Monday, July 11, 2016

WOW! I'm Back...

It's been a while since I've posted anything. I've been totally consumed over the past few years by my roles in our newly developed community of 209 town houses on a 115 acre property with much open space, walking trails and many basins. A lot of that is now behind me and I'm getting back to focusing on web design and support for the few clients that have stuck with me for these many years. Actually, through a connection of my daughter, I have landed a new client this year out in Indianapolis. So, with a little more time available to me, I hope to get back to blogging time and again. Life is good --- life goes on!

The Essentials of Password Safety

I don't mean to beat a dead horse, but one can never be too careful about "password safety" these days.  Hackers are always on the prowl looking for ways to snag someone's data or identity. Here are a few basic, common-sense tips to consider if you have not already.    

1. Don't use one password for everything This is especially important for things like your bank account, etc.

2. Don't use predictable passwords Don't think personal information is "something no one else could know" and don't think that sticking a number after common words and names makes them any more secure, either. Because many sites require a number in passwords, people often put a 0 or 1 after a word and think they've created a safe password. Hackers can easily guess this.

3. Create a safe password In fact, if you use any dictionary word, there are hacking programs that can compromise your online safety in a matter of minutes. So how do you practice password safety? Here are some tips to help.  Use a combination of numbers, letters, and characters, as well as upper and lower case letters.

I know it's a pain to remember long strings of random letters and numbers. However, try choosing a word and replacing letters. For example, if your daughter is Elizabeth, your password could be 3l1zab3th. You can still remember it but numbers are always safer, and it's no longer as easy to guess.

Nothing really new, remember, password safety makes a huge difference in your online security.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Microsoft Technician SCAM ALERT

I know that this has been around for a while but but it seems to be growing and people are falling for it.

If you get a call from a "Microsoft technician" claiming that your computer has errors and he/she can fix it for you, don't you believe it. He/she may even offer to guide you through your computer so you can see these errors for yourself.

The errors may be there, but they are common to nearly all PC's and are generally harmless errors caused by various software programs. Microsoft doesn't cold-call anyone offering to fix their computer.

Her's what the caller will usually try to get you to do:
  • Give them remote access to your computer.
  • Visit a website they specify.
  • Install a recommended software program.
The result of them successfully fooling you can be any, or any combination, of the following:
  • You get billed for fake/unneeded services/repairs.
  • Your computer is compromised with a virus, trojan, or keylogger.
  • Your identity is stolen.
If this has already happened to you and you gave someone who called you first access to your computer, or you visitied a specified website or installed a specified software program, take your computer to the shop and tell them what happened and have them check it out. Then change all your important passwords and keep a close eye on your bank accounts and other vital accounts.
It's important to change your passwords after you get your computer cleaned in case there's spyware installed that will pass the changes to the hacker.

This actually happened to me many months ago and I asked some questions like what Microsoft office they worked out of, if they knew I had an error, what version of Windows I was runinin, and they danced around the questions and I hung up on them. I'm sure that my readers tend to have a lot of common sense, so I trust this "word to the wise" will be sufficient. If you'd like to learn more about this scam, visit this Microsoft page.

Based on personal experience and BoogieJack's ANN#291

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


7 Ways to Avoid Scams

Here are 7 things you can do to avoid getting caught:

1. Never sending money using a cash transfer. Once you’re convinced a deal is genuine, use a credit card.

You may also use PayPal but may not have the same dispute rights that you get with a credit card.

2. If you’re a seller and receive a PayPal notification that money has been received in your account, check the account independently online.

3. When buying on sites like eBay, check the seller’s feedback. recommends giving a wide berth to anyone with less than 98% positive feedback or with strongly worded, negative comments.

4. If an item is being sold with a Certificate of Authenticity (COA), research the name and reputation of the COA issuer.

5. When buying an expensive item, ask the seller to provide an invoice describing the condition in detail. Ask specific questions about things such as the wear, fraying, damage and other well-known defects for the particular item you’re interested in.

6. Look for obvious signs that the item is not genuine, including a color difference from the original (details of these are often available online), wrong materials such as a letter written on a type of paper that didn’t exist when it was supposed to have been produced, and signatures that appear to be “flat” and part of the image.

7. Always do a search on an item you are planning to buy to get an idea if other people have been scammed when buying it, or if there seems to be a larger number of the item available for sale than you might expect.

The bottom line is that if you can’t verify the reliability and reputation of a seller, or you can’t inspect the item first, you probably shouldn’t buy.

PS -  Due to heavier that normal business and pro-bono activity, I’ve been unable to produce a new posting every month. I will however, make every attempt to post as frequently as I can.  Les..

Friday, December 19, 2014

Top 10 Scam Forecast for 2015

Top 10 Scam Forecast for 2015 (2014 figures in parentheses):
1. (1) Phishing and ID theft. Sadly, we think the gap may widen even further between ID theft and other scams.  The outlook for data protection is not good with the residue of past breaches, new ones, and hack attacks on newly digitized health records all adding to the woes.

2. (3). Hit-and-run scams. This makes quick and easy money for the scammers with little or no risk. Don’t be surprised if a phone caller demands a wire payment from you — just hang up!

3. (2) Lottery and sweepstakes. Here’s hoping the message finally starts to get through to the public, especially seniors, about this trick. But progress will be slow.

4. (4) Malware. This will remain a persistent threat but we expect to see a further switch in emphasis to malware downloads on smartphones, notably those using the Android operating system.  If you’re an Android user, install a reputable security app and don’t install downloads from unofficial sources.
5. (6) Bogus online sites and telesales. This year we’re adding in telesales to this category. The worrying feature is the growth of illegal robocalls by scammers who don’t care a bit about the Do Not Call Registry.Look out for more free air ticket scams (usually an advance fee trick) and bogus “survey” calls (usually a disguised sales call).

6. (5) Grandparent/imposter scams. As with lottery scams, we think further, increased publicity could help reduce the level of this scam.

7. (7) Advance fee scams. Don’t expect to see any easing in the incidence of advance fee scams. In fact, we may see some growth in double-scams where people are asked to pay upfront to supposedly recover money they lost in an earlier scam.
8. (-) Healthcare and Affordable Care Act (ACA) scams. This is our newcomer for the year. In 2014 we reported on the “free medical alert” scam.  Now there’s evidence of con artists trying a whole new range of tricks by claiming either they’re working on behalf of Medicare or offering cheap ACA insurance, which turns out to be non-existent.
9. (8) Economy-related scams. Even if the economy picks up, the huge expansion in self-employment and small businesses has created a stack of potential victims for the crooks, so this category is not ready to drop out of the charts just yet.

10. (9) Investment scams. Interest rates could start to rise in the coming months, which could make some phony investments less attractive. But if inflation begins to rise, expect to see more gold and bullion scams. Meanwhile, any turbulence in currency markets could lead to more scams in this category.


Merry  Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

Thursday, November 13, 2014


More than 90 percent of Americans feel they've lost control over how their personal information is collected and used by companies, particularly for advertising purposes, according to the results of a survey recently published by the Pew Research Center. 

Eighty percent expressed concern over how third parties like advertisers accessed the data they share on social media sites. Pew did not gather the names of which sites specifically respondents meant.

The survey, which polled 607 adults online, was the Washington, D.C.-based think tank's first in a series to tackle Americans' views toward privacy after the leaks around government surveillance made by Edward Snowden last year. The majority of respondents said people should be concerned about whether the government is listening in on their phone calls or viewing their online communications and other sensitive data.

But beyond government surveillance, the findings also reflect people's attitudes amid the increasing sophistication by which Internet companies leverage people's data for advertising.

Some respondents said they have taken actions to protect their privacy, such as using a pseudonym, but a majority of respondents agreed that achieving anonymity online is not possible. People's concerns around privacy might be part of the trade-off in using a free service. Some 55 percent of respondents said they were willing to share "some information about myself with companies in order to use online services for free."

Fewer people might be willing to make that trade-off, however, if they understood how bits of information about them is pulled together and sold to companies through complex processes, said Joseph Turow, a professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania, who studies digital marketing and online privacy.

"These findings reflect a major tension at the core of people's relationship with the Internet," he said in an interview. It's a tension that goes back many years. In a 1999 survey conducted by Turow, parents characterized the Internet as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, he said, because they were both afraid of it, and considered it an important and useful service.

But companies are now getting smarter in tracking people's online behavior across devices. Google and Facebook are refining their techniques for connecting the ads people see online to whether they bought items in a physical store. Facebook's recently relaunched Atlas system lets partnered advertisers leverage Facebook members' data across the wider Internet.

To preserve privacy, the recommendation to delete cookie files doesn't really apply anymore, because more tracking is being done on mobile where cookies don't work. Perhaps instead people should contact companies like Google and Facebook, and ask them to be more transparent about exactly what data they sell, and to whom, Turow said.

Government agencies like the U.S. Federal Trade Commission can help to preserve privacy too, or at least help companies become more transparent.  Snapchat entered into an agreement earlier this year with the FTC to settle charges that it deceived users about the amount of personal data it collects. Pew's Rainie said the nonprofit would explore more of the responses people say they can take in the group's upcoming surveys.

Based on article by Z. Miners, IDG News Service, 11.12.14

Friday, October 24, 2014

Money Wiring Fraud Prevention Tips

Money wiring services and reloadable debit cards are still criminals’ payment method of choice when it comes to raking in their ill-gotten gains from scam victims.
So much so, in fact, that a couple of the big money wiring companies themselves have agreed to pay compensation of $200 million to reimburse victims, and one of the leading debit card firms has announced that it will abandon its main reloadable card in 2015.
The attraction to the crooks is simple: Both payment methods are untraceable. Law enforcement is usually unable to track down where the money went.
Wiring and reloadable cards are, of course, perfectly legal and play a very useful role in legitimate money transfers and payments.
But they’re also perfect for scams, like:
  • Advance payment (where victims get a dud check and are asked to wire part of the value to a scammer-in-disguise, before the check “bounces”).
  • Distress scams (where victims receive a bogus message from a relative, friend or colleague who is supposedly in trouble and urgently needs cash).
  • Lottery scams (where victims are told they must pay tax and processing fees before they can collect their — non-existent — winnings).
  • Phony fines and overdue bill demands, most recently the widespread IRS unpaid-tax-bill scam.
You’d think that the people who provide these payment methods would be able to spot a scam when a victim comes up to them and tries to transfer money — especially to someone in countries where the crooks operate.
Actually, they sometimes do manage to stop people, mostly in their 80s and beyond, before they pay up.
But consumer organizations, notably the Federal Trade Commission, have been critical in the past, suggesting they could do more, which is why some of them have agreed both to hand money back to victims and to be monitored by the FTC.
Today, all the big money wiring companies provide guidance on their sites to try to steer customers clear of potential scams. We covered the broad details of these guidelines in an earlier issue, The Golden Rule that Halts Money Wiring Scams.
The biggest wirer, Western Union, now offers these 8 simple rules on their site to prevent fraud:

  1. Never send money to people you haven’t met in person.
  2. Never send money to pay for taxes or fees on lottery or prize winnings.
  3. Never use a test question as an additional security measure to protect your transaction.
  4. Never provide your banking information to people or businesses you don’t know.
  5. Never send money in advance to obtain a loan or credit card.
  6. Never send money for an emergency situation without verifying that it’s a real emergency.
  7. Never send funds from a check in your account until it officially clears, which can take weeks.
  8. Never send a money transfer for online purchases.      from 10/22/14

Saturday, September 20, 2014


Recent court rulings and a proposal from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have called into question the future of net neutrality—something that could have seismic repercussions for small business owners and their websites. Giving service providers the ability to control the speed at which specific content and content providers can be sent to you over your connection allows them to control the flow of data and information from both ends.  This lowers your overall performance and can create monopolies, forcing you to purchase from specific providers in order to have high quality services.  The end result will be a reduction in competition and innovation as these firms create an unfair advantage in the marketplace, forcing out smaller providers that cannot afford the pay-to-play system. The Battle for the Net is calling for those in support of net neutrality to take action by telling lawmakers: “Protect Internet Freedom. Defend Net Neutrality.” You can join the battle by signing the letter on and spreading the word on your own website and social media channels.

What is net neutrality?

The idea behind net neutrality is fairly simple. Most of us buy broadband service from a small number of large providers, such as Comcast, AT&T or Charter. For years, the expectation has been that these providers will allow Web traffic to flow unimpeded. In other words, the providers won’t manipulate the data as it flows across the network. This means content is treated equally—download speeds don’t vary depending on the source. This is important because some content providers—Netflix, for example—consume massive chunks of bandwidth due to their popularity. Without net neutrality, Internet access providers would face no restrictions on charging major content providers more money to route their traffic.

Thanks to FCC rules, net neutrality has been the standard to which we’ve become accustomed. That could soon change. A January ruling by a U.S. Appeals Court effectively dismantled the FCC’s existing net neutrality regulations. The ruling opened the door for broadband providers to start charging content providers more money for faster service. This could have adverse effects for consumers, as some movies, videos or websites may load slower if the owners elect not to pay for faster service.
In response to the court ruling, the FCC announced it would consider a plan to allow large firms like Comcast and AT&T to build so-called “fast lanes” that allow for faster connection speeds for high-bandwidth companies like Google or Netflix. The rules would also restrict the ability of Internet access providers to throttle data for customers who don’t pay for faster speeds.

How could a change in net neutrality affect small business websites?

The absence of net neutrality could have significant and wide-ranging consequences for small business owners. Internet service providers may charge businesses more money for “optimized” speeds. If a business declines to pay, website performance may suffer relative to websites with optimized speeds. This means businesses that don’t pay will be at a competitive disadvantage against businesses with faster speeds and performance.
This kind of two-tiered setup could be a major problem for businesses competing against better funded competitors who can more easily assume additional costs. Businesses that pay for high-end speed will be able to do things like process orders and send e-mails faster and more efficiently—a devastating scenario for smaller businesses.
Customer acquisition could be affected as well. Slower websites could mean fewer visitors spending less time on the site—subsequently generating far less online revenue. Because of its low barrier to entry and massive reach, the Internet has long offered start-ups and small businesses a chance to compete against bigger firms—without net neutrality, that opportunity may be dramatically diminished.
The end of net neutrality could also allow Internet service providers to enter into partnerships and contracts with preferred entities. In essence, they could pick and choose who they do business with and which content is privileged. For businesses on the outside looking in, this arrangement could be extremely problematic.
Finally, the loss of net neutrality could have a crippling effect on innovation. Without access to a free and open Internet, the environment for start-ups and smaller businesses will become much less hospitable. It’s hard to imagine small and modestly funded businesses competing against industry giants while using second-tier Internet access—regardless of how disruptive or innovative they may be.

What can we do?

We at Bluehost have always been a proponent of using open source technologies and feel that net neutrality is vital to the health of the Internet as a whole.  Please join us in this fight by contacting your local legislative leaders and let them know that you support net neutrality and are against the two-tier slow lane system.
You can also digitally sign the Battle for the Net letter that will be sent to Congress, the FCC and the White House on behalf of Internet users joining in the battle. You can learn more about the Battle for the Net and sign the letter at

Adapted from 9/10/14 - Thank you BlueHost for providing this valuable insight into the potential problem facing small businesses on the Internet - Join the Battle for the Net in support of Internet freedom and against Internet slow down.