Archive for the ‘Phones’ Category

Service of Cybercriminals Navigating From Phone Calls to Texts & Emails

Thursday, January 18th, 2024

My phones are blessedly relieved from evil calls about car insurance for a vehicle I don’t own, money owed the IRS and so forth. Enough people are on to robocallers and don’t answer anymore.

In their place I’ve received increasing numbers of really sophisticated texts and emails in the last few months. Some are quite alarming and easy to fall for if you’re not vigilant. Use of corporate logos is rampant.

Cybercriminals dressed as Wellsfargo send all sorts of hack emails.

Did you notice anything suspicious already? That bank spells its name in two words: Wells Fargo. And by the way: I don’t have an account there.

Each email with different subject lines provided multiple opportunities to link to a nefarious place.

Here are some of the subject lines: Wellsfargo Bank Guard which alleged someone suspicious has logged into my account. Wellsfargo Billing hit me twice, the first time with claims my account is restricted. The second warned that there was fraudulent entry to my account.

In addition there was Wellsfargo Bank Business, Wellsfargo Bank Agent Security and Wellsfargo Security.

Other favorite faux texts and emails are from a wolf in Microsoft’s clothing or DHL Express. The latter asks for an address correction for an imaginary package they aren’t able to deliver. In another nasty twist I was told in a text that on Tuesday $198.17 was placed on my debit card and to click on a link to stop it.

One crook was lazy or new at the job. She didn’t kill herself in prepping for the outreach. The subject line was Support. This thief didn’t waste time. They were going to suspend my account, [to what they didn’t say], unless I updated my billing information. Sure.

You get the point. Have you noticed a change away from suspicious telephone calls to electronic communication in attempts to steal your money?

Service of the Superfluous in Tech that Causes Confusion: YouTube to the Rescue

Monday, May 22nd, 2023

I have no confidence when I’m confronted by technology and I blame myself if I don’t catch on to something or if something goes wrong. When there’s a glitch with my new printer or laptop first I panic and next I rush to YouTube which usually provides a visual step-by-step rescue.

I bought an Apple World Travel Adapter Kit for my iPhone and iPad charger and was confused which was which because three of the elements looked the same. As much as I stared at the sketches on the box and the actual widgets, I couldn’t tell the difference between the electric plugs for Korea, Brazil or Europe.

I went to the Apple store in Grand Central with the box and a man on the welcome team handed me one of the connectors, but I wasn’t convinced.

Next, I found a wonderful video on YouTube—there are a bunch on the subject–in which the tech guru opened his box and went through the various elements. Towards the end he remarked that he couldn’t tell the difference between the three adaptors and I cheered!

I admit my eyes aren’t what they once were but even with a magnifying glass I had a difficult time reading the gray-on-gray EUR on one of the identical looking adapters. YouTube man pointed out where to look. Obviously the 20-something at Apple didn’t know where to look either. He had handed me the device for Korea.

I went to the Apple store for something else this weekend and while I was waiting for the product to arrive I mentioned this to the bright [very] young associate helping me. He said that the devices would be different even though they might look the same because they also address voltage in each country. He suggested I ID each country’s device with magic marker. I don’t expect to go to Brazil or Korea so…..

The voltage info also didn’t get out to the associate who handed me the adaptor for Korea. Lucky for me I know where to look to ID the correct device thanks to the fellow on YouTube. Maybe “Let me find out,” wasn’t part of the training language taught the first assistant either.

Have you been tripped up by a tech company when it turned out that it is they—not you—at fault?   

      

Service of What a Difference One Person Can Make

Thursday, September 29th, 2022

If you’ve become dependent on your smartphone, as I am, should it crash, you panic.

I made the wrong decision when this happened to me, bought a new phone from untrained, irresponsible employees at a reputable company–Verizon Wireless–and was saved by a young man at Apple. He stepped out of the routine–he could have palmed me off to someone else, making me wait, but he sensed my distress and sprang into action.

As Paul Harvey used to say, and now the rest of the story.

AJ Rosario at the Grand Central Terminal Apple store rescued me last week. I thought that Verizon Wireless had sold me a damaged iPhone 13. He assessed my mood and quickly put an end to the drama.

Verizon staff did not know how to download my apps and programs from the cloud, which was clear after two days, and its staff washed its hands of the lifeless device they had sold me by ignoring me. Fortunately, the Apple store is in the same building. Once I realized I was persona non grata, simply warming a seat, I dashed to the Apple store.

AJ was at the top of the stairs crowded with people, the first employee I saw. He was as kind, understanding and reassuring as he was expert. He whisked me to a table and rolled up his sleeves. Quickly my thousands of contacts appeared in my address book as did my emails and texts and eventually the apps–and my sanity returned too. The new phone came to life in his hands.

As AJ worked on my iPhone I texted a friend from my iPad. I told her that a guardian angel at Apple was helping me. I told AJ what I’d just written. He whispered that he’s known by AJ at work but his name is Angel–“and don’t tell anyone.”

Do you share my anxiety when purchasing new electronic devices because like me you’re at the mercy of people who know their way around them–or maybe they don’t? Have you had exceptional service–good and bad–of late?


Image by Stefan Kuhn from Pixabay

Service of Surveillance Galore: Where/How to Remove the Worm from the Fruit

Thursday, September 16th, 2021


Image by Pit Saaler from Pixabay

I wrote two summers ago about people who welcome surveillance devices into their homes and hotel rooms with Alexa and similar gadgets. It’s easy to avoid such intrusion: Don’t buy into the trend.

Sometimes, however, we are dupes.

Early in August we learned about Apple’s “ability to scan iPhone photos and alert the authorities if any of them contain child sexual abuse material (CSAM),” Sara Morrison reported on vox.com. “While fighting against child sexual abuse is objectively a good thing, privacy experts aren’t thrilled about how Apple is choosing to do it,”.

The 20-something who first told me about this development replied “precisely” when I commented that this isn’t good news for couples who don’t want strangers reviewing their photo albums.

Morrison wrote: “Apple’s new ‘expanded protections for children’ might not be as bad as it seems if the company keeps its promises. But it’s also yet another reminder that we don’t own our data or devices, even the ones we physically possess. You can buy an iPhone for a considerable sum, take a photo with it, and put it in your pocket. And then Apple can figuratively reach into that pocket and into that iPhone to make sure your photo is legal.”

But that’s not all.

Nicole Perlroth covered the latest intrusion in her New York Times article “Apple Issues Emergency Security Updates to Close a Spyware Flaw.”

She reported that “Apple issued emergency software updates for a critical vulnerability in its products on Monday after security researchers uncovered a flaw that allows highly invasive spyware from Israel’s NSO Group to infect anyone’s iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch or Mac computer without so much as a click.”

Called Pegasus, nobody knows that a criminal or government is inspecting their devices.

The spyware “can turn on a user’s camera and microphone, record messages, texts, emails, calls — even those sent via encrypted messaging and phone apps like Signal — and send them back to NSO’s clients at governments around the world.”

In her article Perlroth provides the easy step-by-step to protect your devices by security update that you must initiate: It doesn’t happen automatically.

Even if you don’t own an Apple device–oops, I mean use–are you concerned about the potential accessibility to strangers of part if not much of your life? Has it always been like this only before citizens didn’t hand it to others on silver platters?


Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Service of Here We Go Again: Phone Snubbing

Monday, August 30th, 2021


Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

At lunch with three friends last week my phone pinged a few times signaling the arrival of a text. One pal repeatedly asked if it was my phone. It was, but I didn’t look. We were eating.

Dan Ariely just covered the subject of “Why We Ignore Friends to Look at Our Phones” in his Wall Street Journal advice column “Ask Ariely.” The subject falls in my “Plus ça Change, Plus C’est la Même Chose” series. When mobile phones were new, some diners chatted incessantly even when facing a date or friend across a restaurant table, often disturbing neighboring diners while disrespecting their dinner companion.

Ariely responded to reader Alan who asked him why people “engage in such rude behavior,” that the columnist called phone snubbing or “phubbing” which he claimed could impact “the level of satisfaction in a friendship.” He attributed it not to lack of interest in the dialogue as much as to the personality of the phubber.

Ariely reported: “In a 2021 study of young adults, the authors found that depressed and socially anxious people are more likely to phub their friends. This is likely explained by the fact that people with social anxiety find online communication less uncomfortable than in-person conversations.”

He continued, “On the other hand, phubbing is less common among people who score high on ‘agreeableness,’ which psychologists define as striving to avoid conflict. Agreeable people make an effort to be polite and friendly in order to maintain social harmony.”

His suggestions for those who can’t stop looking at their phones is to disengage text and email message notices or to put the phone on airplane mode. That switches off the phone’s connection to Wi-Fi and cellular networks.

There are exceptions when being a phubber is legit but I think you should announce your reason when you sit down. If you’re expecting to hear from a client, customer, sick friend or relative or colleague about a deadline-driven project say so.

Do you care if your dining companion keeps checking his/her phone? Do you apologize if/when you do it?


Image by Anastasia Gepp from Pixabay

Service of Stopping Robocalls

Monday, July 23rd, 2018

I try not to pick up calls from unusual area codes because I suspect a sales or robocall. I read that the objective is not to let these callers know they’ve reached a live number. I was wrong at least when it comes to robocalls. Read on.

So what can I do to stop the onslaught? Nothing much, according to Katherine Bindley of The Wall Street Journal. She lamented “Why can’t anyone stop this madness? When will it end?” She was inspired to research and write her article after racing out of the shower to catch a call she thought was her boss. It was a robocall. This morning the same thing happened to me. The unknown caller left no message.

In preparing for her article, she heard “There’s no silver bullet” time and again from pundits She advises that you hang up if you pick up a robocall. If you respond in any other way the robocalling company might sell your reactive number to others.

Bindley explained: “Back when phone calls were transmitted over copper wires, businesses paid a lot of money for phone systems that allowed 1,000 employees to make calls without needing 1,000 phone lines. These systems inserted caller ID so, for instance, customers all saw the same business number, regardless of which employee made the call.

“With the internet, businesses don’t need expensive hardware. Anyone can start a mini call center with software that auto-dials numbers and spoofs caller ID. They also need a provider to ‘originate’ the call, that is, connect the internet call to the phone network.”

Bindley wrote that “developers have proposed a call-certifying protocol…. If a bad guy tries to spoof the caller ID, the call would go through, but it wouldn’t be verified. Eventually, users would see a check mark or other indicator for verified calls.” Verification that a caller has the right to use a phone number leading to the approval check could take as long as five years though Verizon expects to launch a program later this year, Bindley reported.

She suggests you add your number to the Do Not Call Registry managed by the FTC. I checked and you can access by phone at 888-382-1222—use the phone you want to register—or online at www.donotcall.gov. Once the number is on the registry for 31 days you can report unwanted sales calls using the same phone number and website.

Your carrier might have robocall protection as T-Mobile does for free. AT&T offers a free option and with one for $4/monthly you can block categories of calls, Bindley wrote. For $3/month Verizon will send spam numbers received by wireless customers to voicemail and Sprint’s Premium caller ID rejects calls if it determines that they are likely to be SPAM. It’s also $3/month. It’s active for IOS users only now and for Android users by fall.

You can check out Hiya, a free call-blocking app. “Nomorobo, $2 a month, identifies likely scam calls and can send them straight to voice mail. Unlike some other services, you don’t have to share your contact list for it to work.” I don’t trust the judgment of filtering services if they are anything like my SPAM and junk mail programs. I can be in a back and forth with a client, editor, reporter or producer when communication stops because their most recent email ends up in my SPAM file.

Bindley wrote that she blocked a robocall but got another one from the same business two days later.

Are you irritated by robocalls? Do you try to stop them or have you given up? Don’t you hope that the robocall protection systems and their detectives will distinguish between those we want—say from the pharmacy to announce that our prescriptions are ready or from the electric company that the power is restored at our homes when we’re away—from those we don’t?

Service of Expecting the Worst and Getting the Best

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

Verizon Grand central flipped

Whether you dread a doctor’s appointment, party or visit to a cantankerous vendor, isn’t it miraculous when the doctor says you’re fine; the party is fun and the vendor agreeable and helpful?

I’d visited a Verizon Wireless store on several occasions before Icat takes a leap took the leap into the second decade of the 21st Century—or more accurately was pushed by my nephew who upgraded his iPhone and gave me his.

Long before, I knew I needed to upgrade but was discouraged by early forays to the store. I was off-put by the apathetic responses to my questions about the different phones and billing options. Each time sales associate reactions ranged from disinterested and dismissive to rude. I knew one thing: I didn’t want to buy anything from this crew or to ever return.

I asked around to see if there was another branch with helpful staff. Seems what I experienced was standard. I was anxious about my visit to transfer my mobile number to a different device–that required a visit–and came with reinforcements: My remarkable IT expert.

Blue ribbon for excellenceSo what happened? I won the equivalent of the best sales associate lottery last Wednesday. Tyrell Person was watching from the top of the stairs near the street entrance as I entered the Verizon store at Grand Central Station looking bedraggled with dripping umbrella, sopping shoes and soggy telephone folder. He was smiling. He said, “How may I help you? Please have a seat and you can put your umbrella over here, right near you.”

He quickly made the phone transfer, gave me an estimate of what it would cost to add my husband’s phone to my plan, [I wanted to think about this], answered all my questions and volunteered his contact information and the days he’s at work. He also sent me a text with his email address and phone number.

He was so nice that I returned this week with a few more questions, a favor and an add-on to my monthly invoice.

The favor was to replace a cracked screen protector. I was warned that it’s tricky to lay it just-so on a spotless screen without creating bubbles. Tyrell performed the operation with the expertise of a surgeon.

He also discovered that I was inadvertently doing something that wasted the iPhone battery and shared the remedy as well as a few other shortcuts as he continued to recalculate the bill. He added my husband’s phone to my plan, took the time to call my mobile number with the other phone to make sure the setup worked and to ensure that I have the right number in my phone.

In addition Tyrell remembered, from the week before, an answer I’d given about my previous usage.

In spite of charges for the additional phone, the total bill should be about what I was paying before.

The nicest part: Tyrell was pleasant, patient and kind. As I left the second time, he reminded me that I have his email address and that he checks email daily and assured me that I should come by anytime.

While he was working with me one of his other fans came by and we agreed how lucky we were to be working with him. The man said he’d be back in an hour and joked about being Tyrell’s neediest customer. So the word is out about how customer-crucial he is!

Have you expected the worst and instead enjoyed the best? Isn’t it grand?

 iphone 6 screen

Service of “Hello” II

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

Phone conversations may be on the wane but you never know when you’ll need to carry on a coherent one. The way things are trending, fewer and fewer Americans will know how to answer a business phone as naturally as locking the front door. It’s to their detriment.

Sue Shellenbarger, in her Wall Street Journal article, “What Children Learned from the Shared Family Phone,” addresses the subject. She wrote, “Nearly half of U.S. households no longer have landlines and instead rely on their cellphones, up from about 27% five years ago, the National Center for Health Statistics says. Among young adults ages 25 through 34, fewer than one-third have landlines. Even at homes with landlines, the phone rings mainly with telemarketers and poll-takers.”

Shellenberger quoted one parent describing her kids speaking with her parents: “It drives me bananas when I hear them on the phone saying, ‘Yup, yup, yup.'” [My guess is that many kids did that as long as there have been telephones and calls to grandma.]

The reporter pointed out other benefits of landlines: They work in a blackout and don’t need to be charged. And when you use one to call 911, the emergency operator will know where you are calling from.

Should anyone care about whether kids are taught to answer and speak on the phone? You may be thinking that thanks to technology, companies don’t need a person to do this, so why the fuss? Not everyone wants to depend, for example, on a site like opentable.com, especially if they’ve ever been turned away by a hostess claiming she didn’t have a reservation, as happened to a pal who had invited me to dinner.

When they are older, children might be at a disadvantage if they are interviewed on the phone for a job. A friend’s daughter, who lived on the east coast, just got a great position in the west where she wanted to move. She was invited for an in person interview only after she aced a few telephone calls.

Some jobs involve interviewing others. What if you must cold call to earn a living or if you want to serve on a phone bank to collect funds for a charity or encourage fellow citizens to vote? While customer service jobs in this country are shrinking, there still are companies here that need people to help customers through tech and billing issues. Staff picks up the phone for small companies, from an auto body shop, restaurant, pharmacy or dry cleaner. Do such businesses have budgets for phone training?

Were you taught to answer the phone at your parent’s home at such a young age you don’t even remember when it happened? Do you think phone skills matter? Do employers still assume the ability to answer and speak on the phone is so basic that people arrive with the natural ability? Are there other skills that technology has made obsolete that might still come in handy?

 

Service of Coming Clean: Verizon and Laundry Card Supplier Make it Impossible

Monday, November 24th, 2014

Lots of apartment houses have laundry rooms and before the washing machines were retrofit to accept cards–a blessing–we had to collect countless quarters to wash and dry. It was nerve-racking.

It’s easy to fill the cards. You slip a credit card in a terminal on the laundry room wall, type in the amount of money you want to add to the laundry card and you’ve fed it.

This works if there’s telephone service.

Verizon has been unable to fix the building’s telephone since October 17. On that date building management was told it would be up and running by November 8. Now the fix date is November 20-something. Today is November 24–the building still has no phone service.

As my laundry card had run out of funds I explained this no-phone situation to someone at the laundry card company and asked them to take my credit card number and whisk me another card with $25 on it. A very polite person told me she couldn’t take this info over the phone. She said to mail my card to them with a check for the amount of money I wanted on the card, with a letter telling them what to do. Tick, tick, tick [will they wait for the check to clear or until they have 20 cards to make before cutting mine?] and the pile of laundry is mounting.

I know what you’re thinking: “So go to a Laundromat!” There isn’t one in our neighborhood anymore. There’s a restaurant where one used to be.

You might wonder what happened: Did we get back the card? Yes.

Does it work? No. Calling it a smartcard is a misnomer.

We discovered this with three week’s laundry distributed in three washing machines. More phone calls. More time wasted. When I called for the second time on Friday, the voice on the phone told me that they don’t take checks and asked why I didn’t give my credit card.

And now we’re out the money that was left on the card that we sent for refill plus the $25 on the check.

In this day of high speed everything, I find this snail’s pace Verizon performance to repair a commercial line and the confusion, lack of training and inefficiency of the laundry card company incredible. [Do they realize that they are losing money if people can’t store money on their cards and use their washing machines?]

Have you been inconvenienced or flummoxed lately by technology you can’t access?

 

 

 

 

Service of Kill Switches for Mobile Phones

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

There was a time when you could hardly walk down a city street without hearing the crunch of ground glass under your feet because someone had smashed a window to steal a car radio and/or tape deck. It got so bad that people would remove and bring their radio with them either shopping or to dinner and post “No radio in car” signs.

Now car radios work only in the car in which they are installed. Result: No more such thefts. The windfall from all those replacement purchases lasted for quite a while but all affected industries willingly gave up that source of income.

According to Edgar Sandoval and Tina Moore in the New York Daily News, “In New York City alone, 20% of robbers went after smartphones, a 40% increase from a year ago, authorities said. The crime has become known as ‘Apple picking.’”

To cut down if not eliminate smartphone theft that has led to death in some cases, a Bronx Congressman is asking for Federal legislation to require manufacturers to participate in a similar way by installing technology that stops a [stolen] mobile phone from working.

They continued “The leaders [Bronx Congressman José Serrano, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton] said the phone companies could either make the move on their own or the law will be enforced by the FCC, Serrano said.”

Sandoval and Moore quoted Bratton who said “corporate greed is to blame for not having the kill switch in the phones already in existence. Manufacturers came through when the city saw a wave of car robberies in the 1990s and Bratton would like to see them same happen with phones, he said.”

Think there’s any downside to smartphone manufacturers installing a kill switch? What are the advantages for the industry to do it without Federal intervention? Does a manufacturer’s business plan include sales gains for replacements as a result of theft? Has your phone been stolen?

Get This Blog Emailed to You:
Enter your Email


Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz