I didn’t think we needed a specific term for scam phone calls, but here we are. Following in the footsteps of smishing and quishing, we also have the term vishing. Vishing is another portmanteau, created from voice + phishing. When you see or hear about vishing, they’re referring to any phishing/cybercrime carried out over the phone or through other verbal means.

Vishing Examples

You may know of some of these vishing scenarios already, but they’re worth rehashing. Some of these employ live human voices, while others might use recorded messages or even AI-generated speech.

  • Big Tech Impostor: An important technology company calls to urge you into action. The call may claim to be from Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, etc., and they may claim your account has been compromised or your data has been stolen. Others calls seem to come from Norton, McAfee and the like, where they state your PC is infected, or you are due some special refund. These calls often become a remote control scam.
  • Big Merchandise Impostor: Most of us place orders with Amazon or Wal*Mart, but that doesn’t mean they’ll call you out of the blue. Calls announcing that your shipment has been lost or damaged, will probably morph into a refund-based scam.
  • Pretending to Be Your Bank: Is that call really coming from your bank, or is it an impostor. Be suspicious if the person on the phone wants your PIN, or a texted code or anything else sensitive from you.
  • Television/Broadcast/Satellite Impostors: Xfinity, Dish, DirecTV and more are commonly impersonated on calls offering discounts and refunds.
  • The Grandparent Scam: Vishers call their victims, trying to pass themselves off as young relatives in trouble. Even worse, this scam is changing to employ AI-generated voices that sound very convincing. Family members report receiving calls that claim someone dear to them has been kidnapped.
  • Police Department/Court Systems/IRS Threats: If you need to pay your taxes, settle a court order or be arrested, a government employee will not call you to take payment over the phone. But these vishing efforts succeed everyday, because people are often afraid of these entities coming to their doors.

Advice & Notes about Vishing

  • Most vishing calls use Caller ID spoofing, to make them more convincing. Please remember that Caller ID is not always truthful.
  • Do not harass or aggress a caller, if you figure out they are a scammer. In rare instances, the cybercrook will respond by swatting their victim. Just hang up on them.
  • Some vishing calls originate from your trash. A crook may harvest an account number or some other PII after doing a little dumpster diving. I recommend you shred all sensitive paperwork before you dispose of it.
  • If you haven’t put your number on the National Do Not Call Registry, now’s the time. It won’t solve your telemarketing call problems, but it might decrease the unwanted calls coming in.
  • Let all unknown callers roll to voicemail. Do not answer mystery callers.
  • Some vishers look to leave a voicemail message about an urgent situation. They may use tools that send their call directly to your voicemail inbox! The recording will state a phone number to call, but that will typically just connect you to the scammers. Do not call these crooks back!
  • Don’t speak to a robocall or any suspicious caller. Some experts worry that talking on a recorded line may make it easier for a crook to steal your spoken words to create voice-mimickry used in their next vishing calls.
  • Vishing calls are getting better everyday, and you may find yourself on a call that you can’t figure out. If you’re feeling torn, hang up the phone! Call the company back, using a number you can trust, either from a printed invoice in your possession, or from their website.

Apple NameDrop

apple namedrop

If you use Apple devices, there’s a new feature in the latest OS updates called NameDrop. This function allows you to quickly and easily share contact info with other Apple device users. Simply place the two devices near each other, and NameDrop will appear! Each device user will get a pop-up, asking if they want to exchange contact cards.

I want to emphasize: NameDrop always asks permission to exchange any info. I’ve got a bit of rumor control to do here, as people across the internet have noticed this new iOS addition and are reacting poorly. Misinformation and fearmongering is afoot.

If you see any posts, urging you to turn off NameDrop, take a breath and Don’t Panic. Please understand that NameDrop only works under strict conditions:

  • Two devices have to be very close to each other (almost touching)
  • The Apple devices are powered on and unlocked
  • Each user taps Share to authorize their data to transmit

Apple NameDrop is safe and well-implemented. I don’t see any real risk here. You are still welcome to disable the feature under Settings -> General -> AirDrop -> Bringing Devices Together. Just don’t buy into the viral hysteria; there’s no major safety loophole or hazard here.

Low-Hanging Fruit

In the technology world, people are jeopardized by two separate yet equally scary groups: the big tech companies, who care only for monetizing their users’ data; and the opportunistic scammers, who prowl the web looking for victims. These are their stories.

Dear Xxxxxx,

I’m writing this letter to you about your kiddo. Please don’t worry, this is not one of those Are-you-sitting-down? notes. But let me explain something that you might think is a teachable moment:

Facebook recommended your daughter’s profile to me, as a potential friend-connection. I haven’t Friended her, but I did click on her name to look at her profile. And Egad, She’s got too much personal info out there. I am able to view all of this info on her profile, because it’s all set to Public visibility:

  • Complete FB Friends List
  • Name of high school and college, with admission years and major
  • Hometown and current city/state of residence
  • Mother, father, brother and uncle’s names, with links to their FB profiles
  • Birthdate
low-hanging fruit

If I can view this info, then anyone in the world can. I’m thinking about the scammers that are having a field day on Facebook — all of this sensitive info is essentially low-hanging fruit to them. “Easy pickin’s”, if you’re into that country vernacular. And I’m not so concerned about your daughter here, as I am the people connected to her. She’s probably smart enough to dodge the average Facebook criminal, but what about all of her friends and family?

A publicly-visible Friends List is what attracts scammers that clone profiles. In essence, a bad guy could create a brand new FB account, and give it your daughter’s name. S/he could copy and use your daughter’s profile pic. And then they’ll start sending Friend Requests to everyone they see on her F-list. If any of her FB Friends are too trusting or naive or quick-with-the-mouse, then they may connect with an impostor-scammer, who is ready to pretend to be your daughter and con some money from them.

Publicly-visible family connections are interesting to a different type of crook. Sometimes, cybercriminals attempt the “grandparent scam“, where they call a family member and pretend to be someone else in the family. The scam usually starts with a phonecall: “Uncle Ned, it’s me, Saoirse, I’m in NYC and I’m in jail! Can you wire-transfer me some bail money?” In order to carry out these schemes, they study family names & connections and it really can help their ruse hold up. Full disclosure: I unknowingly contributed to a grandparent scam, several years ago. A scammer saw some family names on my FB masthead photo, glommed some specifics about my family, and tried to scam someone important to me. Live and learn, never again!

And showing your hometown and school info to the public is just all-around ill-advised. That info is commonly connected to account security questions, so an identity thief might appreciate this kind of info.

My hot-take on Facebook is this: Mr. Zuckerberg & Co. spares all expense in running their platform, and they are not looking out for their users. When on Facebook, we are not customers, we are simply “the Product.” The scammers are very aware of what Facebook tolerates and ignores, and they exploit that knowledge to their greatest benefit. This has been happening for a long time now, and I have no reason to anticipate any improvement. If we’re going to use Facebook, then it’s up to each user to mind their own safety.

So, if you think your daughter would be receptive to some advice, let her know she should go to her Facebook Profile, and change all of her personal info to be less Public. To the right of the Friends List is a 3-dots button that allows you to Edit Privacy. She can also go through all of the sections under “About” on the profile, and use the Pencil or 3-Dots buttons to up the privacy levels. Personally, I’ve set most of my Profile to the “Only Me” level, but the “Friends” level is good, too. Anything besides “Public!”

And if she makes these improvements, there a tool for her to check herself. If she goes to her Profile, there’s a 3-dots button to the right, just below the masthead photo. She can click that and then go to “View As”. This presents her profile as it appears to the public (to people who are not connected to her on FB). She can traipse through her own profile in this mode and judge if she missed anything that needs hiding away.

Cheers! — Jesse

Pet-Proofing Your Computer

Pets don’t understand why we spend so much time at the computer, but they sure can be curious. Whether they are attracted to the heat, screen images or dangly bits, pets may be coming for your desk and you need to be ready. Here are some ideas for pet-proofing your tech.

pet-proofing your tech

Cable Management

If you have a computer setup with lots of cables, you may find your pets need to taste every long stringy thing they see. You’ll need to protect those cables from sharp teeth. Cables Sleeves may help with this. A cable sleeve may be made of mesh or thick PVC, and usually allow for you to bunch up and protect several cables in one “tube.”

Protecting the cables is fine, but those cables likely lead to a surge protector. That might be the next item you need to safeguard. Check out Cable Management Boxes as your next tool, available at a wide variety of stores. You can plunk your surge protector inside one of these, route your power cords into it and close the lid. If your pet is extra-persnickety, you may have to tape or bungee the box shut.

And Velcro Cable Ties are useful, for keeping cables away from your pets, and just in general. If you’re tidying an office, you’re sure to find a use for these somewhere!

Keyboard Stroke Prevention

Maybe your pet has moved past biting cables, and wants to type, as you do. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but you still don’t want your beastie to press keys and cause a catastrophe. Before you walk away from your system, you could remember to close your lid, or press WIN + L to lock your screen.

But also consider that they make Keyboard Bridge Protectors, specifically for this scenario. A clever piece of acrylic will prevent any paws from walking across your keyboard. And you can continue to type underneath of it! Once you see these, you may feel handy enough to make something of your own that offers similar protection.


Here are some other brief ideas to reduce conflict between your pets and your tech:

  • Go wireless wherever possible. Ditch that wired keyboard and mouse, and buy a nice wireless combo set. Make your next desktop computer an All-in-One and watch your cable count drop to near-zero.
  • Keep drinks away from your computer desk. You may be perfectly reliable, and might never knock it over. But what about if a pet zooms in and jumps upon your work area or barges up against your table? You may not have the lightning-quick reflexes needed to prevent your computer from getting doused…
  • Your laptop screen cannot take a lot of weight on it before the video panel breaks. Don’t let a weighty pet sit on or stand on a closed laptop.

Got other clever tricks to protect your computer against adventurous pets? Please comment below or send me an email and share your genius ideas!

Find or Replace Your Earbuds

Bluetooth Wireless Earbuds are fairly ubiquitous at this point. Many people rely on their Apple Airpods for hands-free phone use. Others love their Google Pixel Buds, including yours truly. In any case, those tiny gadgets are easily misplaced or damaged. You should know how to find or replace your earbuds, in case something unfortunate happens.

Gone Missing!

find or replace your earbuds

Earbuds go missing for a variety of reasons. Maybe Fluffy likes the way your Pixel Bud skitters across the floor. A toddler likes how well their Duplo figure holds the AirPod like it were a microphone. Or you’re just having an off-day and after crossing that last threshold, you can barely remember the day of the week. Don’t Panic! Apple and Google have your back, and you can first ask them to find your missing tech.

If you have Apple AirPods, grab your iPhone and use the FindMy app — it should tell you where your AirPods are. Alternatively, you can go to the iCloud website, and use the FindMy tool there.

For those with Google Pixel Buds, use your Android phone to track them down, following these steps.

Truly Gone…

If these efforts fail, then perhaps Barkley ate your earbud. Or it was flushed by your adorable niece who didn’t know better. Before you buy a new set, please know that you can probably replace just a single earbud to save some money.

Apple makes it easy for AirPod owners to replace individual buds or parts at this site. Google is similar, offering this site for Pixel Bud users. If you sign in and answer a few questions, both websites can quickly give you a price quote for one replacement earbud.

Your replacement price is certainly going to be better than the price of a whole new set of buds. But your price may decrease further if you paid for AppleCare+ protection, or if you have any earned discounts through a Google One membership.

Also, I hear that it might be possible to acquire a used or refurbished replacement and save even more money. If you want to pursue that option, visit your local Apple store or call Apple at 1-800-275-2273 (for AirPods) or contact Google through their Store Help page (for Pixel Buds).

Other Brands of Earbuds

If your earbuds didn’t come from Apple or Google, then YMMV. Think about if your earbuds have a dedicated, branded app on your smartphone. For example, Bose owners can open the BoseConnect app. Samsung users might launch the Wearable app. These apps are likely to offer a “Find” function, similar to Apple and Google. If your earbuds lack an app or brand name, then you may have to mourn the loss and opt for total replacement.

Zelle Scam Refunds

zelle scam refunds

A year ago, I blogged about Zelle and why scammers often push their victims to use it. Money sent through Zelle is generally transmitted in an instant and that means the transaction is irreversible. Scammers want your money, and they don’t want you to be able to claw it back. They know that Zelle doesn’t help much with scam refunds.

Up until recently, Zelle (and the big banks behind it) have been unsympathetic to scam victims. Their stance was simply that customers were responsible for their own transactions. But there’s a change a-coming: Senator Elizabeth Warren and other congress-people have mounted investigations and pressure on the big banks. And the results are swaying banks to do more for scam victims.

If you’ve been swindled out of money through a scam, and Zelle was the tool to move the money, then there may be hope for you to get a refund. Banks participating in Zelle are now refunding scam victims for incidents dating back as far as June 30, 2023. If you fit this description, then:

Be safe out there, my friends.

Change Your Browser’s Download Behavior

When you download a file using your web browser, it typically saves that file to your Downloads folder. That’s just the default behavior, for any browser. But what if I told you that we can change your browser’s download behavior, so that you get to choose where a downloaded file goes?

By now, every browser has an option for this. You can tell your browser to ask you where you want to store a file, when you begin to download it. If this sounds useful, find and toggle this feature now!


  • Click the 3-dots button in the upper-right corner.
  • Click Settings.
  • On the left, click Downloads.
  • On the right, toggle the switch next to “Ask where to save each file before downloading.”


  • Click the 3-dots button in the upper-right corner.
  • Click Settings.
  • On the left, click Downloads.
  • On the right, toggle the switch next to “Ask me what to do with each download”


  • Click the hamburger button in the upper-right corner.
  • Click Settings.
  • Scroll down through the General settings until you find Downloads.
  • Check the box for “Always ask you where to save files.”


  • Click the Safari menu in the upper-left corner.
  • Click Preferences.
  • On the General panel, find the row labelled File Download Location.
  • Click the drop-down menu to its right, and select “Ask for each download.”

If you’re like me and want to save every important file, in specific folders, then this feature can save you a lot of clicks and time.

Change Your Browser's Download Behavior

The Facebook Highlight Tag

I need to explain to you about the Facebook Highlight Tag. It’s being used right now in a viral post, and you don’t need to be a part of it.

Numerous posts right now are urging people to use the @Highlight tag in the comments or on their own posts, to find out who is watching their Facebook profile. But this is not true.

The Facebook Highlight Tag

For anyone who follows these instructions, they will invoke the @Highlight tag, and that simply sends a notification to some or all of your FB friends. The notification pops up on each of their computers/devices, and leads them to wherever you placed that tag.

It’s a needless annoyance and accomplishes nothing. You should only use the Facebook Highlight Tag on something important, something you think all of your Facebook friends should be drawn to see and read. They don’t need to see your comment on someone else’s silly post. If you see this sort of thing on Facebook, just ignore it.

The Facebook Highlight Tag

YouTube vs. Ad Blockers

Google is taking a more visible stand against those who would block their ads on YouTube. Many people are meeting with special notices as they visit YouTube, if Google detects any kind of ad-blocking going on. The battle of YouTube vs. Ad Blockers may evolve further, but I’ll explain what I can, for right now.

Ad-Blocking Technology

I’ve been strongly recommending ad-blocking for a long time now. Most of the malware, adware and scams that I help people with are attributable to some ad or pop-up that they encountered. And most of those malicious ads come from normal, trusted websites, or appear at the top of ordinary, everyday search queries. I generally prescribe a free ad blocker in each person’s primary web browser, and I consider it their second-level of protection (their antivirus being the first).

Most ad blockers install right into the browser, as an extension. Many ad blockers are offered for free, although some offer a paid/premium option, if you want to support them monetarily. Also, some browsers come with ad-blocking already built-in (Brave browser, Opera browser). Also be aware that some protection-extensions, like MalwareBytes Browser Guard, strive to suppress ads as they guard over you.

I’m mentioning three avenues of ad-blocking explicitly, because any one of them can trigger warnings from YouTube:

YouTube’s New Warning Notices

If your browser is suppressing advertisements, you are likely to see this kind of warning as you use YouTube:

YouTube vs. Ad Blockers

You can close it and continue. If you do, expect to eventually see another warning:

If you keep ignoring Google’s messages, then you will probably find that stops working for you.

I should also mention that defying Google’s edict on ad blockers could also result in this pop-up:

Widevine is a type of DRM software, and will help Google “fingerprint” your machine, so they can control more of what you do on YouTube. I do not recommend that anyone install this, if asked.

Do’s and Don’t’s

I hear a lot of grumblings from people over these notices, and sympathize with everyone. Ad blockers are a way of internet life, and they keep people safe. Forcing people to watch ads when they don’t want to is going to cause some people to take action, to “go off the reservation”. We need to discuss your options. Before you react, let’s go over your good and bad options:

Bad Idea: Ignore the messages and carry on with blocking ads. You’ll eventually hit a wall with Google, and be unable to play a YouTube video.

Good Idea: Allow ads on YouTube. Click on your ad blocker while on the YouTube website, and unblock Your ad blocker will continue to block ads everywhere else you go, just not on YouTube. Please know that while many ads lead to danger, the advertisements on YouTube are well-vetted and not going to infect your system.

Protip: Return to your ad blocker a couple of weeks later and turn it back on for YouTube, as a test. Sometimes, silent updates will improve your ad blocker, so that it no longer triggers the YouTube warnings.

Bad Idea: Install some kind of script or advanced browser code to block ads, using TamperMonkey or scripting extensions. I suspect that YouTube will catch you on this, if not now, then soon. I worry that if Google catches you playing this game, they could ban you from YouTube or take more serious action against you and your Google account.

Good Idea: Consider paying for YouTube Premium. If you are a paying member, ads go away. You can also stream music and enjoy other perks with YouTube, under their premium plan. Check out the prices and details here.

Other Ideas (YMMV):

  • Try using a different browser, just for YouTube viewing. I’ve tested various browsers, and found that ad-blocking may still work well in Firefox (with AdBlockPlus or uBlock Origin) and also in the Opera browser.
  • Watch YouTube videos in Incognito/InPrivate browser windows. Note that you may need to adjust your ad blocker to run in these private browser modes.
  • Experiment with using a VPN. I don’t fully endorse this strategy, but it is possible that it could help. If YouTube sees you viewing videos from another country, it might respond to your ad-blocking differently. But I don’t fully endorse this tactic. It’s probably safe enough. But I say: if you’re willing to spend money to not see ads, I’d sooner spend that money on YouTube Premium than I would for a VPN.

Wi-Fi Calling

wi-fi calling

Wi-Fi Calling is a commonplace function, built into most smartphones by now. But as ubiquitous as it is, I still meet people unfamiliar with it, or suffering without it. So here’s all you need to know about Wi-Fi Calling:

The Basics

Wi-Fi Calling (rarely called Voice over Wi-Fi calling or VoWiFi) is another service that allows your cellphone to make or receive phonecalls. And also text messages! Whether you have an iPhone or an Android, this feature is probably already running, inside your device.

Normally, your phone would connect a call over the cellular network, using the local cell towers. But when that cellular signal is weak or lost, Wi-Fi Calling can take over. Your call/text will still happen, but it will travel over the internet, through your local Wi-Fi network, instead.

Wi-Fi Calling is typically free and included with whatever calling plan you’ve purchased with your cellular provider.

Where Is It Useful?

They say that “Home is Where the Wi-Fi Is” but Wi-Fi Calling isn’t just for when you’re inside your house. It can help your phone work better wherever you go and the cellular reception is lacking:

  • Vacation at a remote location
  • Working in a densely built, cinderblock basement
  • Walking through a parking garage/warehouse/convention center

If you can connect your phone to any working wireless network, Wi-Fi Calling kicks in and you’ll have uninterrupted service. The calls and texts will flow! So, as you travel, you may want to connect your phone to every Wi-Fi network accessible to you. The public Wi-Fi at the library. The free Wi-Fi at Costco. The municipal Wi-Fi at the downtown walking mall. The hospital’s Wi-Fi.

This feature may also help you avoid international calling charges (but check with your carrier before you travel and rely on that). And, if you have a very-limited data plan, Wi-Fi Calling may also help you avoid extra charges for data usage. Calls and texts that travel over Wi-Fi Calling should not count towards your data consumption!

Finding This on Your Phone

You do not need to install any extra apps or software for this to work. It’s already inside your smartphone’s OS. But I want you to know how to find this on your phone, just to verify that it is Enabled/On. Plus, if you ever have any trouble with your Wi-Fi Calling, your first troubleshooting step should be: Find this setting, and turn it off and on again.

Use any of the following links for steps and info on where to find it:

Make calls over Wi-Fi, by Google

Make a call with Wi-Fi Calling, by Apple

Set up Wi-Fi Calling, by T-Mobile

AT&T WI-FIĀ® Calling, by AT&T

Wi-Fi Calling at Verizon FAQs

If you have a smartphone, but cannot find this feature on your phone, call your carrier to ask about it! It cannot be used on really old phones (or flip-phones). But if this is missing from your modern smartphone, it could be that the carrier didn’t activate it for you from their end. That’s usually a quick fix, after a call in to customer support

« Older posts

© 2023 BlueScreen Computer

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑