Computer Scam Log Entry #4

Fake Email #4: Accountant receives email from colleague with invoice to pay vendor via wire payment.

Visiting Geeks: The from email address was correct and clicking the blue “from email” link shows colleague’s correct email address.  Forwarding the invoice was also usual procedure except the content to wire payment raised suspicion from the accountant and alerted Visiting Geeks. Visiting Geeks examines the email message routing details and determined that it was sent from Lagos, Nigeria.  This kind of spoofing is done frequently by criminals and not too difficult to carry out.  It doesn’t necessary mean that the colleague or the accountant’s  computers were compromised.

Take Away:  Even legitimate looking emails could be a scam. Anything out of the ordinary should raise an alarm.

 

 

Computer Worm Log Entry# 4 – WannaCry

Worm #4:  The message “Oops, your important files are encrypted.” or “Hello, dear friend! All you files have been ENCRYPTED.” displays on your screen and a ransom is demanded.

Visiting Geeks: These are classified as ransomware. Some computers at the City of Atlanta, Baltimore’s 911 system and Boeing were all attacked recently with a crypto-virus derived from a vulnerability uncovered by the NSA.  This type of malware is classified as a WORM.  Once a computer is infected, this WORM will seek out other computers on the same local network and try to infect them as well.  Phishing is the typical way of gaining entry.  Data is encrypted and cannot be recovered unless ransom is paid. To protect your computer, be vigilant on incoming emails, apply latest Microsoft security updates as well as having a real-time anti-virus protection, plus a off-site/cloud backup for your data.

Steps to Roll Back Windows 10

Not a week go by without a customer expresses desire to roll back or uninstall Windows 10 to go back to the previous version of Windows for a myriad of reasons.

Many customers did not want to upgrade but after relentless messages from Microsoft, they either relent or answer the upgrade question incorrectly, resulting Windows 10 being installed.  Still more customers do not know that they can revert back to their previous operating system within 30 days of upgrade.

Now that 30-day window has long passed and there is no simple push button way to roll back.  For non-technical users that want to restore to their computer’s previous operating system, these are general and necessary steps:

  1. Back up all your data.
    1. pictures, documents, emails, favorites, contacts, music and any application specific data.
  2. Locate installation disks and product codes of the applications installed in your computer.  Eg. Microsoft Office, Quicken, Quick Books, etc.  Sometimes, that could be username and password for the application you purchased. Because you need to re-install them after the previous operating system is re-installed.
  3.  Locate your computer’s original installation disk, including component drivers; or the restore disks you made.
  4. If you do not have 3. Go to your computer manufacturer’s web site. Use your service tag or serial number in the Support pages to see if restore disks are available for sale.  Buy that if they are available. Sometimes, the re-installation disks/USB drive come with instructions. Manufacturer re-installation media will automatically activate original Microsoft product key.
  5. Assuming you have the restore/re-installation disks and verified that you saved all your data, set aside at least 3 to 4 hours to do the re-installation.

To restore/re-install:

  1. Insert your restore/re-installation disks into the CD/DVD drive or in the case of a flash drive, insert into USB port.
  2. Turn on your computer and press either Esc, F2, F10, F11, F12 or Delete key to get to the boot selection screen.  This is different for different computer model and you may have to Google to find out the right key sequence.
  3. Once you have the boot selection screen, select the CD/DVD drive or USB (if flash drive).
  4. Follow the on-screen instructions to install the operating system.

Assuming you are successful in re-installing the operating system.

  1. Check to make sure internet works. If not, go to the computer manufacturer’s website to find, download and install the correct internet driver. (That means you may need a second computer.)
  2. Reinstall all your application software.
  3. Restore your data.
  4. Check to make sure all devices are working.
  5. Run Windows update and that may take a while. It may run overnight.

This is meant to be a general guideline and gives you a rough idea on the scope. You should verify the steps and modify as needed for your computer model.

 

Computer Scam Log Entry #3

Fake Zeus Virus Warning

Scam #3: A message from “Windows Defender Alert” on your computer monitor proclaims a Zeus virus has been detected and your data has been compromised.  The message says your computer is infected due to downloading adult/porn videos. Do not shut down the computer and contact Microsoft at a toll free number on the screen.

Visiting Geeks: This is a very common scare tactic used by the scammers.  Do not call the toll free number. They want to sell you “services” to remove the virus for you and then up-sell you a multi-year maintenance contract. Just the opposite, your computer most likely is not infected by the Zeus virus. Instead, the message is caused by adware surreptitiously installed in your computer.  You need to uninstall suspicious program, remove dubious web browser extensions, add-ons  as well as doing a detailed scan using one of the reputable anti-virus program.  To learn more, click here to read an article with more detailed information.

Buy A New Computer With Guidance. No Markup.

Buying a new computer can be a bewildering experience for consumers and small businesses as there are plethora of choices on top of ever changing technologies.  Some times, we would arrive at customer sites only to find the new computer(s) with incompatible or missing components. And no one wants that.

There are no shortage of articles on the Internet giving you 10 must haves, 9 new features, 7 steps on picking computers. These actually lead to more anxiety and confusion.  I confess that I am adding one more piece on this topic.

Our goal is to help you make the right choice without angst.  Call us before your next purchase.  We have no brand or system bias. We do Windows and Apple. We simply want the best fit computer for you.

That’s why we don’t mark up computers.  You can buy the ones that we recommend directly on your own or prepay us to purchase on your behalf.  Whichever is more convenient. Either way, you pay the same sales price, sales tax and shipping charge.  Instead, we charge a fixed consulting fee of $39. More often than not, we save you time, aggravation and more.

Our approach is to learn more about you.  We talk and listen.  We answer your questions and we ask questions like:

  1. How do you use your computer?
  2. What do you like about your current computer?
  3. How often do you use the computer?
  4. Are there any existing applications that you would like to continue to use?
  5. Do you still want to use the same monitor?
  6. Do you want to use the same printer?
  7. What’s your aptitude to learn new things?
  8. Do you travel, moving around the house with your computer?
  9. Is your current computer a Windows computer or Apple?
  10. Do you want similar system?
  11. What about a tablet?
  12. Do you have a preference, brand or otherwise?
  13. Aside from email, web browsing, what else you use the computer for?
  14. What is a comfortable screen size for you?
  15. Any particular color preference?
  16. How many people are going to use this computer?

We would learn if you like to open many tabs in the web browser or not, streaming Netflix, You Tube or playing Spider Solitaire, Type A or not and more. These snippets of information give us a pretty good idea on your needs.  You notice that there’s no mentioning of CPU speed, memory size, graphics card and hard disk speed.  Because through the conversation, you gave us a pretty good idea what would work for you.

We will then research and propose 3 alternatives within your price range with costs and where to purchase.  We give you the pros and cons of each alternative. You may choose or ask more questions. It may take several iterations.  And that’s O.K. We are here to help.

We hope this makes your next computer purchase a little bit less daunting and a more pleasant experience.

Computer Scam Log Entry #2

Scam #2: Email with title “Automated Intuit Invoice Message” from intuit@hmrsss.com that payment is due for an invoice.  The message says:

‘Dear customer,

This invoice email message is being delivered to you by Intuit Inc. on behalf of Transamerican Credit Group Ltd. Please click the link above to view an invoice’

It also includes a trademark acknowledgement and a link to Intuit’s privacy policy.

Visiting Geeks: This is a scam or phishing expedition. There are obvious signs of malfeasance in the email, including the sender’s email address from a company you don’t know, the name of the company sending the invoice is different from the email sender. Furthermore, hovering the mouse over the links reveal long and gibberish web addresses.  Bad guys know it’s tax season and use Intuit as a trusted brand. Smell fishy. Delete email right away.

Who Needs Backup?

The answer is everyone, except the few who don’t care losing data, be that documents, contacts, favorites, pictures, tax returns, accounting records….  In one incidence, a grandfather asks us to recover a file with first sounds made by his new born grandson.

Data loss is inevitable.  The causes are plenty: hardware problems, system update malfunctions, malware, virus, ransomware, fast fingers….  The pain will be much less if there’s a backup. However logical this sounds, many still don’t backup. Why not?

Nowadays, backing up is easier than ever.  If backing up to an external storage device or setting up local backup software is too complicated, welcome to the age of cloud backup.  It’s real easy and cheap.

Carbonite and Backblaze are two U.S.-based cloud backup companies that majority of our customers use. For personal use, Carbonite is $6/month ($72 / year) and Backblaze is $5/month ($50 / year).  Both provide unlimited storage.  Carbonite backs up one user’s data by default and Backblaze backs up all users in the same computer.  They both work in the background automatically.  There are many other cloud backup companies but either one of these would be excellent choice.

Computer Scam Log Entry #1

We receive customer inquiries almost on a daily basis whether an encounter is a scam, virus or what not. I’m going to keep a simple log entry whenever our customers or friends call in.

Scam #1: A voice mail claiming that your Microsoft License expired. Call a toll free number right away to avoid loss of data.

Visiting Geeks: Microsoft does not call. Your computer’s Microsoft operating systems license has been activated by the computer manufacturer at the factory.  In theory, it should never ‘expired’.  However, license of a new Microsoft operating system improperly installed due to hardware/software error will expire after a period of time and the computer will display a warning message.  Still, not Microsoft calling you.

 

3 MUST HAVE NEW PRINTER FEATURES

You Google printers and a zillion of them spit out on your screen. That’s not helping.

Put aside your brand preferences for the moment and forget about the glitz and fancy features.

Here’s my 3 MUST HAVEs.

#1 MUST HAVE. Printer has to be easy to install and maintain.  So, a LCD screen on the printer is my #1 MUST HAVE.  I don’t want to look up in the manual or remember all those esoteric button combinations in order to set up/review printer features. No screen, no go.

#2 MUST HAVE. Then you want to see if the printer provides Ethernet and/or Wifi LAN feature.  With the LAN enabled printer, printing can be shared among family/staff members.  I prefer Ethernet connection as it is less error prone and drama, in my view.

#3 MUST HAVE. AirPrint. Look for the Apple AirPrint compatible logo before you buy. Invariably, someone wants to print from an Apple device. With AirPrint, printing from iPad and iPhone will be a bliss.  Otherwise, it gets complicated.

Aside from the 3 MUST HAVE features, there are many other items to consider. Most printers offer all-in-one features, including multi-page scanning, copying and faxing.  Print quality in general is good enough unless you are looking for high definition printing. Then you should find ones that provide higher resolution.

Paying more means faster print speed, better durability, more paper sizes and possibly color laser.

Most importantly, don’t be too cheap.  Spending $150 +/- should get a decent new home/small office printer.