Welcome to the Computer Techs Computer / Internet Tips & News blog. This purpose of this site is meant to provide a service to our valued customers, by keeping you informed with the latest news and tips related to your computer and the internet. Consider using the search box on the left side of the website to help you find a specific topic or article, or scroll through articles below to learn something new.


If you’re happy with our service, please consider recommending Computer Techs to a friend or relative. If we service their computer, you get $25 Off your next service call.

The details: Please have your friend or relative mention your name during the appointment, or after the appointment contact Mark Cobb with the name of the person that you recommended/referred. The referred person must be a new Computer Techs customer and not reside in the same household as the referrer.


Spend a few minutes to check out these scams so that you don’t become a victim

Filed under: Security - May 05 2021

Scammers are becoming increasingly clever. Every month we hear from clients who have been scammed by letting someone take control of their computer and coerce them into paying for support for non-existent computer or account-related problems. With a little bit of knowledge of how these scams work, you won’t become a victim yourself.

Scams typically start with a website pop-up, email, phone call or text message from a well-known company such as Amazon, Windows/Microsoft, Apple, or Netflix. You are notified about a large purchase that has been or will be charged to your account – or there’s a problem with your account or device/computer. You’re told to call, click a link or talk to a fraud/account representative to confirm the purchase or account information. No matter how legitimate it sounds – It’s a scam! Read on about some of the most common scams we’ve encountered recently:

  • “Someone just charged an item to your Amazon account. I’m calling to confirm the purchase or refund your money.”
  • “This is the FBI and we’ve detected pornographic images on your computer. You must pay a fine right away!”
  • “This is your friend Bob. Can you please buy a gift card for me so I can give to my niece – I’ll pay you back.”
  • “Grandma, this is your grandson – I’m in trouble and you need to bail me out. Please don’t tell mom!”
  • “Your credit card number has expired. I’m calling to get your new number or your service will be cancelled right away!”
  • “I’ve hacked into your email account – I can prove it because your password is xxxxxx. I’ve got embarrassing pictures of you that I captured with your webcam. If you don’t pay up, I’ll release the the pictures to all of your contacts.”
  • “Your computer protection has expired. If you don’t call right away we’re charging $399 to your account to renew the protection.”

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: Ignore the pop-up, email, call or SMS. If you answer an unexpected phone call, don’t answer or engage with the scammer – hang up. Most likely there is no problem at all. Unfortunately you can’t trust unknown or unsolicited callers to be who they say they are, nor can you trust the name or number on Caller ID – scammers frequently used forged numbers. Never, ever allow someone you don’t know coerce you into letting them view your computer screen or allow remote access. You wouldn’t allow someone knocking on your door to come in – the same should be true for an unsolicited phone call or message.

If in doubt, log into your account normally (not via a link in an email or telephone number provided in a recording) to check for any unrecognized activity. Or you can call the company using the phone number listed on their official website, or printed on a card you have from the company.

If you’ve already gone too far and realize that you’ve engaged in a conversation with a scammer – below are some examples of how you can quickly get out of the situation.

  • “My attorney/caregiver handles all of my affairs. Contact him/her.”
  • “Send me an official correspondence in the mail – you should already have my mailing address.”

Often times scammers tell you that you must act fast – so that you don’t have time to think about it, contact a trusted tech-savvy friend, family member or computer technician. Stick to your better judgement, remain in control of the conversation – or just hang up.

If you’ve already been scammed, contact us for a thorough computer security check so that we can determine when it’s safe to use your computer.

Learn more:

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Yahoo stops forwarding email for free email accounts

Filed under: Computing Tips,Uncategorized - Jan 15 2021

If you have a free Yahoo or AT&T/Yahoo email account and use the forwarding feature to send your email to another email address (i.e. username@gmail.com), you may have noticed that forwarding stopped in January 2021.

As Yahoo’s help article explains, you can upgrade and pay for the ability to forward your email again. Alternatively you can use a feature in Gmail and other email services to check emails from Yahoo (or other) accounts and bring them into your favorite email service automatically.

Also see: Why you should ditch your internet service provider’s email service.

Give the gift of computer help or service

Filed under: Tech Support - Apr 01 2020

Are you looking for the perfect gift for someone who needs computer help or service? Consider giving the gift of computer help or service with the purchase of a Computer Techs eGift Card. eGift Cards can be used towards payment of remote support or on-site services. Click the link picture below for more details, or to purchase now.

Computer Techs News Feed Stream on Facebook

Why you need to stop using Internet Explorer

Filed under: Computing Tips,Security - Nov 27 2017

Internet Explorer is the web browser that Microsoft included with the Windows operating system through Windows 8.1. Beginning with Windows 10, Microsoft Edge is the new browser that’s included with the operating system and is continually being optimized with performance, feature and security updates. That leaves Internet Explorer 11 – released in late-2013 – as the last major version of Internet Explorer.

With other browsers being continually updated – such as Edge version 41, Firefox version 57 and Chrome version 62 (as of November 2017) , some websites have stopped supporting the use of Internet Explorer. One of those websites is Yahoo – which includes the popular Yahoo web portal, Yahoo Mail and Yahoo Finance.

An advantage of using a newer browser such as Chrome includes faster web browsing, improved security and upcoming features that will help stop fake warning messages that are often caused by webpage redirects and misleading advertisements.

If you need help switching away from Internet Explorer and transferring your Favorites and settings to a new web browser, please contact us.

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Top 5 password tips that you need to know

Filed under: Computing Tips,Security - Nov 23 2017
  1. Is your email account easy to access by hackers? Click here to learn more and find out.
  2. Learn why your most important password is the one that secures your email
  3. Take a few moments to create a password system that’s secure and memorable. It’s not difficult.
  4. Even though you may have a password system, you still should keep a record of your passwords. Some people put their passwords in a notebook, Rolodex, on their mobile device or online password manager. Which is the best option for you?
    How to safely manage your passwords
  5. Use an additional step to secure your email and other sensitive online accounts:
    Secure your email account with 2-step verification

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Keep your computer secure and up-to-date with our Computer Maintenance Plan

Filed under: Tech Support - Jun 01 2017

Updated June 2020:

Over the years many of our clients have asked for a way to keep their computers secure and up-to-date, and not have to worry about the seemingly constant barrage of updates. With websites getting hacked on a daily basis, and the increasing chance of your personal information being compromised, it’s more important than ever to keep your computer up-to-date and maintained.

With the Computer Techs Maintenance Plan, we will maintain, update and check the security on your computer on a convenient quarterly schedule. Service will be performed via a Remote Support session which takes about an hour. Services include:

  • Install security updates for browser add-ons, program updates, available router updates, critical computer firmware and Windows updates
  • Remove adware/toolbars/homepage hijackers
  • Remove or disable unused or unnecessary apps that cause security or performance issues
  • Check internet connection settings and remove any malicious scripts, DNS or proxy settings
  • Malware scan
  • Check hard drive health and used space
  • Check back-up and restore settings
  • Defragment hard drive files
  • Check browser settings and remove unnecessary extensions
  • Delete unnecessary temporary, log and update cache files to free up drive space
  • Check Wi-Fi settings and adjust if interference or performance issues exist
  • Apply computer manufacturer’s urgent and recommended software and hardware updates if needed
  • Check for print jobs stuck in the queue
  • Check for frequent app crashes or system “blue screen” errors that could lead to more serious problems

Additional benefits of being on our quarterly Computer Maintenance Plan include:

  • Priority callbacks and email replies with simple or easy-to-resolve issues or questions under 5 minutes at no charge.

When you sign up for the Computer Techs Computer Maintenance Plan, you’ll get all of the services above for less than the price of a house call – quarterly remote service for one computer is just $80 payable at the time of each quarterly service. Additional computers maintained during the same appointment time are just $20 each. Semi-annual remote appointments are also available for $89 and $30 for additional computers. On-site service is also available at regular hourly rates. To sign-up for your initial quarterly remote service, schedule your appointment – or contact us for semi-annual and/or on-site service.

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Learn how to spot scams that pop-up on your screen – and how to close your browser

Filed under: Security - Mar 20 2017

Updated March 2022:

Please Print This Article Print This Article this article for future reference on how to close a fake warning web page if it locks your browser.

Malicious advertisements on a webpage can redirect you to another webpage designed to look like an official warning from Microsoft. The fake warnings often have the following characteristics:

  • Tell you that there’s a problem with your computer and you need to call the number presented immediately to prevent harm
  • Tell you NOT to turn off your computer
  • The warnings are often accompanied by scary alert sounds or spoken messages.
  • Your mouse and/or keyboard may become non-responsive.
If you look closely at the “error message” you will notice that it’s just a webpage designed to scare people into calling the number.

How to “unblock” your computer and get rid of the scare message

  • NEVER call the number presented on the screen – you’ll be connected to a scammer who will try to gain access to your computer and convince you that you have security problems that you need to pay to have fixed.
  • Try closing your browser by clicking the red “X” in the upper corner.
  • If you can’t use the normal method for closing your browser, try to shut down or restart your computer via the Start button icon on the bottom left taskbar, then Shut down or Restart. If the fake warning website covers your full screen where you cannot see the Start button icon, press the Windows key (  or  located near the bottom left corner of your keyboard) which should bring the Start menu to the foreground. You should then be able to use your mouse to navigate and shut down/restart.
  • If you can’t navigate to the power button on your screen, try simultaneously pressing the Ctrl+Alt+Del keys on your keyboard, select Task Manger, select your web browser then “End Task”.
  • If that doesn’t work, do the opposite of what the scare page says: Turn off your computer. Do so by pressing and HOLDING the power button. After HOLDING down the power button for at least 5 seconds, the computer should shut off.
  • After your computer is off, leave it off for at least a minute. Then briefly press the power button to turn it back on. If the scare page is gone, you should be good to continue using your computer – just don’t go back to the website or email that redirected you before. If the page comes back, your computer is likely going to sleep rather than completely powering off when holding the power button. Try powering it off again. If the message still appears, contact us for assistance. Again, never call the number on the screen.

How does the fake pop-up occur?

On a virus-free computer these pop-ups can occur when you mistype a web address, click a search link which redirects you to the malicious website, or a malicious advertisement can redirect you. If your computer already has adware or malware these pop-ups may occur when you visit any website whether or not the site is malicious or not. If you see pop-ups similar to those pictured while logged into your financial websites, contact Computer Techs right away for computer service. We also advise you to have an alternative web browser installed on your computer in case you are unable to use your primary browser.

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Why you should ditch your internet provider’s email – and how we can help

Filed under: Security,Tech Support - Oct 26 2016

Updated May 2020:

Over the years we’ve written various articles about AT&T/Yahoo email being plagued by account security issues, bothersome ads in their webmail interface, forced password resets, spam messages sent to user’s contacts and more. The revelation that over 500 million Yahoo accounts have been compromised in recent years leads us to once again advise people to stop using AT&T/Yahoo Mail, and switch to using a more secure and reliable email provider such as Gmail.

If your email address ends in @att.net, @sbcglobal.net, @nvbell.net, or @prodigy.net, the advice above includes you – since Yahoo provides the email and web content services for AT&T Internet customers. We’ve had several customers over the years permanently lose access to their AT&T/Yahoo email due to the lack of security of the service.

In May 2020 AT&T once again changed their login procedure, and began blocking use of the website if you use an ad blocker.

An important security option for online accounts is 2-step verification – neither AT&T/Yahoo or Charter/Spectrum email accounts offer the option. Therefore we recommend that you ditch your internet provider’s email service and switch to Google’s Gmail or Microsoft’s Outlook Mail.

If you’ve got an Android smartphone, you should already have a Gmail address associated with the Google account required for your phone. If you don’t already have Gmail, it’s easy to get a free address and setup your account – and we can help.

Switching email providers can be a hassle. But we can setup the initial change for you, and give follow-up guidance on how to systematically inform business correspondence of the change over time. We’ve got a step-by-step procedure that includes (but not limited to):

Discontinuing AT&T/Yahoo email:

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What to do if your email has been hacked

Filed under: Computing Tips,Security - Feb 14 2013

Updated 8/29/2016:

Over the years many clients have reported to us that their Yahoo, Hotmail or AOL email account has been hacked. They first notice the problem when they are alerted by their email contacts claiming that they are receiving spam emails with links to prescription drug or work-at-home websites, or a plea for money after losing their passport while traveling overseas.

When attempting to login to their email some will discover that their password has been changed and they are unable to access their account. Others have reported some or all of the following changes:

  • All contacts have been deleted
  • “Reply-to” address changed
  • All email being forwarded to a different address
  • Email signature added or changed
  • The language changed to Spanish or Arabic

If your Yahoo or AT&T/Yahoo account has been compromised, below are some helpful links:

If you cannot access your email account you can call Yahoo at 866-562-7219 or AT&T at 877-722-3755.

To help prevent future hacking of your email account you need to change your email password to something that is secure and different from any other password. See How to protect your internet accounts from being hacked.

If you need professional help with getting your email account back and everything fixed, give us a call.

Also see: How to change your email password

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Happy with our service? Write a review or tell your friends and get $25 off your next service call

Filed under: Tech Support - Jul 05 2010

If you’re happy with our service, please let others know by recommending us to your friends and family, and/or by writing a review about our service. If you personally recommend us to a friend or relative and we help them, you get $25 off your next service call.

Why trust someone who “knows” computers and works on them in their spare time? Why trust someone who you called from a pop-up ad on your computer? You shouldn’t! Computer Techs is a local business that works with computers and related devices on a daily basis and has been doing so since 2003. When you need help with your computing devices, you can trust Computer Techs to be there when you need us, and stand behind our service.

When people search for Computer Support or Repair Services on the internet, they often search Google, YellowPages.com or Yahoo Local. Please consider letting others know about our service by posting a review at one or more of the following web sites:

Google Review

Facebook

Yelp

YellowPages.com User Review

Angie’s List

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You May Not be Using All the Great Features of Your Browser

Filed under: Internet Tips - Jul 22 2022
You May Not be Using All the Great Features of Your Browser

Web browsers are your gateway to the internet or World Wide Web. Browsers contain a lot of features that make your online experience more efficient. This includes things like tabs that allow you to open different web pages at the same time, and “bookmarks” or “favorites” that let you save website addresses so that you don’t have to type-in or search for frequently visited websites. 

Some of the most popular browsers are Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Apple Safari, and Opera. These browsers have many useful features to help you get things done with ease. While some features of the browsers are known, others are either unknown or under-utilized,

Here, we’ll discuss some of the great features of your browser that you may not be using yet. 

5 Helpful Browser Features You May Not Be Using

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Use This Clever Acronym (SLAM) To Identify Dangerous Emails in Your Inbox

Filed under: Security - Jul 08 2022
Use This Clever Acronym (SLAM) To Identify Dangerous Emails in Your Inbox

Cybercriminals are continuously targeting naïve individuals. They do not discriminate when it comes to defrauding people. They’ll obtain money from anyone – young, old, poor, and rich. The American Journal of Public health notes that about 5% of adults get scammed yearly.

In the United States, older adults lose about $40 billion per year due to cyberattacks. Cybercriminals can easily exploit the information of an older adult, which can be obtained through smartphones or computer systems. Unfortunately, senior citizens are easy targets of cybercriminals because of their inexperience with using technology. Many older citizens have social media accounts, surf the internet, and use credit cards online. Unlike the younger generation, older adults are generally less aware of cybercriminals’ activities, and as such, they lack the necessary information to help them stay protected from these malicious activities. 

Cybercriminals may reach out in a non-suspicious manner. They may send a link through a legitimate email and offer to assist them with resolving issues. Or they may send an email posing as a company offering cheap vacation trips, or even coupons or prizes. 

These fake emails are called phishing. The criminal is trying to fish for victims, just like fishermen fish for bass, trout, etc. The fake emails act as their lures. Phishing is one of the main causes of all types of data breaches, credit card theft, and other cybersecurity issues.

Then, these hackers will proceed to request personal information from the unsuspecting victim. They will use the information generated to access their credit cards and defraud them if successful. 

Scams targeting the elderly population are becoming rampant in the United States, and their effect on them is damaging. For online criminals, scamming the elderly can bring easy monetary rewards. 

One way to protect yourself from these malicious activities is to use the SLAM method of phishing detection. SLAM is an acronym that represents:

  • Sender
  • Links
  • Attachment
  • Message 

How To Identify Dangerous Emails Using The SLAM Method

SLAM is an acronym that guides you to identify if an email is fraudulent. With it, you can easily recognize when cybercriminals use emails to carry out a phishing attempt. 

S- Sender

As a rule, pay attention to the sender’s email address. Cybercriminals often use the email address of a trusted entity to carry out phishing attacks. So, don’t be in haste to open the email. It is best to ascertain the validity of the sender’s email address. You can do this by hovering your mouse over the sender’s name. It gives you appropriate information on the sender. 

Cybercriminals often make little adjustments to the email addresses they want to use in carrying out a phishing attack. Look out for spelling errors or additional letters in the email addresses. If something doesn’t look right, then it probably isn’t.

L- Link

Many phishing emails have links in them. These links prompt the recipients to click on them so that they can reveal sensitive or personal information. Sometimes, the link in the phishing mail looks helpful and could even offer assistance in resolving bank, health, or payment issues. The link then redirects the user to a login page that may look very similar to one they are used to seeing. This is called a spoofed login page. It’s made to trick the victim into inputting their username and password for a specific site.

A-Attachment

Malicious attachments are standard in phishing emails. To stay safe, it is not advisable to open any attachments in your emails that you aren’t absolutely sure are safe and from a legitimate source. When you download a malicious attachment, it enables hackers to gain access to your device and compromise it. Therefore, don’t open an attachment in your email unless you confirm it is authentic.

M- Message

This represents the content of the email. Although many scammers have become very sophisticated in sending messages, many phishing emails have recognizable flaws such as misspellings, punctuation and capitalization errors, wrong or mis-formatted dates, and generic/non-personalized greetings.

Take the phishing quiz to see if you can spot phishing emails

Test how well you can follow the SLAM method by taking the following quiz which will open in a new tab: Phishing Quiz

Before conversing with a stranger/potential scammer, contact us if you have questions about a suspicious email, text or phone call.

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Is Zelle Safe? How To Protect Yourself When Using Payment Apps

Filed under: Computing Tips,Security - Jun 24 2022
Is Zelle Safe? How To Protect Yourself When Using Payment Apps

Payment apps like Zelle and Venmo are a customer favorite because they are a convenient, fast, and easy way of electronically exchanging money between others. Zelle’s popularity and quick exchange of funds between one bank and another attracts more than just new customers. Unfortunately, it attracts hackers and scammers too.

With so many headlines about Zelle scams on the news lately, many users can’t help but wonder about the platform’s safety. Scammers target Zelle users and siphon off their hard-earned money through phishing scams. The truth is, Zelle is safe as long as you are careful, and you pay attention. 

By the time you’re done reading this article, you’ll know more about Zelle and how you can safely use the platform without falling victim to scammers

What exactly is Zelle?

Zelle is a popular payment application operating a peer-to-peer (P2P) model. It makes it easy for users to move money and pay for things without going to the bank or handling cash. Zelle is the joint effort of several major banks in the US. It’s easy to use through an iPhone and Android app. Zelle also integrates with the mobile app of major banks such as Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Chase.

How does the Zelle scam work?

Zelle scams are mainly social engineering scams. Social engineering is manipulating or influencing people using scare tactics or fraudulent information. Scammers trick consumers into unintentionally authorizing money transfers by making fraudulent claims and promises.

One of the most common Zelle scams involves sending a text message or an email requesting confirmation for what ends up being a fake payment. Most users often respond to try and disprove the transaction. Instead of putting the scammers off, it opens the door for further communication. The scammers then call the user pretending to be from the user’s bank and pretend to give the user instructions that’ll reverse the claim. In reality, the money ends up in the scammer’s account.

Safety precautions when using Zelle

While the news may sound scary, most Zelle scams are social engineering. As long as you heed the precautions below, you should be relatively safe. 

Only use Zelle for people or businesses you trust

P2P payments should not be used to send money to anyone you don’t know and should rarely be used for online purchases. Only use Zelle to send money to your family and friends if possible. Verify that the phone number, email, and recipient’s name are all correct. 

Ignore unsolicited emails and text messages

Your bank will rarely contact you unsolicited. If you received a message from any party posing as a banking representative when you haven’t contacted them, ignore it. Reach out to your bank directly and ask them to check your account for any suspicious activity.

 If you gave out your personal details before you noticed anything, that is, you fell for the phishing scam, call your bank so they can help you secure the account. 

Use two-factor authentication (2FA)

Two-factor, two-step, or multi-factor authentication is a security process that helps secure your accounts by asking users to verify their identity using two different authentication factors. When you authorize 2FA, you’ll need to input a one-time password (OTP) anytime you sign in to your account. You should never share your OTP with anyone, no matter how insistent they appear. Criminals posing as your bank may demand your passcode for various reasons, but no legitimate bank will ever ask for it.

Don’t get pressured by urgent or immediate payments

If you observe any suspicious behavior from someone claiming to be a representative of your bank, a utility, or another institution demanding quick payment, it’s likely a scam. End the call and reach out to the business through official channels.

Scammers also send payment requests from businesses, banks, and utilities you don’t pay with Zelle to trip you up. Confirm from the organization’s official channels that the request is legitimate before paying. 

Be cautious of anyone insisting on using only Zelle

Anyone who insists on transacting only through Zelle should send warning bells to your mind. If they say the only payment option they can accept is Zelle, then make sure the transaction and the individual are genuine before sending any money. 

Don’t send money to yourself

Scammers may try to get you to authorize a reversal by claiming that a payment failed to go through or that your account has been compromised. Remember that banks won’t reach out to you unless you contact them first. 

We’re Here to Help Keep Your Tech Safe

Need more information on staying safe while using online apps? Then visit Computer Techs. Schedule an appointment by calling 775-624-6888

Keep your smartphone safe

Filed under: Security,Tech Support - Jun 24 2022

Today’s smartphones retain a lot of personal data that you likely wouldn’t want to get into the wrong hands. Below is a list of just some of the data that can be accessed if someone got into your smartphone:

  • Someone can receive one-time passwords via text message or authenticator app that can be used to reset account passwords
  • Impersonate you by being able to send and receive calls, email and text messages on your behalf
  • Impersonate you through any social networks apps that you use
  • Access any notes, passwords or private pictures you may have stored
  • Reset your phone and sell it

How you can protect your smartphone

The most important thing you should do is to protect your smartphone with a numeric passcode and/or biometric authentication (finger or facial recognition). 6-digits is better than 4-digits – but 4-digits is definitely better than no passcode. Also, set your smartphone to auto-lock and require the passcode after 5-minutes or less of inactivity (less time is better).

I am surprised by how many clients I’ve helped who had no passcode on their phone. Smartphones are easily lost or misplaced, and a passcode will help keep your data out of the wrong hands. Most people don’t keep their doors unlocked, so why keep their smartphone unlocked?

Other things to keep your smartphone safe include:

  • Only install apps from trusted developers with lots of favorable reviews
  • Treat every text message and email from unknown senders as suspicious – particularly if it’s asking you to do something. Most text messages from financial institutions come from a 5-or-6-digit “short code” – not a 10-digit phone number.
  • Connect your smartphone to Wi-Fi when at home, and make sure you keep the operating system (typically iOS or Android) up-to-date with the latest security patches.
  • You don’t need an antivirus or security app, nor a VPN. Protections are already built into the operating system of your mobile device, and apps are vetted before being made available in the app stores. However, be judicious about the apps that you install, because occasionally stuff gets by the reviewers.
  • Most importantly, password protect your device. You are more likely to lose or misplace your device than getting hacked from the outside.

Do you need help with your mobile device(s). Contact us to discuss your needs.

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New option for home internet service – should you switch?

Filed under: Internet Tips - Jun 22 2022

Updated 6/27/22 to reflect new Charter/Spectrum speeds

Wireless carrier T-Mobile is expanding their services to include Home Internet in some areas of Reno/Sparks. Assuming you are in their limited service area – should you switch?

Why you may want to switch

  • If you’re on a budget, at $50/month TMHI is less expensive than most AT&T and Spectrum internet plans.*
  • TMHI is available in some rural areas that are under-served by AT&T and Spectrum.
  • If you’re in an area served only by AT&T’s legacy DSL service with speeds less than 6 Mbps, and Charter/Spectrum is not an option.

* Low-income households may qualify for a discount of up to $30/month on internet service from many providers through the Affordable Connectivity Program.

Why you may NOT want to switch

  • Wireless service speeds are more variable and can be less reliable than other wired providers, particularly during peak times.
  • If you’re on a bundled package with AT&T, DirecTV or Spectrum and don’t want to change your TV and/or home phone service.

Internet speeds provided by local home internet providers

The chart below shows a comparison of the speeds provided by the major internet providers. Streaming video needs the most bandwidth (higher speeds), but that number only needs to be as high as 25 Mbps for streaming the highest-quality 4K Ultra HD content.

INTERNET PROVIDERTYPICAL INTERNET SPEEDS – Download Mbps / (Upload Mbps)
AT&T DSL<6 / (<1)
AT&T U-VerseUp to 100 / (Up to 20)
AT&T Fiber100-5000 / (100-5000)
Charter/Spectrum Cable300, 500, 1000 / (10, 20, 35)
T-Mobile 5G Home Internet33-182+ / (8-25+)

If you need help deciding which internet or other service provider is best for you, contact us.

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Has Your Computer Been Hacked, or Is It Another Phishing Scam?

Filed under: Security - Jun 10 2022
Has Your Computer Been Hacked, or Is It Another Phishing Scam?

How many times has this happened to you? You’re on your computer reading, catching up with friends on Facebook, or shopping on Amazon when a pop-up window shows up claiming that your browser has been hacked or blocked. 

You’re in good company if it’s your first time seeing such a message splash across your screen. Millions of computer users all over the globe see such messages whenever they surf the internet. And no, it doesn’t mean that your browser has been compromised. It’s simply another method known as pop-up phishing, which scammers use to target unsuspecting victims. 

What Is Pop-Up Phishing?

Pop-ups are generated by websites to offer users additional information or guidance (such as how to fill in a form, how to apply a discount code, etc.) 

With pop-up phishing, you get something malicious disguised as a scare message to get you to act. Pop-up phishing occurs when criminals hijack legitimate websites with malware code, causing the website to spring up these “your computer has been hacked” messages whenever a new user visits the website. 

Pop-up phishing is usually so effective because of the type of message that “pops up” and the content of the message. They typically provide a phony warning to an unsuspecting website visitor, claiming that the visitor’s computer security has been compromised. The visitor is then asked to either download a necessary tool to remedy the “security threat,” such as an antivirus program (often malware in disguise), or contact a phony phone number for “help.”

How Does Pop-up Phishing Work?

Fake pop-ups inform users that their computer is under attack or has a technical problem. They direct visitors to call a phone number listed on the pop-up to get a professional that can help resolve the danger, one that never existed in the first place.

Cybercriminals make a lot of money from pop-up phishing scams yearly. They target unsuspecting users worried about their computer’s security to extort money from them and “fix problems and resolve threats” that do not exist.

How to identify fake pop-ups

Here are different ways of spotting a fake pop-up:

Spelling Mistakes

One of the simplest ways to spot a fake pop-up is to pay attention. They are often littered with all sorts of spelling mistakes. If there’s an image on the pop-up, it’ll likely look unclear or unprofessional.

Compare it to a legitimate pop-up.

Some pop-up phishing notifications claim to be from your internet service provider. Being able to differentiate between a genuine notification from a fake can save you a lot of trouble. 

If you haven’t been paying attention to pop-ups from your antivirus software, you should start doing that now. That way, whenever you come across a fake, you can quickly tell. If you’re confused and don’t know the difference, just ignore the pop-up, open your antivirus program, and do a deep scan to see if there’s anything wrong. 

Close your browser

Most fake pop-ups put your browser in full-screen mode, and to make matters more annoying, you may find yourself unable to minimize or close your browser. This is usually a sure sign that it’s a scam. If this happens, close the browser using the task manager. 

How To Protect Yourself Against Pop-up Phishing Scams

If a scam pop-up message appears on your screen, here’s what you should do:

  • Avoiding calling any number shown on the pop-up
  • Do not click the pop-up for any reason.
  • Use task manager to close your browser. If you’re unable to do that, you can press-and-hold your computer’s power button to shut it down.
  • Do not share your payment and personal details with anyone.
  • Make sure your operating system and browser are up to date.
  • Before downloading any app or browser plugin, read the reviews from other users. It may just save you from downloading something dangerous.
  • Never open any attachments in spam emails, or click to “unsubscribe” from them.
  • Only go to trusted sites to download your software and apps.
  • Do not click on any links in messages, emails, or websites you aren’t familiar with. 
  • Examine the permissions that the app you wish to download is requesting to ensure it is legitimate.

For more information on how to stay safe while surfing the internet, contact us.

4 Dangerous Scam Text Messages You Should Delete Immediately

Filed under: Security - May 20 2022
4 Dangerous Scam Text Messages You Should Delete Immediately

Email open rates typically range between 20 and 30 percent while SMS stands at a staggering 98 percent. 90 percent of texts are opened within three seconds of receipt. The average text is read within 90 seconds of receipt while that number is 90 minutes for email. This characteristically rapid response for text messages makes them a popular avenue for SMS scams and phishing – sometimes called “smishing”. Scams after all require that the target respond quickly before they have a change of heart or think their decision through. 

The average text is read within 90 seconds of receipt. That metric is 90 minutes for email.

The speed and regularity of reading and responding to texts is why you should delete scam texts immediately. If they lie around your inbox too long, you could unintentionally click on the fraudulent link at some future date. Scam SMS comes in diverse forms. Knowing SMS scammers’ modus operandi is critical to avoiding falling victim. Check out these types of texts you should get rid of without hesitation.

1. A Friend’s Friend You’ve Never Heard Of

Scammers know they have a good shot at success if they can convince you that you are someone they may know and can trust. Since they cannot guess the origin and nature of your friendships, their best bet is to pose as someone referred to you by your friend or acquaintance. For the average adult, friends and acquaintances garnered through life can number in the hundreds or thousands. 

So, if the scammer sent you a text message purporting to be a referral from your friend Melissa or Michael, chances are you have someone by that common name that you have at the minimum, a distant connection to. You would feel compelled to take a look and respond to the message to avoid embarrassing your friend or friend’s friend by stating you don’t remember them. 

Now, this type of text could very well be genuine. But as with virtually all scam texts, if it includes a URL the sender wants you to click on, delete it immediately.

2. A Package You Were Not Aware Of

Who doesn’t love surprise gifts and just incoming packages in general? When we order something at online stores such as Amazon, there’s a palpable excitement as we anticipate its arrival. If you get a text message claiming you have a package waiting for you, it is tempting to click on the link to see the details, claim it and/or specify the destination. Yet, this is one of the most common SMS scams. 

While the link could be a trigger for the download of malware to your phone, it is often a means of extracting confidential personal information from you via a fake webform. Armed with that data, the scammers can execute elaborate identity theft, empty your account, and max out your credit card.

3. Your Bank Account or Credit/Debit Card is On the Verge of Closure

Our bank accounts and credit/debit cards are a key driver of our everyday quality of life. You may be sent into a panic if you receive a text message claiming your bank account or card will be closed in case you do not urgently confirm your PIN, password, and other information. Often, there will be a narrow deadline such as the need to provide the information within hours of receipt. 

Bank accounts and cards do get closed for various reasons. So, once again, this rides on a realistic scenario. Still, account closure is unlikely to happen with such urgency. There will be a lead time of at least weeks or months. To check if it’s a scam, call the bank directly on their official listed phone numbers (you can find these on their website’s Contact Us section), or on the back of the card. If it doesn’t check out, delete it promptly.

4. You’ve Won an Award You Did Not Know You Were in the Running For

This plays on the elation that accompanies an unexpected gift. But nothing comes that easy. Nearly all notable awards require that you formally and intentionally enter the contest before you are assessed against other participants. Few organizations would want to go through the painstaking process of identifying a winner only for the selected candidate to reject it. 

What does this all mean? If you receive a text message about an award you’ve won, it’s likely scammers looking to cash in at your expense. Do not click on the link they ask you to even if it is apparently the only means to claim your award. Usually, these text messages download malware to your phone that would need removal.

Conclusion

These are some of the common types of scam texts but this is not an exhaustive list. Other types of scam SMS range from claims that your videos/photos have been posted somewhere, to inauthentic COVID-19 pandemic updates. Irrespective of the type of message, take a screenshot of the message for later review by an IT professional, then delete the message. Under no circumstances should you click the links, respond to the text or call the sender.

Think you have been a target of scam texts? Most people have. Contact us if you need assistance.

How Can I Tell If My PC Might Be Infected with Malware?

Filed under: Security - May 13 2022
How Can I Tell If My PC Might Be Infected with Malware?

Data theft, file loss/corruption, system disruption, email/SMS spam, unauthorized popup ads and remote control. When your PC is infected by malware, these are some of the major risks you could be exposed to. Prevention is the best-case scenario. But no antivirus can guarantee 100 percent protection from malware.

No antivirus can guarantee 100 percent protection from malware

You must brace for instances when malware does seep through any defenses you may have. It’s vital that you know the telltale signs of malware infection. Whereas malware is designed to be as unnoticeable to the end user as possible, it is after all an alien and unwelcome application. Most times, you can pick up warning signs that something feels off. Here are some of the major red flags.

1. Unexpected Pop Ups

Have you ever been working on your PC when suddenly, a window pops up on the screen with an alarming message? That could very well be a sign of malware. Typically, the notification will declare your computer is virus infected. It will propose that the only way you can get rid of the unwelcome message is by clicking on the highlighted button.

It’s a classic trick where someone purports to offer you assistance against malware whereas in the real sense, they want to use your uninformed consent to gain entry, steal information and propagate infection. 

2. Phishing Emails

It’s difficult for an email user to completely avoid phishing messages. Spam filters do a good job of preventing many phishing emails from getting to our inboxes, but a few will break through. A phishing email is not necessarily a sign of malware infection. What you should pay attention to is an uptick of these scam emails

If you were getting one phishing email per month but now have to grapple with five a week, then that could be because malicious software on your PC is aiding that nefarious effort.

3. Slowing Performance

If you regularly use your computer, then you already have an idea of what ‘normal’ looks like as far as processing speed and response time is concerned. Against this baseline, a slow computer could mean a virus problem. Certain forms of malware will overload your computer by occupying a significant proportion of your processor’s and memory’s capacity.

Slowing performance that has no clear cause may be due to malicious software

There may be valid reasons why your PC would suddenly slow down. But these can be tied to definitive changes such as a recently installed application. If you do notice slowing performance that has no clear cause, malicious software may be at play. 

4. Frequent Crashing

Malware aims to perform or facilitate unauthorized activity but without overly disrupting the PC user’s experience. That is easier said and done though so the presence of unwelcome apps will sometimes lead to unresponsiveness and/or unexpected rebooting. Also, malware may deliberately initiate a reboot to further embed itself in your computer’s system. 

Crashing does not always mean malware infection. Bug-plagued or poorly configured apps can destabilize your PC’s operating system too.

5. Changed Browser Homepage

Your browser’s homepage is not something you will regularly change. For most people, it remains with the default setting throughout. In many instances, that would be a major search engine page such as Google.com or Bing.com.

So, if your browser’s home page changes and you do not remember doing it, that is likely because of a virus. Often, trying to change it back to the default won’t help much as the malware will amend the setting again to the page it prefers. This will happen until the virus itself is removed.

6. Antivirus Warnings

Fake infection popups are a sign of malware. But so are legitimate alerts from your PC’s antivirus. It’s after all your first line of defense. It’s true that antivirus software developers are in business so they’ll regularly push notifications meant to encourage you to move to a paid plan or subscribe to an additional security product by them. 

Any legitimate warning from your antivirus should be taken seriously

Still, irrespective of the motive, any legitimate warning from your antivirus should be taken seriously. It’s one of the easier and safer ways to get rid of malware. Your antivirus can detect malware even before it is successfully installed. But no antivirus will ever ask you to call a phone number for assistance.

Wrapping Up

As long as your PC is connected to the Internet, receives email and/or has had a USB flash drive plugged into it, there is always the risk of malware infection. This realization can be a source of anxiety. It doesn’t have to be though. As long as your antivirus is active and up-to-date, you practice safe computing habits and keep an eye on the warning signs of infection, you can rest easy. 

Suspect your PC has a malware problem? Contact us.

How and Why to Use Browser Tabs

Filed under: Internet Tips - Apr 22 2022
How and Why to Use Browser Tabs

The internet is a huge part of our daily lives. Whether you’re communicating with family over Zoom, checking what your friends are up to on Facebook or buying your weekly groceries, you no doubt use an Internet browser most days of the week – either on your computer, tablet or smartphone

Internet browsers have a host of cool tricks and functions that make the browsing experience more pleasurable and straightforward. To make the most of these features, you need to understand what they are and how they work.

One such feature is the use of multiple browsing tabs. Tabs enable you to open multiple websites in one browser, without cluttering your desktop with too many browser pages. Being able to use tabs can enhance your browsing experience and make using the internet much easier. 

Every leading browser has options for tabbed browsing – even smartphones and tablets. 

Tabs are hugely popular – and have a great range of benefits. It’s estimated that the average person has between 2 -3 tabs open at any one point.

Of course, to take advantage of tabs, you need to know how to use them. So, below, we’ll dive into what browser tabs are, why you should use them and how to get started. 

What’s a Browser Tab?

With multiple browser tabs open, you can have multiple websites open at the same time within one browser. Each open website will appear as a “tab” at the top of your browser window. You can use your mouse, keyboard-shortcut or finger to switch between your open tabs/websites.

Why is Using Multiple Tabs Beneficial?

Have you ever signed into a website and then been asked to check your email for a verification code, which you’ll need to enter on that page.

In this instance, you may have wondered if there’s a way to check your email without losing the page you’re on. This is where browser tabs come in.

With multiple tabs, you can keep your current page while opening a new tab to check your email. 

Other use cases for browser tabs include: 

  • When you are writing an email and want to look up a synonym of a word
  • When you have two email accounts and want to switch between the two 
  • When you’re reviewing your stock portfolio and want to research information about a company without exiting your account 
  • When you’re researching airline flights and are comparing providers for the best deals 
  • When you’re multi-tasking – reading the news, ordering groceries etc. 
  • When you want to click a link on a page without losing the webpage you’re on

How to Open a New Tab

It’s straightforward to open a new browser tab. In your browser, click the new tab or “+” button that appears in the top right-hand corner of your browser’s toolbar. 

When you click this button, you will open a new tab. The new tab will either show as your browser’s homepage or a blank page, depending on the settings you have configured for your browser. 

How to Open Links in New Tabs

If you want to open a link on a website into a new tab, right-click the link with your mouse and select the option that says “open link in new tab.”

There’s also a way to do this via your keyboard. You can press and hold the Ctrl key down, then click on the link with your mouse, and a new tab will automatically.

If you’re conducting research online or doing some reading, opening links in new tabs is a great skill to have! For example, if you’re reading our blog and see a link that you like, you don’t have to lose the page you’re on.

Instead, by opening a link in a new tab, you can keep your current page while opening a new one too! In fact, why not click the ‘blog’ link above right now and test it out!

How to Close Different Tabs 

One thing to be aware of is that, if you don’t close down tabs once you’re finished with them, you could end up with a huge string of tabs – which will feel overwhelming!

Moreover, having too many tabs open can make your browser feel cluttered and tricky to navigate. 

So, make sure you close down your tabs once you’re finished with them. Doing this is simple. You can close the tab by clicking the little “x” icon on the right side of the tab. 

Need help getting around your internet browser or other software?

Computer Techs provides expert IT training to Reno area residents on a wide variety of computer and software topics. 

If you’d like to learn more about improving your online browsing experience, we can help. Contact us today with any questions or computer needs.

Can you spot a “phish”? Check out these phishing and fake email examples

Filed under: Security - Apr 19 2022

Please review the screenshots below of emails received by our clients. Can you spot all the clues that each one is a “phishing” or fake email?

AT&T migration phishing email
This phishing email appears to be sent from a private email address. Also note the date format is not standard. Also notice the weird capitalization in “MailBox”.
Geek Squad phishing email
Bad grammar and a name similar to a real US company give away the fact that this is a phishing email.
Norton phishing enail
Don’t recall signing up for a service? Well, you likely didn’t. In this example, scammers are hoping that you will call them to “cancel” the service – then try to convince you that they need remote access to your computer and bank account to deposit the “refund”. If in doubt about a charge to your account, contact your bank or credit card company first to confirm a transaction.
Amazon phishing email
If you were to click “Verify now” button in this email, you would likely be taken to a Amazon lookalike site asking you to enter private login information. Note the run-on sentence, bad grammar and non-capitalization of “amazon”. Halo.
Paypal phishing email
Notice the large print for a number to call about the supposed transaction. But the capitalization errors and being sent from a private email address should help you recognize that this email is fake.
Office 365 phishing email
The real Microsoft would address you by your name rather than “Dear Customer”. Also, why does the first phone number contain a dash after the 1, while the second one doesn’t? It’s because scammers usually aren’t very detail oriented, nor good at writing the English language.
This cell phone text message may appear to be from “VZN”, but official SMS correspondence from a business usually comes from a number that’s NOT your typical 10- or 11-digit private phone number. Bad grammar an extra space and capitalization error along with a strange website address is a clue NOT to click on this.
Again, your bank will typically send a text message from a 5 or 6 digit “short code”. In this case it’s best to verify by calling your financial institution at the phone number located on a statement or debit/credit card.

For more detailed examples and 7 things you should look for in an email, see: How to recognize emails that “phish” for your personal information.

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