Faking It

Fake tech support scams are still here, and they’re worse than ever. Learn how to stay safe and what to do if you get faked out.

How does this work?

The Fake Tech Support scam is a confidence game like all the other confidence games that have been going on for years.

In this version, the con artist convinces someone to phone a number for technical support, then gains the trust of the person, convincing him/her to grant remote access to the computer through TeamViewer, GoToAssist, LogMeIn, or other perfectly legitimate products.

Once the scammer has taken control, s/he will do techie-looking things to convince the victim that there’s a problem, and that it can be fixed for a price. The scammer will try to obtain credit card and/or banking information.

At best, the victim is inconvenienced by having to cancel credit cards and change passwords, and maybe being out a few hundred dollars.

At worst, it’s a life-changing case of identity theft.

What do you mean, “convinces someone to phone?”

Ten years ago, when this scam was new, the most common way scammers engaged people was by calling them. And that’s still happening! Don’t fall for it!

Since then, things have progressed to the point where fake tech support sites are advertised on major search engines like Bing, Google, and Yahoo. You might search for help with a product, like “Facebook customer service phone number” or “Canon printer help.”

At least some of those search results, and often the ones near the top, are fake. If you phone, you’ll get someone who will do everything s/he can to convince you to part with your credit card information.

A recent twist now causes fake error messages to pop up in browsers. These are scary messages informing you that your computer is infected or that a serious error has occurred. Some of them even include loud sounds and shouting. All of them include a toll-free number to scammers.

This is a Windows thing, right?

To everyone chuckling and congratulating yourselves on having a Mac: You are also vulnerable to these scams. Your Safari browser can be compromised to pop up fake warnings.

You can also get tainted search results. And lately, the cold callers who used to hang up when someone said, “I have a Mac,” now pivot and claim to support Apple products.

Android smartphones and tablets are now targets, too.

How can I protect myself?

If you get a popup, get some help cleaning your computer. Do not search for help online, because if you’re getting that popup your browser and search have probably been hijacked, and your search results will show more bogus websites and toll-free numbers that get you to the same scam artists.

These guys are resourceful.

When reaching out to a company for technical support make sure the website or phone number you’re calling is truly for that company. The paid version of Malwarebytes can prevent you from browsing to websites known to be a problem.

Check on the legitimacy of a website by using the Avast! Antivirus Online Security add-on, the one from Trend-Micro, or whatever your antivirus offers by way of protection.

Check using the VirusTotal website.

If you phone a support line and the connection is poor, there’s lots of noise and shouting, and the so-called technician tries to hard sell you something, you are probably not connected to the real deal.

Have you been scammed? Read this article to see what to do.


Recover what you lost

Did you forget to save that Word document before you closed it? Did you accidentally delete that important photo?

Here’s how you can get out of that jam.

Ack! I forgot to save my Word document.

It’s happened to almost all of us. It’s certainly happened to me. We’re in the middle of something, we close Word, and it asks us politely if we want to save our work. And… we accidentally hit “don’t Save instead of “Save.”

There’s still a chance you can recover that document:

  • Open Word again
  • Click on File | Open | Recover Unsaved Documents (that’s way at the bottom)

You’ll get to a window with your unsaved Word documents from the last few days. (Not from forever.)

  • Double-click on your document to open it
  • At the top of the document you should see a message: This is a recovered file that is temporarily stored on your computer.
  • Click on File | Save as and navigate to the location where you want to save your file.
  • Name your file if necessary
  • Click Save

Sometimes your document won’t open. You can try to repair it. Instead of double-clicking and failing to open:

  • Click on your document
  • Use the dropdown arrow to select Open and Repair
  • If that works, continue as above to save your file

If you think this could ever happen to you, you’re going to want to make sure that AutoRecover is turned on in Word.

Do this now, before something bad happens!

  • Open any Word document, or even a blank one
  • Click on File | Options | Save
  • In the Save Documents section, place a check in Save AutoRecover information …  and choose the time between saves. (Usually 10 minutes.)
  • Place a check in Keep the last AutoRecovered version if I close without saving
  • Click on OK

This will help you if your have a power outage or disruption to the computer where it loses power or reboots while you’re in the middle of Word.

When you open Word again, you’ll see a list of documents that can be autorecovered (Sometimes the list is only one item long!)

Click next to a file and use the dropdown arrow to recover it and save it to the desired location.

Whoops! I deleted the photos from my trip/wedding/child’s birthday/whatever.

First, if you deleted these photos from your PC or your Mac, look in the Recycle Bin or Trash. If your photos are there, use Restore on the PC to put them back where they were. On a Mac, drag them out.

If you have a backup of your computer or you’re using Time Machine on your Mac, you can likely recovery your photos from there.

If they’re not there, then take your search to the next level: You need some recovery software.

My go-to program for this is Recuva from Piraform, safe link here.

It will find and allow you to recover all kinds of files, not just photos. It will find them on your PC, your SD cards from your camera, and your mp3 player.

Another useful program is EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Free, available for PC, and for Mac. Like Recuva, these programs will recover more than just photos.

To minimize the chances of losing photos from your PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, or Android device, back them up to the relevant cloud.

Google Photos

Have you ever had to restore a file? Did you find a solution you like? Tell us about it at [email protected]


Just when I think I’ve seen everything, I see something else. Usually, that’s good! I learned two things last week researching weird things.

I live in Canada, but my computer thinks I’m in Brazil.

Last week, a new customer mentioned that the time and date was wrong on her computer. You wouldn’t think that’s a big deal, but a wrong date/time can create problems.

For some reason, her computer was on Brasilia Time. I checked the location settings, and everything said Canada, Canadian English.

I changed the time zone in settings manually, but when I turned everything back to automatic, the computer’s time automatically went back to the wrong time zone.

That was a new one on me, and I thought it was a one-off. Her computer was malware-free, wasn’t having any other problems, and when I manually set the time and time zone instead of letting it discover the time zone itself, everything was fine.

Then, the same thing happened to one of the computers here.

I found something that fixes the problem. There are more complicated solutions, but I suggest trying this one first. If it doesn’t work, then look at the complicated ones.

  • Right-click on the taskbar clock
  • Click on Adjust date/time
  • If your Time zone says Brasilia (and that’s not where you are) move the sliders to turn off Set time automatically and Set time zone automatically
  • Press the WindowsKey and the S key at the same time to open search
  • Begin typing Control Panel until you see it in the search results
  • Click on Control Panel
  • Make sure you’re in Icon view
  • Click on Date and Time | Internet Time | Change settings…
  • Use the dropdown arrow to select time.nist.gov
  • Click on Update now | OK
  • Restart the computer
  • Right-click on the taskbar clock
  • Click on Adjust date/time
  • Move the sliders to turn on Set time automatically and Set time zone automatically

Your time zone, date, and time should now be correct.

Media Player worked fine, but suddenly it vanished.

Microsoft adds a little something every time a Windows 10 Upgrade rolls out.

“Gee, that’s nice,” said practically no one ever.

But wait, there’s more.

Turns out they remove a little something, too.

Sometimes you don’t notice right away. I still get plenty of questions from people using Windows Live Mail, even though Microsoft no longer supports it.

Did you notice that?

You also may not have realized that Windows Media Player is on its way out. I certainly didn’t know that because I’ve been using an alternative for years. But readers have been emailing me asking how to get it back.

Apparently, when you install the Fall Creators Update, it disables and hides Windows Media Player.

Why? Beats me.

Here’s how to get it back (at least for now):

  • Start | Settings | Apps | Apps & Features
  • Click on Manage optional features | Add a feature
  • Scroll down to Windows Media Player
  • Click on Install

Go grab a Pepsi and a slice. This is going to take some time. Once the process completes, click on the shiny new Windows Media Player shortcut in your Start Menu to fire up the app.

How long are we going to be allowed to use this legacy program? No idea. There are plenty of alternatives! The best video player is VLC player, available here.

Please, please, please download it from that (safe) page.

VLC will also play music, but it’s not as easy to navigate for music as Windows Media Player. You could use the built-in Windows Media Player replacement, called Groove Music, but it’s kind of terrible. Our friends at MakeUseOf.com recommend some for you.

And, of course, there’s always iTunes, which is also terrible, but which is currently the only player I can find that will allow me to download podcasts and transfer them to my out-of-date-but-beloved iPod Nano seventh generation.

Have you had something weird happen on your computer? You’re probably not alone. Tell me about it at [email protected] and maybe we’ll all learn something.


Now you know

Whether you want to solve computer problems yourself or enlist the help of someone more technical, you’ll save time and minimize frustration if you know how to do a few simple things.

I’m here to help!

Turn off your computer

That sounds simple and generally it is.

Click on Start | Power | Shut down

That’s all there is to it most days. Sometimes, though, computers don’t start up properly or shut down fully, and you might need to shut down manually.

To do this, press and hold the power button on the computer.

Press and hold that power button like you mean it. You need to hold it down until you hear the computer shut off, and sometimes that can take as long as 15 seconds.

If a technician tells you to disconnect the computer completely from its power source, you need to unplug it from the electrical outlet.

If the computer is a laptop, you also need to remove the battery (unplug from the outlet first!) to stop all electrical current from flowing.

Reboot your router or your modem

You are going to have to do this at some time in your life. Persistent issues with connecting to the Internet require rebooting your router and/or modem as part of the troubleshooting process.

Even if you call your Internet Service Provider for help, you’re going to have to reboot something some day.

Here’s the deal. “Reboot” simply means restart the device. There are geeky ways to do this, but I’ll just cover the easy way here.

First, identify the thing you want to reboot. The router and modem might be two different pieces of equipment, or they might be all one device. Locate your router and or modem. Now, locate the power cord that connects that device to an electrical outlet.

When you’re ready to reboot the device, unplug the power cord. 

(You don’t have to crawl around on the floor; unplugging either end has the same effect. It’s almost always easier to unplug the end of the power cord that connects to the device rather than to the electrical outlet.)

Hold that cord in your hand, count to 30, and then plug it back in. Wait a couple of minutes for the device to come back to life and see if that fixed your problem.

If it didn’t, you can contact your service provider confident in the knowledge that you’ll know how to do this when they ask you to.

Because they will ask you.

Know what operating system your computer is running

Maybe you want to use Google to find a solution to whatever computer glitch is troubling you, or maybe you want someone to help you. One of the things you should know is what operating system you’re running.

The easiest way to find this on a Windows computer:

  • Press the Windows key and the R key simultaneously (WinKey+R)
  • Type winver in the field next to “Open”
  • Press the Enter key

This will open a new window with the information you need. (See this article for other ways.

If you’re using a Mac:

  • Click on the Apple icon in the top left corner of your screen
  • Click on About This Mac

This will open a window with the information. (See this article for more.)

Are you a little more comfortable with your computer skills?

More Getting Along With Your Computer articles

About the Author

The Technology Shaman, Cate Eales, has been helping people make online computing safe, accessible, and fun for over 30 years.

Cate lives in Kelowna with her husband, Eric. She owns and operates Computer Care Kelowna, a mobile computer business providing on-site service for home and small business customers.

Cate is here to help you and your home or business computer get along.

E-mail Cate at [email protected] with comments, suggestions, or questions.

Computer Care Kelowna

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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