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How To Create Strong Passwords

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How To Create Strong Passwords

In the world of internet security and prevent cyber crimes one of the most important things to do is to create strong, unique passwords. Just doing an internet search for “preventing identity theft” or “protecting against cyber crimes” will bring up countless sites offering advice. At or near the top of every list of how to protect yourself will be, passwords. In this week’s post we’ve combined our years of experience and the latest expert advice from tech experts on the best practices for personal passwords.

How To-Create-Strong-Passwords

How To Create Strong Passwords

Why a Strong Password is Needed

A strong, unique password is your first line of defense against identity theft and cyber criminals. Hackers and cyber criminals use many techniques to gain access to your online accounts, including programs that will keep guessing passwords from a predetermined list until one is successful. Once they have access to your account they will try and use the same password to gain access to your other accounts.

Unique Password

The vast majority of people come up with one or two passwords that they use for multiple or all of their online accounts. It might be a very difficult password to guess, something like “Jtk34Nm!78.” They think that because the password is so hard to randomly guess that it is a strong password and use it for all their accounts, thinking they can’t be hacked. However, if a hacker does figure out your password they now have access to all your accounts. Creating a unique password for each online account is essential.

Using Passphrases

The old standard advice when creating a password was to use a combination of letters (both upper and lower case), numbers and symbols. We were told to start with a word and then substitute numbers and symbols to create the password. So what started as the word “elephant” would be El3P@n# by the end. Not very easy to remember. Instead of relying on complex, hard to remember passwords, try using passphrases. Passphrases are long, complex passwords without all the numbers and symbols. Instead of writing “elephant” as “El3P@n#” using a passphrase you would use “elephantsgocrazy.” Complex, long, and unique.

Password Manager Programs

Since we all have multiple online accounts, remembering and managing passwords can be a monumental task. Using a password manager removes the hassle. Just remember, make sure the password for the password manager is strong and unique (and write it down in a safe place if you’re afraid of forgetting, don’t store it on a device!).

Multi-Factor Authentication

When possible use multi-factor authentication to secure your devices and accounts. The type of multi-factor authentication depends on the service or device. Some, like emails, will text you during the sign in process with a confirmation number. You can set your smartphone to require your thumbprint before purchases. Check your accounts and wherever possible set up multi-factor authentication for added protection.

iTunes Gift Card Scams

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A Warning About iTunes Gift Card Scams

The most important thing for you to learn from this week’s blog post is this: Apple support personnel will never ask you to pay for anything using a gift card! Now here’s why.

iTunes-Gift-Card-Scams

iTunes Gift Card Scams

How Gift Card Scams Work

The Set Up: You’re busy Tweeting, Snapping, texting emojis or binging your favorite show on Hulu when it all comes to a crashing halt! Your internet freezes. Before you can even bring up Settings you receive a text from someone claiming to be with Apple support. The text conversation may go something like this.
Scam Text: Hello, I’m from Apple Support. There is an issue with your phone’s ability to connect to the internet. Call Apple Support to get the issue resolved.
Your Text: Thank you, I am having issues. I’ll call right away.
Scam Text: Glad I can help. My direct line is 1-800-555-1234.
Little do you know that it’s the scammer that has managed to freeze your phone and is now hijacking it to rob you of money.

The Scam: You call the 800 number and everything seems legit. The scammer is friendly and acts like they’re looking into things. They tell you they’ve found the issue and you can purchase something to fix the issue. They may say it’s an upgrade, downloadable software or that your account has an outstanding balance. Next, the scammer tells you how much it will cost and that you’ll need to use iTunes gift cards for payment and to call back once you’ve purchased the gift cards. You run to the nearest store, buy the iTunes gift cards and call back. The scammer has you read the gift cards numbers and says they will be processing processing your payment and fixing the issue.

One of two things happen after the scammer has removed the funds from the gift cards:
The scammer ends the phone call and it’s not until later when the issue is unresolved that you discovered you were scammed
After “running” your payment, the scammer tells you the issue is still unresolved and you’ll need to purchase something else to fix it hoping you’ll buy more gift cards.

Spot & Stop The Scam

The most important thing to spot the scam is to remember that Apple support personnel will never ask you to buy anything with a gift card! The second most important thing is to keep your phone up to date with updates. Apple has regular updates for all their products that help protect them from scammers and hackers’ attempts to gain control of your phone.

Threatening Voicemail Scams

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Threatening Voicemail Scams

Let’s be honest, when we get a call from an unknown number we let it go to voicemail. We throw proper phone etiquette out the window when it comes to unknown callers. We wait and check the voicemail. We check the voicemail and discover we’re in trouble.

Threatening-Voicemail-Scams

Threatening Voicemail Scams

A Threatening Message

Law enforcement agencies have seen a growing number of reports of phone calls and voicemails that threaten people with legal action. In some cases people are reporting multiple phone calls a day! The voicemail or automated message usually goes something like this:

“We are contacting you in regards to the allegations brought against you. You have not responded to our efforts to contact you. To avoid the matter being brought to local law enforcement, please contact us at xxx-xxx-xxxx.”

Sometimes the message also includes the name of a law firm (which may or may not be legitimate), the first name of the person to contact and a local number for you to call, making them sound even more legit. When you call the number provided the scammer uses threatening language and intimidation to get you to give your personal information or bank account info to them.

What To Do After Receiving A Threatening Voicemail

The first thing to do is to STOP. Do not call that number. If there were serious allegations against you, you wouldn’t be alerted to them over the phone through an automated message!  The criminal is trying to scare you in hopes of getting your personal information. The second thing to do is report the phone number to the Federal Trade Commission. When you report the phone numbers you’re helping protect others.

Charity Scams

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The Sad Truth of Charity Scams

It’s sad, but true that there are people out there that try and take advantage of people that give monetary donations to help the victims of natural disasters. We dig deep and look to help and give to those affected by earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters. Criminals and scammers see it as a time to get rich.

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Avoid Charity Scams

Scamming Charitable Givers?

While there are many good and trustworthy charities and organizations that put your money to good use aiding those affected by natural disasters, such as hurricane Michael, there are some “charities” that are not legit. After every major natural disaster scammers steal large amounts of money from unsuspecting, generous donors. There are many ways in which they try and get their hands on donations meant for people in actual need of help.

  1. They set up fake domains that appear to be for a real charity that will help the victims of the specific natural disaster you’re trying to donate to. They set up a domain containing words you would expect to see; hurricane, disaster relief, donate, the name of the hurricane or place where the disaster took place.
  2. Send mailers or postcards asking you to donate with instructions guiding you to their fake charity website.
  3. Emails and social media posts with imbedded links leading to their website.
  4. Going door-to-door claiming to be from the area affected or having family and friends in the area that need help.

No matter which tactic they take, the result is the same. You give a donation thinking it’s going to help people, but it never makes it out of the scammers pocket.

Make Sure Your Donation Is Used To Help

There are so many good charities that do great work in communities affected by natural disasters and traumatic events. The most famous, the Red Cross, is a great example of how a real charity works. They will openly share with you how your donation is used. They have a transparent model and answer your questions and don’t guilt you into giving more money. They allow you to specify where or to which disaster relief effort you wish your donation to go towards. And, they allow you to make an one-time or sign up for monthly payments if you choose. If a “charity” does not provide these things it could be a red flag that they are not a legitimate charity.

When giving to charities that are not local and easily knowable, give to those that are well known and have a strong reputation for using donations in a responsible way. If you think you have been solicited by a fake or disreputable charity, report the scam to theBetter Business Bureau at. There are people that need your help after natural disasters, scammers and criminals don’t.

Protect Yourself Against Malvertising

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Protect Yourself Against Malvertising

We all know spam emails. Those annoying emails that flood our inboxes and build up to the point of absurdity. Since we’ve all heard the warnings about opening suspicious emails or clicking on links inside spam emails, we ignore the urgent subject lines and delete our chances of inheriting millions of dollars from an African prince who was kind enough to leave all his riches to us. But did you know, that there is a new form of spam? Malvertising.

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Protect Yourself Against Malvertising

What is malvertising?

Malvertising is spam in the form of internet ads. Cybercriminals use internet ads, even on trusted websites, as a vehicle for viruses. How malvertising differs from traditional spam emails is that you don’t have to click on the ad for your computer to become infected! And once the virus is installed onto your computer it can wreak havoc! Malware can delete and modify files, allow hackers to gather information about you or steal your personal information, or seriously affect the performance of your device.

Wondering how a virus from an ad can be downloaded without clicking on the ad? Security flaws in ad programming, most notably Adobe Flash. Just by visiting a website that has infected ads you become vulnerable to cybercriminals. They use ad networks to place the virus infected ads onto a publisher’s website which can then be automatically downloaded onto a victim’s device.

So how can you protect yourself?

  1. Use an ad-blocking browser plugin. This is the most effective way of making sure malvertising ads don’t get the chance to download viruses onto your device. However, using an adblocker will also block legitimate ads of the websites you visit.
  2. Make sure your plugins and web browser are up to date and routinely check for upgrades. As cybercriminals develop new threats, companies develop software and program upgrades to keep you safe.
  3. Have your browser flag malicious content. Under your browser’s “Settings” there will be a “Security” or “Privacy” section where you will find an option to turn on/off “Safe Browsing.” Turn on “Safe Browsing” and your browser will warn you if your visiting a malicious or questionable site.

There is no sure-fire-way to protect your device completely. Cybercriminals are always creating new ways to infect your device and sabotage your files and steal your information. However, there are proactive steps that you can take to protect your device, information and identity. If you own a business or handle IT, contact Pros 4 Technology to learn more and discover how we can help protect your business and your clients’ information.

Protect Yourself From Computer Viruses

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Protect Yourself From Computer Viruses

Grab Some Tissues, Your Computer Has A Runny Nose!
You’ve got aches, slight fever, cough and a runny nose. Chances are, you’ve got a virus. The next few days you’ll spend drinking a lot of water, sipping chicken soup and vegging out. If only computer viruses were as easy to diagnose and treat!

 Protect-Yourself-From-Computer-Viruses

Protect Yourself From Computer Viruses

What is a computer virus?

A computer virus is a malicious code or program that is written to alter the way your computer operates and performs. It acts much like a virus you or I may contract during the course of the year (especially if you don’t wash your hands after being in public areas…). A computer virus “infects” a computer and then can spread from computer to computer as the malicious code or program is shared or if the computer is part of a larger network, like at work. It can even remain dormant on your computer for a period of time showing no major signs or symptoms. Unfortunately, there isn’t any form of technology that is immune to viruses.

What does a computer virus do?

When we get sick, we know that the virus is trying to make our life miserable and make us watch afternoon TV gameshows. When a virus infects a computer there is a much more sinister reasons…Viruses are designed for various purposes; steal passwords or data, log keystrokes, corrupt files and operating systems, spam email contacts and even to take full control of your computer.

How to protect yourself from computer viruses.

Whether surfing the web, downloading apps and programs or opening links and attachments, it’s critical to use caution and protect yourself and your computer.

  • Use and run an anti-virus program. Most anti-virus and computer protection software will protect your computer and warn you when you visit sites that have been linked to distributing files containing viruses. Most anti-virus software also run daily or scheduled scans of your computer to find and eliminate viruses.
  • Make sure your programs and software are kept up to date. New viruses are being developed daily and software companies are continually creating important updates to their programs to protect them from viruses. Set your updates to happen on a regular basis, you can even have your computer update overnight so it’s ready for use in the morning.

If you think your computer has been compromised by a virus or you own a business with multiple computers on your network, contact Pros 4 Technology to discuss your security needs. Don’t wait till there’s a virus, protect your info now!

Protect Your Company From Phishing Scams

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Protect Your Company From Phishing Scams

Phishing scams affect hundreds of businesses each year; compromising your company’s information and negatively affecting your reputation. Phishing is one of the most used and successful types of attacks on business because they target a company’s employees.

Protect-Your-Company From Phishing Scams

Protect Your Company From Phishing Scams

How phishing works

Typically, the cybercriminal sends an email to an unsuspecting employee that appears to be from a legitimate source: a coworker or IT support personnel, government agency, bank, a social media or networking site, even a friend or family member in an attempt to get them to click on an embedded link or open an attachment. If they click on the link they are often directed to a false website that appears to be legitimate in an attempt to get them to enter information that can be used to gain access to the company’s information.

What are cybercriminals after

When cybercriminals target a business through a phishing attack they rarely have a specific target employee. What they’re after is information that can be used to commit future crimes or that can be sold: client information, credit card numbers, usernames and password, and sensitive company information.

How to protect yourself and business

  1. Watch for impersonal greetings. Emails from “coworkers” that misspell your name or don’t address you by name should be confirmed with a supervisor. Generic greetings like “Hi” or “Dear Customer” are often red flags because a cybercriminal may not know your name or is sending out a bulk email.
  2. The use of threatening or intimidating language in an attempt to get you to perform an action such as following a link or sending personal information.
  3. Don’t open attachments! Phishing emails will contain attachments that contain malicious software. Attachments may be PDFs, zip.files, Microsoft Word or Excel.
  4. Check the link before you click. If in doubt of a link, scroll your mouse over the link to see the destination of the link. If the destination ISN’T from the website or company that sent the email, DO Not click on it!
  5. Make sure your employees know what to do if they receive a suspicious email and what company policy is in regards to private email use.

If you are a business owner or manage IT for your company, contact Pros 4 Technology to learn more and how to protect your business from phishing scams and threats.

How to Avoid Loan Fee Scams

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How to Avoid Loan Fee Scams

Everyday thousands of people research and apply for loans. You may be looking to buy a new car or house, get student loans to pay for college or refinance your home to consolidate debt. Whatever the reason for the loan, you need to borrow money and want the best interest rate and terms you can find. That’s just good financial sense. Unfortunately, fraudsters and scammers know it too!

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How to Avoid Loan Fee Scams

How Loan Fee Scams Work

If you’re looking for a loan, scammers know how to reel you in. They use emails, phone calls, online ads and even flyers posted in public spaces. They promise “guaranteed” low-interest rates, great repayment terms or that you qualify for a special program. They target new mortgages and home refinancing loans, student loan consolidation, debt consolidation loans, car loans, and government loans and grants. There are as many versions of this scam as there are loan types, which make them very effective. Once they have your attention with their too-good-to-be-true loan, they tell you that you need to pay a “processing fee” to secure your loan or a “one-time payment” to lock in your rate. You make your payment thinking you have the loan, only to discover that the vendor has vanished along with your money.

Tips on Spotting and Avoiding Loan Fee Scams

  • Real lenders post loan fees! If you’re applying for a loan be prepared to pay fees: application fees, credit report fees, appraisals, closing costs, etc. If there are fees that need to be paid they are only charged after you have secured the loan. Scam lenders try to get you to pay fees before you secure the loan. Any up-front fees are a cue to walk away and find a new lender.
  • Real lenders don’t offer guarantees! Real banks and lenders never guarantee a loan in advance of an application or credit analysis. Lenders will ask for financial records, job and salary info and pull credit reports before providing an interest rate and loan amount.
  • Real lenders don’t accept unusual payments! Real lenders never ask you to pay loan fees with Green Dot MoneyPaksiTunes cards, or by wiring money. This is a big red flag that the “lender” you’re talking to is a fraudster!
  • Research the lender! Scammers will pretend to be from an official organization or a known and trustworthy lending institution. They may even know enough about you and try and convince you that they are your current lender! Research the lending agency and check if the loan program that is being offered is real and legitimate. In the United State and Canada, all lenders and loan brokers must register where they do business. In the U.S. call your Attorney General’s Office  or your state’s Department of Banking or Financial Regulation. Report scams to the BBB. In Canada, visit the Canadian Securities Administrators website and perform a National Registration Search. Report scams directly to the Canadian Securities Administration.

Employees, Your Business’ First Line of Cyber Defense

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Employees, Your Business’ First Line of Cyber Defense

Everyday we hear of a new scam, cyber security threat or instance of fraud and cyber crime. With all the cyber threats and scams out there, it’s easy to feel helpless in this world of cyber security issues. Especially since all the IT and cyber security experts agree that there is no fool proof, 100% guaranteed way to protect yourself from cyber threats and criminals. If it’s difficult for individuals to protect themselves, it’s even more difficult for businesses.

Employees-Are-Your-Business’-First-Line-of-Cyber-Defense

Employees, Your Business’ First Line of Cyber Defense

Cyber Threats To Businesses

Businesses have more identity information than an individual. If the business does transactions they have credit and debit card info, account information for businesses they work and do business with, their employees personal and tax information; all the information cyber criminals are after. Cyber security services protect your business with technology, but to protect against cyber crime you need to look at the human element.

Best Internet & Cyber Practices For Employees

Having a clear cut policy on internet activity, including personal email and social media use, is extremely important for businesses. Let’s walk through some ways to establish good practices and policies to ensure your employees know how to protect your business.

  1. Clear Responsibilities & Duties – Some of the most successful scams and crimes that are committed begin with and email or phone call. The scammer impersonates a company higher up, say a CEO or CFO, and asks for information from a department member that has access to sensitive company information. They may contact: HR to request employee files or tax information; Accounting for account information or financial reports; IT for security login information. It’s critical that your employees know company policy for requests for information. Also, make sure you foster a work environment that encourages employees to question and double check such requests.
  2. Clean Desk, Clean Work – We’re taught from the moment we begin school as a child to keep your workspace clean and double check your work. As we get older and enter the workforce it’s amazing how we can forget! IT experts say that human error is one of the top ways that systems are compromised and data loss occurs! Keeping desks and workspaces clear and clean means; important files aren’t left in plain sight where unauthorized personnel can view them, written usernames and passwords don’t get left out, it’s easy to spot if an unauthorized person has been snooping. Double checking work means; correct email recipients, policy adherence and proper handling of data and files.
  3. Working Around Non-Company Personnel – More and more people are working from home on a full or part time basis. Employees and employers alike are seeing positive benefits from allowing employees to work from home or away from the office. Even for trusted employees, the fact remains, important company information is being accessed away from the office. Make sure your employees follow best practices to avoid Shoulder Snoopers (public areas are prone to eavesdroppers) and while using public networks.
  4. Knowing Your IT Department – IT Department employees typically have access to all areas of a business. For larger companies, employees working in different departments often don’t know who is in IT or not. Make sure each department knows their IT Support Professional, scammers will often use the technique of calling or emailing employees claiming to be from IT in an effort to get information from the employee.

Let Pros 4 Technology Help Your Business

You love your business. We know that with all you have going on in a day, thinking about and developing cyber security policies and procedures can be put on the back burner. Contact us today to discuss your cyber security needs and protecting your business from cyber crimes.

4 Steps to Avoid Phony Debt Collection Scams

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4 Steps to Avoid Phony Debt Collection Scams

There are many types of debt and most Americans have some type of debt they’re trying to pay off. From credit cards and car loan debt to mortgages and student loans, even medical bills can add up quickly and turn into a debt payment. People with debt payments usually pay monthly using either automatic withdrawals, over the phone payment methods or by mailing a check. With so many people paying off debt, it’s no surprise that criminals and scammers use debt collection scams to try and rob people.

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4 Steps to Avoid Phony Debt Collection Scams

Phony Debt Collection Scams

Debt collection scams are one of the most frightening types of scams that you can experience. The criminals are persistent and make numerous threats to get your money or personal information. Scammers have been known to threaten and harass people for weeks with lawsuits, court summons, jail time and have even been known to threaten family members into paying up! The persistent and aggressive tactics of the scammer makes debt collection scams one of the worst types of scams we see today.

How Debt Collection Scams Work

The scammer calls you and says that they work for a collection agency, law firm, loan company or government agency, claiming to be collecting an overdue payment. When you tell them, you don’t have any overdue payments or that you don’t have any debt, the “debit collector” begins the next phase of the scam, making threats. The threats seem very real. Typically, the scammer has just enough of your personal info to make you believe that the debt they’re trying to collect is real and the consequences to not paying them are real as well. Do not give into their threats! These “debt collectors” have no legal power to take you to court or sue you.

4 Steps to Spot and Avoid Debt Collection Scams

  1. Ask the “debt collector” to send you an official “validation notice” of the debt. Debt collectors are required by law, in the U.S. and most of Canada, to provide an official notice in writing. By law, the notice must include the name of the creditor, the amount of the debt, and a statement of your rights. If the “debt collector” won’t provide the notice or says they don’t have to provide one, hang up.
  2. Ask for more information. If you do owe money and are making payments on debt and aren’t sure if the caller is real, ask for their name, company, street address, and telephone number. Also, ask them for details of the account in question. If they refuse to give you the information, hang up. If they do give you the information, end the conversation and research the company and contact your lender to check the status of your account. Never give out your bank account information, credit or debit card numbers, or any personal information.
  3. Protect yourself. If you don’t have any outstanding loans or debt, hang up. Don’t press any numbers to speak to an “agent” or follow prompts. Simply hang up.
  4. Check your credit report. The three main credit reporting agencies in the U.S. are Equifax , TransUnion, and Experian. In Canada, go to the Equifax Canadian website. By regularly checking your credit report you can determine if you have outstanding debts and see if there has been any suspicious activity in your name. If you see something suspicious, place a fraud alert on your credit report. If you received a phone call from a fraudulent debt collector that had personal information, place a fraud alert with all three national credit reporting agencies to protect your credit.