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How Not To Get Locked Out Of Facebook And Other Online Accounts

“Hi, Scott.  I need your help,” the voice on the other end of the line greets.

“I’m locked out of my Facebook account and can’t get back in because I don’t remember my password.  Can you help me?”

While I happily try to assist, I know the chances for success are extremely low.

Facebook, Google and most other online services do not have a phone number you can call, speak to a live person, and have them reset your password.

Instead, your only option is to rummage through their web-based help documentation, submit an online form, and hope the requested information you provided is sufficient for someone to eventually send you instructions on how to get back into your account.

The majority of the time, this fails.

Why Account Recovery Fails

All online services provide you an easy way to recover lost passwords or regain access to your account.  The account recovery process typically involves sending an email to your email address or a text message to your cell phone.

So what’s the problem?

Most people never set up their recovery information in Facebook, Gmail, Pinterest, eBay, Amazon, and other commonly used websites.

Those who did when they first created their account seldom update their recovery information when their email address or phone numbers change.

How To Set Up Recovery Information

Each platform differs slightly in how to set up your account recovery information.  Here are links to instructions on how to do so on some of the most common websites:

Don’t Wait!

Avoid the frustration of forever losing access to your online accounts.  Invest a few minutes right now to take these important steps:

  • If you don’t already have a second email address, set up an alternate email address with Gmail (www.gmail.com).
  • Log in to each of your online accounts (Facebook, Gmail, Pinterest, eBay, etc.).  Configure your recovery options in each of them.
  • Associate your cell phone number, if you have one, with the account.
  • Set periodic reminders to make sure your account recover information is kept current.

 

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What You Should Learn From “The Day The Earth Was Hacked”

Europol, the intelligence agency of the European Union, called it a “cyberattack of an unprecedented level.”

Starting early Friday, May 12, a massive ransomware infection called WannaCry quickly spread to hundreds of thousands of computers in over 150 countries.

It crippled entire hospitals, car manufacturers, telecom companies, and even affected U.S.-based FedEx, demanding a $300 ransom to be paid in Bitcoin for the data files it held hostage.

Failure To Do This Leaves The Door Wide Open

Why did this ransomware inflict so much damage when it could have been easily prevented?

First, companies and individuals failed to keep their computers updated with the latest security patches.

Microsoft discovered the vulnerability exploited by WannaCry and issued a patch back in March. Computers with the update installed were not affected.

Yet, an enormous number of PCs obviously weren’t updated, providing an open door for the cyberattack.

In my experience, most small business and home users neglect to regularly install the ever-important Windows Updates. They either don’t know how or never think about installing them.

Worse yet, many refuse to allow a knowledgeable IT provider to take care of these tasks for them at a minimal cost.

The Antivirus Myth

Second, most of the affected PCs used ineffective or no antivirus protection.

The first question I always get asked after a client’s machine becomes infected is, “Well, I have [insert name of a popular antivirus program, usually a free one]. Shouldn’t it have prevented this?”

Truth is most antivirus programs sold today use ancient, 25-year-old technology. They simply don’t protect against how today’s threats attack and infect computers.

In the previous column two weeks ago, my Director of Service Operations, Christian Hinojosa, warned about the inadequacies of free antivirus programs – like AVG, Avast, and Avira. These are some of the worst protection when it comes to ransomware like WannaCry.

But even many of the paid antivirus programs fail to block deadly viruses and malware.

Only a slim handful of paid antivirus software effectively blocks many of the behavior-based, zero-day threats regularly attacking your computer. And they’re not ones you find on the shelf at Walmart or Best Buy.

The Worst Is Yet To Come

While WannaCry’s reach rapidly extended throughout the entire civilized world, it only lasted a few days before it was stopped in its tracks.

The purchase of a simple $11 domain name by an observant security expert broke the criminals’ code.

Those thieves know exactly what they did wrong. You can bet they’re already working on a version 2.0 that won’t be stopped as easily.

At Home or At Work – You’re At Risk

Are you a home user who only checks email and browses Facebook?

Are you a small business owner with one or more computers critical to running your daily operations?

Do you work in an office, warehouse, or other organization with computers?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, you have computers at risk for the next big attack.

It would be wise to make sure you’re well-protected before disaster strikes. Keep in mind these six tips:

1. Regularly update all your computers with the latest patches.
2. Install antivirus software designed for today’s threats.
3. Implement edge protection to build a wall around your home or business network that will keep unwanted hackers out.
4. Provide on-going training to family members and/or employees that helps them identify phishing email, scams, fake websites, and other malicious attempts to infect your PC or steal personal information.
5. Maintain regular, automated, OFF-SITE backups of all important documents and data on your computer.
6. Consult with a knowledgeable IT professional to provide these five solutions for you. If they can’t, find an expert who is educated and able to offer complete security. It really is cheaper than the alternative.

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You Can Avoid Becoming A Victim

Fraud

“Hi, Scott. I need to give you my new credit card information. My old card got hacked, so the bank sent me a new one.”

I receive calls like this almost every week from clients who have recurring transactions set up with us.

Scams, fraud and identity theft are on the rise. A sad reality of the 21st century.

Did you know …

  • 13.1 million U.S. consumers lost almost $15 billion because of identity theft in 2015, according to a Javelin Strategy and Research study conducted last year?
  • credit card fraud could jump from $4 billion to $10 billion by 2020, according to a February 2016 CNBC report?

All this is despite the advances in new security features, like the EMV chips in debit and credit cards.

If you haven’t been the victim of a computer scam, fraudulent bank or credit card use, or identity theft, you probably know someone who has. The negative effects cause incredible frustration, cost hours of lost time, and results in the loss of hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Becoming aware of how scammers, cybercriminals, and identity thieves work and knowing how you can protect yourself is critical in this age.

In honor of National Consumer Protection Week, March 5 through 11, I’d like to provide you with this information. But I would need considerably more space than what I’m graciously given here in this column.

So I’ve created a new three-part video series where I share practical and little-known consumer safety tips.

These tips provide you the knowledge you need to be a smart consumer, even when scammers catch you off guard. Armed with this information, you’ll avoid falling victim to scams, identity theft, and fraud.

Common Computer Scams
In the first video, I’ll teach you how to quickly and easily identify the three most common computer scams. Some are blatantly obvious, yet many people fall hook-line-and-sinker for them. After watching this video, you won’t be one of those people.

How Identity Thieves Work
In the second video, I’ll describe some of the sneaky ways identity thieves steal your personal information. It’s not just through your computer, either. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is for these criminals to go undetected and how at-risk your privacy is.

How to Protect Yourself
In the final video, I’ll give you 10 specific actions you must take to protect yourself – in both the physical and digital worlds. You’ll be given the steps, resources, and tools necessary to keep your personal and financial information as secure as possible.

You can sign up to view the videos for free at on the home page of this website – www.calibreforhome.com.

I promise I’m not going to try to sell you anything, and I won’t be filling your email inbox with useless junk messages.

I simply want to help combat the growing trend of fraud and identity theft. The best way for me to do that is by sharing with you what I’ve learned as I deal with it on a daily basis.

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Has Your Login Information Been Compromised?

Do you have a Yahoo, Hotmail or Gmail email account?

If so, your email address and password could be in the hands of Russian hackers.  They’re sharing this information with others – either for a price or “street cred” on social media.

Earlier this month, a security firm in Wisconsin convinced a Russian hacker to give them a database containing 272 million email addresses and passwords.

It appears the breach mainly targeted Russian users, but because nearly one-third of the email addresses were Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo accounts, American users could also be affected.

Interestingly, these compromised emails and passwords didn’t come from hackers breaking into Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo databases.

Rather, the information was stolen from smaller, less secure websites where people use their email address and passwords to log in.

 

Are You A Victim?

Unfortunately, there’s no way for you to know whether your email address or password appears in the latest database, according to Alex Holden, founder of Hold Security, the Wisconsin firm that acquired the information.

But you can check to see if your login credentials may have been breached on other websites, including Adobe, Comcast, Snapchat, Domino’s Pizza, and others.

Simply go to www.haveibeenpwned.com and type in your email address.  (Yes, that’s a P instead of an O in the web address.  Pwned is gamer slang for “owned.”)

 

Protect Yourself

  1. Immediately change your password on your Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo accounts.  Even if you don’t believe they’ve been breached.
  2. NEVER, ever use the same password for more than one website.

    In today’s increasingly vulnerable online world, the security of your personal information and identity is more important than convenience.  Using the same passwords across multiple websites gives criminals unfettered access to everything they need to steal your identity and your money.  It can take YEARS to clean up the damage.  But only takes SECONDS to prevent it.

  3. Use a secure online service to keep track of all your passwords.

    Creating unique passwords for each website is easy.  Remembering them – not so much.

    But services like LastPass (www.lastpass.com) and Roboform (www.roboform.com) allow you to store all your login information in one easy-to-use, secure location accessible from all your computers, smartphones, and tablets.

    These services can also generate impossible-to-crack passwords for you.