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April
20

 

Spam 101

From Our Friends at Integrity Computer Consulting and Repair

Technology scams are running rampant right now, whether they come by email, phone call, and now text messaging. We have had several customers reach out about texts that look to be from their bank asking to "verify information." Be vigilant when dealing with any communications via phone call, email, or text that regard any exchange of money or "verifying" any account information with a link or number to call.   

Our recommendations are as follows:

You can use your cell phone carriers' built-in number blocking on your phone to stop unwanted calls or texts from specific numbers; you can also block offending email addresses in your email account. But with any sort of fraud, scammers often use hundreds of thousands of phone numbers and emails and move very quickly onto the next.  This makes permanent blocking hard.  

To really have an impact, we recommend reporting the offending communication to the FTC.  This can be done online at: https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/

A few rules of thumb for spam calls, texts, and emails:

  1. Do not engage spammers.  When you answer or respond, you are showing the scammer, spammer, or robo-system that your phone number or email is "live". It is then put on a live numbers list that is sold over and over and the calls/texts/emails will continue infinitely.
  2. Do not answer calls from numbers you do not recognize. This one is hard for agents, but if it is important or a legitimate call, they will leave a voicemail or text you. 
  3. Do not answer texts from numbers you do not recognize
  4. Get into the habit of regularly entering and labeling known clients, colleagues, friends, family, etc. as contacts in your phone and email.
  5. Do not answer unsolicited or out-of-the-ordinary texts from numbers you do recognize.  The number could be spoofed to fool you. Instead, call the number you have in your contacts (not from the text or email) for the person texting you and verify via phone call that they sent the text.
  6. Do not click on links in texts or emails that you are not expecting from anyone that you do or do not recognize unless you have verified with the actual sender via phone call or in person.
  7. Do not open emails, download any attachments, or click on links in emails from senders you do not recognize.
  8. Do not download any attachments or click on links in unsolicited or suspicious emails or texts from senders you do recognize. Their email may have been hacked or their number spoofed.
  9. TRUST YOUR INTUITION.  Slightest question of authenticity?  Feeling of distrust? Major red flag? Do not ignore these feelings.
  10. COMMUNICATION IS KEY. If a text or email seems weird, out of character, just a slight bit off? We recommend that you call the person/company/bank to verify the contents of an email or text, or ask a trusted professional.

If you have any questions about a suspicious email, call, or text, feel free to contact our office via phone 208.288.4345 or email info@integrityidaho.com.

February
10

 

Windows 11

From Your Friends at Integrity Computer Consulting and Repair

(If you own a Mac, this doesn't apply, your OS is updated yearly.)

Many of us have seen the update for Microsoft's newest operating system (OS), Windows 11 come through on our laptop or desktop PC. Some of you have likely had it automatically applied.

If you have NOT seen the update, your computer may be too old to upgrade. This is not a cause for concern!

Anyone can stay safely on Windows 10 until its End of Life (EOL) date of October 14, 2025.

And even then, Microsoft may offer extended support as they have done for all other operating systems before it.

If you have seen the update, have you ignored it? You might be able to upgrade to Windows 11.  Most notably, the Windows update icon down by your clock won't go away and now has a blue dot on it (instead of an orange/yellow or red one) like this: 

 

So should you make the jump to upgrade your current PC to Windows 11?   What will it do? What will it change? What will it break? Will it affect you much?

 The answer is, it depends. Like people on the planet, our computer environments are all different, unique. With each individual and different environment, the answer varies. It is complicated because no 2 environments are the same. But this time, Microsoft has given us tools to check.

We recommend you take the following steps if you are prompted for the upgrade:

  1. Read about the upgrade. Is it for you?
  2. Check if your PC components can get the upgrade. Will it work for your computer?
  3. Decide if you want the upgrade or to stay on Windows 10

(please call or email our office if you have any questions or need assistance doing any of the steps above and pictured below) 

 

 

Our findings? Most of the PCs that have upgraded from 10 to 11 are working fine without many significant issues; however, if you have older software (QuickBooks and Quicken apply) or older peripherals like printers, wireless mice, keyboards, and speakers, they may not work with Windows 11.   We are finding that we have had to reinstall some printer and copier drivers and remap network drives. 

If your computer is 2 years or newer, you have current software, you don't mind the change, and/or have the time/patience to learn Windows 11… upgrade.

If you have any hesitations or concerns, please contact us before making the jump. Advances in technology can be both great and frustrating. We are here to help.

Call our office (208-288-4345), or email us (info@integrityidaho.com) if you have any questions or need immediate assistance!

January
12

 

2022: New Tech Habits

From Your Friends at Integrity Computer Consulting and Repair

A few ideas and some new, some old - tried and true… start 2022 with some new tech practices! 

  1. Backup, backup, backup! Whether you rotate a flash drive or hard drive, or use an online/cloud backup service, backing up and checking that backup is critical.  Irreplaceable or important family photos/documents/files? Back up to the cloud.
  2. Set a reminder every week to perform general tech maintenance: check your backup, scan for malware, apply any waiting updates (Macs, PCs, and phones), organize files into folders, clean off your desktop, physically wipe down and clean your devices, etc.
  3. Turn on multi-factor (MFA) or two-factor authentication(2FA) everywhere you possibly can.
  4. Set a reminder every 90 days to change passwords on important accounts that do not have MFA/2FA and to remove unused apps from your phone.
  5. Stop saving passwords on important sites to your internet browsers (Chrome, Edge, Firefox, etc.) and start writing them down.
  6. Groom email inboxes daily. Mark messages as junk or spam, delete unimportant items, organize the important ones, and check your spam filter for messages that are legitimate.
  7. Start a dummy email account for spammy stuff.
  8. Log out of sites, close internet tabs, and save and close documents before leaving work or going to bed. Updates, power outages, and hardware failures happen.
  9. Take time away from your screens. Do other office tasks, chores at home… give your eyes and body a break from the blue light, scrolling, and/or typing.
  10. Silence, distance, or power off your devices when not in use to not only give yourself a break from 24/7 availability, but to prolong device lifespan and pause analytics being gathered when on or in use.
  11. Be careful with "smart" devices - is having any essential home function like door locks, outlets, or thermostats connected to your Alexa or Google Assistant necessary?
  12. Stop paying for PC antivirus software and uninstall any free versions; Windows has built-in antivirus and any other programs usually end up causing performance and permissions issues.  (Anti-malware software is different and recommended, even for Macs; their free versions work well.)
  13. Protect your privacy on social media accounts. Review your privacy settings frequently as social media platforms are always making changes. Make friends lists private, remove your location information, tighten privacy on photos and albums, don't use Instagram or Facebook to log in to other accounts, and log out and log in correctly especially on shared devices.
  14. Protect your personal information on any platform, when in doubt, OPT OUT.  From signing up for grocery loyalty rewards to online newsletters (see #7), clicking on ANY link in an email or filling out an online form. Is the hassle of 10 emails a day from a retailer AND THEN all the spam from your email being sold over and over worth that 10% savings on your first order? Is saving 40¢ once a month on a gallon of gas worth all the dead phone line or car warranty renewal phone calls?
  15. Think twice about clicking things (buttons, links, pictures)!

Things to never click:

  • Emails links that ask you to change any password
  • Email links that ask you to verify any account credential
  • Email links that ask you for money for any reason
  • Email attachments you were not expecting
  • Malicious pop-ups about a virus or sweepstakes winning that covers your screen

And take a pause before clicking on things like sponsored articles or ads on Facebook, Instagram, or in news stories, or links in email for a story, cool new gadget, sale, discount, sweepstakes, etc. Is the chain reaction that click is going to cause worth it?

Lastly, sometimes low tech is the best tech. Technology comes with a lot of learning, understanding, and maintenance. Sometimes, just doing things "the old-fashioned" way is the easiest and most secure.

Please call our office (208-288-4345), or email us (info@integrityidaho.com) if you have any questions or need immediate assistance!

November
15

 

More Email Best Practices: How should you handle junk email?

From Your Friends at Integrity Computer Consulting and Repair

A spoofed profile is where a scammer copies your profile and pretends to be you. The scammers use the information that the original profile makes public.  This includes

We all are familiar with that random email from a weird sender that makes it into your inbox, that phishing attempt on your non-existent Dropbox account, a message to verify your Apple ID, or even emails you may have subscribed to that are just plain annoying… how do you get it to stop?  Unfortunately, email spam is almost more common than legitimate messages it seems. 

How you handle email messages is super important.  Email servers like Gmail, Office 365, Yahoo!, etc. and mail programs on both computers and phones like Outlook, Thunderbird, Microsoft Mail app, etc. are heuristic and learn how you handle email.  The trick is staying on top of it and being consistent. Simply deleting messages does not help.

Our best practices for messages that are spam and junk?

  1. Mark junk and spam messages as such, ALWAYS.
  2. Do not open junk messages if you don't have to.  If you do, do not click on any content within it once you determine it's spam/junk.
  3. You can always right-click on any message for more options, and find the option to move to junk or report as spam.  You can also check the box for a single message or multiple and use the menu at the top of your email provider or email program to handle it accordingly.
  4. If an email is junk (random advertising or content), move to your junk or spam folder or report it as spam.
  5. If an email is phishing (asking you for personal or account information) definitely report it as spam. Reporting emails tells a mail server important information.
  6. Block senders or domains if necessary.
  7. Unsubscribe from email lists you know you signed up for but don't want to receive emails from (usually an unsubscribe link can be found at the bottom of the email).  Do not use the unsubscribe function on emails you do not recognize.
  8. Covet your email address, especially if it is used for business or real personal use; don't use it to sign up for anything.
  9. Create and use a separate email address that you use specifically for spam content like newsletters, rewards programs, and the like. 
  10. If you are unsure of the validity of an email, send it to an IT professional you trust to check it out for you. We are happy to let you know if something is legitimate or not and how to handle it.  (However, if it is truly spam, it will sometimes get stuck in our spam filter; so if you do not receive a timely response, please call our office!)

If you need help with anything listed above, this can be done remotely.  Please call our office (208-288-4345), or email us (info@integrityidaho.com) if you have any questions or need immediate assistance!

September
23

 

What is a "spoofed" profile?

From Your Friends at Integrity Computer Consulting and Repair

A spoofed profile is where a scammer copies your profile and pretends to be you. The scammers use the information that the original profile makes public.  This includes profile pictures, location(s), and biography information, so they are very convincing. Oftentimes, these spoofed profiles send out another friend request to people on copied profile's friends list.  While more and more people are becoming aware that this is an issue when they get a second friend request from someone they are already friends with, many people still don't know what is happening (no, their friend has not been "hacked" i.e someone has gained unauthorized access to the account) or what to do about the profile, and there are many people who still will add the fake profile and further perpetuate this activity. 

 

Besides it being annoying, what damage does this cause?

Once a spoofed profile is created, the creator will add friends listed on the original profile, send messages that ask for money… or worse, send videos and/or clickable content via messenger or page posts that contain phishing sites, adware, malware, or viruses when clicked.

 

How do you prevent this from happening?

Make your friends list viewable to "Friends only" or better yet, "Only me".  These settings can be accessed both on the computer and in the Facebook app on phones.  Simply view your profile, then go to Settings and Privacy, then under Audience and Visibility, "How People Find and Contact You".  Select "Who can see your friends list", and select Friends or Only me.  Setting it to "Only me" is the only sure-fire way to make it so people cannot use your friends list to create fake profiles and spam your friends, colleagues, and clients who may be friends on your page.

 

It's already happened to you. Now what?

Have your friends report the spoofed profile as soon as possible.  All you or they have to do is go to the scammer's duplicate Facebook page and click on the three dots.  Select "Find Support or Report Profile" and then "Pretending to Be Someone."  You will then be asked who they are pretending to be.  If it's a friend, you'll report which friend it is and then confirm your submission.  Facebook will then review your report and notify you of the outcome.  The process is pretty quick and painless.

Next, take steps to secure your public information. And it wouldn't hurt to complete Facebook's privacy checkup, and lock down your privacy settings which includes not allowing people to post anything on your page without your review.

Any of these things can be done remotely.  Please call or email our office if you have any questions or need immediate assistance!

July
15

 

It's Time to Conduct a Mid-Year Technology Review

From Your Friends at Integrity Computer Consulting and Repair

Unfortunately, accidents are all too common, we click on things we shouldn't, hardware fails… it happens to the best of us. This short, but important checklist outlines things you can do to help mitigate the damage in the case of a technology emergency:

  • When was the last time you changed passwords on email and financially sensitive accounts?
  • Do you have multi-factor authentication set up on your email accounts and/or accounts with credit card/ banking information stored in them?
  • When was the last time you backed up?
  • Have you password-protected your devices?

    If you have any questions about updates, pop-ups, emails, or need a clean-up, this can be done remotely.  Please contact our office via phone at 208.288.4345 or email info@integrityidaho.com if you need immediate assistance.

    March
    12

     

    Millions of Dollars are Lost Each Year to Tax Scams

    From Your Friends at Integrity Computer Consulting and Repair

    The IRS provides a comprehensive list of things to look out for here: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/tax-scams-consumer-alerts

    However, we are noticing a new trend on the rise; fake tax websites that mimic or look similar to TurboTax, or other popular online tax filing services.   We are also seeing a rise in phishing emails and malicious pop-ups claiming to be from these well-known tax filing sites.

    What can you do to protect yourself and your tax information?

    1. Make sure your computer is updated before starting and logging into any online tax service.
    2. Make sure your computer is clean before starting and logging into any online tax service. We recommend that you run malware removal software each time you login to any online tax program. (MalwareBytes is a free malware removal program that can be downloaded here: https://www.malwarebytes.com/mwb-download/ Select your operating system under the home section and install.)
    3. Do not visit a tax site from an email or advertisement on Google. Check the web address and make sure you are going to the correct site.  All tax sites have an SSL which means there is security on the site for logging in.  The address should always start with https:// Be cautious of any numbers, letters, or weird domain extensions in the web address.
    4. Do not click on any or call any numbers from popups that say they are from customer support.
    5. Be careful when calling for support, call the number from the tax filing website, not the ones from Google search results.
    6. When saving a copy of your tax return, password protect it. This can be done with Adobe Acrobat (not Adobe Reader) or by putting it into a zip file. Or print and save a paper copy in a secure location.

     

    Please call our office at 208-288-4345 or email us at info@integrityidaho.com if you have any questions or would like an appointment to help with any of the above.

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