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Comcast Scam & Threat Alerts

Here’s the latest scam to come to my doorstep:

“My CallerID read Comcast, and when I answered, the caller apologized for not securing my Xfinity router properly. They said they’d just fixed it and that I was owed a credit. I allowed him to remote-control my PC, and he helped me get $300 sent to my bank account.”

“But it went south from there. Instead of $300, he accidentally sent $3000! Then he explained he couldn’t undo the mistake, and asked if I could go to the store and buy some gift cards in the amount of $2700…”

Xfinity Customer

After the mention of gift cards, the customer aborted all further dealings with the crook, contacted his bank and changed all involved passwords. I have to trust that his bank will take proper security measures to safeguard his account. I, for my part, secured the computer and made sure the bad guys could no longer get in.

To be clear about this scam: The caller was not with Comcast, and there was never any problem with the customer’s router. Oh, and that $3000 transfer? It disappeared. $3000 showed up in his account as incoming funds, but was reversed and deleted by the bank when it was found to be fraudulent. If the customer had cooperated further with the scammer, they would’ve collected the gift cards’ numbers from him and made off with $2700 of untraceable money.

Comcast users (and everyone else) beware! CallerID is not to be trusted, because it can be falsified. Xfinity will not ask to remotely connect to your computers for any refunds or monetary rewards. And Comcast will not ask you to use gift cards for anything!

If you use Comcast TV or Xfinity Internet, you may appreciate this website. Comcast posts to this page when there is a security alert or threat related to their network and services. And you can read examples of all the scams that are reported in to them.

Work-at-Home Scams

Yet another way that the scammers are coming at us is through “work from home” opportunities. They will call/email/text with promises of lucrative work, but end up taking advantage of hopeful people. Here are some details to help you identify these scams:

  • If it sounds too good to be true, it is. For example, I see a lot of Amazon job scams abounding, where they promise $275/day, plus a company laptop and phone. But an entry-level Amazon job might pay $15/hr. How realistic is it that you would find such a job on Facebook that pays double what is normal?
  • When they ask for money up-front from you, do not pay and back away. It doesn’t matter if they say it is for job training or other initial expenses that sound reasonable. No legitimate employer will make you pay before you work. Also be wary of giving out bank account info, even if it’s for “direct deposit”. That can always be setup later, after a job opportunity has proven itself.
  • False urgency should set off an alarm bell in your mind. Legitimate employers will interview and hire you with a slow, boring, mundane process. Someone urging you to sign up NOW before the opportunity is GONE is probably pulling a fast one.
  • Try to verify who is actually hiring for the job, and then investigate that company. Can you Google that company and learn more about it? Try doing a web search for the company’s name plus the word “complaint” or “scam”. While you’re searching, can you find the jobs they’re offering on other, big-name websites? If you can find the same job listing on Indeed.com or Monster.com, then that legitimizes those opportunities.

If you encounter a Work-at-Home scam, don’t communicate with the sender. Block their number, mark their emails as spam. If you see it posted on social media, it would be extra-helpful if you report the post and get it removed. And for extra-credit, you can always report any scam or fraud attempt to the FTC.

Microsoft Office: Buy, Rent or Pass

When it comes to office software, most people think of Microsoft Office, which includes Word, Excel and PowerPoint. But Microsoft gives you a lot to think about before you spend money on their Office suite, so here’s some details that may help you understand what you’re getting into.

This site breaks out your basic options for buying or renting MS Office.

Buy: Microsoft Office

When you want to pay a one-time fee and “own” your Office programs, focus on Office 2019. Note that Office 2019 Home & Student version only contains Word, Excel and PowerPoint. For those needing Outlook, look at Office 2019 Home & Business. And if you must have Publisher or Access, you’ll have to shell out even more money to buy for Office 2019 Professional.

Rent: Microsoft 365

If you’re open to paying a recurring fee to use Office software, then Microsoft 365 is what to consider. When you agree to an annual fee for Microsoft 365, you get access to all Microsoft Office apps, plus you get 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage. And you can install your software on up to 6 devices. Microsoft 365 Personal is intended for one person to use on all his/her devices, whereas Microsoft 365 Family is used when you want to “send” an Office license to other people (family or friends).

A further benefit to Microsoft 365 is that it automatically upgrades to the new version of Office as it comes available. Later this year, for example, Office 2021 will be released. Microsoft 365 users will wake up one morning to see this magically appear on their systems. But those who bought Office 2019… will see no change. That’s not a big deal, because Office 2019 will be usable for many more years. But no one can see the future of this software, so it is hard to tell: Will Office 2019 users ever be pushed to upgrade (repurchase) their software? Will it happen in 2025? 2030?

Pass: LibreOffice/OpenOffice

For many of you, though, this is all moot. Because for us frugal types, there is still LibreOffice and OpenOffice. Instead of shelling out $150 or $70/yr., these open source programs are available for $0. So if you want to take a pass on paying Microsoft, give LibreOffice a try!

Logitech Unifying Software

USB port economy is important! If you’ve bought your Logitech Mouse and Keyboard separately from each other, you may have connected each receiver (USB bud) to your computer to get them to work. But that occupies 2 of your USB ports, which can be a heavy commitment on some laptops…

The Logitech Unifying Software is a free download that can reprogram the USB receivers for your wireless mice and keyboards. If you use this small program, you can get your mouse and keyboard to talk to just one of your USB buds. Then, you can remove and store your other USB receiver, and free up a port on your system!

Note: this only works with Logitech devices sporting the orange Unifying logo. Older Logitech devices and their “nano” mice won’t work with this tool.

Private Browsing

These days, all web browsers offer a function called Private Browsing. Let’s go over what Private Browsing is and isn’t.

Private Browsing allows you to use the internet so that no traces of your surfing are saved or left behind on that computer. Whatever you do while Private Browsing disappears from that computer as soon as you close the Private Browsing window.


You should use Private Browsing if you are at a public computer. For example: At the library, you should always use Private Browsing! Check your email, use Facebook, etc. and when you close your private browsing window, your logins and other website traces vanish. The next person to use that computer will see no evidence of where you surfed, and your passwords will not be saved.

You might also use Private Browsing if you’re borrowing a computer from a friend or employer. That way, when you return the computer, you won’t have to worry about others seeing your internet history or login information. Also, if you’re doing some holiday shopping and worry that your spouse might get nosy, you can use Private Browsing to hide your tracks.

Private Browsing does not anonymize or conceal your internet behavior, outside of the computer you are using. Your activity is still traceable beyond the computer being used to surf the internet. Most ISPs keep logs on what their users visit and do on the internet, and Private Browsing does not prevent that.

As an example, let’s say someone starts a Private Browsing and commits a crime on the internet. Someone will (hopefully) report that crime. A competent investigator will trace the crime to an IP address, which will lead him to an Internet Service Provider. The ISP will (often quickly) cooperate to offer a physical location for that IP address. And then an officer is dispatched to knock on soeone’s door with questions and possibly an arrest warrant.

At the risk of stating the obvious, I will implore you: Do not commit crime over the internet. Treat other people on the internet as you would in meat-space.


Each browser calls their Private Browsing tool something different. So that you can learn the name and usage for your browser, here are some help articles and details for the most common browsers:

Microsoft Edge: InPrivate Browsing

Google Chrome: Incognito Browsing

Safari: Private Browsing

Mozilla Firefox: Private Browsing

Opera Browser: Private Mode

The IRS Free File Program

The IRS has a program to help you file your federal taxes for free. If your Adjusted Gross Income was less than $72,000 last year, you can go to this website and find a no-cost tax prep option for you.

State tax prep is sometimes included, but other times incurs a fee. Read the details under each Federal tax prep option to see if your state taxes would also be free.

Preserving a Voicemail Message

Let’s say you have a special voicemail message. Maybe it’s critical to a lawsuit you’re involved with. Or perhaps it’s a precious memory from a long-lost friend. If it’s important to you, then it needs to be protected! Don’t take your voicemail for granted, as it can be deleted or lost, like computer data.

If you have a valuable voicemail on your smartphone, please know that you can copy it to other locations, and then back it up. Here are some possibilities:

iPhone users: Tap on a voicemail, and then look for the Share button (looks like a box with an arrow pointing out of it). Tap that Share button to find a wealth of options. You should be able to copy the voicemail to Notes, Voice memos, or even attach it to an email message.

Android users: Tap on a voicemail and look down low for a Send To… option. Tap this to reveal choices for saving the recording to Google Drive, attaching it to a text message or sending it along in an email.

If you don’t see a Send To… option on your Android device, play the voicemail all the way through to the end, and then check again. If your phone still doesn’t offer that option, tap or tap-and-hold on the voicemail and look for pop-up options like Save or Save to Phone.

My preference is to email the audio message as an attachment. Creating an email is an easily-saved item, but also, the attachment is usually a universal MP3 file, which can later be downloaded, saved to a computer, backed up to another drive or shared with any other computer user.

Safeguarding a voicemail sent to a landline is a different ball of wax. Every telephone company is different from the next. Comcast, for example, allows for voicemail web access if you are an Xfinity Voice customer, and you can download/save voicemail files from their website. Shentel, on the other hand, offers no voicemail backup tools. If this becomes important to you, contact your specific provider to ask what is possible with their phone service.

Prevent an App from Using Background Data

Recently, I got a warning from my cellphone provider that I’d crossed a data usage threshold. My smartphone had consumed almost 2GB of data in a single day. This was exceptional for me, so I did the detective work to figure out what happened.

As it turns out, the Amazon Shopping app was the culprit. It consumed a copious amount of data, during a time when I was outside of my home and away from Wi-Fi. I had not opened the app that day! Since I do not have unlimited data on my cellular plan, this was a concern to me. (Google Fi typically charges $10/GB.)

Amazon Support failed to support me in this matter. Repeated attempts to reach qualified support were fruitless. While they compensated me for the mistake, it was more important that I make sure the app didn’t devour data like this again!

The solution was this: I needed to prevent the app from using Background Data. This would allow the app to continue to function, but only when it was open and in the foreground.

If an app is closed or minimized or left behind for another app, it is considered to be “running in the background.” So in case you ever have a problem with an app using too much data when you are not using it, here’s what to do:

Android users would go to Settings -> Apps & Notifications -> See All Apps. Tap the data-hungry app, then tap Mobile Data & Wi-Fi. Use the slider to turn off “Background Data”.

Apple users would go to Settings -> General -> Background App Refresh. Once there, you can turn off background usage for any app, or ALL apps.

If your cellular plan allows for unlimited data, then this tip may not be a money-saver for you. Except that data-hungry apps may also deplete your phone’s battery faster! So if you ever take background data away from a greedy app, you may also notice your phone stays powered for longer.

Vaccinate Virginia

If you live on the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Department of Health has launched a website to help you get the free COVID-19 vaccine. If you’ve already received the vaccine or registered through other means, then you don’t have to do anything. Otherwise, please visit this site to get pre-registered:

Vaccinate Virginia

Save this website (and your confirmation code at the end of registration) to check your registration status, going foward. And this site also offers a wealth of info from the Virginia Department Health. If for any reason you can’t use the site’s registration, please use this phone number for signing up: 877-829-4682.

Hide Google Meet in Gmail

Google really wants everyone to try out Google Meet. So they built it into their Gmail page design, some months ago. Google Meet probably roosts in the lower-left corner when you visit Gmail.com on your computer.

But not everyone uses Google Meet. And some people want that valuable screen real estate back, for their email folder list! So here’s how to remove Meet from Gmail:

  • Open your computer’s web browser and go to Gmail.com.
  • Click the Settings cogwheel icon to the upper-right, and then click See All Settings.
  • Look across the sections headings, and click Chat and Meet.
  • Click the bubble next to “Hide the Meet section…”. (And if you don’t use Hangouts, you can turn that off here, as well!)
  • Click the Save Changes button, and then reload your Gmail page.

If you make use of this tip, you can still use Google Meet. Simply go to the Google Meet website, or reverse these steps to bring back Meet to your Gmail page.

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