Certified Shady

Scams never seem to stop. They can even come in the mail. The "certificate" scam is quite old; predating all the technology that we sell and support. These days, the scam can start with a letter (snailmail), email, or even a text. Beware...

Certificates of Existence, Status, or Good Standing – sounds like an existential crisis, right? Instead of a philosophical commentary on the meaning of life, the certificates in question refer to business documentation from your state or local government. In a new twist on an old scam, some not-so-honest outfits may try to confuse you into thinking they’re from the government and that you need to pay for certain documents to operate your business.

When you started your business, you filed paperwork to register it with the government agency that oversees commercial activity. Here’s where the scammers come in. After registration, you might get a mailer that looks like an official invoice from a government agency, claiming that you need to pay for a “Certificate of Existence” or a “Certificate of Good Standing.” The name of the sham agency, necessary documentation, and the amount of the fees can differ from state to state. To convince you it’s legit, these mailings often use what looks like an official government seal and may include your actual business identification number. To get your money, they urge you to hurry up and pay, or they claim you could be in legal trouble.

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Phishing Attacks On the Rise

Our headline could be written nearly every month. Phishing, Spear Phishing, and their variants are happening with more and more frequency and the attacks are becoming more sophisticated. Some of the largest data breaches in the last year happened because someone responded to an email or clicked on a bad link causing a virus to be installed on a machine or allowing a "bad actor" to gain access through to a desktop and many times to an entire network. And yes, it happens here.

There are two parts to this article - We start with what is Phishing, how to spot it and defend against it.  The second part talks about the "Tech Support" Phishing Scam which may involve an faked phone call or email from Norton by Symantec. You can replace Norton's name with any legitimate software or hardware maker.  

A phishing email is a malicious attack that attempts to obtain your sensitive information by tricking you into believing the message is valid and opening it. Phishing attempts masquerade as legitimate or trusted entities, which makes them difficult to detect. Here are some warning signs you should be on the look out for:

  •  The "From" email address is unofficial-looking, misspelled, or contains typos. The "From" email may also be different if you look into the email's info, rather than just the display name.
  • Urgent action required. If the email is trying to scare or intimidate you, or rush you into action, be wary.
  • Vague salutations. The email may be addressed to "Valued Customer" or another generic salutation.
  • There are misspellings, typos, or grammatical problems.
  • A family member, friend, or business colleague needs someting out of the ordinary.  This can be the begnning of a Spear Phishing attack. This can be a phone call, email, or even a text. 

Always hang up the phone and never respond to an email exhibiting any of these charateristics, no matter how convincing they seem. Call the person back using a known phone number or better yet - email them or message them using a different device. You'll quickly learn whether the initial contact was legitimate or not. 

This  happened last month to one of The Computing Center employee's spouse. He received what appeared to be an unsolcited phone call from the Social Security Administration about their Social Security benefits. He immediately hung up, looked up the phone number online and discovered that it was indeed a reported scam number. The phone number, date, and time were reported to the SSA Fraud Department

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Facial Recognition-Good, Bad, & Ugly

WIth so much online about facial recognition, here's some great information about how to best manage it within your own business and personally.

With a few free mobile apps and a little spare time, you can now find out what you would look like in thirty years or as a different gender. You can also virtually try on makeup, discover your celebrity doppelgänger, or transform yourself into an animated animal.

What a time to be alive.

In recent years, we’ve experienced a proliferation of facial recognition applications across the board, from the realm of entertainment to border customs. And while most of us welcome the amusement and convenience this technology can offer, facial recognition security is a growing concern.

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Getting Bombarded by Scam Calls

Scam phone calls and phishing attacks have picked up over the last couple of months.  Don't pickup phone calls unless you know the caller. Let it go go voicemail. Confirm the caller is real and then return the call to a known phone number.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) scam is the number one scam reported to the FTC right now.

As soon as a caller threatens you, or demands you pay them with a gift card or by wiring money, it’s a scam. Even if the caller ID tells you otherwise.

If you get a call from someone claiming to be from the Social Security Administration, hang up the phone and remember:

  • Your Social Security number is not about to be suspended.
  • The real Social Security Administration will never call to threaten your benefits.

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Keeping your Information Private

There's a robust discussion relative to whether any personal data is really private anymore. There are those who are totally paranoid about data privacy and those who don't care at all - assuming that everything about them is public (somewhere). Like most of us, if you're in the middle, here's some good suggestions relative to keeping your personal information nominally private.

The Internet has blurred the lines between real world and the virtual one. Technology is barreling into our hands through smartphones at an unbelievable pace. This is good for productivity and progress, but it makes it easy for thieves to do their job.

The anonymity and location independence that comes with the Internet muddles the moral character of even the most ethical person. There’s no assuming your phone and the information it stores is safe from the malicious intentions of the human mind.

Remember, the first line of defense in protecting your data is you. Learn about new threats, stay current and take the necessary precautions to keep your data safe. Here are tips that will give you some insight into keeping your devices safe:

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