Monthly Archives: September 2014

Spotting Extra Annoying Programs

Whether you read this headline and thought “Extra programs are annoying”, or “Yep, some programs are extra annoying”, it doesn’t matter. Both are equally true.

Annoying programs come in all shapes and sizes. Some are free, some are not, and some are free for a certain number of days. These free trials are known as Bloatware. Like Microsoft Office, they come pre-installed on your new computer or mobile device. You pretty much have no choice with these. The only thing you can do is decide which ones to keep (i.e. eventually buy), and which ones to delete.

Where you do have a choice are with programs I like to call tag-alongs. They’re officially known in the tech industry as adware, spyware, junkware, or crapware… and those are only the names I can reference in polite society. These names alone should tell you what the IT World thinks of them.

Grab a cup of tea and let me tell you about tag-alongs.


smiley bookOnce upon a time in computing history, a business decided when a person downloaded a chosen program it’d be profitable to add theirs as a bonus. The end-user thought receiving extra stuff for nothing was wonderful until he downloaded four more programs and was extended a dividend of four more tag-along programs. He realized some blessing were really curses in disguise, just like King Midas.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a happy ending… yet. But I’m going to help you recognize where these tag-alongs come from, and how to avoid them.

Most tag-along programs come with free downloads. I won’t say all tag-alongs come with freebies for the same reason a person shouldn’t say “never” or “always”.

In our story, we don’t care what causes those pesky additional programs to attack our computer, we just care that they do.


 Why Are Tag-along Programs Bad?

  • They slow down your browser.

Ever wonder how the Internet knows the exact brand of something you’ve just purchased?  Tag-along programs. Stealth programs known as Spyware or Adware sit in the back of your computer watching your purchases and website visits. Later they automatically toss-up advertisements that might interest you.

Why is this bad? These programs take precious seconds off your download speeds and clog up your computer’s RAM and hard drive memory.

Yes, we’re only talking extra seconds added, but Headache computercompound this by several programs and your computer speeds may rival 56K dial-up modems. Remember dial-up? I really don’t either. Trust me, it was horribly slow; we just didn’t realize it at the time.

  •  They load too many toolbars.

PC Magazine posted a super example of what happens when bonus toolbars load along with other programs. See the bottom where it says PC? That’s the PC Magazine website… under all the toolbars.
Toolbars

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • They take up memory.

Programs are programs. People think a few extra megabytes of RAM or storage space used has no impact. It does.


It’ll help us understand by knowing how computer memory works.

How Hard Drive Memory is Used

Imagine your computer hard drive as a piece of graph paper. There are squares across plus up and down where we save data. The top left square gets the first item saved. We’ll pretend each square stores a byte of data.Mona Lisa

First, I save a word processing document worth ten squares (bytes). Then I find a picture of the Mona Lisa I like so I’m saving it. Mona’s cost in space is five squares. So far I’ve saved fifteen squares of total data.

Oh, I forgot. I need to edit down my document; it’s too long. I erase two squares of data and re-save. I now have two open squares between my document and Mona on my hard drive.

Now I create a spreadsheet worth seven squares. Data saves in all open squares first. This means two squares of spreadsheet data are saved between my document and Mona while the last five of the seven squares save behind Mona.

This happens over and over as we save items to our hard drives. Computers slow down when we ask them to piece together an item spread out over many squares. NOTE: To speed up your computer, you can defragment or defrag your hard drive. You’ve heard that before, haven’t you? See. You’re smart.

What is RAM Memory?

Think of RAM memory like a kitchen counter. I store my food (data) in a refrigerator (hard drive), but when I want to use it I need a place to set it while I cook (RAM memory). Computer items (documents/internet pages/pictures park in RAM memory as I edit/read/view them. The larger the countertop (Random Access Memory), the more food (data) I can have out at one time.


 Spotting Tag-along Programs

Let’s talk about spotting rogue programs that seek us out. They sneak into our computers when we’re on auto-pilot after a long day, or after a frustrating hour trying to find a usable download.

  • Make sure to download the correct program.

This is the download screen I posted a few weeks ago in Password Protecting Items in Windows 8.

Even a trusted site like Download.com can be confusing. I wanted the 7-Zip download. There are at least two other programs on this page vying for my download. Neither of which I want.Download 7-zip

 

  •  Uncheck all boxes that will cause you to say, “Huh? How’d that get there?” later.

This is Java. You know Java. Almost every computer in the world runs something that uses Java. Well, when you update your Java — don’t worry, it’ll remind you — you’ll see this.

If you don’t uncheck the boxes, not only will you download and install the Ask search app, you’ll make it your default browser and your homepage. Don’t do it.added unwanted toolbars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Uncheck the boxes unless you really want the toolbar. You probably don’t if you’ve been fine searching the World Wide Web up to now.unwanted toolbars

 

 

 

 

 

 


There. Don’t you feel better? Now you know what to look for to avoid downloading adware, spyware, junkware, and crapware.infected

What? You think you’re already are infected? Don’t worry. You can get rid of those with no needles involved.

I can’t do better in my explanations than to direct you to Kim Komando’s site. She has easily understandable instructions. Thanks, Kim.
Remove Unwanted Toolbars-Kim Komando

Have a wonderful week, and thanks again for following Patti’s Pathways. Y’all come back now, ya’ hear? 😀


 

DISCLAIMER: Any and all ideas presented in this blog are solely my own unless otherwise noted. I experience troubles with technology just like any other person, and if I stumble upon a fix or suggestion I feel could benefit others I pass it along. At no time, have I suggested or implied that I hold any degrees or certificates related to computer repair.

I have during my career assembled parts into working computers; done troubleshooting on hardware and software; utilized a great many computer programs and software; designed and updated websites and blogs; as well as created brochures, banners, and flyers.

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Facebook: Little Known Tips and Tricks

FB logoI’ve been on Facebook again for a while now. I deleted my account for three years, but was talked into reactivating it. Had I known some of these tips my first go ’round, I would’ve tweaked my account so I wasn’t so overwhelmed.

You may already know some or all of these — in which case they’re not little known — but I thought I’d pass along some of the more useful tools and security settings I’ve uncovered anyway.


TIP ONE:

We all have that one person in our Facebook lives. You know the one. They insist we be part of every dental exam, every vet visit, every emotional breakdown, their list goes on. We like them and don’t want to hurt their feelings, but their Facebook posts are just clogging our newsfeed.

UNFOLLOW A NEWSFEED

In the example below, if I no longer wanted to see what John Tesh has to tell me, I can hover over the 1) arrow in the top right of his post, then 2) click Unfollow John Tesh. John won’t know, and I’ll just no longer see his newsfeeds on my Facebook page.
Unfollow

 

John’s Facebook account is public or I’d have blurred out his info. It’s a great site.

FB TIP TWO:

HIDE GROUP NEWSFEEDS:

I’m a member of several Facebook groups. One group has thousands of members so the posts get overwhelming. I like this group and want to remain a member of it but at my leisure.

We can do the same thing with groups as we did with an individual. Instead of Unfollowing though, with Groups it’s known as Archiving.

1) Navigate to the Group’s home page, and 2) click the ellipsis. Yep, that’s its name. Then 3) choose Archive Group.Archive Group

 

 

 

 

 

4) View the ominous warning, and click “Archive”.
Archive Warning

 

 

 

 

 

I have a short memory so I’ve decided I want to reactivate my group newsfeeds. And how could I forget John Tesh has intelligence for my life so I want his newsfeed back also.

TIP THREE:

Unarchiving a Group Feed/Refollowing a Person

1) Find the News Feed Settings gear, and 2) choose Edit Settings.
Newsfeed Settings Gear

 

 

 

 

3) Click the “x” beside the group/person you’d like to view posts again on your Facebook page.
unarchive group

 

 

4) Click Save. Now all the newsfeeds you’ve selected are back.

 

 TIP FOUR

Ever want to post something you really don’t want your boss to see? How about posts you really, really don’t want Aunt Agnes to see? Or something less nefarious: a joke only a few good friends will understand.

You’d need a way to select who you send what. Facebook has that.


You can accomplish your goal of sending posts and photos to chosen Facebook friends in one of two ways: 1) create a list, or 2) set up a group.

With lists or groups, your bff sees everything — articles, jokes, sayings, emo rants — while co-workers can only see a few jokes or an article you shared about production.

Facebook has already included lists for you to populate. There are Close Friends for people you keep in contact with, and Acquaintances for people you don’t. Restricted is useful for people like your boss and managers; I’d include co-workers with the insatiable need to gossip in this list also. Or you can create you own.

What’s the difference?

Stuff Lists Do Groups Can’t

  • Lists are connected to your security settings.

NOTE: If you use a list to limit your audience, your default may reset to that list. I’ve had that happen, but can’t verify or recreate it happening every single time. If it does, you can change it by setting the next post to Friends or whichever list you wish the post sent. Or you can do it through settings.

Under 1) Settings
FB Settings

2) Click Privacy in the left margin, then you can see and set a default.
Privacy List

 

  • Lists will not notify all your Facebook contacts you’ve create a new list. When you create a new group, it’s blabbed all over your Facebook.

Stuff Groups Do Lists Don’t

1) Groups limit what people view on your wall. You can set a group to only see what you’ve posted for that group.

You could do this for lists, but you’d need several monster lists minus the special people you wish to un-include.

2) Groups are customizable.

  • You can set a specific picture to represent your group.
  • Administrators can be assigned.
  • Groups can have their own customized email address.
    This is kind of a neat feature. When information is sent to the Group’s email address, it posts to their wall.

3) You can use the Share feature on Group posts.  Lists don’t support this function.


Making a List

1) On your Home page’s left-hand margin, scroll down and hover over Friends, then  2) click More.
Friends-More

 

 

 

 

3) Click Create List
Create list

 

 

 

 

4) Add people to your new list.
Facebook makes it easy. When you type a letter, you’ll get friend choices.
Add to friend list

 

Using Your New List

When you post in the “What’s on your mind?” Facebook box, you can choose your  list.

1) Write your thoughts or insert your photo, and 2) Choose your list.
Select List of Friends who see post

Yes, I have tested this. Only the people on your list can see your post.

FYI: If you switch lists, your post is removed from the original recipient’s page and resent to the new receiver.

Remember: the List function may set the last list used as your default.

Updating Your Lists

1) Simply click on the list name in the right margin, 2) click Manage List to add or delete people, change the list name, plus more.
Update Friends List

 

Creating A Group

1) Click on Create Group under your Groups area in the left margin.Create Group side panel

2) Pick a name, 3) add members, and 4) choose your Privacy specs.
Create target list

 

TIP FIVE:

You’ve got your security settings just like you want them… secure. So you might not want everyone and his dog —yes, some canines love Facebook — seeing your reply comments.

Are you ever curious about who can see what you write on someone else’s post?

Who Can View Your Comments

Hovering over the icon below their name tells you exactly who can see your replies/comments.

The first person’s Facebook posts are Public, the second are only Shared with their friends.Public-private sharing

 

 

TIP SIX:

Did you realize that your Facebook Friends can take your secure information with them to other apps or games? Apps are usually granted access to FB information when a person logs into other websites with their Facebook account.

When you give a trusted contact free rein to your information, they could be giving it away and not even know it.

Secure How Much of Your Information Others Can Share

1) Go to Settings, 2) Apps in the left margin, and 3) scroll down to Apps Others Use and 4) click Edit.
Apps others use

 

 

 

 

 

5) Uncheck what you don’t want passed on and 6) Save. I’ve unchecked everything.

HELPFUL HINT: While you’re at the bottom of the Apps page, I’d recommend disabling the Instant Personalization option. This prohibits your public info from being used by Facebook’s third-party partner sites, like TripAdvisor or Pandora.

TIP SEVEN:

If you want to be a courteous friend and not bombard people with paid ads from stuff you like, you can turn that feature off.

1) Go to Settings, 2) Ads in the left margin, 3) click Edit by Ads And Friends. Set it to 4) No one and 5) Save.Facebook ad


HELPFUL HINT:
While you’re on this page, set your Third-party Sites (above Ads and Friends) to No one just in case at some future date Facebook decides to sell its user lists.

TIP EIGHT:

Did you know you have an “Other” message box? If your Facebook page isn’t Public and someone who’s not your FB Friend sends you a message, it ends up in your Other box.

If you click on the word bubble icon to get to your messages, you’ll also see your Other tab.
Other Message Box


Now that your to-do list is overflowing with Facebook tasks, I’ll leave you alone to digest this post. I have one last tip: Like the Facebook Security page. You’ll get the latest in threat news, plus some great internet safety tips here.

Have a super week, and thanks for visiting Patti’s Pathways. 😀


 

DISCLAIMER: Any and all ideas presented in this blog are solely my own unless otherwise noted. I experience troubles with technology just like any other person, and if I stumble upon a fix or suggestion I feel could benefit others I pass it along. At no time, have I suggested or implied that I hold any degrees or certificates related to computer repair.

I have during my career assembled parts into working computers; done troubleshooting on hardware and software; utilized a great many computer programs and software; designed and updated websites and blogs; as well as created brochures, banners, and flyers.

A Notch in the Belt of Microsoft

Yep, another special midweek edition. This one isn’t about flash fiction — although some gamers may hope this is fiction, but it’s not — it’s about the biggest gaming news in years. That’s my opinion, but prove me wrong. Can’t, can ya’?

microsoft logo roundThe major gaming announcement this week is that the Microsoft Corporation has purchased Mojang AB (owner of the popular Minecraft video game) for $2.5 billion USD. That’s billion… with a B. I know what you’re thinking: But Patti, in the 2014 fiscal year Microsoft Corporation’s net profit was 22.07 billion USD; they can afford it.

You’ve convinced me. They can afford it, and it might just be the best money they’ve spent lately. Why?

Avatar_Creeper_100x100Markus Persson (aka Notch to the gaming world), Swedish programmer and kingpin of Minecraft, has been a thorn in Microsoft’s side of late. First, with his anti-Windows 8 stance. Remember, he refused to update Minecraft to work without OpenGL? Trust me, he did. That’s how this blog got started. See my first post Finally a Fix for Windows 8 OpenGL Error.

Persson also stated there was no pressing reason to create a Minecraft version for Microsoft’s Windows phones. Minecraft is one of iPhone and Android’s most popular mobile apps, and those two operating systems have a 95% share of the world mobile market according to Business Insider. Microsoft Windows phones are barely a speck on the smartphone horizon. Could there be a correlation? Possibly. But I do see a trend Microsoft could well want to take a Notch out of.

Well, Mr. Persson, tick off a gigantic corporation and watch their thinktank wheels turn. They usually will come up with an offer you can’t refuse. And you didn’t. Why sell your baby to a company you obviously despise?

Since its launch in 2009, Minecraft has sold over 50 million copies for PC’s, smartphones, and video game consoles. Its annual revenue last year was $290 million. While that’s small potatoes for Microsoft, it’s sizable for a company like Mojang AB.

Minecraft is taking off like wild-fire. There are Minecraft-themed camps, Halloween costumes, Scholastic gaming guides, Lego characters, and a soon-to-be Warner Bros. movie. Don’t forget the online Minecraft projects, YouTube and Twitch tips and tricks posts, and teachers using it to educate students in computer programming classes. Oh, and Minecraft is one of the most played Xbox games in the world.

Its popularity is the core of the problem. Persson can’t keep up. He’s frustrated managing something so large, plus he’s having difficulty keeping development pace with demanding Minecraft fans.

giant babyIn essence, Persson’s baby has grown too big for him to care for. His best course of action is to find someone with experience to nurture it and see to its future.

But before we get too sentimental, don’t forget he had 2.5 billion reasons to entrust the baby’s care to Microsoft.

Persson posted on his personal website: “Thank you for turning ‘Minecraft’ into what it has become, but there are too many of you, and I can’t be responsible for something this big.”

Serious gamers are grumbling a corporate takeover will ruin Minecraft’s homegrown, Indie flavor. But honestly, I saw this coming when Walmart started selling Minecraft plushies. That was the beginning of the end for the Indie marketing strategy.

What’s my opinion and thoughts for Minecraft’s future?

Personally, I think this could be a very good thing for Minecraft fans. A friend mentioned his hopes of Microsoft stabilizing Minecraft’s online servers. I hadn’t even thought about that.

Things I had thought about were new game content, and more rapid implementation of suggested improvements. I’d also thought about corporate greed. Will Microsoft decide to offer added Minecraft features and content for money? Currently, you buy Minecraft — $7 to $27 USD depending on the platform for play — and everything is included; all updates are free.

Nobody really know how this scenario will play out, but let’s pray there are relatively few growing pains.

Have a great rest of the week, and thanks again for stopping by Patti’s Pathways. 😀


 

DISCLAIMER: Any and all ideas presented in this blog are solely my own unless otherwise noted. I experience troubles with technology just like any other person, and if I stumble upon a fix or suggestion I feel could benefit others I pass it along. At no time, have I suggested or implied that I hold any degrees or certificates related to computer repair.

I have during my career assembled parts into working computers; done troubleshooting on hardware and software; utilized a great many computer programs and software; designed and updated websites and blogs; as well as created brochures, banners, and flyers.

Password Protecting Folders In Windows 8

This post was originally going to be “How to Permission Protect Your Windows 8 Folders” because chatter on the web said there is no way to password-protect folders in Windows 8.

dancer, german femaleSurprise! You can password protect folders in Windows 8. You do this by using a zip program and archiving your special folder. After doing a bunch of dancing around, you’ll get password protected folders and files.

Be forewarned. The choreography sounds complicated, but you’re a good dancer so I think you can follow.

Now… get ready to dance. I’m leading.

Dance Step One:

Create a Restore Point.

In Windows 8 and 8.1 to create a restore point go to Control Panel > Recovery > Configure System Restore. Don’t forget there’s always an uninstall option at Control Panel > Programs if you don’t like a program.

Dance Step Two:

Find a good file archive program. I have WinZip, but the free archiver I tested for my faithful readers is 7-Zip.

What’s a file archive program? A file archiver either 1) compresses information to take up less hard drive or download space, or 2) makes files and folders easier to send between people since they are archived with file content and not a specific file system.


MORE THAN YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT FILE SYSTEMS: Different digital devices use different file systems to store data. Flash drive content is stored differently than CDs/DVDs. Different operating systems also have different file system types. Microsoft/Windows file system (usually FAT or NTFS) is different from the Macintosh/Apple file system (HFS). For the pre-computer crowd, think Dewey Decimal System versus strict alphabetical order.Rumba

Now to toss a watusi step into a rumba dance to confuse you further. File systems are not the same as file extensions (.exe, .doc, .jpg, .zip, .bat, .epub).


Why did I choose 7-Zip to test? Out of 5 stars, it still has a 4- to 4 1/2-star approval rating from users after 8 million downloads at cnet.com. Cnet editors gave the 32-bit a 5-star rating, but didn’t rerate the 64-bit program. I’m using 64-bit with no troubles.

Psst! If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve figured out my favorite program download site is cnet (download.com). I’ve used it for years and have never gotten a virus, plus little or no adware sneaks in with your downloads.

HEADS UP: On download.com — and a lot of other download sites — don’t be confused by paid advertisers on the same page as program downloads. Paid advertiser download buttons are in a box usually with the name of the paid program beside the button.Download 7-zip

In the above example, the top free download is RegClean Pro. The name’s fairly well hidden, but you can find it if you try. The second impersonator for our download is Bitdefender. I’m sure it’s a very nice program, but we don’t want it today. We want 7-Zip.


7-Zip
http://download.cnet.com/7-Zip/3000-2250_4-10045185.html

7-Zip 64-bit
http://download.cnet.com/7-Zip-64-bit/3000-2250_4-10905593.html

After downloading 7-Zip, follow the prompts to install.

Oh good, the band is back to playing our waltz.

How To Password Protect Items in Windows 8

1) Find the folder you wish to password protect.

For demonstration purposes, I made a TEST Test Folderfolder on my desktop. I’d suggest you do the same until you are familiar with how this works. Toss a test.doc or two into your TEST folder. You’ll need something to protect or it doesn’t work. At least, it didn’t for me.

Note on Photos and Clipart: .jpg, .gif, .png, and others save in zip archives, but don’t open. Some premium archiver programs have an image viewer capability. If you don’t have one of those, you can unzip/move the photo to a regular unarchived file/folder to view.

2) Right-click your TEST folder, 3) choose 7-Zip, then 4) Add to archive…7-zip

5) Make sure the Archive Format is zip, and the Encryption method is ZipCrypto. This allows someone you’ve given the password to the ability to open this file with any zip program. 6) Enter a password of 8 digits, and 7) Press OK.
Add to archives

8)  Locate the .zip folder you’ve just created.

The easiest way is clicking the Taskbarfolder icon on your task bar, then under Desktop find your TEST folder. You can also use Windows key + X, and search for your .zip folder with the File Explorer.

Your original TEST folder is still there. That’s the one you made first, but not the archived one. To find the archived one, scroll down a little farther. If you see a TEST.7z folder, you archived your folder in 7-Zip format.Test

Did you notice my archived folders show as WinZip files? That’s because WinZip is my default archive program.  My new password protected files open in WinZip also.

9) Left-click on your TEST.zip folder and you’ll get a prompt to enter a password. That’s the password you just assigned in 7-Zip: Add to Archive. 10) Enter your password.
Password

10) Choose the document in the folder you wish to open/edit. Now you’re free to edit the item as you wish.

FYI: If you don’t close the archived folder, you shouldn’t need to reenter the password to access other documents in that folder.

A WORD ON SAVING YOUR FOLDER:

When you exit your new .zip folder, 7-Zip is so nice, it’ll ask if you want to update it. You do.
7-zip save

WINZIP NOTE: If you’re default program is WinZip, you’ll get this save screen.
SaveYou want the top option. WinZip now asks for another password. It must think an updated document needs an updated password. I use the original pass I set. If you don’t edit the file, WinZip doesn’t ask to update the password.

There. You’re done! You’ve created a new password protected .zip folder, and you’re free to delete your original folder.

I played around for a while before actually deleting any folders. My password protected folders are still working. All seems right in the .zip computing world.


Are there any downsides?

The only downside I see is adding items to your protected .zip folder.

Creating new folders in either 7-Zip or WinZip is easy. Right-click in the protected folder body (or chose the File command at the top bar), then left-click “New Folder” or “Create Folder”.

The tricky step is adding documents or photos within a protected folder in 7-Zip.

Archive programs are made to conserve space or make data more portable, not as a place to create documents, view photos, et cetera.

7-Zip:

Let’s talk about adding items in 7-Zip first.

I will requote the old adage: You get what you pay for. This free program makes it necessary to dance around again to add items.

7-Zip does have a “Create File” option, but for some reason, it doesn’t work for me nor can I find anyone on the forums who succeeded with it. Let me know if it works for you.

To add photos or documents using 7-Zip, they need to be 1) archived first (a new .zip made), then 2) dragged and dropped into your password protected archived folder. Cut and paste aren’t supported.

It might be of greater benefit in 7-Zip to resave old items from your protected folder in a new regular folder with the new items you want to password protect, then rearchive them all.waltz

Why? Each added item equals a new folder. Soon, if you have a lot of super secret stuff, you’ll have oodles of folders to waltz through to find the one you want.

WINZIP:

Adding photos or documents using WinZip is much easier.  1) Create and save your item as usual. 2) Drag and drop it into your password protected Winzip folder. 3) With the document name highlighted, 4) open Tools, and 5) choose Encrypt Zip File.

When it asks a password, continue with the steps you used before to edit and save it. When you close your newly added file, WinZip will password protect it.


I know this is a lot to process, but if you wish to password protect your data in Windows 8, you must learn the tough routines. And pray Windows 9 allows password protecting files again then upgrade.

You should pat yourself on the back though. hula bear and penguinYou’re a great dance partner. Now sit this next set out and put your feet up, you’ve worked hard.

Have a productive week, and thanks again for following Patti’s Pathways. 😀


Other posts that compliment this one:

Creating the Safest Passwords

On The Threshhold of Windows 9


DISCLAIMER: Any and all ideas presented in this blog are solely my own unless otherwise noted. I experience troubles with technology just like any other person, and if I stumble upon a fix or suggestion I feel could benefit others I pass it along. At no time, have I suggested or implied that I hold any degrees or certificates related to computer repair.

I have during my career assembled parts into working computers; done troubleshooting on hardware and software; utilized a great many computer programs and software; designed and updated websites and blogs; as well as created brochures, banners, and flyers.

 

How to Spot a Hoax Email

super www womanI  received another hoax email last week. I’m not viewed tenderly by most people who send these. Why? Because I believe it is my charge in life to single-handedly rid the internet of hoax and fake emails. Ka-Pow!

I do this by not forwarding them, and bringing the email status to the attention of the person who forwarded it.

There are at least three problems with this approach.
1) A million other people still forward these thinking they’re true.
2) Haters don’t care as long as the hoax email damages the reputation of their target.
3) Innocent forwarders can be offended.

Hence, the purpose of this blog.

“Gathered together from the cosmic reaches of the universe – here in this great hall of justice – are the most powerful forces of good ever assembled.”

Yep, the Super Friends narrator is talking about you!  Never saw that coming, did ya’?

You’re being recruited by the renown organization A.T. (the Accuracy Team). We, at @, stand for truth, justice, and the cyber highway.


The A.T. Not-so-super-secret Training Manual

Spotting hoax emails isn’t hard if you know what to look for. About 90% of the emails I choose to verify turn out to be hoaxes. The 10% that aren’t usually surprise me.

Some hoaxes are merely annoying while others can cause financial hardships or worse.

What do I look for in a hoax email or photo?

  • Does the email picture or quote a person or business in the public eye?

    emailAll hoax emails refer to famous people or entities: politicians, tv/movie/radio personalities, famous athletes, or major corporations.

How many hoax emails circulate with quotes from Mildred Smith of Poughkeepsie, N.Y. or from Brad’s Lawn Service? And if they did, who would care?

  • Is the person mentioned smart enough to foresee the consequences of performing said appalling action?

Example One: The below photo is circulating. The claim is the Obamas were caught blatantly disrespecting our wonderful country by using their left hands during [pledge of allegiance, national anthem, add your own].

Since I know neither one of the Obamas is stupid, and both smart enough not to want the massive public outcry this shameless diss would bring — hey, it was his first term in office — I decided to verify the info before forwarding.

My investigation uncovered the truth. The picture is Photoshopped. The creator did a bang-up job by adding wedding rings and switching the buttons on the President’s coat. He just forgot one teensy, glaring item: marines always wear medals on the left chest. It’s protocol. There’s an entire chapter devoted to how to, where to, and when to wear medals in the marine handbook.obamas_lh_flag_salute

I didn’t find who took the original, but it ran in Newsday and was taken during the playing of Taps on September 11, 2009.

In all fairness, I’ll include a hoax photo from our last Republican president. Opponents on both sides of the political machine try so hard to discredit one another it’s embarrassing.

This photo is also a product of Photoshop. The book is America: A Patriotic Primer by Lynne Cheney. Notice the back cover of the book G.W. is holding? The black blob (red arrow) — no clue what it is — is on the wrong side if the book were flipped around. It’s located opposite on the book the girl is reading.bushbook
I tried to find the original of the back cover photo (Lynne Cheney surround by children, some with flags) to identify the black blob, but I had no luck.

The original of this is an Associated Press photo.

Today’s tip to haters? If you digitally alter photos, don’t use pictures from big name media outlets. They’re so easy to debunk.

  • Does the email include the words “This is NOT a hoax.” or “This is REAL!”?

Have you seen that Bill Gates is giving away $5,000 to anyone who shares a certain picture of him on Facebook? “IT IS FOR REAL”. It’s not, and he’s not.


The above types of hoaxes are annoying, fill your Inbox, clog the Internet, and waste the time of millions of people.

But do they cause lasting hardships for people? Probably not. The targets are people who are accustomed to being stalked and slammed by the media so I’m sure email hoaxes don’t mean a great deal to them.

Actually, this week elites are busy worrying about iCloud hackings. This is exactly why my blog post How Secure is Dropbox? cautions people against uploading important or personal information onto a cloud service. If you’re not comfortable with the data or photos falling into the hands of unscrupulous people, don’t share them there.


Now, pay attention.

Up to this point we’ve talked about irritations. Our conversation is now turning very serious.

Danger

There are emails hoaxes which fall under a category I like to call “felonies”. They are life-altering and some have major financial consequences.

Email Hoaxes that can seriously cost you.

  • Emails that ask for a credit card numbers.

You’re too smart to fall for that, right? How about the one below? It’s a complete hoax. Looks legit, doesn’t it? It’s easy to copy and paste a logo into a mock-up business mailing. Don’t fall for it.
021604-yahoo-phishing-scam

IMPORTANT WARNING: Notice you can “update your credit card information by clicking here” That “here” takes you to a bogus website setup for the specific purpose of stealing your credit card information.

  • Emails that ask for cash to get something.

If they didn’t cost innocent people their hard-earned savings, I’d find some of these emails hilarious.

An example is the email featuring a letter from the FBI legitimizing the Nigerian Minister of Finance’s offer of $800,000 on an ATM card for wiring $550 USD to an account. Doh!

NOTE: Anything from a country you’ve never visited, like Nigeria or Singapore, is probably a scam unless the person asking is a long-time friend or associate. But please, be equally cautious if you do know the Nigerian Minister of Finance.

  • Emails that ask for personal information.

No legitimate organization will EVER ask for your social security number, bank account number, or PIN number via email.

  • Emails that give you a clickable link.

Remember the Yahoo! scam email above with the “click here” option? Cyber thieves put their blood, sweat, and tears into their endeavors. If only a small percentage of their emails succeed, they’ve made tens of thousands of dollars illegally.

Capital OneCapital One has a great section on internet security. Thanks, Capital One!

Capital One Security Education Center  The Fraud Prevention Topic item two on phishing has great advice on spotting bogus emails.


Now that you know how to spot them, let’s talk about authenticating scam/hoax emails.

How do I verify hoax emails?

You’ve received an email you think is a hoax. How do you know for sure?

One word: Google. Search engines are a beautiful thing.

In Example One above, I searched something like “Obama left-handed pledge?”. You can add “hoax” or “fake” to the search if you’d like. You should quickly find enough research to know if something is a hoax.

WORD OF CAUTION: Remember, everyone has an agenda. Never rely on one site’s opinion unless the fraud is so obvious common sense dictates no further research is required. The marine medal’s or the book cover in the above examples pretty much made further investigation unnecessary. Those alone proved the photos fake.

I suggest using one (or more) ultra-liberal, and one (or more) uber-conservative sites for each verification, if needed.


What to do if you’re being targeted by scammers.

If you think you’re the target of internet thieves, all email providers have “Report Phishing” functions. They take this very seriously.

Gmail Report Phishing

 

In Gmail. 1) Open the email, 2) left-click the options menu (little arrowhead) on the very top right and 3) select “Report phishing”.

 

 

 

 

In Outlook, there is a “Junk” tab at the top.

Outlook Phishing

If you use a different email program, search “Report phishing” in their Help or “[Program name] report phishing”on the Internet.  You should find what you need to file a report.


PARTING THOUGHTS:

With politicians, Hollywood elites, and athletes doing dumb things daily,  we certainly don’t need to make up stuff or enable others who do.SuperBusinessman

Scams are everywhere. Not only in emails, but on social media sites.

Be cautious and do your part. Use your newly acquired superhero powers to help make the cyber highway a safer place to travel for everyone.

Have a great week, and thanks for visiting Patti’s Pathways. 😀


 

DISCLAIMER: Any and all ideas presented in this blog are solely my own unless otherwise noted. I experience troubles with technology just like any other person, and if I stumble upon a fix or suggestion I feel could benefit others I pass it along. At no time, have I suggested or implied that I hold any degrees or certificates related to computer repair.

I have during my career assembled parts into working computers; done troubleshooting on hardware and software; utilized a great many computer programs and software; designed and updated websites and blogs; as well as created brochures, banners, and flyers.