choose your weapon…(part 2-read last)

Cellphones

Image by Stéfan via Flickr

In my rush to publish this information I posted the problem before the solution. So if you haven’t read at it again…cyber crooks, click on the title and get the low-down. Then come on back for author Sid Kirchheimer’s suggestions for tackling these no good, freeloading…!#%&*…so and so’s!!!

So here’s your defense:

  • Don’t reply. Even sending a “remove” or “stop” response to a smishing text tells scammers that your number is active, meaning you may get more messages.
  • Don’t click on links in texts sent to you by unknown parties.
  • Block suspicious numbers. Your cellphone provider may be able to block numbers wher the texts and calls originate.
  • Your bank is texting you? Look up its number yourself–don’t trust the one provided in the text–and call.
  • Don’t store credit card and account login information in emailos or notes on the phone.
  • Set your phone to time out and lock after a short period. If it’s stolen, thieves won’t get personal information.
  • Install updates. When you receive a bona fide notification of an upgrade to your phone’s software, install it immediately. If you doubt the message is legitimate, call your cell or app provider.
Show Me Your Cellphone Wallpaper

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…advantages…and disadvantages…to everything…including cellphones…

………hugmamma.

 

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still at it…cyber crooks (part 1-read first)

The latest scam in an ongoing attempt by some to free-load, involves our cell phones. The other day my husband received a text, supposedly from Wells Fargo Bank explaining his credit card had been blocked. He was asked to call a number. He deleted the message knowing it was a scam, for he is not a credit card holder with WFB. Because our young adult children are perennial texters, and still “wet behind the ears” to the evils of this world in many ways, I thought it important to run the AARP article written by Sid Kirchheimer, author of Scam-Proof Your Life.

Smstextmessage

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Texting Trickery 
     Your cellphone chimes–a text message has come in. It bears your bank’s name and has some disturbing news. One of your accounts has been frozen. Please call us at the following number to clear this up, urges the message.
     You’ve just been “smished.”
    
An offshoot of “phishing”–emails that try to trick you into disclosing personal or financial information–smishing is named for the SMS (short message service) technology used to send text messages. (There’s even another variation, “vishing.” Instead of a text message, you get a call with a recorded voice.)
     As more people have gotten wise to computer based scams, scammers are increasingly targeting cell phones. Their users are three times more likely to fall for fake messages than computer users, according to online security firm Trusteer; iPhone users are the most vulnerable.
     When you call the number the text gives you for your bank, you’re actually connecting to the scammers, who ask for your account number, PIN, Social Security number–the raw material of identify theft.
     Bogus bank alerts lead in smishing attacks. But you may also get texts promising a free laptop, mortgage assistance or lottery winnings. A message may just say, “Short on cash? Reply here!” One new come-on is a supposed free security app to get you to click on a link that in fact downloads identity-stealing software to your phone.
     Whatever the method, the goal is the same: to get your personal information and money.
     The Federal Trade Commission recently moved against a firm that was allegedly offering phony government loans by text. Five and a half million text messages were sent to cellphones in just 40 days–roughly 85 per minute, according to the commission. The firm also is alleged to have sold the numbers of people who replied asking to be removed from the list.

Cover of "Scam-Proof Your Life: 377 Smart...

Cover via Amazon

…what to do?…follow me…to part 2 of this post…

………hugmamma.     

“funny thing?!?,” ellen de generes

Something just happened which makes me think I’ve still got a tiny, rain cloud hovering overhead, leftover from my recent spate of mishaps.

Image representing LiveJournal as depicted in ...

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While I was in my hovel pounding away on my keyboard, wordpress.com initiated “blog buddies” in January of this year. A great idea, it fosters the growth of communities among wordpress.com bloggers. Other sites like Oprah.com and Live Journal  are known for their interactive networks. Having been a latecomer to the scene, I attempted to make connections. With no responses to my requests forthcoming, I surmised that perhaps our interests and backgrounds were too dissimilar. No problem, I thought. There’ll be other opportunities, I’m sure.

Ellen The Complete Fourth Season DVD Cover Art

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But being the person I am, oft times gregarious, I decided to email Ellen,  inviting her to be my blog buddy. When I’ve watched her show, she seems up for anything. So I thought “Why not?”

Going to her website and pulling up its first page, there was a contest I could enter if I wanted. Out of curiosity, I did. I knew 2 of the 3 answers immediately; I guessed the third. Upon clicking “continue,” what I saw next were 3 gold ribbons offering prizes for having been the day’s grand prize winner.” They were a $1,000 Walmart gift card, a $1,000 Best Buy gift card and an Ipad. Unable to fathom what I was seeing, but attempting to make a quick decision, I called my husband and my daughter, to no avail. Finally deciding to go for the Best Buy prize, I  clicked my choice. As expected, the next part of the process was to fill in some information, which I did. Continuing to the next page, I was asked to input my cell phone number. Of course I had to call my cell to make sure I had the correct number. But before I went any further, I read the fine print. Oh, oh, I thought.

If I clicked, I would be engaged in an ongoing game of sorts with ringtones, games, messages and so on. The cost? $9.99 a month, indefinitely. I was assured I’d be able to cancel after 30 days if I wanted. Well, I couldn’t get out of that scenario fast enough, especially after being scammed recently by “System Tool,” which infiltrated my laptop with viruses. Fixing that problem cost me $199, and cancelling a couple of credit cards as well. So I quickly began backing out of what looked like another scam, “Click + alt + delete.” What I couldn’t understand is how Ellen’s website would allow such an occurrence. But, hey! This is still all new to me.

[Sisters Lucretia Electa and Louisa Ellen Cros...

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I emailed Ellen asking about the contest, and if she’d agree to be my blog buddy. I’m sure she’s got lots on her plate, so I don’t expect a response to either. But maybe one of her fun assistants will send a big “hello.” Again, I won’t be holding my breath…

seven months does not an expert make…but i’m having fun in the process…hugmamma.  😉

ever have one of those years?

I know the year’s not done, but in the words of the reigning Queen Elizabeth, thus far mine’s been an “annus horribilis.” I’m not complaining, well maybe a tad. It’s more that I’m amazed at being blindsided by events over which I’ve had no control. I’m sure I speak for every one of us.

For me the chain of events began in late Fall when my daughter returned home for health reasons. As her mom I naturally felt the time with us was not just about physical healing. I knew it included emotional, spiritual and mental care as well. Her inner wellness was just as crucial as her external wellness. That for me meant making the journey with her. I felt her lows, and I reveled in her ascents back to normalcy. But it was a roller coaster ride for sure. And while I made certain that she had all kinds of support, I thought I could go it alone. Of course I reached out to my husband and friends, but moms tend to take on more than they can sustain. I didn’t know I had, until my daughter left.

Illness came calling almost as soon as our daughter boarded her flight home. I was laid up for weeks battling digestive, as well as respiratory ailments. At the time my husband was away on a business trip. Not being able to get out of the house for stretches at a time, my spirits were stretched thin, very thin. Not getting to exercise class regularly didn’t help.

Deciding to have physical therapy for chronic upper back, shoulder and neck pain once I felt well enough, got the endorphins moving. The sun seemed to be smiling down upon me once again as I got outdoors, breathing deeply of fresh air and renewed hope for better days ahead. Of course Christmas needed to go back into plastic, storage bins, but I hadn’t the strength yet for that monstrous chore. It would have to wait until I returned from our trip to see our daughter perform. But I wasn’t prepared for what awaited me 3,000 miles away.

Almost from the get-go, our family was engulfed in a discussion of differing opinions. Any mother of a young adult knows we must tread lightly with our opinions. Yes, I want her to know how I feel, but I don’t want to live her life. At 61, I don’t want to live mine, AND hers. Been there, done that, don’t want to do it again. Besides, she’s very capable of living her own life. But it’s very difficult not wanting to share my decades of experience, in the hopes that she won’t make my mistakes. Needless to say our family endured a few days of tip-toeing around one another. In the midst of it all, my husband left on another business trip. And he’s usually the neutral party. After a day or so, and much discussion, my daughter and I resumed our loving, BFF status.

Throughout the ordeal, the flu was brewing in my daughter’s gut. She danced sick, endured our brouhaha, and finally succumbed. The weekend after her performance I took her to the ER with a migraine headache that included dizziness, nausea, and mild vomiting. We sat in the lobby with many, other sick people waiting our turn to be seen, first by the insurance clerk and then the nurse, and then the doctor. Our visit began at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, and didn’t end until 11 p.m. that night. The best part for my daughter was the last hour-and-a-half, when she slept like a baby because of the Benadryl she was getting intravenously. At that point, I was so light-headed, not having eaten since breakfast. Once I told the nurse about my hunger, she and the doctor wrapped things up pretty quickly. Once we got home, my daughter fell into bed, immediately dozing off again. I proceeded to raid the icebox. I know, my age is showing, but “icebox” somehow seems more apropos than “refrigerator.” Maybe because it makes me feel like a kid again, when MY mom did the worrying.

With my daughter sleeping in the next morning, I felt life was finally back on track, so I sat down to blog on my laptop at her dining table. Mindlessly writing, enjoying the moment, I surfed the internet for a picture to add to my post. As soon as I clicked on a photo of a picturesque beach on Maui, all Hell seemed to break loose. Those words blinking incessantly before me “virus, virus, virus’ will forever be emblazoned on my brain. Waking my daughter, together we wend our way through Hell, and back. Trying to buy a pop-up anti-virus security product, “system tool,” only got us more viruses. In fact, the laptop screen went entirely red with “VIRUS” glaring at us in huge, black letters. Using my daughter’s computer we sought online help. We found Tech Pros whose opening page warned of “system tool” being a scam. A half-hour’s drive away, we left my poor, inundated laptop in the hands of the experts..

At a cost of $199 plus tax, my good-as-new laptop was back home with me a couple of days later.  It’s actually better than before. Tech Pros installed a security system, in addition to zapping all those yucky viruses, “dead as door nails.” (Where’d that expression come from, I wonder?) Talk about bed-bugs, I really felt like the viruses had crawled into bed with me. As we used to say growing up on Maui as kids, those viruses gave me the “heegie-beegies!” The correct saying, according to my daughter, is “heebie-geebies.” Whichever it is, it’s exactly how I felt.

Oh, and then there was the matter of cancelling the credit cards we’d used to try to purchase “system tool,” whose sole purpose was probably to steal our information. My daughter’s Visa was replaced in a day or so at a rushed shipping cost of $16. My Master Card arrived the following day at no extra charge to me, except that the UPS driver left the envelope on the wrong doorstep. I learned of their error after I arrived home last night. While I was still at my daughter’s trying to track down my new credit card, I ended up having to cancel it, and have another new one sent to my home address. 

As if we’d not had enough I got hit with “the bug,” or so we thought. I started feeling the nausea my daughter had experienced. We thought it might be the flu. Would those viruses ever leave us be? As it turns out, we decided I was probably experiencing gastritis or the beginnings of an ulcer. Over the past few months, heart burn symptoms have returned time and again. Getting on a regimen of Prilosec and Tums as needed, as well as a diet of whole grains, steamed veggies and selected fruits seems to have calmed my digestive system down considerably.

But just when my health ordeal was unfolding, Mother Nature decided to ratchet things up a bit with a tornado watch. With heavy rains and winds whipping about, the sirens at my daughter’s apartment complex began blaring. Turning on the TV to the news channel, we learned of a full-blown tornado watch in our area. As the newscaster followed its movement, my daughter and I emptied her bathroom of anything that could kill us if we were to hunker down, wrapped in heavy quilts in the bathtub. My husband, back home from his business trip, called while we were preparing for the worst. Needless to say, he was worried. Needless to say, I was panicked, my digestive symptoms getting worse by the minute.

As I’m sure you’ve already surmised, no tornado touched down in our area, although sightings were reported in other parts. Due to return home to Washington, I hoped my digestive symptoms would abate long enough for me to make the trip which included a stop-over. Fingers crossed, I checked in online.

When I awoke yesterday I was good to go, having taken one of my daughter’s sleeping supplements which helped me rest through most of the night. I even blogged, putting out a post, before packing away my laptop. My husband called making certain I was, in fact, traveling. Later he called back warning that my flight was delayed 45 minutes, which would affect my connecting flight. The hour wait was now shortened to half-an-hour. I wasn’t deterred. I was ready to return home and be sick in my own house, rather than “riding it out” at my daughter’s.

When I got to the airport, I called my husband to say I’d made it, and asked if he could check for other flights in case I missed my connection. He called back with great news. The connecting flight was also delayed by 45 minutes. Hallelujah! God decided to give me a break. As it turned out, I had to work for it. My flight arrived in Terminal C. I had to high-tail it to Terminal D, which I did. Panting, my feet literally flew as I rushed past anyone and everyone making sure I wouldn’t miss my flight home. So determined to make it, I wound up standing in line at the wrong gate. God intervened again when another passenger informed me of my mistake. I hoofed it out of there, making it to the right line. I needn’t have worried. The flight didn’t leave the gate until well past the delayed departure time.

The only thing that hurt by the time I landed home in Washington, was my fanny. Could they make airplane seats any harder? But I’m home, with my husband, cats and dog. And you know what else? I’m even delighted to see that Christmas is still with us. My cat-sitter left a note saying, in part, “…I love all the xmas decorations! China Rose.” Don’t you just love her name? And she’s a sweetheart to boot.

The year’s not done as I’ve said. But I’m determined that it’ll get better. So I’m rejoining my friends in exercise class, continuing with my physical therapy appointments, healthier diet, and blogging. I’ll look into starting yoga, tackling other writing projects, and an adult ed class, perhaps in French.

we can all make lemonade…out of lemons…hugmamma.  🙂

a bad bout of “virus”

Am writing this to warn you that scammers hover nearby, even at the tips of one’s fingers. Long story short, my computer alerted me to a virus attack a couple of days ago. Not sure if you’ve ever witnessed flashing icons on your screen that silently scream “viruses, viruses, viruses!!!” I immediately felt I was physically under siege. My heart began palpitating. My brain went into lock down mode. My eyes bugged out of my head. Words were roiling around inside my head, none of which I could organize into thoughts that made sense.

Running my fingers across the computer keys, I finally ran the McAfee virus scan system that came with my 17″ Acer laptop, which I purchased at a great price on QVC. The scanning completed, I was asked if I wanted to remove the viruses that were detected, or did I want to leave them be. Yeah right, I thought. That’s like asking me if I wanted to let bedbugs live in my bed forever! I tried texting my husband for advice. When none was quickly forthcoming, I took action…and have regreted it.

One option offered was to activate the automatic removal system. The catch was that I needed a password. Hmmm… I couldn’t remember even discussing anti-viral security with my hubby. He normally buys Norton. But I didn’t recall him giving me a password. So I went for the second option, signing up for “System Tool.” Popping up on McAfee led me to believe it was part and parcel of the scan system.

Unable to reach my husband, and thinking the viruses would gain a bigger stranglehold the longer I delayed, I tried to purchase “System Tool.” Well try as I might, the transaction kept being declined. Customer service at Master Card’s 1-800 number kindly offered their assistance. But even they couldn’t complete the transaction. The whole thing was crazy. That should have signaled a “red flag.” Finally the credit card’s computer technician explained that I was probably locked out because of several failed attempts. He suggested I might want to try again later.

Thinking the viruses were gaining an increasingly greater foothold the more time I wasted, I tried a Visa credit card. Same thing, I kept being declined in trying to purchase “System Tool.” Giving up on the online option, I decided to seek technical help from someone in town. When I pulled up their website, there was an alert on the first page indicating that “System Tool” was a scam which would infiltrate with viruses, not remove them. I couldn’t drive to the computer tech’s office fast enough.

The good news is that my hardware was not affected. The bad news is my laptop had to be thoroughly cleaned and a new security system installed, all for $199. The pro also suggested emphatically that I cancel my credit cards because the scammers were probably after credit card information from the outset. Needless to say I’ve done as he recommended. 

Lesson learned? Even writers have to know something more than just banging away at the computer keyboard. And it’s true, seniors like me can learn new tricks. We might have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, by our gray hairs. But in the meantime, our brain cells are growing by leaps and bounds. This is never a bad thing, although too many growth spurts like this, and I might have a heart attack.

Something which concerned me was that QVC sold a product, Acer, which offered McAfee security, which in turn offered “System Tool” as a means of removing viruses, which is, in fact, a scam. This is probably an oversimplification, but the outcome is that I bought an Acer computer, which my husband and I’d never heard of before, because of its great deal on QVC. Like many, I consider the online retailer highly reputable. I wonder if it’s even aware of Acer’s link to McAfee, and its link to “System Tool?” That a scam could be furthered by a QVC backed product is mystifying. I’ll probably be expressing my concern to QVC in writing, unless they come calling on me via my blog, as Comcast has done in the past. We’ll see.  

What does hubby say about all this? I’ll have to wait and see when he returns from his European business trip this evening.

getting in and out of trouble…par for the course…hugmamma.  🙂