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Top 5 Cybersecurity Threats for 2020

Cyberattacks: An Increasing Threat

Cybersecurity is an increasingly important issue. In 2019, cyberattacks on businesses and individuals increased in number and complexity. Cybercriminals are targeting small businesses. According to, more than half of small businesses experienced a breach last year. On average, the attacks cost businesses $200,000 with many going out of business.1

Criminals not only attack businesses, but also individuals. Rumors circulated that the Saudi Prince sent a video containing malware to Jeff Bezos’s phone through WhatsApp to track his phone activities.2

Because of the serious threat that cyberattacks represent, Nucleus Computer decided to write about where we see things going this year.

Cybersecurity Threat 1: Mobile Devices Will be Targeted

Typically, criminals look for weaknesses in any business. Because companies usually have some protections in place on their employees’ computers (servers), but not as much on their mobile devices, criminals will increasingly attack them.

Many companies adopt bring your own device (BYOD) policies for employees, which leads to even more security holes. Once the criminals hack a mobile device, they can access the entire office network.3

mobile cybersecurity
Mobile Security

Because there are so many smartphones in the world (about 3.5 billion)4, criminals will target them more often. Besides this, they have a number of ways to attack smartphones, including through email, apps and texts. All of these factors make them a very attractive target.

Cybersecurity Threat 2: IoT Will be Targeted

What is IoT (Internet of Things)? This term refers to all of the devices connected to the Internet, including computers, tablets and smartphones. Also, IoT includes smart speakers (Amazon Echo, Google Home, etc.), smart TVs, security systems and cameras, appliances, smart watches and other items.

IoT security
IoT Security

Because of the huge growth in the number of IoT devices, cybercriminals have a large target market. According to one source, there will be about 75 million IoT devices by 2025.5 Kaspersky, the cybersecurity firm, found 105 million attacks in the first half of 2019, compared to the same time period in 2018.6

Because manufacturers rush these devices to market, they do not provide them with sufficient security protection. Criminals take advantage of this by sending malware to them or using them to access other devices on the same network.

Some researchers hacked into smart devices using a laser. Please check out the following video:

Threat 3: Cloud Providers Will be Targeted

In 2019, businesses and individuals moved their files and software computing needs to the cloud. They use services like Microsoft Office 365 and Azure and Amazon Web Services. Because of this, there is no longer a need for a lot of hardware onsite, including servers.

cloud security
Cloud Security

Because of this change, cybercriminals will increasingly launch attacks on cloud providers, including online backup companies. This will make it important for businesses and people to research the providers’ security practices. Do they have data stored in several different locations? What encryption does the provider use?

Threat 4: Ransomware Attacks Become More Targeted

In the first quarter 2019, ransomware attacks grew by 118% and doubled for the entire year.7 Ransomware is malware which is installed on computers and devices. Typically, it will scramble documents and files and generate a popup demanding payment to unscramble them. Usually, the popup provides specific payment instructions, requesting payment in bitcoin, because the transaction remains anonymous.

Ransomware Attack
Ransomware Example

In 2019, ransomware attacks hit local governments, healthcare providers, hospital systems, dental practices, banks and corporations. In 2020, we expect this trend to continue. Because larger businesses have stronger security defenses, we expect that criminals will increasingly go after small businesses, which typically don’t have the financial resources to invest in cybersecurity.

Also, we expect these attacks to be well planned out as criminals observe businesses’ activities and systems for a while, before launching an attack. Finally, we expect the ransomware attacks to go after specific company files, like backups. This will make businesses very vulnerable.

In addition, attacks will increase on individuals, especially high net worth ones. These attacks are highly profitable and quicker, because the target is one person and not a large corporation with its bureaucracies.

Threat 5: Cybercriminals Will use Artificial Intelligence

In the past few years, the capabilities of Artificial Intelligence (AI) have grown dramatically. Many companies, like Alphabet, Apple and Tesla, are developing self-driving cars, which improve through learning.

artificial intelligence cybersecurity
Artificial Intelligence

Companies incorporate Artificial Intelligence in their cybersecurity defense systems. While AI can add to companies’ security, many criminals observe these defense systems to determine their patterns and weaknesses. Then, they craft attacks which go after their specific holes.

We expect this trend to continue and for cybercriminals to increasingly use Artificial Intelligence and automation to guide their attacks. At one time, they will launch several different types of attacks. Then, they will tweak their campaigns based on continuous feedback on the results.

In conclusion, we hope this article has been useful and informative. If you have any questions about this topic or would like a free IT consult, please feel free to contact Nucleus Computer Services at our Contact Us page.


1 “Cyberattacks now cost companies $200,000 on average, putting many out of business” Link to Site

2 “Saudi Hack of Bezos’ Phone Shines Bright Light on Security Challenges” Link to Site

3 “2020 Cybersecurity Trends to Watch” Link to Site

4 “How Many Smart Phones are in the World? ” Link to Site

5 “Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices installed base worldwide from 2015 to 2025” Link to Site

6 “Kaspersky Reports More Than 100 Million Attacks Hit Smart Devices in H1 2019” Link to Site

7 “Ransomware Attacks Double in 2019, Brute-Force Attempts Increase” Link to Site

7 Ways to Better Use Microsoft Outlook

The Most Popular Email Program

Do you know that there are over 1.2 billion Microsoft Office users worldwide? And there are over 180 million Office 365 users? Many of them use Microsoft Outlook as their email program.

Whether you are a business or home user, Outlook has many great features which help you organize your email, calendars and contacts. Many people do not realize that Outlook has some interesting tools, which they are not utilizing. If they did, they would be much more productive.

In this article, we want to point out Outlook features, which you may not use, but are really useful.

Create Reminders from Emails

Instead of separately creating an Outlook reminder, you can create one by dragging and dropping an email to the task list icon at the bottom left hand corner. This shortcut will reduce the time spent on reminders and tie certain emails to specific tasks. Then, you can view your tasks to review any outstanding items.

Use email to create a task.
Drag Outlook Email to Task Icon
Email Task Creation
Create Task and Reminder

Set up an Inbox “cc” Folder

Are you overwhelmed by the sheer number of Outlook Inbox emails? Do you receive a lot emails you are “cc’d” on and not the main recipient? We suggest you create a “cc” subfolder to your Inbox folder and a rule to direct ”cc” emails there. When creating a rule, you will select ” Where My Name Is Not In The To Bo.” Then, forward emails to the new folder.

Create Outlook Rule
Create Inbox-cc folder

This step would eliminate a lot of your Inbox clutter and help you focus on the most important emails. Still, you can check the “cc” folder to see if there are items you need to follow up on.

Use Outlook Email Templates and Quick Parts

Do you find that you are sending the same emails with the same text day after day? If you are a business, are you constantly sending emails with info about your return policy or with answers to the same questions?

Outlook Email Templates

With email templates, you can quickly send the same email many times. To set up an email template, follow these steps:

  1. On the Home tab, in the New group, click New E-mail.

Keyboard shortcut     To create an email message, press CTRL+SHIFT+M.

In the message body, enter the content that you want.

  1. In the message window, click the File tab.
  2. Click Save As.
  3. In the Save As dialog box, in the Save as type list, click Outlook Template.

When you are ready to use an email template, do the following:

Select New Items > More Items > Choose Form.

In the Choose Form dialog box, in Look In, click User Templates in File System.

Select the template, and then click Open.

Outlook Quick Parts

By using Quick Parts, you can greatly decrease your time spent composing emails. Essentially, you are creating shortcuts for text or items you frequently email.

To add a shortcut to Quick Parts, you need to start a new email and type the text you want to add to future emails. Then, highlight this text and click on the Insert tab at the top. Afterwards, click on Quick Parts and Save Selection to Quick Gallery. Finally, you can name this shortcut and save it.

Quick Parts Shortcut Setup
Quick Parts Shortcut Setup

When you work on Outlook emails in the future, you can click on the Insert tab and then go to Quick Parts. If you select the shortcut you created, it will add the corresponding text to the email. Also, you can type in the shortcut’s name and press F3.

Schedule Outlook Emails

By scheduling when you send Outlook emails, you can be much more productive. On the weekend, you may not want to bother clients or suppliers with emails. When you are watching a football game or the latest show on Netflix, you can still work on emails and then schedule them to be sent out at an opportune time the next week.

When writing a new email, select the More Options arrow from the Tags group in the ribbon. Under Delivery Options, make sure to check the box next to Do not deliver before and specify a date. Finally, click send and you’re set.

Schedule Outlook Emails

Specify Outlook Notifications

If you get a notification for every new Inbox email, this can be very distracting. Instead, create a rule to only display notifications from specific senders. If you only want to get alerts for emails sent from your boss, you could right click on one of your boss’s emails and select Rules. Then, you could click on Create Rule. Under Advanced Options, you check off the box next to display a Desktop Alert and Save.

Create Outlook Notification Rule
Create Outlook Notification Rule
Create Outlook Notification Rule

Create Outlook Search Folders

Do you find you spend a lot of time searching for specific Outlook emails? Do you usually do the same email searches? To save time, you can create specific search folders. For instance, if you always look for emails with attachments, then you could make a folder for this purpose.

To create a search folder, click on the Folder tab and New Search Folder. From here, you can select from prearranged criteria like mail with attachments or make a custom folder based on other criteria. Then, the new folder(s)s will pop up under Search Folders on the left side.

Create Outlook Search Folder
Outlook Search Criteria

Use Outlook Conversation Cleanup Tool

A conversation refers to an email chain. When you email someone and they reply, a conversation is created. Imagine a large group working on a project sends many emails back and forth. All you would really need is the last email which contains the entire email chain.

The Outlook Conversation tool analyzes conversations and removes all of the redundant emails. Therefore, you have fewer emails to look at and Outlook data file is smaller. This would help you to work faster and more productively.

Outlook Cleanup Tool
Outlook Cleanup Tool


Hopefully, this article presented you with some valuable new information about Outlook. If Nucleus Computer can assist you in any way setting up or troubleshooting Outlook or Office 365, please feel to visit our Contact us page.

References: “Office 365 Reaches 180 Million Monthly Active Users” Link to Site “12+ Tips and Tricks to Work Faster in Microsoft Outlook” Link to Site “10 Quick Tips to Get Better at Outlook” Link to Site “10 time-saving tips to speed your work in Outlook”  Link to Site “7 Microsoft Outlook Tips and Tricks for Better Email Management” Link to Site “Top 10 Microsoft Outlook Tips to Maximize Efficiency” Link to Site

Dark Web Scans: Are They Worth it?

Dark Web Scans

Should you do a dark web scan for your business or personal information?  Many of companies promote dark web scans online or on TV.  For instance, Experian offers a free scan when you set up an account with them.1

Supposedly, dark web scans discover whether or not someone hacked your personal and financial information.  Often, you’ll find this info on the “hidden” web where criminals try to sell it.

In this article, we explore whether or not you should do a dark web scan.

What is the Dark Web?

Besides the Surface web which everyone explores, there exists a hidden web with sites called the “Deep Web.”

The Dark Web refers to the part of the Deep Web where criminals have illegal sites and conduct illegal activities, like selling stolen Social Security numbers or drugs.  Also, you need special software, like one called Tor, to access this web.

Dark Web Scans

Dark Web Scans: Are They Worth it?

To answer this question, we’ll compare the regular web with the Deep web.  The regular web, which we can see, is really small compared to the Deep web.  It can thought of as the surface of the ocean, while the Deep web constitutes the rest.

Dark Web

Also, you can search the Surface web using search engines like Google, Bing or DuckDuckGo.  On the other hand, one cannot search the Deep Web.2

Because of its large size and unsearchable neature, we don’t recommend doing a Dark web scan.   It’s like looking for a needle in a hay stack.  Also, criminals use a lot of tools on the Dark web to hide their identity.  Until they thoroughly screen other parties and collect payment, they do not make sensitive personal and financial information available .3

Nothing is Free!

Therefore, we suggest that you don’t try any of the free dark scans the Experian Credit Agency and others offer.  They advertise free scans to try to get users to sign up for their paid monthly services.

Experian offers a free dark web scan to see if someone hacked your email address and password.  We believe they don’t do a real dark web scan, but just looking at publicly available data dumps.  If you sign up for their monthly plan, Experian offers to do a search based on your Social Security number, bank account numbers and other information.  Therefore, Experian uses the initial free scan to entice you to sign up for their monthly subscription service.4

How Can I Tell if my Info has Been Hacked?

Instead of requesting a dark web scan, you can use some free tools to see if your sensitive information has been exposed.  For instance, at one website (, you can check if someone hacked your info.  Also, you can set up an account to receive alerts in case someone hacks one of your accounts.

Hack Check

Also, BreachAlarm represents a good alternative to the “Have I been Pawned” website and offers many of the same services and features. A website called DeHashed differs some from these other two.  Besides checking on email address hackings, DeHashed searches for hacks related to your name, password and other info.5

How Can I Protect Myself and My Business?

You should operate under the assumption that a hacker compromised your login credentials at some point.  Last year, cybercriminals hacked the Equifax credit agency and got Social Security and Driver’s License numbers on over 143 million people.6

To protect yourself and your business, you should use unique passwords for every online account and also change these passwords frequently (at least once every three months).   By using a password manager like Lastpass or Dashlane, you can secure online accounts.7

To protect yourself further, you should consider putting a freeze on your credit with the three main credit bureaus (i.e., Equifax, Experian and TransUnion).  This will prevent any criminal from requesting credit using your stolen info.  If you need to request credit, like applying for a home loan, you can temporarily unfreeze your credit.8

Freezing you credit will not prevent your bank or other financial accounts from being hacked.  You will should monitor their activity separately.


1 “Is Your Information on the Dark Web?” Link to Site

2 “A beginner’s guide to the dark web” Link to Site

3 “What is a “Dark Web Scan” and Should You Use One?”  Link to Site

4 “The Experian Dark Web Scan: Do You Need it and Can You Trust it?” Link to Site

5 “How to know if you’ve been hacked” Link to Site

6 “Equifax Hackers Steal Personal Details of Up to 143 Million People” Link to Site

7 “10 ways to protect against hackers” Link to Site

8 “Credit Freeze FAQs” Link to Site

Credit Agencies:

Equifax:  Link to Website

Experian: Link to Website

TransUnion: Link to Website

New Computer Buying Guide


Thinking of Buying a new Computer?

At Nucleus Computer Services, we frequently field questions from clients in the market for a new computer.  Because of this, we decided to write an article which would cover some of the most common questions.

Hardware Recommendations:


Hard Drive

At a minimum, you should select a 500 GB hard drive, because it should provide sufficient storage for your files. Also, we strongly recommend that you go with a solid state drive. These drives are faster and more reliable than traditional SATA ones. If you are going to own the new computer for 3-5 years, a solid state drive’s extra cost is well worth the performance boost.

New Computer Hard Drive

Memory (RAM)

At a minimum, Nucleus recommends 8 GB of RAM memory. Most PCs and Macs come with this amount. RAM is different from hard drive space. It can be thought of in terms of humans’ short-term memory or a place where you can work on current items. If you are going to run a lot of programs or open many web pages at the same time or use memory intensive programs like Quickbooks, your performance will improve with more RAM.

New Computer Memory


A processor is essentially the “brain” of the computer. It receives inputs from the RAM, translates it and transmits it to other computer parts.  It performs calculations, actions and runs programs. The better the processor, the quicker your computer will be.

Because of their greater performance and reliability, Nucleus recommends that you select Intel over AMD processors.  Also, we recommend at least an i5 processor. Intel offers a range of processors based on capability and speed: i3, i5 and i7.

New Computer Processor

Software Recommendations:

When buying a new computer, you will also have to make some software choices. If you already have a MS Office subscription, you should be able to transfer this to a new computer. If you do not, you will need to decide between an Office 2019 standalone version or an Office 365 (O365) subscription.

With the standalone version, you would pay a one-time fee ($249.99 for Home and Business 2019) and install programs like Outlook, Word and Excel. Office 365 offers a suite of software and services for a monthly subscription. For instance, O365 Business Premium includes Office 2019 for 5 devices, email, 1TB of cloud storage and other features for about $13/month.

New Computer Software

To protect your PC or Mac from virus attacks, you should consider anti-virus software.  Typically, Nucleus recommends Webroot.  While it is great at protecting your device, Webroot is not a resource hog like Norton or McAfee.

Other Considerations:

If you are working in a specific industry or going to be using certain programs, you might want to consider additional features.  For example, a Graphic/Interior Designer or Architect would be better suited with a Mac.  If you are using a program which relies heavily on displaying detailed images like AutoCAD, Photoshop and others, you should probably upgrade your video card.  Otherwise, you run into display issues, like slowness and even computer crashes.

If you are buying a laptop and going to be carrying it with you a lot, you should consider its size and weight.  The average laptop weighs about 4-5 pounds with a screen size of 15.6 inches.  Although we like Dell computers, their laptops tend to weigh more.  If you’re going to be travelling, we recommend Lenovo, Asus and LG laptops for their lightweight design.


5 Ways to Use Technology to Be More Productive at Work or Home

How Productive Are You?

Are there times you wish you were more productive?  In the movie Office Space, Peter Gibbons tells the HR consultants “I’d say in a given week, I do about 15 minutes of real, actual work.”1

Now, that’s extreme.  But there are probably times you wish you could have done more.   And you’re not alone.  One study found that the average employee really works 3 hours in a 8 hour day.  He or she spends the rest of the time socializing, eating food and checking social media.2

Technology Trends

This article shows you how to use technology to get the most out of your day, while keeping in mind some major trends.  One trend is that people are using mobile devices more to do just about everything.  In 2017, Americans spent over four hours a day on their mobile devices, including smart phones and tablets. 3   85% of American adults use a mobile device to access news.4

Another major trend is more people are working remotely, including their home.  One study by Zug, Switzerland-based serviced office provider IWG, found that 70% of global professionals work remotely at least one day a week.5

Home Office


5 Ways Technology Can Make You More Productive

Remote Access and Cloud File Sharing Services

Through VPNs (Virtual Private Networks), you can connect securely to your work computers and networks.  This technology enables you to get work done from anywhere at any time.  While not typically as secure as VPNs, remote access software like Teamviewer or LogMeIn serve the same purpose.

Cloud file sharing services, like OneDrive, Google Drive and DropBox, let users share and edit docs across devices and locations.  Once a user edits a document, others in his or her group see the changes.  A work crew takes pics of their onsite progress and these become immediately accessible to an offsite builder.


Note Taking Applications

By using note taking apps, like Evernote, MS OneNote, Google Keep, Headspace and Zoho Notebook, you don’t have to constantly lug a notebook around.  Usually, these apps let you use text, drawings, voice recordings, pics and other media to record a meeting.  Imagine going to a consult at a prospect’s office and taking digital notes.  Because these are cloud-based apps, your co-workers and others see your work in real-time.  And you won’t have to waste time typing out written notes and emailing them to others.


Communication Software

By using communication software, like Facetime, Skype, Zoom, Slack and Google Hangouts, people avoid the travel time and expenses of an onsite visit. Technological improvements in communication software make it easy to work in teams.  For instance, with Zoom and Skype people can share computer screens and look at documents together.

Slack lets team members organize communications in many flexible ways.  Groups work in channels, which can be based on teams, projects, clients or other categories.  For instance, one channel could include the sales team, while another channel could made of all employees from different departments working on a project.  Also, Slack allows channel members to do voice or video calls and share files.  Finally, they can get team members’ feedback and search conversation history.


Task and Project Applications

By using task applications, like Wunderlist, Microsoft To-Do, Google Tasks and Omnifocus, you can be more productive.  The Wunderlist app lets you create something as simple as a grocery list or as complex as a project plan.  Also, it helps team members work collaboratively on projects.  Because it is cloud based, users can share lists, make edits and provide feedback.  Finally, you can set notifications to remind the team about important deadlines.



Digital Transactions

Many businesses and individuals are stuck in the past in this area.  If you still collect client payments by depositing checks at the bank or taking credit card info over the phone, there are quicker ways to do this.  For instance, field staff can use card scanners or mobile apps to collect credit card payments and client signatures.  Also, you could deposit checks remotely using mobile scanning apps.  Finally, many companies collect payments through a merchant account like PayPal.  For bookkeeping purposes, you could sync PayPal with Quickbooks.


Additional Suggestions to Be More Productive

There are several other applications you may want to look into to increase your productivity.  Below, please find a brief summary of each.


ClickTime is an application which employees, managers and executives use to manage employees’ time, team projects and company budgets.  Traveling employees can use the mobile app or go online to report expenses to the central office.  They can enter each expense and take a picture of the receipt for quick reimbursement.  Also, ClickTime offers many reports which enable managers and businesses to see in real-time projects’ profitability.  Finally, this app integrates with CRM and financial products, like Salesforce and Quickbooks.

For more info on this app, check here:  ClickTime


RescueTime is a software application, which tracks your web browsing and offline habits.  It provides detailed reports about your activity.  This way, you see how you are spending your day and how you can be more productive.  In addition, you can set goals for the day or week and track your progress towards them.  Also, you can set up notifications for certain activity.  For instance, you can create an alarm which will notify you when you have spent one hour on Facebook in a day.

For more info on this app, check here:  RescueTime

Boomerang (for Gmail)

Have you ever wanted to schedule when email(s) are sent?  Boomerang is an add-on to your browser, which will allow you to do this and use Gmail more productively.  With this add-on, you can also schedule reminders.  If someone has not responded to your initial email, you can schedule a notification to follow up at a certain date.  Boomerang Respondable analyzes your email drafts and provides feedback on how to improve the content.

For more info on this app, check here:   Boomerang







1 “Top 27 Quotes From Office Space.”  Link to Site

2 “8-hour Workday May be 5 Hours too Long Research suggests.”  Link to Site

3 “How Much Time do People Spend on Their Mobile Phones in 2017.”  Link to Site

4 “Percent of Americans use Mobile Devices to Access News and Seniors are Driving That Number up.”  Link to Site

5 “Percent of People Globally Work Remotely at Least Once a Week, Study Says.”  Link to Site

Mac Versus PC: Which One Should I Buy?

Mac Versus PC

For years, there has been a heated debate about which is better: Mac or PC.  Many people have strong opinions about why they prefer one over the other.  You might have heard from friends about how they love their Macs and their reliability.

In writing this article, we are not looking to renew a heated debate.  Instead, we hope to help individuals and businesses who are looking to buy a new computer and are not sure if they want a Mac or PC.

Below, we have outlined several areas where Macs and PCs differ to help you with your purchase decision.

Mac and PC Prices

In general, Macs are marketed as premium computers with quality parts and Computer Pricedesign, so they tend to be more expensive.  Currently, a 12-inch Macbook Air may cost about $1,300, while a 13-inch Macbook Pro runs about $1,500.

For PCs, the cost range is lot greater.  On the one hand, you could buy a basic Windows 10 laptop for a couple hundred dollars.  On the other hand, a Dell XPS 13-inch laptop can be comparable in price to a Mac, especially when you start to add more memory or other features.

If you are looking for a basic computer for reading emails, browsing websites and writing letters, a PC might be the preferable option.  The higher cost of a Mac may not be justified.

Verdict: PC wins because they generally cost less.


In this area, Macs excel.  Apple has spent a lot of time and money in designing sleek, lightweight and modern Macs.  It is obvious they have thought a lot about providing an excellent user experience, while designing practical products.  A 15-inch Mac Book Pro weighs about 4 pounds, while some Dell or HP laptops can weigh over 2 pounds more.  This is a large difference if you are going to be carrying a laptop around all day.


Macbook Pro


The iMac now comes with a super thin display which is just 5MM thin at its edge.  Windows PC all-in-ones, like the new Dell Inspiron 24″, are thicker and bulkier.


In recent years, Windows PC manufacturers have made great strides in design.  A 13-inch Asus Zenbook 430 can weigh under 3 pounds and is ultra thin at 15.9mm.  Dell XPS laptops come with an almost edge-to-edge infinity display for an optimal viewing experience.  Also, many PC laptops, like the Microsoft Surface, allow you to remove the display and use it as a tablet.  Other PCs allow you to bend the display all the way around to adjust to any viewing experience.

Asus ZenbookVerdict: Mac wins this category, but the gap is narrowing. 

Included Features and Software

One feature some computer users like is being able to use a touchscreen on a computer.   The touchscreen lets them scroll up and down or pinch in or out to expand a photo.  This is one area where PCs excel over Macs.  While many PCs come with touchscreens, Apple for the most part has decided not to include this feature.

Touchscreen Laptop

One nice feature of Windows PCs, phones and tablets is that you can use the same user interface and touchscreen features across all devices.  On Apple products (i.e., Macbook Pro, iPad and iPhone), the user interface is different.

In some areas, Macs excel over PCs in how their different devices connect.  For instance, with iMessage, Apple users can start a text on their phone and then finish it on their Mac computer.  They also can use Airdrop to easily share photos with other Apple users, not matter what the device.  Windows PCs are behind in this area.

In terms of the preinstalled software, Macs are ahead of PCs.  They come with Photos, iMovie and other programs.  These allow you to not only view photos, but to edit them in many ways.  With Windows 10, new PCs come with more editing capabilities, but they are no match for a Mac.

Because many manufacturers (i.e., Acer, Dell and HP) make Windows PCs, they often come with preinstalled software which can really slow them down.  HP loads their computers with lots of useless software, like “HP Touchpoint Analytics Client,” which sends your data to HP, but can really slow it down.

Verdict:  Mac and PC tie.   They both offer unique features.

Hardware Upgrades

Following up on the design category, it is easy to why PCs have an edge for hardware upgrades.  Generally, PC makers offer more options when you purchase a new PC.  Also, you can normally upgrade more items on an existing PC, like the hard drive, memory, processor, video card and Wi-Fi card.  Many people design their own customized PCs, like one for gaming.

On the other hand, there are fewer upgrade options on a Mac.  Usually, you can only change the hard drive and memory.

With more detachable panels and larger interior space, PCs make it easier to take them apart and upgrade parts.  These differences allow PCs to be more flexible to changes in technology and the resource requirements of certain software.

Verdict: PCs win this category, because they offer more upgrade options. 

Virus and Malware Infections

In this area, Macs have traditionally had the advantage.  Because newer Macs have operating systems which run on Unix kernel (one of the oldest and most secure operating systems), Macs are less likely to be infected by viruses and malware.  Because Macs only make up less than 10% of the computer market worldwide, those who create viruses are less likely to go after them.


Recently, however, we have seen an uptick in Mac virus and malware infections.  For example, Macs have been hit by ransomware, which scrambles certain files and demands a payment from the Mac user to recover them.

Verdict: Macs beat PCs, because they are more secure.


In general, PCs are easier to repair and the repair cost is lower.  Because PCs are designed to allow their hardware to be upgraded, it is easier to access parts to replace them.  For laptops, all you have to do is unscrew a panel at the bottom and replace a part.  New Macs combine several parts into one, so you have to replace a larger, more expensive part when there is a hardware failure.  For instance, while the motherboard and video card may be separate on PCs, in Macs they are one piece.

In terms of customer service, Apple tends to have the edge over PC manufacturers.  If they experience issues with their Mac, users can make an repair appointment at a local Apple store.  Usually, this goes smoothly and their issue is resolved.  Apple also stands firmly behind their warranty.  We have seen cases where they have given clients an entirely new iPad to make sure they are happy.

For Windows PCs, it can be a nightmare calling any manufacturer’s tech support line.  The caller can wait a half an hour for a someone from a call center in another country to pick up and then get little or no help.

Verdict: Mac and PC tie.  Both have their pluses and minuses in this area.

Video Gaming

In this area, PCs have a definitive advantage.  Because it is easier to customize a new PC or upgrade an existing one, they are better suited for video gaming.  For example, you can add a new video card to PCs to meet the graphic requirements of a new game.

Also, there are so many more video games available on a PC then a Mac.  Finally, PCs let players stream Xbox One and Playstation games, while Macs only allow to stream PlayStation games.

Verdict: PCs win this category by a decisive margin.

Video Games


In deciding between a Mac and Windows PC, your choice will depend on which features are most important.  If you are looking for a basic computer to browse the Internet and check emails, then a PC would be a better choice.  If you plan on doing a lot of photo or video editing, then a Mac may be better.  If you are going to spend most of your time playing video games, then a PC would be the best option.  Typically, there are more options available to customize PC.  Also, many more video games are available to PC users.



5 Ways to Protect Yourself and Your Business Against Tax Scams

Watch Out for Tax Scams!

It’s that time of year again: tax filing season.  It can be really stressful!  Unfortunately, there is usually a large jump in the number of tax scams at this time of the year.  Cyber security experts have warned about the specific ways that cyber criminals steal sensitive, private information.

A month or so ago, the IRS released its “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams for 2017.1  In this list, the IRS mentioned phone and phishing scams as serious threats.

Phishing is defined as “the attempt to obtainTax Scam  sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details (and, indirectly, money), often for malicious reasons, by disguising as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.”2 

Basically, criminals pretend to be someone you trust in order to steal important financial and personal info.  They use this information to log into peoples’ accounts, like bank accounts, to transfer funds.  Also, they sell it to other criminals.  Phishing can be done through phone calls, emails, texts and other communication forms.

Consumer Tax Scam Examples

Recently, criminals are using a number of different tax scams to attack consumers.  They make calls or send emails, which appear to be from the IRS.  Their emails ask the consumer to update missing information, pay an outstanding tax liability or receive a refund by clicking on a link.  Their emails may also contain links to malicious websites, which appear to be IRS related and ask them to enter confidential info.


Tax Scam

Criminals make calls and demand that consumers pay an outstanding tax balance.  They threaten severe penalties if they don’t.   Their scams have gotten very complex.  In some cases when they have already stolen consumers’ personal and financial information, the criminals submit falsified tax returns.  Then, they request that refunds be sent to consumers’ bank accounts.  When the refunds are deposited, they call consumers and pretend to be IRS reps.  They indicate that a refund was made mistakenly and demand that the consumer transfer this money to another account.  Basically, they are involved in money laundering.

Tax Pro and Business Related Tax Scams

Often, criminals use some of the same techniques with tax pros (like accountants) as they do with consumers.  Posing as IRS reps, especially from the e-Services department, they send phishing emails to tax pros asking them to click on a link to sign into their accounts.  However, the link brings them to a fake e-Services site that steals usernames and passwords.  Sometimes, the criminals will send emails tax with attachments containing malware.  Once they click on the attachments, the software will load which tracks their keystrokes.

On the business side, cyber criminals pose as company executives and send emails to HR reps demanding employee W-2’s.  Once the HR reps reply with the requested info, the criminals have everything they need to file false tax returns.


Tax Scam

Realizing these serious threats, we outlined five ways consumers, tax pros and businesses can protect themselves from tax scams.


5 Ways to Protect Your Info from Tax Scams

Use a Secure Internet Connection

When you login into any account containing sensitive info or submit a tax return online, make sure that you are on a private, password protected network.  Don’t ever file taxes or access important information while on a public Wi-fi at Starbucks or the airport.  Instead of clicking on email links, manually type in any website address.  Also, make sure the website you connect with has a “https” in the URL and you see a lock symbol in the address bar.

Encrypt Email and Documents

If you are a tax professional, you should be using encrypted email and documents.  When you send an email, cyber criminals can access its contents at several points during its transmission.  Encryption helps to prevent people hacking into your email account and hides the email’s content from unwanted parties.  Many email services, like Microsoft Office 365, offer the option of encrypted email.

In addition to encrypting emails, you can also encrypt documents to make sure the criminals do not access them.  In order to access a file or folders, you will need to enter a password.  Microsoft Windows comes with software (Bitlocker) to do this.  Also, there is commercial software (Symantec Endpoint Protection) which will protect docs.  Instead of individual files or folders, you can protect entire drives.

Data Protection

Implement Proactive Monitoring and Maintenance Through a Trusted IT Partner

These services will make sure that your computer Operating Systems and software are automatically updated.  This will help keep your systems are secure and protected.  A trusted IT partner should be aware of the most recent threats and take steps to prevent them.

Use a Professional Firewall and Commercial Anti-virus

By installing a physical and software firewall, you create a barrier to your network from the outside world.   Professional firewalls, like Sonicwalls, look for any unusual inbound or outbound network traffic.  They also have anti-virus and anti-malware software which will scan your network for unwanted things.  In addition to a network firewall which would be an outer barrier, each computer should have its own software firewall to scan and potentially block anything which gets into your network.

While a free anti-virus may protect your systems against certain attacks, like virus infections, it may not properly protect you against certain malware.   We recommend commercial software, like Webroot, to protect your systems.

Establish Clear Business Security Policies and Procedures

A business should have specific security policies and procedures in place and communicate them clearly to employees.  For instance, every business should have a specific policy for managing users’ passwords.  It should make sure that everyone uses strong, unique passwords with two-factor authentication.  A business should require that passwords be changed every 30 – 60 days.

Every business should also educate employees on the different email and phone scams they could face, especially tax related ones.  It should have specific procedures what employees should do when they receive a suspicious email or call.  For instance, employees should never open an attachment to an email that discusses tax information.2

Additional Safety Tips

To make sure you and your business are as safe as possible, we included some additional safety tips:

  • When you receive a suspicious email or call, go directly to the source.  If your manager asks for W2’s by email, call him or her to verify.
  • If you file by regular mail, send the documents directly from the post office or a UPS/FedEx site.  Do not leave your tax documents in your mailbox.   Criminals could steal them.
  • Run regular virus/malware scans on your PCs.
  • Schedule quarterly security meetings at your business.  Regularly check that everything is in place to make your business as secure as possible









  1. “IRS Summarizes “Dirty Dozen” List of Tax Scams for 2017.” Link to Site
  2.  Wikipedia “Phishing.” Link to Article
  3.  Applied Synergy Group “5 Ways to Securely File Your Income Tax Return.” Link to Article





















Should I Use Microsoft Office 365?

Microsoft Office 365: What Exactly Is It?

When some clients would ask us what is Office 365, we would watch as their eyes glazed over during our detailed description.  We learned quickly to keep our explanation as short and clear as possible.  We will do that here.

Office 365 is a bundle of software and cloud services, which typically include email and contact, calendar and document management.  The included services depend on the plan selected.

To see an introduction of Office 365 for Business, check out the following video:


The name Office 365 refers to you having the ability to access your office from anywhere at any time (365 days a year).  For instance, if you want to continue working at home on a Word document you started at your office, you can do this on by logging into your Office 365 account at home.  You can even edit this file on your smart phone or tablet.


Office 365 Anywhere Anytime


Office 365’s Popularity Has Grown

Microsoft Office 365 GrowthSince its introduction being over six years ago, Office 365 has become very popular.  According to one source, Office 365 had 120 million users as of September 2017.¹

Despite this popularity, many businesses and personal users have still not adopted it.  Why?  Often, we run into companies who purchase a website domain and email/website hosting as a package.   Email is thrown in as extra service.  When their sales reps complain about not being able to share a calendar, the businesses later find out their email services do not meet their needs.  Office 365 can solve these issues, plus it offers many other capabilities.


Office 365 Review:  Pros and Cons

In this post, we outline some of the benefits you could experience from moving to Office 365.  Also, we mention its drawbacks.  Whether or not it is an appropriate option for you or your business, it depends on your specific situation.



Increased Productivity

Believe it or not, we still run into businesses which post daily meetings and events on an office bulletin board.  What about their field employees who do not pass by the office?  How do employees find out about changes to the schedule?

Office 365 includes a whole host of tools, which make a business and personal user more productive.  Because it allows for shared calendars, contacts and files, which can be viewed and updated in real time on any device, no employee is left out in the cold about what is going on in his or her business.  Also, they don’t have to waste time trying to contact other employees to update them.


Increased Productivity

Increased Collaboration

Want to be able to work better as a team on a project?  Want to be able to edit a document at the same time from various locations and track the changes?

We run into some businesses where employees work on docs one at a time and then email the changes to others.  This method couldn’t be more time consuming and inefficient.

Through an application called OneDrive or logging into their Office 365 portal, employees can create, edit, share and collaborate on project documents.  Office 365 also comes with Skype and Lync, which allow employees to schedule and conduct online group meetings and chat sessions.  They can share screens with others to look at project documents or to present to one another.

Increased Flexibility and Scalability

In the past, for email many businesses have had to purchase and install an in-house server, along with Microsoft Exchange licenses.  This represents a huge upfront expense, not to mention the large ongoing cost of maintaining the server, software and licenses.  Before they knew it, their hardware was outdated and they had to buy a new server.  Or the company had doubled its employee count and its technology infrastructure could not keep up.

Office 365 allows for great flexibility with organizational changes. This point is crucial for small businesses.  If a business doubles (or halves its employee count), it can easily add (or remove) Office 365 user licenses in a matter of seconds.  Office 365 can scale up with a business’s growth.

Increased Flexibility

Because the monthly subscription cost of Office 365 is consistent, businesses can easily predict how much their monthly expense will be.  Unpredictable, expensive server repairs and upgrades are a thing of the past.

Improved Security and Disaster Recovery

Have you ever thought about how secure your or your company’s email service is?  Most businesses don’t think about this.

Microsoft uses the latest technological advancements to protect its Office 365 clients.  This is the same technology Microsoft uses to protect itself and its enterprise level clients.  Other smaller email providers simply do not have the resources to protect you and your information.

Office 365 protects you by scanning incoming emails for malware and virus threats, before anything loads onto your computer.  If anything is detected, the system will block it or send you a warning message.

God forbid a natural disaster were to happen somewhere in the US or abroad, Microsoft has data centers in many locations.  This redundancy protects your email and important documents from disastrous events, like last year’s Houston flooding.


Natural Disaster

Increased Reliability

Unlike other email and cloud services providers, Microsoft financially guarantees a 99.9% uptime.  If this service level is not meet, then they will reimburse clients.  Records show that Microsoft has always met this service level.  You can be sure that your Office 365 email, document and cloud services will always be working.  This reliability is vital to businesses at any time, but especially crucial when an important deadline needs to be met.  Imagine not being able to email an important contract to a client.  How would you feel?



Poor Technical Support

While Office 365 has some great features, some of its aspects can be improved.  For instance, customer service has always been an issue with Microsoft and any large tech company.  When you have a problem with Office 365, don’t expect to contact Microsoft and resolve it right away.  You may have to go through a number of voice prompts and wait in the queue a half an hour until you finally speak with someone at Office 365 tech support.  In recent years, Microsoft has greatly improved their support by offering more options like chat and scheduled call backs.


Poor customer service

File Sharing Issues

Another aspect that could be improved about Office 365 is its file sharing applications and services.  Similar to Dropbox, Office 365 uses an application called OneDrive to sync documents on your computer or mobile device.  If you make changes to a file in a OneDrive folder on your office PC, then you should see those same changes in the same OneDrive file when you are at home.

Sometimes, we run into issues with files not syncing from from PC to another or one user to another and have to spend time trying to determine why.  If you don’t name a file properly or its name is too long, it may not sync.  Microsoft details specific file/folder naming conventions you need to follow (see invalid file names and types).  These limitations of the file sharing service can be annoying.

Also,  Microsoft offers several different file sharing applications with very similar names, which can be very confusing.  Both OneDrive and OneDrive for Business are both applications for file sharing and syncing.  OneDrive is supposed to hold your personal files, while OneDrive for Business holds your business information.  You can run both of these applications on your computer at the same time.  Because their names and icons are very similar, it can become difficult to sometimes know which one you are working in.

Disruptive Updates

Finally, Microsoft is notorious for introducing updates which throw off a perfectly working system.  We have seen some instances where updates to the Office software (from 2013 to 2016) or Operating system (Windows 7 to 10) have disrupted Office 365 file sharing or other services.



While it has some drawbacks, Office 365 can be a great tool for individuals and businesses.  It can increase their productivity and ability to collaborate with others.  In addition, Office 365 provides great administrative and financial flexibility to businesses by allowing them to scale up or down according to their organizational needs and changes.  Finally, Office 365 email, file sharing and cloud services come with greater security and reliability than many competitor products.

To get some additional information about Microsoft Office 365, please check out the references below.



  1. “Microsoft Office 365 now has 120 million business users.”                Link to Article
  2.  Different O365 Plan Options
  3. O365 Support Page














iPhone X and 8 vs Samsung Galaxy S8 – Is there a Clear Winner?

Unless you live in a cave, you have probably heard that Apple recently introduced two new iPhone models (iPhone X and 8).  While the iPhone 8 (and 8+) is available at retail stores, the iPhone X may not be available until mid November.

Because the holiday season is rapidly approaching and many people may be thinking about upgrading or replacing their existing smart phone, we decided to compare the new iPhones to one of their chief competitor’s smart phone: Samsung Galaxy S8.  We realize there are other great smart phones like the Google Pixel and upcoming LG V30.   We will take these up in a future post.

Apple iPhone X (and 8) Versus Samsung Galaxy S8 Comparison

iPhone X and 8

Galaxy S8 vs iphone X
Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus


To compare these smart phones directly, we put together a chart which shows their features in a simple, easy to understand manner.

iPhone 8 iPhone 8 Plus iPhone X Samsung Galaxy S8 Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus
Release Date 9/22/2017


Pre-orders start 10.27.17 4/17


Price $699 for 64GB model; $849 for 256GB model

$799 for 64GB model; $949 for 256GB model

$999 for 64GB model; $1,149 for 256GB model

$724.99 unlocked; $1149 for 256GB model

$724.99 unlocked; $1149 for 256GB model

Colors Gold, silver, space grey

Gold, silver, space grey

Silver, Space grey

Midnight, grey and silver

Midnight, grey and silver

4.7 inches 5.5 inches 5.8 inches 5.8 inches 6.2inches
Display Resolution 1334 x 750 pixels, 326 pixels per inch 1920x 1080 pixels, 401 pixels per inch 2436 x 1125 pixels, 458 pixels per inch 2960 x 1440 pixels, 570 pixels per inch 2960 x 1440 pixels, 529 pixels per inch
Display Features Retina HD, True Tone, 3D Touch Retina HD, True Tone, 3D Touch Super Retina, new OLED, True Tone, 3D Touch Quad HD+ Super AMOLED Quad HD+ Super AMOLED
Dimensions 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3 mm 158.4 x 78.1 x 7.5 mm 143.6 z 70.9 x 7.7 mm 148.9 x 68.1 x 8.0 mm 159.5 x 73.4 x 8.1 mm
Weight 148 grams 202 grams 174 grams 155 grams 173 grams
Storage 64GB/256GB 64GB/256GB 64GB/256GB 64GB - Expandable 64GB - Expandable
Processor Apple A11 Bionic, M11 co-processor Apple A11 Bionic, M11 co-processor Apple A11 Bionic, M11 co-processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 835/Exynos 8895 Qualcomm Snapdragon 835/Exynos 8895
Memory 2GB 3GB 3GB 4GB 4GB
Rear Camera 12-megapixel, f/1.8, 5x digital zoom, quad-LED flash 12-megapixel wide-angle, f/1.8, OIS and 12-megapixel telephoto, f/2.8, 10x digital zoom, portrait mode 12-megapixel wide-angle, f/1.8, OIS and 12-megapixel telephoto, f/2.8, 10x digital zoom, portrait mode 12-megapixel OIS, f1.7, 1/2.5" sensor size, 1.4µm pixel size, Autofocus, touch focus, face/smile detection 12-megapixel OIS, f1.7, 1/2.5" sensor size, 1.4µm pixel size, Autofocus, touch focus, face/smile detection
Front Camera 7-megapixel FaceTime HD, f/2.2 7-megapixel FaceTime HD, f/2.2 7-megapixel FaceTime HD, f/2.2 8MP with autofocus, f/1.7 aperture, Auto HDR 8MP with autofocus, f/1.7 aperture, Auto HDR
Video 4k at 24/30/60 Frames Per Second (FPS), 1080 pixel video at 30/60 FPS 4k at 24/30/60 FPS, 1080 pixel video at 30/60 FPS 4k at 24/30/60 FPS, 1080 pixel video at 30/60 FPS 4K video @30 FPS, 1080p HD video recording at 30/60 FPS 4K video @30 FPS, 1080p HD video recording at 30/60 FPS
Biometric Security Touch ID Touch ID Face ID iris scanner, fingerprint scanner, face recognition iris scanner, fingerprint scanner, face recognition
Battery Capacity 1,821mAh 2,691 mAh 2,716mAh 3,000mAh 3,500mAh
Charging Fast battery charging, Wireless Fast battery charging, Wireless Fast battery charging, Wireless Fast battery charging, Wireless Fast battery charging, Wireless
Waterproof Yes (IP67 Certified) Yes (IP67 Certified) Yes (IP67 Certified) Yes (IP68 Certified) Yes (IP68 Certified)
Connectivity Wi-Fi, 4G/LTE, Lightning connector Wi-Fi, 4G/LTE, Lightning connector Wi-Fi, 4G/LTE, Lightning connector Wi-Fi, 4G/LTE, USB-C Wi-Fi, 4G/LTE, USB-C


iPhone X (and 8) vs Galaxy S8 Review

In reviewing these phones, we find that which smart phone wins depends on the feature you look at.  The Galaxy S8 costs less, starting at $724.99 unlocked.  Also, many cellular providers have attractive trade in offers of $200 – $300 for older phones.  On the other hand, if you want to add to the Galaxy S8’s limited internal storage, a separate micro sd card runs about $125, which adds to the overall cost.

We prefer the Galaxy S8’s design to any of the new iPhones’ design.  Its bezel-less infinity display with curved glass edges on both sides creates the optimal viewing experience.  Also, it has a higher resolution display with more pixels per inch than any of the iPhone models, resulting in a better viewing experience.  The new iPhone X has a notch at the top of the screen, which disrupts the viewing experience and can take some getting used to.

Also, the Samsung Galaxy S8 has larger battery capacity, which should lead to more time between charges.  In addition, it has a headphone jack, which makes it easier to plug in typical headphones.  Because the new iPhones do not have a head jack, you have to buy a separate cable which connects to the lighting connector at the bottom of the phone or wireless bluetooth headphones.  This jacks up the iPhone’s overall cost.

While we like the Galaxy S8, the new iPhones excel in certain areas.  The new phones come with the built-in option of 64 or 256GB of storage.  The Samsung Galaxy S8 only comes with 64GB of storage.  To expand the phone’s capacity, you have to purchase a separate micro sd card, which costs $125 plus for 256GB.

Because of their A11 processors, the new iPhones have performed significantly faster than the Galaxy S8 in some tests.  They seem quicker when doing certain tasks, like copying files and multitasking.  People who use their phones to surf the web, check emails and run several apps all at once may be better with an iPhone.

The new iPhones also excel in the ability to offer 3D touch and augmented reality features for apps.  Imagine being able to look at constellations or play a video game in 3D.  Finally, the new iPhone X also is rumored to be more secure, because of its 3D Facial scanner.  The Galaxy S8 has a 2D sensor, which is less secure and more error prone.


If you choose one of the new iPhones or the Galaxy S8, we believe you will be pleased with your decision.  They are great phones in their own right.  One of the biggest influencers is the ecosystem you are tied to or prefer.  If you are used to the iPhone interface and iOS operating system, use iTunes, iCloud and other Apple related apps, you will be likely to stick with their products.

The same goes for the Samsung Galaxy S8 and its Android operating system.  If you like the Samsung Galaxy line, it may be best to wait.  Rumors are circulating that the new Galaxy S9 may become available in March 2019.

Either way you decide, good luck with your purchase!















Related References:

  1. “iPhone X vs. Samsung Galaxy S8.” October 2, 2017. Link to Article
  2. “iPhone X vs Samsung Galaxy S8.” September 28, 2017. Link to Article
  3. “iPhone X vs. Samsung Galaxy S8 – Two Epic Phones Compared.” September 28, 2017. Link to Article
  4. “iPhone X vs iPhone 8: What’s the Difference?” September 17, 2017. Link to Article
  5. “Samsung S9 release date, news and price rumors.” September 20, 2017. Link to Article





Top 5 Email Scams of 2017

Email Scams  Email Scams

By now, you have probably heard about the different email phishing scams going around, especially if you listen to the news.  We decided to review some of the most popular ones, so that you could be better prepared.

Phishing is defined as “the attempt to obtain  Email Phishingsensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details (and, indirectly, money), often for malicious reasons, by disguising as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.”1 

Basically, criminals pretend to be someone you trust in order to steal important financial and personal information.  They can use this information to log into peoples’ accounts, like bank accounts, to transfer funds.  Also, they can sell it to other criminals.  Phishing can be done through phone calls, emails, texts and other communication forms.

Below, we cover the top 5 phishing email scams, which we saw last year and expect to continue this year.   Many of these emails include a link you are expected to click on and enter your credentials.  For instance, you may get an email from Facebook, indicating that your password will expire, if not updated.  Usually, the link is to a fake website the criminal created.  The cyber criminal uses this info to access your account.  Because many people use the same login, the criminals can access other online accounts, like financial ones.


Top 5 Email Scams

Account Disabling or Suspension

You may receive an email (see example below) from a bank, e-commerce or social media site about an account suspension or closing.  For instance, a criminal pretending to be from Amazon may send you an email saying that your account will be suspended, unless you click on the included link and update your security info.  This creates a sense of urgency, because it makes people feel they have to respond quickly.

Account Suspension

Suspicious or Unusual Account Activity

Like the first scam, you may also receive an email that your online account was compromised or they detected unusual activity.  You will need to click on a link to login and secure the account.

Google Email Scam:

Suspicious Account Activity

Tax Related Scams

During the tax season, these scams increase significantly.  A criminal, who poses as an IRS representative, may send you an email about owing money or receiving a refund.  Please note: the IRS will never contact you by email or phone.  They do things the old fashion way.  They only send notices through regular snail mail.

IRS Email Scam:

IRS Scam Emails

Employer Related Scams

Usually, criminals find these scams are very lucrative.   By taking advantage of human error or insecurities, they can get valuable information about a company’s employees or clients.   One example of this type of scam would be an HR representative receiving an email from what appears to be the company’s CEO or COO asking them to put together a report with employees’ information.  Naturally, the recipient wants to respond quickly to the executive’s request and doesn’t suspect it’s a scam.

In 2016, this happened locally at Main Line Health, when an employee replied to a scam email with personal information on 11,000 of the health system’s employees. 2

Malware and Ransomware Scams

Like all of the email scams above, malware scams have the same objective: to make money.  How do the cyber criminals do it?  They trick the email recipient into clicking on a link or opening an attachment.  When they do, malware starts to load on their computer.  If they are really unlucky, they may get ransomware which will install, lock up important files and demand a payment to unlock them.  Other forms of malware will track computer users’ keystrokes and activity to collect valuable personal information and passwords.

An example of an email which may have a malware attachment:

Malware Scam Emails

How Can I Avoid These Email Scams?

If they educate themselves, people can avoid these scams.  If you know what to look for, you will be prepared.  A good rule of thumb is to never open an email or link from someone you do not know or recognize.  Also, you can ask yourself a few basic questions like have I ever been contacted by the IRS or Microsoft before?  Do they contact people this way (email, call, text, etc.)?

If you look at an email carefully, you can often see signs that it’s not legit.  The senders may misspell words or include poor quality images.  Also, you should carefully check the sender email address.  If you get an Fedex email from, you know it’s not legit.  Also, criminals often shorten the website links they include in the body of their emails.  Without clicking on them, you can hover your mouse over them and see the complete link.  If an email is supposed to come from Amazon, but asks that you click on some weird looking link, you should avoid it.

Finally, to check whether or not an email is legit, you can go directly to the source.  If you receive a notification from Google, look up the company’s support number and call them about the notification.  If you get email from a company executive which looks suspicious, then contact them.  They may not be happy you called, but at least you avoided a large disaster.







  1. Wikipedia “Phishing.”  Link to Article
  2. ABC 6 “Main Line Health employees’ information compromised in email scam.” March 3, 2016. Link to Article
  3. “Scam Alerts.” Link to Website
  4. Fortune “Email Security: Beware These Top 10 Phishing Lures.” Link to Article
  5. NBC News “Massive Phishing Attack Targets Gmail Users.” Link to Article