About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

April 18, 2017

Schemes, Part 4

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:09 am

There is another scam that you may have heard of floating around the internet.  It is not a joke and is not to be ignored if it happens to you.

You may be working on your computer and get a phone call.  The caller may tell you they are from Microsoft, or some other tech entity, and see that you have a virus infecting your computer.  This virus could cause you the loss of all of your important information.  This scheme may not only come to you in the form of a phone call but also via email or a popup on a website. 

They will say they can send you a link so they can run the "fix" on your computer and you will not have any problems.  They may instead ask that you give them permission to log onto your computer to fix the problem.  It is free of charge and guaranteed to work providing you and your files with needed security.  They will sound so sincere that it is hard to believe later when the trap is sprung. 

It is not true.  Neither Microsoft nor any other big company watches your computer for viruses or problems of any sort.  Hang up immediately!  If not, you will be granting them permission to log into your computer from some other country (most likely) and install their "fix." 

The fix will actually install a virus that will activate days or weeks later.  It will infect your files and lock them down so that you cannot open them.  Think of it, your financial data, tax returns, photographs, etc. all no longer useable.  It could do more than this but that is the standard operation.  You will be informed to call the original "Microsoft" company back to have this corrected.  This time it is still not the reputable company you expect.  It will not be free either.  It will cost you several hundred dollars to gain back control of your own files.  Be careful.    

Next, one that really is not tech related but I feel I should mention. (CBS did as well, a month or so ago.)  You get a call from an unknown number.  You answer it and they say something to you that provides them with you saying, "Yes."  You think you are not that silly.  How about this?  You answer your phone and someone says, "Can you hear me?"  You reply, "Yes."  Then they have you.  They will use that as you agreeing to sign up for magazines, a loan, or a five-year supply of whatever. 

Watch out for phone scams

When you shop at real stores by phone they will many times tell you they will record your approval of what they offer as a legally binding agreement.  This is what the scammers do too; however, you have no idea what you said, “yes” to – until you get the bill. 

Next week we will look at some scams which are not always committed by technology or in normal ways.  However, they are always directed at only one specific part of the population.

December 6, 2016

Malware Bites

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 4:53 am

I had an interesting email from Jim a couple of weeks ago regarding a column I wrote about my personal computer getting hit by malware.  He said that I mentioned Malwarbytes ( but he would like to know more about it.  Well as sometimes happens with emails like this I chuckle to myself and think, "Didn’t they read that when I talked about it a couple of months ago?"  Then I find the article on and send the emailer a link.  That way the can read all about Malwarebytes or whatever else I have talked about.  To be honest I thought that about Jim too. 

Well, guess what?  After a search of my site and all of the columns I have written over the past 15 years I found something.  I found that I have never devoted an entire article to that great utility.  I have mentioned it seven times in passing but never gave it some of the attention it deserved.  So, that is my task today.

First, what is malware?  Malware is another one of those made-up techie words which is a mix of, "MALicious softWARE."  Malware is usually software that is downloaded to your computer that has been created to gain access for information or wreak havoc your computer without you being aware it has happened.  Until it is too late.  Malwarebytes does a great job of removing all of those problems. 

malwarebytesTo setup Malwarebytes you first go to the site and click the "Free Download" button.  Do not fear the cartoonish looking robot is the correct site.  Once it downloads you can go to that file named, "Mbam setup" and double click it as usual.  Then follow the setup instructions basically clicking, "Next" at each step.  You will be done shortly. A desktop icon will be created.  You can click the icon and from the Dashboard click, "Update now" if it does not have a green check mark next to it. Then, the big green, "Scan Now" button. 

You will have some to many items found.  I had not run it on a new computer for about six month, remembered about Malwarebytes and it found over 70 issues on my PC.  Now follow the directions, you can first quarantine all of the items then delete them.  You will then be much safer.  If you have more detailed questions which you very well may after this short run-through visit the site and the Support section.

Malwarebytes.comI suggest you run it every couple of weeks depending on how often you use your computer.  You run it again manually just as you did above.  You can buy the Premium version and it will run automatically in the background after your first manual run.  This is convenient but may not be worth the $25 a year to you. 

Yes, after my past difficulties that I had and thinking things over I even paid for the Premium version of Malwarebytes.  Those of you that follow me realize I do not do that very often.  It is that good.  OK, I also wanted to see the differences between it and the free version, which I will discuss in a future feature.

February 9, 2016

I Took One for the Team and Lost

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:56 am

Last week I told you about my situation after installation of a program I was testing to possibly recommend to you.  After the test it failed to perform as advertised.  I then uninstalled the app, went on about my business and realized it had put malware into my computer.
This week…the aftershock. 

I dug into Google to search for a fix for this particular problem.  The problem was that after the uninstallation each browser I used had a new Yahoo search tab open.  The page did not appear to be an actual Yahoo page.  If you use Yahoo you will see that the URL will be, ""  The one in the new tab had an additional ten – fifteen characters which is wrong.

I found several different suggestions on how to resolve this issue.  I tried several solutions that had registry edits, folder removals, and other suggestions – none were effective. 

After an hour or so I decided to run a System Restore which has been built into the Windows OS since Windows ME came out in 2000.  System Restore will basically roll back your entire computer to a previous time in history.  It will not affect files you created such as Word documents or spreadsheets but it will remove any software that was installed since that date.  This means that usually after the restore process is finished and your computer reboots any problems you had will be gone.  Well, not so with this issue.

After the system restore my computer would not restart.  I got the new blue screen of death for Windows 10 which has a large “frowny” face.  Cute but disgusting none-the-less.

Your PC ran into a problem, warning graphic

I was not too discouraged with this latest non-starting situation since I had already decided to rebuild this computer.  My feeling has always been once you have a virus or malware you have one choice.  That is to set aside several hours to wipe your computer clean and rebuild it from scratch.

So I reformatted the hard drive, installed Windows 10, and added all of my programs as if it were a new computer.  Unlike you, when I get a new computer I wipe it clean and rebuild it myself.  Call me a geek but that way I know exactly what is on my system.  So this was not a big deal to me.  I sort of enjoyed it.  If you ever have to do this you must make sure you have all of your serial numbers for your applications so that you can reinstall them.

As I have said before I use Dropbox.  So I simply downloaded all of my personal files, like articles I have written over the past 15 years, and all was well.  A pain to do but it was a little like spring cleaning for me. 

I have had emails this past week from people wanting to know what the program was that caused all the problems.  If you are interested shoot me an email and ask.

June 9, 2015

New Computer Oops

A friend got a new computer last year.  They got a very nice 64-bit, 17 inch HP Notebook.  It had a large hard drive, 6 GB of RAM and lots of free or trial software. One of which was a quite nice and usually expensive antivirus program.

The free software is standard in the market today.  Each manufacturer tries to include Microsoft Office products or some other popular, desirable program that could be costly.  That way you may buy their brand over a competitor’s.  All new computers offer one of the well-known brand names of antivirus software.

BloatwareNew systems also include programs installed that many people never use or need.  These applications are called "Bloatware" or more lovingly "Crapware."  Both words tell you what the computer communities think of them.  More on that next week.

I see a problem with many of the important programs "given" to you with a new computer.  Specifically, those offering you free antivirus protection.  They are not lying.  They give you a full version of one of the big boys’ antivirus software for free (read trial).  However, that being said they also expire after a definite time. 

I do not appreciate this sneaky way companies try to get you to buy their products.  The antivirus software works great for the 30-90 days (or in rare cases six months) then it quits.  This would be like you taking a plane trip to Europe and half way across the Atlantic your free baggage storage expires.  So your bags are jettisoned from the plane. 

Before your trial version totally quits it gives you pop up warnings.  Most people ignore popups since they are usually ads for something to separate you from your money.  Many users do not know what to do anyway.  They may think that they bought their computer with "free" antivirus so the pop up must be from something else.  Some people fall for the ads and purchase the usually overpriced application. 

Now back to my friend’s story. Apparently their pop ups started telling them to purchase the license for the antivirus.  They, as many, many others, did not do so.

They brought their computer to me to see if I could check it out and see why it was doing strange things.  As soon as I tried the first webpage I knew they at least had Malware running rampant.  Pop up ads going crazy is the signal.  Then I checked the antivirus software…it had expired months ago.

After running repair apps for several nights I found that the computer had almost 3,800 malware items running on it along with a couple of hundred viruses.  If you have no antivirus software running this will happen to you too – guaranteed! 

Next week we will look at other things you can do to "fix" your new computer.


December 30, 2014

New Computer, Part 2

Last week I told you about for your new computer.  I received several emails asking what other applications I would install on a new Windows computer. 

My first "have to have" application is anti-virus software.  I suggest initially what probably comes free with your new computer. However, after the free six or twelve month trial ends, get a free app.  The one you get with your computer usually goes for a high annual fee.  Download only one of these first: AVG or Avast!. These are the two many other geeks and I use.  Search the sites for the free versions and only get them from those sites.  Viruses may be included in them when they are downloaded elsewhere.   

Do not install more than one antivirus app on your computer at a time or it could cause issues. 

Next, I have a new recommendation, Malwarebytes.  This will help your antivirus software keep you even safer.  The free version is good.  You need to remember to run it yourself every few days.  Malware stands for malicious software that may not destroy things but can really mess with your computer.  I almost guarantee if you install and run this on your old computer you will find you have hundreds of malware items present.  

Now, go to Speed Test and see what actual speeds you are getting from your internet service provider.  If you get less than you should call your provider and get their assistance to correct the issue.  The speed can vary from hour-to-hour but should be close most of the time. 

The next thing I suggest is something you used to have to pay a bundle for, Microsoft Office.  Not any longer.  For the average Office user you can create a new account or use your account and use Office Online – for free.  There are several ways to get to your office apps but I suggest to set up or login to your office products. 

After typing like you did in your new free online Word application you notice that your typing could be improved if you used more than two fingers.  To work on your typing skills and speed take a look at Typing Web and practice.  You can improve your typing for free and maybe have some fun doing so.  

Finally, you should just have some fun.  If you like computer games login for free at Steam Powered.  An account is free as are some of the games; however, some may have a onetime cost or possibly a monthly fee.  I like the free, "Star Trek Online" where I am a commander of a Federation vessel. 

If you want to pay for a game, set up a PayPal account.  It is a very secure online payment system.  I have used it for years and have never had a problem.  I suggest anytime you tie your checking/savings account to anything online you create a separate account from your "home" account.  This is just in case there is ever a security hack.  They can only get a minimal amount of money and it will not affect paying your "real" bills.

Have a Happy 2015!

June 10, 2014

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