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Fake tech support (still), Alexa or privacy (not both), Gmail features

Tech Talk

 

May 11, 2019

Greg Cunningham

I know, I know. I can't believe it either, but apparently, those fake tech support scammers are still out there. You know, the one where a window pops up on your computer telling you about a problem with your computer and making it sound so urgent that you call the number on your screen to get technical support. Or, if not a window on your computer, then maybe it's a phone call saying the same thing.

If you ever get a pop-up window or a phone call saying there's a problem with your computer, take a breath and relax. Remember, THIS IS A SCAM. Nothing is wrong with your computer, and technical support people will NEVER contact you first.

If you get an email that looks like it's from you and to you, claiming they know your password and all the things you've done on your computer and then threaten to expose you unless you send them a Bitcoin ransom, then, you guessed it; that's a scam too. The best policy is to delete them, ignore them or hang up and move on.

Amazon Alexa and privacy

Amazon sells Alexa as an always-on assistant that uses AI to execute commands within a skill set. Not long ago, we learned that Amazon doesn't completely rely on artificial intelligence (AI) and huge databases to work out and execute commands shouted into Alexa devices. Amazon employees help, too. These employees are essentially spying on Alexa users for what Amazon calls "product improvement."

Of course, Amazon didn't let us know about this, concerned Amazon employees did. The folks doing this work also have access to customer's geographic coordinates and even phone numbers.

Amazon doesn't deny that its employees can locate Alexa users, and to date, there haven't been any reports of employees tracking down customers using this data. Amazon says it uses these internal tools to train and improve Alexa by manually processing a small sample of Alexa transactions.

Knowing there are Amazon employees who can look up our Alexa commands and find our location and maybe our phone number, makes Alexa more than a little creepy to me. I guess we've been warned.

Gmail features

Gmail has been around for 15 years. I don't know how long that is in dog years, but it's a long time in internet years. Google has added lots of features to Gmail. Here are a few that you may not know about, but now will secretly lust after.

Preview Pane

If you grew up using Outlook and hate Gmail's simple long list of conversations, surprise! You can enable a preview pane for a more Outlook-like experience. Click the arrow next to the Toggle split pane mode icon (top right by the gear icon) and make your choice-you can view individual emails to the right (vertical) or underneath (horizontal) the main list.

Find by date

You can search your emails based on date. Type "before:2019/1/1" into the Gmail search box to see all messages from before 2019, or "after:2019/1/1" for this year.

Schedule your emails

Starting this year, and not for everybody yet, you can schedule emails for future delivery-it's not available to every user yet, but if you've got the update, you'll see a drop-down menu next to the Send button in the Compose window.

Send and request money

Using Google Pay (which you need to set up first), you can send and request money in your Gmail messages on the web. In the bottom of the Compose window, there's a dollar sign. Click it, then enter the amount you want to get or send.

Wondrous times

I keep saying "Alexa" when I mean "Siri" or the other way around. I can't believe I live in a time where I get my robot assistant's names mixed up.

Do you have a computer or technology question? Greg Cunningham has been providing Tehachapi with on-site PC and network services since 2007. Email Greg at greg@tech-hachapi.com.

 
 

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