Monday, November 13, 2017

Back Again...Watch out for On-Line Reviews

Yes, I'm back. Here are some tips regarding a topic I've been concerned about for quite a while now:
Don’t Let Fake Reviews Trick You
There used to be a time when product reviews and product comparison sites served a really useful purpose in helping us make decisions about what to buy. Unfortunately, it’s no longer that simple. More and more fake reviews are appearing on the Internet, making it tough for consumers to tell genuine opinions from fake and paid-for reviews.
Two recent examples:
When former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton published a biographical account of her campaign, almost overnight there were 500 reviews of the book on Amazon, half of them praising it and the other half criticizing it.  To be genuine would have required these so-called reviewers to read the book overnight and then compose their review. Clearly, these writers had a political axe to grind, one way or the other. Informed opinion went out the window!
In a quite different field and for totally different commercial reasons, a company that sold trampolines was recently caught out using what the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) called “misleading review websites and deceptive endorsements.”
The firm claimed its product had been named Trampoline of the Year by “Trampoline Safety of America.” This endorsement came complete with a logo for this supposed safety organization and a link to a statement that they weren’t paid for product reviews.  Another supposed organization — the Bureau of Trampoline Review, which claimed to be an independent research outfit — also named products from the same company as being among the best.  The only problem: the trampoline seller was behind both organizations. They were also allegedly responsible for supportive blog comments from someone calling themselves “Trampoline Mom.”
“Favorable buzz can give a product a bounce, but advertisers can take a legal tumble by creating fake review sites, using misleading third-party endorsements or seals, or touting their products on independent sites without disclosing that the recommendation came from someone connected to the company,” the FTC warned.  But this is more than a problem about trampoline safety or politically motivated book reviews.
The fact is individuals and organizations have become adept at misleading the public using fake or dubious reviews or comparisons.  Healthy skepticism is the key to avoiding this pitfall.
Here are 7 actions you can take.
1. When reading star-scoring review sites like Amazon and other retailers, don’t take much notice if there are only a couple of reviews. Even if they’re genuine, they fail to give you a balanced view of the product you’re considering.

2. When there are plenty of reviews, focus your attention on the mid-range scores (3 stars in Amazon’s case). Fake reviewers tend to score 5 or 1, depending on their viewpoint, whereas 3-star scorers usually don’t have an axe to grind.

3. If you’re searching for the “best” of a particular product, especially software, using that particular word — say “best photo editing software” — be extremely cautious.  You can generally trust comparisons by truly independent sources such as well-known publications — say a camera magazine in the example we’ve just given.  But comparison sites that label themselves as “best” this or that often are either paid to rate certain products highly or they get paid a commission for sales they generate.

4. Once you have a particular product brand or two in mind, look for reviews from several different sources. Again, select those that come from respected publications or well-known independent review sites.

5. Don’t be taken in by logos and apparent endorsements. It’s easy and perfectly legitimate to set up an organization with an independent-sounding name.  In the trampoline case mentioned, the two organizations they apparently invented actually had their own websites that seemed to imply they were genuine.  Where the trampoline firm fell down was in not disclosing their relationship with the sites and making misleading claims about their membership and integrity.  Logos mean little these days and many scammers sprinkle them liberally on their websites.

6. There are several websites that actually check on and publicize fake reviews. Check them out.
We can’t vouch for its accuracy but these include, which claims to have analyzed more than 700 million Amazon reviews and 20,000 TripAdvisor reviews, among others.
It only works for a few big sites, like Amazon and Yelp, but you simply paste in the address line of the product from your browser, click “Analyze” and wait for a few seconds.
In the case of the Clinton book, which had more than 1,400 Amazon reviews at the time of writing, the analysis returned a result of 96.1% low quality reviews.  By comparison, we checked out a random brand of trampoline with 878 reviews and the Fakespot result was 80% high quality reviews.
7. Finally, if you are buying on the basis of reviews you’ve read, check out the returns policy of the retailer. If they let you return the product within a reasonable period, say 30 days, no questions asked, then you might be able to take a chance, fake review or not.

Source:  #778

Monday, July 24, 2017

It's A Me

Well, I thought I was back but have been tied up in so many sideline activities over the past year, I pretty much ignored much of my life on web. One of my earliest and longest clients passed away suddenly last July. At this point in my life, I consider myself semi-retired from the web design business and have not been actively marketing my services. I do have a few recurring clients whom I support and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Any way, I do want to share this valuable info regarding "Prevention of Tech Fraud".  This problem doesn't seem to go away; in fact, it seems to be getting worse. I've personally encountered this problem after having upgraded to Windows 10 on both desktop and laptops. Legitimate computer companies NEVER contact computer users via pop-up screens or telephone calls. "Any communication we have with you must be initiated by you," says Courtney Gregoire, assistant general counsel in Microsoft'd Digital Crimes Unit. If you get a pop-up warning:

1. NEVER CALL the toll-free phone number provided.

2. DO NOT CLICK anywhere in the pop-up window.

3. CLOSE THE BROWSER from the task bar or the task manager.

4. REBOOT YOUR COMPUTER by turning it off and back on.

5. IF ALL ELSE FAILS, take the computer to an authorized computer store.    Source: AARP.ORG

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