Tag Archives: iphone

Hand Coming Out of Computer Monitor

How Flaws in Amazon and Apple Security Could Destroy Your Digital Life

Do you ever read about online fraud or identity theft and think, I’m too smart to fall for that? Well, don’t be so sure. Earlier this month, WIRED and Gizmodo technology writer Mat Honan was the target of vicious computer hackers. If it can happen to Honan, an expert in his field, it can certainly happen to you! Exploiting flaws in Amazon and Apple’s security, the hackers gained access to Honan’s entire online life. They used his Twitter to broadcast offensive messages in Honan’s name, they locked him out of his own Gmail account and they wiped all the data from Honan’s Macbook, iPhone and iPad. Luckily for Honan, the hackers stopped short of emptying his bank accounts. But it was still a digital nightmare. Let’s review Honan’s story and the lessons it can teach us about staying safe online.

 

How a Tech Professional Got Hacked

These days, technology is deeply integrated into all of our lives. You don’t have to be a computer geek or a professional blogger to have an online identity. If you’re reading this blog and participating in Scambook’s community, then you probably use email, Facebook, YouTube, Google, online shopping and online banking. It can be frustrating to remember different usernames and passwords for every internet service you use, so you may have them all “daisy-chained” together. Linking accounts is easy and convenient – but also dangerous.

Think about it. Have you ever forgotten an online username password? When you need to

Is your online identity secure? Mat Honan’s experience proves that anyone can be exploited by hackers, even technology professionals.

remember your username or password, most websites will send a reset link to your email address. Therefore, if someone has access to your email account, they can take control of every service you’ve ever used that email address to sign up for!

This is how Honan was hacked. Impersonating Honan, the hackers called Amazon and

added a brand new credit card to Honan’s account. At the time, Amazon’s security policy allowed users to reset their passwords over the phone by calling customer service and providing a credit card number registered to their account. So the hackers called back and accessed Honan’s account with the credit card number that they had just registered themselves.

Once they were inside Honan’s Amazon profile, they could see Honan’s other credit cards and his Apple username. They called Apple and used this information to get into his Mac iCloud. Then, they used his Apple information to get into his Google account. After the hackers controlled Honan’s Apple email and his Gmail, they could reset the password for each one of Honan’s online accounts.

 

The Moral of the Story: Follow These 4 Internet Security Tips

There’s a lot to be learned from Honan’s experience. According to messages from the hackers, Honan wasn’t targeted because he writes for WIRED and Gizmodo. The hackers claim that they were creating chaos just for the fun of it, as though destroying Honan’s digital life was a merry prank. But due to Honan’s prominent role in the tech world, and his decision to share his story, Honan’s loss is our gain.

NPR reports that Amazon and Apple are both addressing the security problems highlighted by Honan’s experience. However, hackers will always find a way to try and exploit you. We recommend the following steps to increase your internet security.

Tip #1: Use Multiple Email Addresses. It’s convenient to have a single email address for everything, but as we learned from Honan’s hackers, it leaves you vulnerable. There’s no limit to the number of free Gmail or Yahoo! accounts you can create. Use a new email address when you’re registering for a site that stores your credit card information or mailing address, such as eBay or Amazon.

Tip #2: Use Separate, Secure Passwords for Everything! Don’t use the same password twice, and make sure your password is secure. Use a combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, symbols and numbers. For example, instead of “ilovekittens”, use a password like “iL@v322kITtenS543”. It’s also important to change your passwords every three months.

To increase your online security, use a separate password for all your accounts. You should change your passwords every 3 months and use a combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, symbols and numbers.

Tip #3: When Possible, Use Two-Part Authentication. Some websites, like Google, have started to implement two-part authentication. This means that you’ll receive a special code via text message or voicemail, and you’ll need to enter this code in addition to your username and password. It might sound like a hassle, but it adds an extra layer of security that’s well worth it. Honan says that his hacking wouldn’t have been possible if he had used Gmail’s two-part authentication.

Tip #4: Delete Online Accounts You Don’t Use. Even if you haven’t logged into MySpace in years, your account may still exist. It may contain personal information that a hacker could use to exploit you. You might have forgotten that you left the color of your first car, your grade school, and the name of your first pet on your MySpace profile. Since you don’t use it, login and delete it.

Honan’s experience also illustrates why it’s very important to backup your data. Buy an external hard drive to store all your documents, home movies and photos. Update it as often as possible and leave it unplugged when you’re not using it. A hacker won’t be able to delete anything from a hard drive sitting on your shelf.

 

But If You Do Get Ripped Off, Don’t Feel Stupid

Honan’s case proves that anyone can fall victim to online fraud, identity theft and computer hacking. That’s why you shouldn’t feel stupid if it ever happens to you. Unfortunately, we often hear from Scambook members who blame themselves. They may feel embarrassed or even ashamed because they were victimized. Sometimes, people are afraid to seek help right away because they’re worried that their friends and family will think they’re foolish.

This only makes the situation worse – whether you’re hit with an unauthorized credit card charge or hacked like Honan, it’s always easier to get resolution when you act quickly. You’re not stupid, and you’re not alone. Join Scambook to connect with other people in your situation, find group justice and learn how you can avoid falling victim to fraud. 

GOT A COMPLAINT? CLICK HERE TO REPORT IT TO SCAMBOOK!

Photo of iPhone Screen

Pinterest and Instagram Exploits: How Fake Pictures Pick Your Real Pockets

Be careful where you click. Cybercriminals have sharpened their focus on Pinterest and Instagram. Con artists are targeting consumers with bogus free gift card offers on these popular social media platforms. We’ve seen the scheme before in spam emails and text messages (also known as phishing and smishing, respectively), but the crooks have adapted it to prey on amateur artists and photography fans. Let’s review how they try to scam you with fake images that look like real giveaways and coupons.

Fraud can be harder to spot because Pinterest and Instagram don’t operate like other websites and social media apps. On Facebook and Twitter, sham ads are almost always accompanied by text as well as a website url. It can be easier to spot spam messages when they’re repeated over and over on a Facebook page or a Twitter feed. Poor spelling and grammar, as well as a site domain from a foreign country, can also tip you off that the deal isn’t real.

Pinterest and Instagram are basically just pictures. Pinterest is an “online pinboard” where users can post photos, drawings or other images to a public profile. Users then share these images with their family and friends by “re-pinning” them. A popular image might be “re-pinned” by hundreds or even thousands of users. Instagram is an app for iPhone and Android smartphones where users can apply artistic filters to their photos. Users can also “follow” each other to share their photos, search for photos by keyword and subject and select their favorite photos by clicking a “love” button.

It’s harder to tell what’s real and what’s fake on these sites because the graphics often look like legitimate advertisements. Pinterest and Instagram are also much newer social media, so users may be less informed about how they work. There’s less data about the fraud committed on these sites compared to what we know about Facebook and Twitter.

“With Pinterest … it’s only a picture you have to click on or re-pin,” Catalin Cosoi, chief security for the antivirus software company BitDefender, told Mashable.com. “[And] when a service is new and there are a lot of users joining, there’s a false sense of security.”

Don’t fall for these bogus free gift card offers on Pinterest.

These pictures advertise a variety of phony free offers, including $250 Visa gift cards, $1000 Best Buy gift cards or smaller gift cards to fast food restaurants like Wendy’s and Dunkin Donuts. On Pinterest, they usually originate from accounts with names that sound legitimate, such as “gotmineforless.com” or “pinterestgiveaway.com”.

When you add these pictures to your Pinterest pinboard, or even just click on the picture, you’re sent to a website that asks for your phone number, email and credit card information. Often, the website resembles a contest page with confusing fine print and entry rules.

The swindlers who run these gift card ploys use real company logos and often mimic the design of the company’s actual website. For example, a fake Best Buy gift card “giveaway” page might look like BestBuy.com. But these website are not affiliated or endorsed by the retailer. There’s no prize to win – just your own hard-earned money to lose.

 

How an “Innocent Click” Can Get You

On Instagram and the Pinterest mobile app, the pages load in your mobile Android or iPhone browser. If you keep clicking, you may be charged or signed up for a monthly mobile service. One Scambook member reported $19.98 in extra charges to their phone bill after they posted a Pinterest coupon and started receiving unwanted text messages. Another member reported that a false Pinterest prize deal signed them up for a $9.99/month subscription service.

Instagram or Insta-Sham? A fake Best Buy offer like this one could cost you.

As with any internet exploitation, your wallet isn’t the only thing at risk when you fall victim to a consumer hoax. These websites can install spyware, malware and viruses on your PC. If you do accidentally click on a counterfeit Pinterest offer, make sure you run your anti-virus software immediately.

Pinterest and Instagram are great ways to stay connected to your family and friends or meet new people who share your aesthetic tastes. Just remember to stay on the alert against the con artists who take advantage of social media to cheat honest users and rip you off.

 

Follow These Simple Tips to Stay Safe

Don’t “repin” the graphics, don’t follow the feed and don’t “love” the photo. If you see a fraudulent ad on Pinterest or Instagram, follow the links on those sites to flag it as spam and then ignore it.

Always remember to be very cautious when giving out your email, phone number, credit card number or other sensitive personal data online or over your mobile phone.


See Also

Fake Sallie Mae Instagram Scam Using Student Loan Forgiveness to Steal Private Info
Instagram Food Photo Foils Identity Thieves
Controversial ‘Snapchat Leaked’ Site Proves Privacy on Social Media is No Guarantee

iPhone 4S

Phony iPhone 4S from Turkey

While the iPhone 4S has been around for a quite a bit now and with the Siri function definitely putting a whole new spin on it,  everyone couldn’t wait to get their hands on one and are still buzzing over it. While we await for the rumored iPhone 5  release, scammers are coming up with creative ways to bait aspiring iPhone users into buying a dummy iPhone 4S for an ‘unbeatable’ price. Oh and by the way, beware of any iPhone 5 ads because those are scams too.  But we had to spread the word about this disturbing  video from a consumer who got scammed into buying a white iPhone 4S.

Everything from the box to the accessories looks legit, but when he turns the phone on, there is a message saying “Low Battery” on the screen.  If you’re familiar with ANY Apple product, you know that the screen indicates a low battery with a battery symbol with the color red inside it.

When this person does some more digging he discovers that the screen is fashioned to show the “Low Battery” message every time a button is pushed on the device, turning on a light that illuminates the screen.

These scams are mostly found through the internet or through smishing, the latest scam.  You may have read about smishing in our entry about the Walmart gift card scam.  Instead of receiving an e-mail, you get a text message instructing you to respond by calling a toll-free number and connecting you to someone who may bait you into giving up your credit card information.

If you’re looking to purchase an iPhone 4S in your near future, we at Scambook urge to take precaution and make sure to test out the product before completing the transaction and avoid online purchases if you can because you just never know.  iPhone 4S scams are rampant, and we’d hate to see you get robbed of your money and end up disappointed.

Have you ever been tricked into buying a fake phone before? Let us know in the comments below. 

If this has happened to you or someone you know please submit a complaint here.


See Also

New Device Can Use iPhone Chargers to Hack Your Info
Scam Alert: Cell Phone SIM Cards Hacked, May Put You at Risk for Identity Theft
Early Smartphone Upgrades: Are They Worth It?

Photo of an Apple USB Power Adapter

Fake iPhone Charger? Apple Will Give You $10 Trade-In Value

Knock-offs and generics can be a great, cheap alternative to legitimate brand name products. Most of the time, they look and work exactly like the real thing. Unfortunately, while they may work just fine, most counterfeits don’t undergo the same rigorous safety testing as their official counterparts.

When it comes to iPhone and iPad chargers, Amazon and eBay are well-stocked with cheap knock-offs. To many, they’re a cost-effective alternative to buying a real iPhone or iPad charger from Apple. Here’s the problem with a few of these fake chargers, though: they have been reported start fires and electrocute people!

At least, that’s what a few well-publicized stories lead us to believe. Apple hasn’t confirmed or denied anything, but many believe that’s why they’re offering $10 trade-ins for fake chargers in store. Let’s see what’s in store for those with fake chargers.

 

What to Expect When You Trade in Your Fake iPhone Charger

In response to a few electrified consumer horror stories, Apple has launched a USB power adapter trade-in program. The aim is to clear the streets of fake, faulty chargers. Until October 18th, consumers can walk into an Apple store, trade-in their fake chargers, and Apple will slice off $10 on the cost of an official Apple USB power charger.

Color photo of an Apple Store

Head over to the Apple store to swap out your fake charger with a real Apple device and save $10.

As Apple explains:

Customer safety is a top priority at Apple. That’s why all of our products — including USB power adapters for iPhone, iPad, and iPod — undergo rigorous testing for safety and reliability and are designed to meet government safety standards around the world,”

But if you’re planning on bringing in a charger to see if it’s fake, you won’t find any answers. Apple claims the complexity of testing counterfeit adapters limits their ability to advise whether or not a charger is safe. Basically, it’s too time consuming and they would rather you just buy an official charger.

So why is there suddenly a swap and trade program?

 

Faulty Cables May Lead to Electrocution Danger

Photo of a burnt iPhone Cable

Counterfeit charging cables are common and have allegedly been linked to burns and electrocutions.

Like we mentioned earlier, Apple isn’t outright claiming this program is in response to the recent iPhone user executions in China.

In China, two people were electrocuted in recent weeks in accidents that some have tied to fake iPhone chargers. In Beijing, a man was shocked by his iPhone while it was charging and was stuck in a coma for over 10 days.

The other incident involved a Chinese woman electrocuted while charging — you guess it — her iPhone. Apple investigated her death and determined that neither she nor the man were using official Apple chargers.

Stores like this are terrible publicity for Apple. Hence, the fake charger trade-in program was launched. Whether or not they’re trying to save your skin or theirs is up for debate.

Why are consumers opting for counterfeit chargers, anyway? iPhone chargers sell for upwards of $39 on Apple’s website. Compare that to fake chargers that go for anywhere between $1.50-$4.99 on Amazon. It’s not hard to see why people go for the knock-offs.

Fortunately, Apple’s wising up and dropping the cost for iPhone and iPad chargers. Just bring in your fake charger and Apple knock $10 off an official charger. Remember, the deadline to take advantage of this offer is October 18.

 

Is Your iPhone Safe?

Luckily, these consumer horror stories are few and far between. That said, if you’re using an unofficial charger, it’s wise to head on over to the Apple store and swap it out. You don’t want to make headline news.

What do you think? Have you had any bad experiences with fake chargers and cables? Are you going to swap out your knock-off at the Apple store? Let us know in the comments section!

 

See Also

Apple’s New Two-Step Verification Boosts Your Security in the iCloud
Google Play Store Bombarded By Android Scam Apps
Early Smartphone Upgrades: Are They Worth It?

Fotolia_53193938_Subscription_XXL

Early Smartphone Upgrades: Are They Worth It?

Thinking about upgrading to the new Apple iPhone 5 or Samsung Galaxy S smartphone? If you’re like many consumers, you might be waiting for your cell phone carrier contract to expire so you can take advantage of special renewal offer discounts. But now, many providers like Verizon and AT&T are offering early upgrade programs.

Early upgrade programs are designed to help consumers get a new phone on a regular basis without breaking the bank, while also guaranteeing that they don’t change to a new carrier once their contract’s up. This new model also helps phone carriers minimize the cost they incur when subsidizing phones for their customers.

So are early upgrade programs really the cheapest way to get a new smartphone? Let’s talk about whether you should join your carrier’s early smartphone upgrade plan.

 

Upgrades! Upgrades for Everyone!

With most cell phone plans, consumers get to enjoy their device for about a year or two before they’re able to trade it in for a discounted or completely free new device.

The carrier subsidizes your nice, new phone and in exchange, you have to renew your contract for a couple more years.

But now that smartphones are affordable to the everyday consumer — and companies like Apple, Microsoft and Samsung release newer and better phones almost every month — upgrades have become more important to consumers. Many companies now offer phone upgrades at 20 months instead of 24.

Since Android has risen in popularity and affordability, the market for smartphones has become more or less saturated and fewer people are upgrading their devices overall. In fact, last year saw about 9% fewer upgrades than the year before, and that number is expected to keep dropping.

Smartphone Carriers Introduce Early Upgrade Plans

To boost sales and contract renewals, providers like T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T have all introduced the early upgrade option for customers.

Under the new program, most users are able to spread the cost of a new phone out over the course of several months.

Monthly installments make the cost easy to handle, and the phone gets the full price of the handset back in addition to another 20 or so months of service.

Another early upgrade option offered by most carriers involves upgrading after just a year for a reduced cost.

Suppose you’ve got your eye on that brand new Samsung Galaxy S4. It’s a bit pricey at around $600, but an early upgrade plan can see you paying around $300 for one.

This way, the carrier gets about half of the phone’s retail cost back along with your continued service.

 

So Is It Really Worth It?

The is yes, if you’re what’s called a “power user.” If you’re constantly using your smartphone and you love having the latest mobile gadgets, these early upgrade plans are a convenient, affordable way to get a new smartphone.

But if you’re a more casual smartphone user and your old iPhone 4 still works, you might be better off saving your money and waiting until your current contract expires.

What about you? We’d love to hear what our Scambook readers think of this early upgrade program. Let us know what you think in the comments!

 

See Also

Which Cell Phone Carrier is Right for You?
Best Cell Phone Customer Service: Verizon, AT&T, Sprint or T-Mobile?
Check Your Phone Bill Right Now: Cell Phone Scams That You Need to Know About

38991604001_original

Tech-Savvy Toddler Buys Sports Car on eBay with Dad’s Smartphone

Shopping on eBay is great. Most would agree that getting a new car is great. But when those things happen on accident, it can definitely be a little troublesome. Turns out, that’s exactly what happened to one unlucky couple when their toddler accidentally bought a car using her dad’s phone.

Just last week, Paul Stoute got an email congratulating him on his status as the winning eBayer for a car he didn’t remember bidding on. Turns out his fourteen-month-old daughter, Sorella, had gotten a hold of her dad’s smartphone, made her way onto eBay, and acquired the family’s newest car.

 

Toddler Buys Surprise Austin Healey Sprite on eBay

Toddlers have accidents all the time — but those accidents don’t usually involve buying a sports car off eBay. But before you start to worry about an innocent family sent tumbling into financial ruins by the actions of an errant toddler, know that the price tag on this little car was only $225. Hardly enough to break the bank.

In fact, Paul actually decided he’d go ahead and keep the beat-up sports car. He thinks it’ll make a nice gift for the toddler when she turns sixteen.

A color photo of a 1961 Austin Healey Sprite on a race track.

The tech-savvy toddler purchased a 1962 Austin Sprite, similar to the one pictured above. The family decided to keep the car.

At first, Paul says, he was a bit panicked and wanted to see if he could somehow get out of the unauthorized purchase. Once he realized how low the total was, though (and probably after a talk with the Mrs.), he decided he’d keep the car after all.

 

Kids & Smartphones Don’t Always Mix

This isn’t the first time a little tyke has gotten in touch with some tech to cause Mom and Dad a bit of financial hardship. Not only ago, we ran the story about a class-action lawsuit that was brought against Apple over in-app game purchases.

It turns out that Ms. Stoute isn’t the only child who’s made some unauthorized purchases with Mom and Dad’s smartphone or tablet. But when this happens, are the phone manufacturers and app developers really to blame?

While Mr. Stoute was happy to pay up and be a good sport, those involved with the class-action suit against Apple are insisting that stricter permissions and tighter fail-safes must be implemented so kids can’t accidentally make purchases with their parents’ mobile devices.

 

Keep Your Smartphone and Tablet Secure

If you’ve got small children, it’s a goodidea to keep your smartphone and/or tablet device safe and secure. Accidental car purchases aren’t the only reason.

Most smartphones and tablets are designed for use by a single individual. As such, they connect to our online services, email accounts, and more. This makes a smartphone or tablet devices a virtual treasure trove of private information for identity thieves and is the reason why they should be secured at all times.

Do you have any tips for making sure the little ones don’t get their hands on your smartphone or tablet computer? Do you simply lock it up? Use a special type of child-proof lock screen?

Share your tips in the comments section below.

 

See Also

Apple Settles Class-Action Lawsuit with Parents of In-App Buying Kids
Strange But True: iPad Scammers Sell UK Man a Box of Potatoes
iPhone 5 Fraud Warning: Scambook Predicts As Many as 1 Million Fake iPhones

Photo of an Apple iPhone demonstrating tips to extend battery life

10 Tips to Extend Your Smartphone Battery Life

Ever wonder how to increase your smartphone’s battery life? Whether you have an iPhone,  Samsung Galaxy Android phone or a Blackberry, you’ve probably drained your battery too quickly at one time or another.

It’s the drawback of smartphones; all the apps, mobile Internet and email, camera features and everything else really uses up battery life. Luckily, with just a few tips and tricks, you can extend your phone’s battery life and go longer before your next charge.

Here’s 10 easy tips to extend your smartphone’s battery life:

 

Tip #1: Shut Off GPS Services

GPS is a very useful feature in most smartphones, but unfortunately they’re also a great way to drain your batteries. Make sure your phone’s location services are disabled when you’re not using a GPS app like Maps or Compass.

Look for the GPS indicator in your menu bar to see whenever the location services are enabled. If your GPS is running when you’re not using, turn it off to save battery.

 

Tip #2: Ditch Push Notifications

Smartphones love to get your attention, but doing so can take up some serious battery life. Think about it. To get a push notification, your phone needs to connect to the mobile network.

Then it turns on the screen to flash the notification, maybe vibrates a little, and possibly makes a sound. Not easy on your battery life. Turning off push notifications might give you some extra juice if you’ve got a long day ahead of you.

A color photo of a young man using a smartphone.

We all use our cell phones a lot more these days, which makes it tough for us to keep them charged all the time.

Tip #3: Try a Dark Wallpaper

Many smartphones have what’s called an AMOLED display. This means that each little pixel uses some battery power when it’s got to light up. Try using a phone wallpaper that’s a bit darker than your previous one and see if you’re able to get more battery life.

 

Tip #4: The Almighty Airplane Mode

Airplane Mode is great when you’re low on battery and want to conserve whatever life you’ve got left. It’ll disable Internet and call service on your phone, saving the energy for when you need to re-enable that and make that call.

Airplane Mode is also great if you’re in a spot that’s not going to let you get service, no matter what, like underground. This will keep your phone from looking for service, which drains the battery, so you can wait until you’re back in a hot spot.

 

Tip #5: Use An App!

If you’ve got an Android phone, you can download any of several apps dedicated to helping you save your battery life.

JuiceDefender is one of the best, and works its magic by just disabling connectivity to your phone entirely. It’ll re-enable it on intervals that you determine, so you can get those Facebook notifications.

For Apple iPhone, try Battery Life Pro. This free app monitors your phone activity so you can figure out what’s draining your power the fastest.

Tip #6: Clear Running Apps

With the exception of that handy power-saving app you just downloaded, it might be a good idea to clear out your running apps.

If any are left in the background, it can seriously drain your battery life. Look at your phone’s task manager to see which apps are running, and shut down the ones you don’t need.

 

Tip #7: Lower the Brightness

This is the most obvious of all smartphone-battery-saving tips but one that’s easy to forget. If you dim the brightness on your phone’s screen just a little bit, you’ll be surprised at how much battery you can actually wind up saving.

 

Tip #8: Turn off the WiFi

Wireless Internet is a great way to turn your smartphone into a tiny little computer, but it’s only eating away at the battery when you’re not near a hotspot.

To save battery life, turn off the wifi when you leave the house or office so that your phone isn’t constantly trying to find itself a new signal.

 

Tip #9: Keep Things Nice and Cool

Your smartphone, like most pieces of finely-tuned computer hardware, doesn’t really like hot temperatures. Even just keeping it in the pocket of your tight pants or leaving it in the sun can be damaging to the battery long-term.

 

Tip #10: Get an Extra Battery!

There are a ton of extra smartphone batteries and mobile chargers on the market, and they’re not that expensive. This way you can get yourself a quick on-the-go charge, even if you’re not in the car.

 

How Do You Boost Your Smartphone Battery Life?

Do you have any awesome battery-life-lengthening smartphone tips? We’d love to hear how you get more juice out of your Android, Blackberry or iPhone. Share your tips in the comments.

 

See Also

4 Easy Ways to Block Unwanted Calls on Your Cell Phone
Which Cell Phone Carrier is Right for You?
Why We Fall for Scams: The Human Brain Isn’t Wired to Avoid Warning Signs of Fraud

A color photo of a baby playing with an iPad.

Apple Settles Class-Action Lawsuit with Parents of In-App Buying Kids

Kids love Apple. Between educational apps like Reading Raven and games like Candy Crush Saga, an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch can keep toddlers and young children engaged for hours. Unfortunately, some kids a few years ago got a little too engaged with their apps and made in-game purchases without their parents’ knowledge.

After the outcry from parents, Apple changed their app store policies to ensure that kids can’t rack up a costly bill playing Angry Birds on Mom or Dad’s iPad Mini. But the tech giants were also hit with a class-action lawsuit that has resulted in a $100 million settlement.

Did your kid ever make an in-app purchase on your iPad or iPhone without your permission? You might be eligible for part of the settlement. Let’s review the facts so you can find out if you qualify:

 

Kids Make the Darndest In-App Purchases

Mobile gaming has been the “next big thing” for years now, and just about everyone’s got a smartphone or tablet in their pocket or purse. This also means that more and more kids are playing with these tablets and smartphones.

The best part is that most of these mobile games, unlike regular video games, are free to download and play. Instead of a retail price tag, these games make their money with something called in-app purchases.

And since most mobile smartphone devices are designed to be used by one person, your iPhone or iPad will save and store information like credit card info for easy purchasing.

A color photo of some children playing with an iPad.

If your children regularly play with your iPad or iPhone, make sure they’re not making in-app purchases.

iPhones and iPads, specifically, are wired into a user’s iTunes account, meaning that apps allow users to quickly make purchases by charging the credit card saved to the account.

In other words, it would be very easy for a kid to make purchases without their parents’ permission.

 

Parents Demand Money Back from Apple

So many kids made unauthorized in-app purchases on their parents’ iPhones and iPads that a group got together to file a class-action lawsuit. The suit alleges that Apple’s iTunes store policies were too lax, which enabled their children to buy things with their money right under their noses.

Apple has changed their purchasing policy since the lawsuit, which won’t get final court approval until mid-October 2013. However, if you think you might have a claim, you’ve got until January 13th of next year to submit.

Not sure if you’re eligible? Consumerist has a bit more info:

“The settlement defines the affected class as U.S. residents who paid for an in-app purchase of game currency charged to their iTunes account by a minor without their knowledge or permission in a ‘Qualified App.'”

Class-Action Settlement Details: How Much You’ll Get

To submit a claim, parents will need to determine how much money their kids spent on in-app purchases and provide evidence based on that amount.

Photo of a boy using a tablet to play a mobile game

Mobile gaming is becoming increasingly popular as more children have access to smartphones and tablets.

Planning to claim less than $30 in damages? You’re only going to be able to make off with $5, but you won’t have to provide as much information.

You get cash if you don’t have an iTunes account, otherwise it’s an iTunes Store credit gift card.

Should your claim exceed $30, you’ve got to list each purchase’s date, and how much was paid.

The catch is that if all these purchases weren’t within the same 45-day period, you’ve got to provide a note explaining how your kid was able to keep making them without your knowledge for so long.

 

If you’ve got any more information on the settlement, feel free to share it in the comments!

 

See Also

Are iPads and Tablet PCs Safe for Toddlers?
Tech-Savvy Toddler Buys Sports Car on eBay with Dad’s Smartphone
New Device Can Use iPhone Chargers to Hack Your Info

AT&T Logo

Is AT&T Over Charging You?

AT&T Bill

Researchers found that even when all data was disabled, AT&T reported data usage on the user’s bill

Nearly 20 million Americans have data service for their iPhones or iPads through AT&T. Unfortunately, because of that, they are likely being charged for data they are not even using.  Independent researchers claim that AT&T routinely overstates data usage by 7-14%, and in some cases up to 300% on users iPhone and iPad data plans. That would mean that if an iPhone user downloads a 50KB website, AT&T’s bill would overstate the traffic as 53.5KB (a 7% overcharge) to as much as 150KB (a 300% overcharge).

According to the researchers, they tested this theory with a brand-new iPhone/iPad device by immediately disabling all applications, email, and other push notification and location data services. For 10 days, all configurations that could possibly trigger data to be transmitted or received remained disabled.  Nevertheless, AT&T reportedly logged 2,292KB of data usage—35 transactions that never happened or were never initiated by the user.

This is deeply troubling.  Many users subscribe to unlimited data plans in belief that they are using large amounts of data that would justify paying the correspondingly higher fees, though in reality, they are not.  By over-reporting data usage, AT&T is likely ensuring that its customers will be paying higher rates for data plans they don’t actually need.

If you have an unlimited data plan through AT&T, you may have been subjected to these same practices.  If you would like to do something about it, submit a complaint to Scambook, AT&T, your state’s attorney general, the Better Business Bureau, and/or the Federal Trade Commission.

-Scambook Team

 

See Also

Scambook Success Story: Nevada Woman Fights Back Against Cell Phone Fraud
Best Cell Phone Customer Service: Verizon, AT&T, Sprint or T-Mobile? 
Which Cell Phone Carrier is Right for You?

iphone-se-review-vpavic-verge-11.0

New Device Can Use iPhone Chargers to Hack Your Info

What would you do if your iPhone were hacked and you didn’t even know it?

An alarming new discovery suggests that iPhone chargers can be modified to use as a powerful hacking tool. If scammers use this technology, you might be exposed to risks like identity theft if you plug into the wrong public charging station.

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology recently discovered that a relatively simple device designed to connect with an iPhone’s charging port can hack the device in less than a minute.

The hacker wouldn’t have to do anything except plug it in, and then they’d have access all the private information stored on your iPhone or iCloud account.

The worst part is that you wouldn’t realize your iPhone was hacked until it’s far too late.

 

Startling New Discovery About Hacking Technology

Identity theft is nothing new, and the Internet has made it a lot easier for thieves and scammers to find to steal your personal information.

Now that just about everybody carries an iPhone or Android smartphone around with them, it’s become increasingly important to keep these devices safe and secure.

Most smartphone owners use their device to store personal email and other login information (sometimes for mobile banking apps) which makes an iPhone a treasure trove for hackers and identity thieves.

Luckily, there are researchers dedicated to finding the newest hacking techniques so that the public at large can stay one step ahead.

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology discovered that hackers might be using the modified iPhone charger device to hack unsuspecting individuals’ phones.

The Rise of Mactans iPhone Hacking

Known as “Mactans,” the new smartphone attack is chilling in its simplicity. The most recent versions of the Apple iPhone and iOS were easily compromised using this method.

The Mactans program utilizes cloaking techniques that render it invisible to the smartphone user, allowing hackers to steal information and wreak havoc in iOS.

Mactans can also hide some of Apple’s own applications, which enables it to sidestep the iPhone’s built-in security measures.

Mactans isn’t hard to replicate, either, and the tool is about as small as a credit card.

While it may not look identical to an official iPhone charger yet, it would be easy to hide in the cabinet or shelf of a public charging station.

 

 

How You Can Protect Your iPhone From Hacking Chargers

If Mactans or other hacking chargers do become a widespread threat, the good news is that it’s relatively easy to protect yourself. Just buy an extra charger to keep in your backpack or purse and avoid public charging stations.

What do you think? Are you concerned about being hacked at a charging station? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

 

See Also

Fake iPhone Charger? Apple Will Give You $10 Trade-In Value
How Flaws in Amazon and Apple Security Could Destroy Your Digital Life
10 Tips to Extend Your Smartphone Battery Life

Color Photo Snapchat Logo

Controversial ‘Snapchat Leaked’ Site Proves Privacy on Social Media is No Guarantee

Snapchat, a popular social media photo-sharing platform, is raising privacy concerns over leaked photos that are supposed to be private.

If you’re not familiar with Snapchat, here’s how it works: You or your friends can snap a photo or video and send it to any of your Snapchat friends. Unlike other social media photo apps, like Instagram, Snapchat pictures will expire at the end of your specified time, usually between 3-5 seconds.

But now people have figured out a way to save Snapchats that are supposed to be deleted. Enter Snapchat Leaked, a website designed to bring those “expired” Snapchats into the public eye. Is it harmless fun or a scandalous privacy disaster waiting to happen?

Before we dive into the ethical issues, let’s take a look at the issue on Snapchat’s end.

 

In a Perfect World, Snapchats are Deleted Forever… But They’re Not

Color photo delete button on keyboard

Unfortunately, your Snapchats might not be deleted

Snapchats are supposed to be deleted when the timer expires — at least, that’s how it’s advertised.

But Richard Hickman, a digital forensics examiner at a Utah security form, found the pictures don’t actually expire. Turns out they’re saved on your smartphone — not deleted, just hidden.

Unfortunately, if you’re thinking you’d need to be an expert hacker to access these hidden Snapchat pictures, you’re wrong.

You don’t have to be a forensics expert to copy Snapchat pictures. Users just take screenshots of photos they receive and post them to Snapchat Leaked.

 

User Behavior Influences Snapchat Photo Habits

Snapchat seems like a fun new twist on social media photo sharing: Snap a photo, send it to a friend, and before they know it, it’s gone.

The problem is that people use Snapchat to send inappropriate, often adult-rated photos, similar to the “sexting” phenomena that’s plagued teenagers and politicians alike. And most users aren’t aware that their Snapchat photos can be recovered or saved.

Color Snapchat of Cat

Do you think this cat knew its escape would be shared with the world?

Given the nature of many Snapchat pictures, it’s easy to see the danger for users who think  Enter Snapchat Leaked, the jealous ex’s dream.

 

Snapchat Leaked: The Place to Show What Shouldn’t Be Seen

Leaking private photos and videos isn’t a new phenomenon by any means. But due to the popularity, and supposed security, of Snapchat, the Snapchat Leaked site escalates concerns.

Here’s Beta Beat‘s take on the site.

Mostly popular in Britain, Snapchat Leaked is a worrisome blog brimming with user-submitted screenshots alternating between the naughty … the cheeky and whatever the hell this is.”

We can’t imagine many people want to end up on Snapchat Leaked. Thankfully, the site blocks nudity and usernames are aren’t revealed. Still, there are serious privacy concerns at hand.

For one, many people use Snapchat with an expectation of security and confidentiality but your private photos aren’t private at all.

It would be very troubling to discover your private pictures can be uploaded for the entire world to see, and not everyone agrees with what Snapchat Leaked is doing. As Beat Beat elaborates:

UK tabloid Metro noted that the recently launched website had its Facebook page pulled mere hours after it was created because of fears it could lead to cyberbullying. “Facebook has unpublished our page due to users using the page to ‘bully’ others. We are working with Facebook on this issue,” Snapchat Leaked’s creators told the paper.”

For a company that thrives on social interactions, it’s reassuring to see Facebook step in and say “no” to Snapchat Leaked.

 

How You Can Avoid Privacy Risks with Sites like Snapchat Leaked

Snapchat Leaked proves that online privacy is never truly as private as we think it is. No matter how high your security settings may be, anything you post on social media can potentially be retrieved by someone else.

Remember to use common sense on social media. Never post anything that could cause you to lose your job, make your grandmother blush or expose your personal information to identity thieves and scammers.

If you want to keep something truly private, don’t post it on the Internet.

 

What Do You Think?

Are you a Snapchat user? What are your thoughts on Snapchat Leaked and user privacy? Is it harmless fun or a privacy disaster waiting to happen? Let us know in the comments section.

 

See Also

Use Gmail or YouTube? Google Might Use Your Picture or Private Info to Sell Ads
Protect Your Child’s Privacy from Back to School Identity Theft
The 9 Bad Email Habits That Expose You to Scams and Identity Theft

Photo of a wall of Spam cans

4 Easy Ways to Block Unwanted Calls on Your Cell Phone

Is your cell phone constantly ringing with spam calls? Fear not! Scambook has dug up some simple yet effective tips about how to block unwanted calls and prevent annoying telemarketing interruptions.

Although robocalls are technically illegal, there are a whole lot of unscrupulous companies out there who continue to target cell phone users. So read on and follow our tips for a spam-free cell phone.

 

4 Tips to Stop Unwanted Cell Phone Calls

 

1. Use Smartphone Apps to Block Callers

Photo of an iPhone

Use apps to ban unwanted numbers from calling. To do this for iPhone, however, you’ll have to jailbreak the device.

If you use an Android smartphone, there are a few popular (and free!) downloadable apps like Call Filter and DroidBlock that will enable you to block calls. Some Android phones also give you an option to send certain numbers directly to voicemail or enable call blocking from the settings menu.

If you’re a Blackberry user, try the Call Blocker Professional app or iBlocker Pro.

Unfortunately, options are slimmer for call blocker apps on Apple’s iPhone unless you’re willing to jailbreak it. Jailbreaking an iPhone enables you to get around Apple’s security protocols and install unauthorized apps, including call blockers like iBlacklist or Mobilelog.

However, jailbreaking an iPhone will void your warranty and can theoretically increase your security risk. Please use caution if you decide to take the jailbreak route.

 

2. Talk to Your Cell Phone Carrier

Many cell phone providers offer a range of services to block spam calls.

For example, Sprint customers can log into My Sprint and edit their account settings to manage blocked numbers.

AT&T offers “Smart Controls” — technically a parental control, and it costs $5 a month, but it’s effective.

 

Woman with annoyed expression talking on cell phone

No need to keep getting annoying spam calls — your carrier can help you out.

Verizon has a similar service, which will block five numbers at a time for no charge, or more numbers with more options for $5 a month.

T-Mobile, while not a purveyor of a call blocking service, is willing to help its customers ban certain numbers if they call 611 for Customer Service.

 

3. Targeting the Culprits with TrapCall

Willing to shell out a few bucks a month? If you don’t want to use your carrier’s call blocking services, TrapCall will block spammers as and reveal their phone numbers if they try to get sneaky and call from private lines.

For extra dollars, you can even take advantage of their other features, like voicemail transcription — a fun option for those who receive hilarious drunk messages from friends. But their basic service is well-reviewed and widely used. Visit www.trapcall.com to check it out.

 

4. Add Spam Numbers to Your Contacts and Use a Silent Ringtone

If you keep getting unwanted calls from the same number, this is one of the simplest ways to block them. First, save the number(s) in your Contacts List under “SPAM” (or a more colorful name of your choosing).

Then, install a silent ringtone on your device. Assign the ringtone to your SPAM contact. When the spammers call, you’re phone will “ring” without sound or vibration to interrupt you. You’ll still receive the call, but you’ll be none the wiser, and chances are the robot won’t be equipped to leave you a voicemail.

 

Don’t Stand for Cell Phone Spam

Try any of these effective ways to block robo-calls and you’ll experience fewer annoying, impersonal recorded messages.

As a consumer, you’re entitled to a life without spam calls according to the Federal Trade Commission (who’s been cracking down on spam texts, too!).

And if you receive high volumes of cell phone spam, don’t hesitate to report those businesses for their illegal call activities.

Have a favorite call blocking tool or strategy? Share it in the comments.

 

See Also

A Revolutionary New Way to Block Robocalls and Telemarketing Scams?
FTC Offers Consumers Protection from Telemarketer Fraud
Lawsuit Shuts Down More Annoying Robocall Telemarketing Scams

Photo of Woman with Short Red Hair Smiling with Smart Phone

Which Cell Phone Carrier is Right for You?

Now that the iPhone is available on T-Mobile, it’s harder to see the differences between cell phone providers. Previously, carriers differentiated themselves by the mobile devices they offered. AT&T had the iPhone, Verizon had the Droid collection, Sprint had the Evo, and T-Mobile had everything between. Today, that differentiation is shrinking due to the emergence of global branding within the smartphone market.

Smartphone manufacturers, following in Apple’s footsteps, realized the importance of unified brands across global regions. Unified brands equal greater brand recognition and interest. Hence, the Samsung Galaxy series arrived and took the smartphone market by storm. Other manufacturers are taking note.

What does all of this mean? If device selection was the primary differentiation between carriers and now that’s gone by the wayside, then consumers are going to rely more on contracts and plans. So which cell phone carrier is right for you? How do you know which plan to choose?

 

GSM vs CDMA

Before you sign a two year contract with a cell carrier, it’s important to know the differences between the big 4 U.S. carriers. To start, let’s review GSM vs. CDMA phones:

  • AT&T and T-Mobile are GSM carriers while Sprint and Verizon are CDMA carriers.
  • GSM stands for Global System for Mobiles. It’s a mobile radio technology used around the world.
  • CDMA stands for Code Division Mobile Access and is an alternate mobile technology used almost exclusively in the United States.
  • GSM carriers use SIM cards to put customer information on phones while CDMA carriers assign customers to specific phones.

Basically, customers can switch between GSM-based phones freely by swapping out SIM cards themselves, whereas they’d have to get the switch approved by their CDMA carrier.

Additionally, GSM users are able to place calls and surf the web simultaneously, something CDMA users are by in large, unable to do. Other than these differences, both technologies are similar when it comes to reception and call quality.

 

A Brief Rundown of Major US Cell Carriers

CDMA: 

Verizon: The largest of the 4 U.S. carriers. Fast and reliable service with the largest 4G LTE coverage. In other words, they offer the best service — at a price. Verizon is typically the most expensive of the 4 U.S. carriers when comparing similar data and contracts offered. Verizon’s 4G LTE network is live in 486 markets. Data packages are limited to 2GB, 5GB, and 10GB.

 

Sprint Logo

To Be Unlimited or Not to be Unlimited?

Sprint: One of the more affordable of the 4 carriers. Good nationwide coverage — not quite as expansive as AT&T or Verizon, but reasonably reliable. Sprint’s recently launched 4G LTE is the 3rd largest — or 3rd smallest, depending how you look at it — and is available in 318 cities. Sprint is one of two carriers that offers unlimited data.

GSM:

AT&T: The second largest U.S. carrier. Coverage similar to Verizon with a greater 4G footprint. But notice there’s no LTE in that sentence; this is because AT&T utilizes HSPA+ – a technology more akin to “3G+”. Not quite as fast as LTE but it’s certainly within reason. HSPA+ is generally considered a stop-gap between the 3G and 4G LTE technology evolution. AT&T’s 4G LTE network is live in 157 markets markets with more to come. Priced just below Verizon’s average contract. Data packages are limited to 300MB, 3GB, 5GB.

T-Mobile: The smallest of the 4 U.S. carriers. Almost bought out by AT&T before government intervention, T-Mobile is attempting to capture market share through offering unlimited data, calls, and texts. T-Mobile’s coverage is below the other 3 carriers but works within reason in major markets. Like AT&T, T-Mobile utilizes HSPA+ 4G technology in most devices. T-Mobile has recently launched their 4G LTE network is 7 cities. Data plans offered are 500MB, 2GB, and unlimited.

 

Cell Phone Carrier Pricing Comparison

Now that we understand the primary differences in carriers, let’s have a deeper look at the various contracts they offer:

  • Verizon averages $95, $105, $115, $155, $155 for unlimited voice/text with 300MB, 1GB, 2GB, and 10GB respectively per month.
  • Sprint averages $80 for 450 minutes and unlimited text/data per month
  • AT&T averages $100, $130, $150 for unlimited voice/text with 300MB, 1GB, and 3GB respectively per month
  • T-Mobile averages $50, $60, and $70 for unlimited voice/text and 500MB, 2GB, and unlimited respectively per month.
Hand Holding Several Hundred Dollar Bills

How Much Can You Save On Your Cell Phone Bill?

As you can see, pricing and data plans between carriers is obvious.

Verizon and AT&T stand out as the most expensive carriers. There’s a reason for that. They both offer the most comprehensive, reliable networks with large 4G footprints. The drawback, of course, is if you use a lot of data and pass your monthly data limit. When you see the hefty overage penalties on your cell phone bill, suddenly those hours of streaming cat videos won’t be so entertaining.

This is something to seriously consider as you explore the various plans offered by AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile.

 

Do You Need an Unlimited Data Plan for Your Smartphone?

How much data do you really plan to use? If you’re one of the always-connected types who uses social media frequently and streams music throughout the day, it may be worthwhile to look past AT&T and Verizon.

As data plans become more limiting and expensive, the unlimited data plans offered by Sprint and T-Mobile become much more appealing. Of course, the drawback of these carriers are the less comprehensive networks, especially when considered their infant status in the new mobile technological standard, 4G LTE.

Gizmodo uses the iPhone 5 to breakdown the pricing difference between carriers:

“Over a reasonable two-year lifespan of the iPhone 5, you’re looking to spend $2,120 with Sprint versus $2,260 on T-Mobile and $1,730 on Straight Talk. How that compares to AT&T and T-Mobile depends on how much data you use, but even if you stick with just 1GB/month you’re looking at $2,240 on AT&T over two years and $2,360 on Verizon.”

As you can see, the variations between the carriers are dramatic. In essence, you get what you pay for. Top dollar brings you the best you can get, albeit in a limited way, while the more affordable carriers tend to offer better deals in a limited reliability.

Whether you’re signing a new contract or jumping to a new carrier, it’s important to ask yourself just how you will use your phone. If you use a lot of data, then Sprint or T-Mobile will be your best bet. Just make sure you live in one of their markets with good reception and data speeds.

If you crave speed and reliability but can live within your data means, AT&T and Verizon are the better option. Just make sure to keep price in mind when signing any contract.

 

Let Us Know! 

Which carrier do you use? Which plan suits you best? Tell us about your experience in the comments section!

 

See Also

Best Cell Phone Customer Service: Verizon, AT&T, Sprint or T-Mobile?
Early Smartphone Upgrades: Are They Worth It?
Enhanced Recovery Company, T-Mobile Debt Collection Agency, May Send False Bills