The National Baby Formula Shortage

Some info pertaining to the shortage of baby formula in the USA:

Scams abound! If you find an online vendor for baby formula that seems too good to be true, it may be. When possible, buy your formula from respected, large companies and not sketchy eBay auctions or brand-new websites.

Misinformation about buying from Amazon’s Canada website is circulating, and I want to debunk that before you try it. For the most part, you cannot buy baby formula from Amazon.ca, unless it is from one of their 3rd-party sellers. And those may be risky to use.

Another important resource right now is the Free Formula Exchange. If you have formula that you don’t need, please donate it through this website! And if you need formula, you can sign up and possibly connect with someone nearby who has unneeded baby formula.

And you should touch base with your pediatrician for other trusted resources that can help you get through this tough time.

The Blackmail Scam

The Blackmail Scam is also known as the Webcam Scam and the Sextortion Scam. If you get this thing in your inbox or spam folder, just ignore it or delete it. Here are the details:

The blackmail consists of someone claiming they took control of your webcam without you knowing, and they’ve captured video of you doing something embarrassing. If you pay up, they promise not to send the video to anyone else. Please know that they did not access your camera or capture any video, the email is 100% fiction.

To some, their email is very convincing and worrisome. They do use a lot of jargon, and to the layperson it can make the scammer come across as capable and in control. But they aren’t. They’re just spammers, and they sent this message to millions of people at one go. You may dismiss this message with extreme prejudice.

Once in a while, this scam resurfaces, and the cybercriminal includes “your password.” And the email will truly include a password familiar to you, from some website you’ve used in the past! If this happens to you, you should still not believe in the message. The scammers have simply obtained some data leak from a website you once logged into, and they’ve included your password for verisimilitude. After you delete the email, think about that password, and make sure to change it on any website where you may have used it.

I Can’t Get Gmail’s New Integrated Layout!

A few months ago, Google rolled out a new look for their Gmail website. It’s very pretty and everyone should have it by now.

Except, that didn’t happen, some people missed out. If you didn’t get this option, it’s probably because Google’s Chat feature was turned off. That causes this update to hide and never offer itself to you. Here’s how to turn that on:

  1. Go to Gmail.com in your computer’s browser.
  2. Click the cogwheel icon and click See All Settings.
  3. Click Chat and Meet, click the bubble next to Google Chat, and click Save.

This should cause Gmail to refresh and reload. Now, when you click that same cogwheel, you’ll now see an option to “Try out the new Gmail view”. Give it a whirl, and if you need to switch back to the classic mode, just return the to cogwheel for that option.

The NewProfilePic App

There are always new mobile apps for you to discover, and it looks like NewProfilePic is this month’s all-star. This freebie, available through the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store, will transform a selfie photo into something stylized and eye-catching.

All you have to do is upload any photo file[1]of a single, close-up of a human face. Sorry, no pets! you have access to from your mobile device, and dodge a few pop-up ads along the way. The app does the rest, giving you a few different photo filters to try out. And they claim you can check back each week for new filters and tweaks.

As this app took off in popularity, some websites started sounding an alarm about its safety. Claims of data-sharing with Russia are being passed around, but I don’t see any truth to that. It looks to me like these rumors are not based on hard facts, and only being reported on clickbait and junk news sites (nothing mainstream).

In other words, whatever info-collection this app is doing, it’s certainly less invasive than, say, Facebook or Google. If you want to try out this app, feel free and have fun!

References

References
1 of a single, close-up of a human face. Sorry, no pets!

Windows Security Center Won’t Open

Many PC users are content to use the free antivirus that’s built-in to Microsoft Windows: Microsoft Defender Antivirus. Some still call it Windows Defender, but in any case, you can get to it by clicking on the white or blue shield that lives near your system clock.

But some users are finding that they cannot enter that shield icon, after certain Windows Updates. Some Microsoft upgrades break that icon, and won’t let you see your protection software anymore. If this happens to you, there’s a quick fix for that:

  • Click the Start button and use the Windows Search function to look for “Powershell”. When you find it, right-click it and select Run as Administrator.
  • Copy and paste the following chunk of text into the Powershell window and then press Enter on your keyboard:

Set-ExecutionPolicy Unrestricted
Get-AppXPackage -AllUsers | Foreach {Add-AppxPackage -DisableDevelopmentMode -Register “$($_.InstallLocation)\AppXManifest.xml”}

  • When the operation appears to be done, close Powershell and reboot your computer. Check the Windows Security Center icon, and it should now open easily for you.

If this kind of repair is above your paygrade, feel free to call me and I can fix this for you!

Zelle and Its Use in Scams

If you’ve been paying attention, you might be familiar with how gift cards are used in scams. Money loaded onto gift cards is hard to trace and even harder to get back after a cybercriminal has obtained the card info. So, now that you know that gift cards are a red flag for scams, please also consider Zelle requests as similar red flags.

What Is Zelle?

Zelle is a payment network and service that is free for all to use. It works with virtually any US bank account, allowing you to instantly send money to someone else. If your bank offers Zelle services, then you can use it to send money to a friend or family, simply by using their phone number or email address. It’s fast and easy!

The Devil’s in the Details

Zelle is intended for lightning-fast money-transmission, but because the dollars move so fast, it is side-stepping a lot of the security checks present in other financial transactions. Once you Zelle some cash to someone, it is gone from your account, in mere minutes! This is great if you’re paying back your friend for lunch, or sending a cash gift to mom for Mother’s Day. It’s really lousy if it happens while a scammer has you in his/her thrall.

This is why scammers try to convince their victims to use Zelle. If their story is good enough to trick you into Zelling them some money, it’s instantly theirs. And if you initiated the transaction, there is little chance of you getting it back.

Zelle May Be Getting Safer

Zelle was created by all the big banks we know in this country. So it has been a bit surprising that they wouldn’t help much, after crime occurs over their Zelle network. Consumer advocates state that Zelle has no fraud protections in place for its transactions. But in some rare cases, some banks are starting to replace funds lost in Zelle-based schemes. And some other banks are starting to limit how much money they allow to pass through Zelle, or putting a small wait-time on when new Zelle accounts can be used.

Treat It Like Cash

Still, the burden of responsibility lay on you. Zelle is similar to Venmo and Cash App, in that it seeks to be a cash-replacement. That means you should think of it and treat it as you would a fistful of dollars.

You can dispute a credit card transaction. You can put a stop-payment on a check. But you can’t get those dollar bills back after you’ve handed them off. Be aware, and only use Zelle with known, trusted people!

If someone is calling you and pressuring you to satisfy a bill or make a payment with Zelle, reframe the situation in your mind: This character is essentially asking me for cash right now. Is this how a legitimate company is supposed to act? The answer is usually NO, and you should shut that scam down!

Facebook Text Delights

You’ve seen these special effects on Facebook for some time now: certain words or phrases, like Congrats or You’ve Got This, do special things in posts and comments. As you type these secret texts on a computer (doesn’t often work in their mobile apps), Facebook colors them in and anyone may click on them later to see a special animation.

These “text delights” are harmless fun, and you should be able to use in most text entry fields on Facebook. The trick may be knowing what triggers the text delights in the first place.

Facebook doesn’t offer a master list of these text delights. And they vary from one country/language to the next. Plus, when Facebook retires an old text delight or introduces a new one, they don’t always announce it. We’re still discovering these easter eggs to this day!

If you want some idea of what text delights are out there, you can simply search the web for “Facebook text delights” or check out YouTube videos about what people have discovered. And when you go to use them, you will know if what you’ve typed will work as soon as you key it in. Text delights change color as soon as you type them into Facebook, to let you know there will be a special effect.

One last thing: you don’t have to use a text delight, if you don’t want to. Let’s say you type GG or xoxo, and Facebook colors it in as a delight. As soon as the color appears, hit your Backspace key one time, and the delight-coloring should disappear. Now you have plain text, with no special effect.

The Geek Squad Scam

A lot of you are receiving this in your inboxes right now, so let’s go over the classic Geek Squad Scam.

The Scam Email

Here are some examples of what may arrive in your inbox:

These are all fakes. Best Buy and Geek Squad did not send these messages. There aren’t any charges, either — it’s all make-believe. The cybercriminals who created these have stolen and repurposed the logos and looks of Geek Squad invoices. Some of these are close-to-perfect replicas, with one exception: the phone number. The phone number is never legitimate, and will only connect you to crooks.

How It Begins

It all starts if someone calls the bogus phone number on the Geek Fraud email. That number doesn’t belong to Best Buy, it connects you to a scammer in another country. But the fake agent is all too ready to pretend to be with Geek Squad. S/he will quickly apologize for the billing mistake. Then s/he will offer to process an immediate refund. But they usually don’t want your credit card or account numbers. They want to access your computer directly.

Inside Your Head, Inside Your Computer

The fast-talking crook will ask you to go to your computer and type in some things. A website will open. Software will download. If you follow their commands, you’ll be allowing the bad guy into your PC. Pretty soon, you’ll see your cursor moving around on your screen, even though you aren’t moving the mouse.

Then the fake agent will tell you to go to your banking website. They’ll reassure you that it’s just so you can see the refund as it arrives in your account! But that’s yet another lie to get them closer to your money. And once they have access to your computer while it’s logged into your banking accounts? They may:

  1. Quickly initiate multiple transfers of money. It will happen fast, like a shell game, and the last transfer will show $500, newly arrived in your checking account! But you didn’t quite see that they moved that money into there from your savings account, and you also missed the $2000 outbound transfer to their account.
  2. Open up a Zelle transaction to move money between your account and theirs. Zelle is a cash-transfer function for use with friends and family only, and its use cannot be reversed. The scammer will “accidentally” move the money the wrong way, into their account, and those hundreds of dollars are instantly gone.
  3. Transfer the wrong amount of money to your account. “Oh no, you were supposed to get $300, but I accidentally sent you $3000.” Then they will convince you to send them $2700 as a new transfer. And then 3 days later, you will learn that the $3000 was reversed when the bank found it to be fraudulent.

Dos and Don’ts

When you get these fake Geek Squad emails, just delete them. Don’t write back to the sender, don’t call the number.

If you have a Geek Squad membership and are doubtful about any message you’ve received, you can call Geek Squad at their correct number: 1-800-GEEK SQUAD (1-800-433-5778). You can also print the questionable email and carry it into the Best Buy store at your leisure.

If you were taken by this scam, call your bank ASAP. Explain what happened, and they will help you in securing your accounts, or possibly creating you new ones. They will also advise on if there’s any chance of getting your money back (but often, that chance is slim).

Facebook Protect

Facebook is rolling out a new tool for safeguarding your account. But not everyone will see this just yet. For now, they’re pushing this feature out to high-profile accounts and business pages with significant reach. You may see this pop-up for you if you are a politician, for example, or run a Business Page with thousands of Likes on it.

Unfortunately, when Facebook does reach out to someone about their new Protect feature, it presents as a scam. The sender’s email looks fishy and the message urges to you act soon, lest you be locked out.

If you get a notification for Facebook Protect, please understand that it is probably legitimate. And if you ignore it for too long, you truly could get locked out of your Facebook account!

If you get an email or notification about this, cooperate with it if you are comfortable doing so. If you aren’t 100% sure, you can still satisfy the Facebook Protect requirement without clicking on the email:

  • Open Facebook.com in your computer’s web browser.
  • Click the triangle button in the upper-right corner, click Settings & Privacy, click Settings.
  • On the left, click Security & Login, then to the right, look for Facebook Protect and click Get Started.

You cannot sign up for Facebook Protect before you are invited, so if you can’t do this now, no worries! There’s nothing to do until you get a notice that you should activate this.

Bogus Windows 11 Upgrades

There are right ways and wrong ways to get your free Windows 11 upgrade. Of course, the cybercriminals are waiting to guide you into the wrong ways.

Lately, fake upgrade websites are showing up in web searches when people go looking for a way to install Windows 11. And these frauds look very similar to legitimate Microsoft websites. If it doesn’t explicitly show “microsoft.com” at the beginning of the URL, it’s a trap!

The safest way to get the free Windows 11 upgrade is to wait for your computer to offer it to you. Eligible Windows 10 computers will eventually show a pop-up about it. If you click the message, you’ll see the following, which is trustworthy to use:

legitimate Windows upgrade notice

If you think your computer is taking too long to offer this to you, you can check manually from within Windows 10. Click the Start button, go to Settings, then to Update & Security. You may see a similar option there to Download and Install Windows 11. Or you may see some options to check your system for Windows 11 compatibility. Again, all of these options are safe to try and use.

It’s when people go searching for a download website that things get dicey. Even the best search engines can be gamed by the scammers, to show bogus offers and malware-laden downloads. If you need it, here is the real Microsoft website for downloading the various editions of Windows. That site is legitimate and contains no viruses.

If your computer is very old and ineligible to receive Windows 11, don’t go looking for a workaround. It’s just not worth it. Better to wait until you someday buy a new computer — all new computers now come with Windows 11.

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