Everyday Tips from the ComputerMom 

September 2016
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How could it possibly be September already! I have to admit, this is my favorite month of the year - I love the cooler days and the smell of fall in the air.

A few months ago a client sent me an excellent article about pop-up tech support scams. These scams can happen on both Macs and PCs and are more common than ever - read on to learn how to recognize a scam and what to do if you are targeted.

Did you ever forget a stored password? Rather than going to the trouble of resetting it, chances are very good you can recover your password using the techniques detailed in my second article. And finally, for the fourth year in a row, ComputerMom will set up shop at Medfield Day. Hope to see you there!

Julie Marto 

PS - Is your college student complaining she needs a new laptop? Maybe she just needs an SSD upgrade and a tune-up instead!
Don't fall for Pop-up Tech Support Scams!

You are innocently surfing the web when, all of a sudden, your browser is taken over by a scary message that you are infected with a virus. You might have a very loud alert tone that won't stop, a voice telling you that you are infected, or a lot of flashing lights on your screen. You probably can't close the page - everything seems locked up. There's a toll-free number to call for help, and it seems like that might be your only option. These warnings are purposely scary and VERY convincing, so don't be surprised if you find yourself torn over what to do.
  • I get three or four calls a week about this topic. The lucky ones call me instead of calling the "support number" - the unlucky ones have already called the scammers and allowed someone access to their computer. Don't hesitate to call me if you get one of these warnings, I do NOT want you to get scammed! 
  • Chances are very good that YOU are not infected with anything at all. What's happened is that you have inadvertently stumbled onto an infected website. As long as you don't call the phone number and allow the tech onto your system, all you need to do is turn your computer off (by holding the power button down for about 10 seconds) and turn your system on again. If you do that and things seem normal, you are just fine!
  • Mac users might have to clear browser settings. Mac systems typically will re-open any previous applications when you restart, a feature meant to make it easier for you to get right back to work after turning off your computer. However, that plays right into the scammer's hands. If you find your Mac browser takes you right back to the scam site, give me a call and we'll fix it together.
  • Don't let them log onto your computer! I have seen people who fell for this type of scam have tracking software installed, or have every document on their system deleted. I've also seen computers "locked" with a password that only the scammers know. Even if you call them, you are fine unless you let them onto your system. Hang up the phone!
  • If you have let them onto your computer, there is no telling what damage they might have done. Turn off your computer and keep it off the internet until you have a chance to have it checked out by me or some other computer repair professional.
How to Find
Stored Passwords

In today's electronic world, strong passwords are a necessity. However, many times when I work on a client's computer, I ask for a password and am told "there is none". Well, there is ALWAYS a password, however, it just might be stored so you don't have to remember it every time you log in. Stored passwords are very convenient, until the time comes that you need to remember the password! Sites will always give you the option to reset the password, but often it's easier to just recover the stored password. Here's how I go about that:

Check your browser  - Every time your browser asks you if you want to store your password it's actually keeping a copy you that you can find if you know where to look. Depending on the browser, this is often your easiest option. Here's how to reveal those stored passwords in Chrome, FireFox, and  Safari.

Run a password revealer program -  You will notice Internet Explorer is not listed above. That's because it doesn't have an easy way to view passwords like the other browsers mentioned. For IE (and other browsers) I use a program to extract passwords from a company called Nirsoft. This software might trigger an antivirus to think you are using a hacking tool, however I can vouch for the fact that they are perfectly safe to use. The programs I use are IEPassview, MailPassView (to extract passwords from Outlook and other mail programs), ChromePass and PasswordFox.

Apple only: Keychain Access - Apple has a built in password management system called the Keychain Access. This application stores all of your log in credentials, and can be used to recover passwords from most sites. You will need the master Keychain Access password to reveal the stored passwords, however that is almost always the administrative password you  use to log onto your Mac.
Come see me at Medfield Day!

Medfield Day is Saturday, September 17th, from 9:00 to 3:00, and I'll be there in my ComputerMom booth to answer questions, hand out my fabulous two-sided screen cleaners, and raffle off some free ComputerMom services.

You can find my purple booth on North Street right in front of the Montrose School. Hope to see you all there!