRS is actually calling. They claim taxpayers owe money to the IRS and stipulate it must be paid through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are often threatened with arrest or other consequences. In order to thwart these scam attempts, the IRS has provided five tell-tale signs of a scam call.

Five Tell-Tale Signs of an IRS-Impersonation Scam Call

A scam caller will:

  1. Accuse you of unpaid taxes without proper documentation or references.     
  2. Demand immediate payment without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  3. Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
  4. Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  5. Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and feel it is part of the scam described above, the IRS asks that you do one of the following:
  • If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at 800.829.1040 . An IRS employee can help you with a payment issue. Do not use a number given by the caller – it could lead directly back to the scam.
  • If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 800.366.4484 or at
  • File a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant. Choose “Other” and then “Imposter Scams". If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.

You Don’t Have It, And You Need It. Save Some $$$

“What is it Laurie?” you ask.  Well, this may not be as practical for you if you have a laptop computer, but if you have a desktop pc, or an all-in-one like an iMac a little spent now can save you money in the future.

For most of you, UPS means one thing – the company that delivers packages to your door.  But UPS has another meaning for folks familiar with computers and security.  UPS stands for “Uninterruptible Power Supply”, which is basically a battery that keeps your computer running in the event of a power outage. 

But there’s more than just keeping the computer running, there’s PROTECTING the computer from power problems that reduce it’s life or completely break it.

A proper UPS will not only protect your computer from power outages, but from low and high power voltage fluctuations in the power lines, and will allow you you safely shut down your computer without the loss of your data.

The one I’m recommending right now that’s a very good deal is a CyberPower UPS that can handle any normal PC and monitor for several minutes with no problem in the event of a total power outage.  This model is (right now) only $119.99 with free shipping from NewEgg (free shipping is valuable because these are heavy as you will see.)

You don’t need your printer or other peripherals to be on battery backup, but you will certainly want you PC and monitor to be so you can save your files and shutdown safely.  It comes with software that monitors everything and WILL shut down you computer after a set amount of time in the event of a power outage, but the battery backup gives you the opportunity to save what you’re doing without any data loss.

Power supplies in computers are very fragile.  Think about your desktop computer, you have this thick power cord that plugs into the back of your computer.  On the other side of that plug is a box approx. 4” x 6” x 6” that converts your house voltage to computer friendly voltage.  I replace power supplies all the time for clients, so much that I keep them in stock in the trunk of my car.  The cost to replace them is at the least around $100.  Buying a UPS can pay for itself in the first outage, AND you won’t encounter any downtime in the meantime.

Just consider this preventive maintenance well spent.  I don’t make any money if you take my advice, I probably will if you don’t.  Gat a UPS, this one is a good one at a good price and save yourself some money in the long run.  Here’s the link to the UPS on sale at NewEgg:

Good News for AT&T Cell Phone Customers

Sorry to trick you but no, there is NO good news for you if you’re an AT&T cell phone customer.  Apparently there was a data breach and the personal data of their customers, including social security numbers as well as who was called and for how long was taken by hackers. 

It’s bad enough that it happened at all, even worse is that it happened TWO months ago between April 9th – 21st and they are just now admitting it.

If you know how to put a fraud alert on your credit report, that would be a good idea.  AT&T is trying to sell this as saying the bad guys were only interested in stolen phones.  That originally may even be true.  But when they realize the information they have can be sold to others who have other uses for the information, what do you think will happen?

I’m not an AT&T cell customer, but if I were, I’d be on the phone with them demanding that they PAY for a year of identity theft protection with Lifelock or another company offering that service.  Just be nice to the person on the other end of the phone, it’s not their fault.  If they can’t help, ask for a supervisor.

Be “Web Aware” While on the Internet


I’m not saying these are bad guys, but the companies you use for free information (which is most sites) need to make money.  They have a variety of business models.  The more legitimate sites at least give you a hint, as does Yahoo news.

I use Yahoo news as ONE of my news sources.  Here are a couple of “headlines” I saw in the newsfeed… 

Homeowners Get a Bailout This Year, f you own a home and pay for a mortgage, you could reduce your payments by as much as $3,000 a year. Here is how it works.

New Site Grants Access to Anyone’s Public Record,  Did you know that your record in online and anyone can see it? Search through millions of public records and see what you can find.

Those weren’t actual news articles, those were ads placed right in the middle among the actual news articles.  It doesn’t happen just in Facebook.  Just be aware that all that FREE stuff you look at has to cost someone some money, and they are trying to make a profit.  That’s not evil, that’s just business.   On television it’s easy to tell a difference between the program and the ads.  On the Internet it’s a little harder to tell them apart at some sites.

Be a smart surfer and pay attention to what you click on.  It’s not evil, but it IS business.

T – Minus 29 and Counting (Windows XP That Is)

Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock.  Tuesday, April 8th is the LAST day Microsoft will update/patch/fix Windows XP.  If you are STILL running this old operating system, you should know by know that it’s not safe after April 8th you use a Windows XP computer on the Internet. 

The bad guys have been drooling just waiting for that day, because they know some of you just won’t upgrade you current computer or buy a new one.  The day after the 8th, the bad guys will be all over the Internet with their hacks for you to go online.

I wish I could say “everything will be ok”, but you’ll at the least get infected with a virus and at the worst get infected with something that will steal your confidential logins, passwords, etc.

Hey, I grew up as a procrastinator, but you don’t want to hold out on this.  It could get very expensive if you think “everything will be ok”.  Well, it won’t.

If you still don’t know what to do by now, then you need to call me this week.  Your time is running out.  Let’s keep your data safe.  Tick-Tock, Tick,Tock.

This is What a LIE Looks Like

imageI’ve said it many times, bad guys lie!  Today, I had not one but TWO clients get caught by the same lie.  They both had this “System Care Antivirus” program pop up and report that they had all these trojans, worms, spyware, all the scary words.  The thing is, they really didn’t have those infections, rather, they had this tricky little thing that tries to frighten you into thinking you have all these problems and then they ask you to download their software to fix it – all you need is a credit card to buy it with.  Of course, if you do now the bad guys not only have some of your money but they now also have your credit card information, and though this scary window may go away, I promise you’ll have other bad things left behind you won’t know about.

The good news is that neither of my clients gave up any credit card information.  What’s more disturbing is that it apparently came in through Java, and BOTH of them had the latest version of Java, so I’ll repeat myself again here…. Remove Java from your computer unless you absolutely must have it.  If you’re not sure, remove it anyway.  Any program that needs it will tell you to get Java, and you can go to to get the latest version.  You can remove Java from the Control Panel under “Programs and Features” (Add/Remove Programs if you’re using Windows XP.)

New Security Alert!

I won’t get technical with you, but there has been a new vulnerability discovered in routers using UPnP (that’s ALL routers.)  This vulnerability could allow a bad guy to get into your computer regardless of your router and any anti-virus software you may be running.

Fortunately for you, the security guru I follow has a simple tool to let you know if you’re exposed or not.   Go to this link:, read the disclaimer and then click on “Proceed".

At the next screen, click on the big yellow button that says “GRC’s Instant  UPmP Exposure Test”.  If you get an “Exposed” result, then you probably need my help in getting your router locked down.  Most of you will pass so you’re good to go.

If you want to further test your router, go back to the link above and scroll down a little further and click on the “All Service Ports” menu item.  This will check to make sure you’re router isn’t responding to requests from strangers on the Internet.  If it is, well, then you probably need to call me as well.  You router shouldn’t be responding to anonymous requests from the Internet – if it does, then your computer might be compromised to the bad guys on the Internet.

I expect most of you to pass just fine – but this is a good test to run to ensure that your router is set up the way it should be.

Have You EVER Changed Your Email Password? (Do You Even Know What it Is?)

imageChances are you’ve had your email account for a long time.  Chances are you are using the same weak password you originally set it up with, and if you’re using Outlook, Outlook Express, Windows Mail, Thunderbird, Apple Mail or some other program on your computer, chances are you don’t even KNOW what your password is.

Back in June I wrote an article titled “Why You MUST Protect Your Email Account”, because if someone gets into your email account they know a LOT more about you than you may think.  Now, a hacker might get into your account and use it to spam your friends, but then you’ll start seeing messages from your friends asking you about the message “you sent”.

But suppose they don’t use your email account for spam, maybe for some reason they just read your eamil and leave it at that.  Maybe they’re stalkers, maybe they are trying to learn more about you.  All this time you wouldn’t even know that someone else was in your email.

So here we are in the holiday season – approaching the new year.  So let’s all just change our email password to keep what we hope is private – private.  Don’t just add a “1”, that’s so obvious you’ll be compromised for another year.  Review my article from earlier this year ( and make sure your email is secure.

Tek-Chic Systems Being Interviewed Tomorrow on “Security in a Digital World”

imageWednesday morning at 10:00 (Central time) I’ll be interviewed by Angela Ploetz, owner and founder of “”, a company dedicated to helping small businesses make the most of their resources.  “Security in a Digital World” is the theme, and I’ll be talking about the basics of computer security, avoiding viruses, If you would like to listen to the interview, you can read more and sign up at

Your $1,000 Wal-Mart Card is shipping today!

imageYou get the email with the above subject line.  Hello???  You’re not REALLY going to click on the links in the email are you?  You don’t REALLY think there is a $1,000 gift card waiting for you do you?  If you’re already a client of mine, I hope not – you should know better.  I’ve already told you “DON’T click on links” in email unless you know WHO they are from and you’re EXPECTING it.  People ask me “How did I get this virus?” but they won’t admit that they clicked on an email like this.  I’m telling you now – THIS is how you get a virus.  You click the link – it takes you to a web site and the next day you’re calling me telling me you THINK you have a virus.

Well, I KNOW you have a virus.  Please don’t fall for these scams.  At the least they want control of your computer, at the worst they want your financial information.  Either way it’s going to cost you time and money. 

The bad guys are always coming up with new ways to get you to click on a link or open an attachment.  Don’t fall for it and you’ll be happier in the long run.  Below is the version I received (with the links disabled… )


Your $1,000 WalMart Card is shipping today.
Confirm shipping information here.

-Use it at any Walmart® location
-Works the same as cash, never expires!
-Get the latest games, electronics, home accessories, and more

Confirm shipping information ASAP:
click here.

Protect Your Android Phone With SeekDroid – Free Today at the Amazon App Store

image SeekDroid is normally $.99, but today you can get it free at the Amazon App Store.  SeekDroid will let you track your phone on a map if you misplaced it, sound an alarm to help locate it, and if necessary you can lock the phone with a new code and even wipe the phones memory and SD card to protect your data.  One cool feature is that it will also show you the most recent calls made on the phone.  If your phone was stolen and they made calls you can see the numbers.  It’s easy to use and with the price of a replacement phone costing between $400-$600, even $.99 is a no-brainer.  If you have an Android phone and you’re reading this the day I post it then you can get it for free.

Before You Post on Facebook – THINK!

imageRecently on my personal Facebook news feed I saw that a friend of mine had “commented” on a post of one of her friends.  It was an interesting comment so I followed it to her friend’s home page.  While on her friend’s page, I noticed that there was a post made by on of her friends asking her to text her and she included her phone number!  Now, this 2nd girl who posted her phone number actually has her security settings set fairly restrictive, as I wasn’t able to see too much on her page.

What she didn’t know is that her friend’s page (where she posted her phone number) had virtually NO security set on it – that’s how I was able to see her phone number.  And if I was able to see it, then the whole world is able to see it.  This girl didn’t post her area code, but she didn’t need to since her friend had ALL of her own information public, it was easy to assume they probably live in the same town, and sure enough I was right.  How did I know?  After a quick Google search to look up the area code for this particular town, I called her and left a message on her phone (her greeting confirmed I had the right person.)  So now I know her full name, the area she lives in (if not the exact town) and her cell phone number.  If I was a bad guy or some weird stalker (I guess that’s a bad guy too) then I’m sure it wouldn’t be too hard with another 30 minutes of work to find out where she lives and with a little more time where she works or who she hangs out with.  This isn’t information a 19-20 year old woman may want total strangers to have access to.

So what’s the point of my little story here (which is true by the way)?  If you’re going to post on Facebook, ASSUME that it will be public and can be seen by anyone and everyone.  Facebook is NOT the place to post ANYTHING that you would like to keep between you and your friends.  You might have your security settings locked down, but it you post to a friend’s page, you don’t know what their security settings are like, and for all you know the whole world can see what you posted.  In addition, even if you believe your friends have their security settings properly set, they in all likelihood are using a weak and easy to crack password – so if their account get’s hacked, everything you once thought was private is now in the hands of a bad guy, including any of your personal information you only share with “Friends”. 

So THINK before posting on Facebook, or for that matter anywhere on the web.  No one will protect your privacy if you don’t do it yourself.

Has Your Password Been Hacked?

imageThere has been an outbreak of major companies getting hacked and user data being taken.  Often the hackers post some or all of the hacked data to prove they did it.

Well, some industrious individual has combined the available data and created a website called “Should I Change My Password?”  All you have to do is type in your email address and the page will tell you if that address is among the KNOWN hacked addresses.  If it finds a match the site will advise you to change all your passwords, which you should do.  Now if the site does not find a match that doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to be safe, it just means you’re not in the available data, so as always be sure your passwords are strong and don’t use the same one for all your sites.  Here’s the link, give it a try:

The Bad Guys are Getting Better at Fooling Us

imageIf you’re running Windows XP, then you know probably (and hopefully) know what the Windows Update web site looks like.  Well, the bad guys are trying to convince you that their site is the same thing, but it’s not.  Strangely enough, you only see this if you’re using Firefox (and the REAL Windows Update only works with Internet Explorer – clue #1.)  Clue #2 is a pop-up that tells you that you need to update your copy of Windows.  That’s NOT how Microsoft notifies you.  You will see the typical yellow shield in the lower right task tray if you have updates.  So if you click the pop-up and download the “update” from their website you’ll actually be downloading a virus.

So the same advice that I’ve always given still applies, if you get a pop-up that says you’re computer is infected, DON’T CLICK on it.  The only warning you should be getting is from your own anti-virus software.  If you don’t know what your anti-virus software looks like, then it’s time you opened it up and take a look.  Run a manual scan so you know what it looks like.  That’s the best to not get fooled by fake anti-virus software.  If you’re using No-Script in Firefox as I recommend in my November article, you probably won’t even see the pop-up and be tricked into clicking.

Don’t Ask Why, Just Go Change Your Facebook Password Now, Really! All of You!

imageI changed mine before writing this post.  This is so far the most UNDERREPORTED security issue in the last several weeks, and if your reading this then you want to know why.  It’s technical and you’ll probably be sorry you asked, but as simply as I can put it, there was a flaw in Facebook’s old API (application programming interface) that is used by 3rd party applications in authenticating your Facebook credentials.  The problem is that the tokens used by the 3rd parties exposes your login token in the URL sent to advertisers, and is stored in their referrer logs (webs sites know how you got to them, what browser you use, what operating system you use, etc.)  These logs are easy for hackers to obtain and with the logs they can then impersonate you on Facebook, creating posts that can invite your friends to visit web sites filled with malware.  Changing your password will invalidate the old tokens, and will prevent someone gaining access to your account.  Facebook has fixed the problem so it won’t occur going forward, but those referrer logs sitting on advertisers’ servers last forever, never expire and if you don’t change your password that is all a bad guy needs to access your account.

That’s as simple and non-technical as I can make it.  It you’re a glutton for punishment, then you can go to Symantec’s Security Response blog page with a full description of the leak:

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