The IRS Is After You!

Well, not quite…

goviconRather than rehash the whole article on NPR’s website (see link below), as a CPA I just felt it worth a minute or two to warn our clients that never will the IRS call a taxpayer or business directly out of the blue, UNLESS you have already received written notification from them in the US mail… (also, the IRS does not “sue” taxpayers; another sign that what you are hearing is a scam).

Still I myself received one of these voicemails a couple weeks back and for an “instant” my heart missed a beat; and this coming from someone who used to prepare taxes and who has dealt with the IRS in the past.

For anyone out there that may receive this call, it is 100% fake and a scam.  Even more so, if you know any seniors, make sure they are aware of this issue as the scam appears to be targeting our older population in large numbers.

It looks like the government is finally catching up to some of the scammers; for more details, click on the link below from NPR:
Dozens Charged With Scamming 15,000 Victims Through Fake IRS Calls

Online Marketing Myths and Scams

Is your business considering whether to give online marketing “a try”?
Or are you currently paying an “expert” to run your online marketing campaign? 

If so,one piece of advice; please be careful. 

With online marketing there are NO QUICK FIXES and no sure fire tools and/or software to make your website super successful on the web.  And if anyone should ever tell you that, run!  Too often I hear of clients (or potential clients) that are investing exorbitant  amounts of time and money into online services that are sketchy, at best.

Is online marketing needed these days?  Yes, to stay competitive in today’s business  environment, you don’t just need a professional  looking website, you need to apply some on-going marketing efforts to insure people can find your website. But the amount and the levels of that investment vary widely.

If you are interested to chat about a current program you are using or don’t know where to start when it comes to online marketing, then give us a call, 856-428-8038 or contact us via our website, www.emaxed.com.  We can offer you the guidance you need.

POODLE.
Time to Stop Using IE6

If anyone out there is still using Microsoft’s IE6 browser, this week adds another reason its time to upgrade: POODLE (or Padding Oracle On Downgraded Legacy Encryption). Now that’s a mouthful. It is the most recent technological vulnerability discovered by some engineers at Google.  The issue revolves around an older SSL certificate technology (SSL 3.0) and the way data is sent using this protocol.

While the SSL 3.0 technology is 15 years old, some who use older browsers (most especially those who somehow are still using IE6) are vulnerable to this issue.

The answer is simple, especially with software that deals with the Internet; be sure you stay as close to the most current release of your software (browsers especially) as you can.  Security engineers are constantly at work looking and providing fixes for vulnerabilities that can lead to hackers gaining control of your computers and/or your data.  When they find an issue, the engineers release patches for their software. But if you never upgrade or install these patches, you are leaving yourself open to attack.

It might be a pain at times, but staying current with your computer software is vital  these days…

Keep your private data private.

A quick thought: If you don’t want sensitive information/photos/etc. taken from you, don’t put that information up on the web (or keep it sitting on your smartphones). While so many tech companies will bend over backwards to tell you how safe your information is “in the cloud” and/or “on their servers”, the simple truth is, nothing is 100% safe if it is connected to the web.

So if you need to take racy photos of yourself or your significant other, and don’t want them to appear all over the net, use something old school like this; a Polaroid Camera:)

camera

Start 2014 With a Clean Slate!

Start 2014 With a Clean Slate!
Or rather a clean in-box!!

Is your business drowning in spam?  For years we have helped many of our clients take back their in-box and their email.  No longer are they wasting hours of time a week  trudging through hundreds of spam messages.

Using a service called Postini (owned by Google), I myself have personally seen results go from dozens of spam messages an hour, to less than one a day!  How can I say this?  Because not only am I an advocate, I’m a user; I’ve been using Postini now for my own accounts for over 5 years and can’t believe the results.  At one point I was receiving hundreds of spam emails a day (not to mention viruses attached to some of those messages), now its a rare occasion to get one piece of spam.  AND at the end of each day I receive a single list of all messages filtered out by Postini.  In less than a minute I can scan through the summary list to see if there are any valid emails that were mistakenly filtered.  If I find one, I simply click on a button and that email is delivered instantly.

We all use email, we all depend on email.  If your business is suffering from spam, let us know – we can help! At less than a few dollars a month, Postini is a steal when you consider how valuable your time is and how much of it is wasted because of spam.

Let this be Number 1 on your New Year’s Business Resolution list; Take back your in-box!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Emaxed

Can you trust an online review?

Are you looking to buy a new TV?  Or maybe looking to try a new restaurant?  So many of us (myself included) jump right to online reviews (Yelp, Amazon, Angie’s List, etc…) to find out the real scoop about a product, a restaurant, hotel, business, etc…

Unfortunately what you read can’t always be trusted, as the State of New York is pointing out.  The state’s attorney general just announced details about a year long sting focused on companies that posted “fake” reviews of products and services, for a marketing fee.

(Reuters) – Nineteen companies caught writing fake reviews on websites such as Yelp, Google Local and CitySearch have been snared in a year-long sting operation by the New York Attorney General, and will pay $350,000 in penalties.
http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/23/us-fake-reviewers-idUSBRE98M0YU20130923

But before you lose faith in online reviews, let me offer you three ways to help determine if a product or service is worth your time and money:

  1. First, be a little cautious of products/services/companies that may only have a few reviews appearing online (AND even more so if all of those reviews are incredibly positive.)
  2. Second, websites like Amazon will often note right next to the review if the reviewer actually bought the product (Amazon labels the review “Amazon Verified Purchase”), which means there is a higher chance that this reviewer actually bought the product.
  3. Lastly, remember when you were in school and some teachers graded your tests using a simple bell curve?  Try the same thing with online reviews; take a step back and look at all the reviews and determine if they are leaning in one direction or the other. Then try ignoring the most positive and the most negative reviews, to see what is left.

Of course just like in “real” life, on the web it will always be “buyer beware”.  For our clients and other businesses we recommend making it “company beware” as well – it might make sense to pay “Online SEO Consultants” to boost your SEO rankings and scores using tactics such as fake reviews.  But just like in life, over time you will most likely be found out.  And unfortunately the “web” is a lot less forgiving than people are, so if you get caught “cheating” it might cause a LOT more damage to your business than what its worth.

If something is ever too good to be true… well… you know….

A Little Knowledge Now Beats a Dozen Aspirin Down The Road

To all businesses out there…

FTP, domain name, email administrator: All Important InformationDo you know who owns and/or controls your domain name (www.MyNameHere.com)? How about the person who administers all your company’s email accounts? (you don’t use AOL still do you???). How about your hosting account? Or who has FTP access to your website?

I know to the average layperson, some of those words above may seem like Greek. BUT, they are vital pieces of information that can save you hours, if not days of aggravation.

Case in point… If your domain was registered by an employee 10 years ago and that person is no longer with your company, who is paying the annual registration fee for the domain name? If that fee should go unpaid, your entire domain name (www.MyNameHere.com) will be turned off, and along with it all your email accounts will be temporarily shut-down as well (no sending or receiving emails). Even worse, it could take 24 to 48 hours to get everything turned on again.

Most of our clients start having panic attacks if their email is interrupted for 15 minutes, let alone 2 days!

Do yourself a favor, stop today and put together an Emergency List of all your technical information that relates to your website and email. Write down who is responsible for what, and what date your domain name registration is due and when it was last paid. Then add that paper to your safety deposit box or office safe/file cabinet (you may also want to add the usernames/passwords for all your vital online accounts as well).

It may only take 20 minutes to put together now, but it may save you days of headaches and dozens of aspirin down the road.

Its a quick one!

Two Tips for Today:

1) If you have a password that is an actual word (or is all letters), CHANGE IT NOW.  Using what are called brute force (dictionary) attacks, a hacker can “guess” your password in seconds!

A client of ours this week had their password “guessed”, and in just a few hours the hackers/spammers sent out over 20,000 emails using our client’s email account! The result? Our client, along with the entire email server, was labeled by Verizon, Comcast, AOL, (and other services) as a spammer. It not only caused problems for that client, it effected hundreds of other clients as well.

Change your password!  Use odd characters, capital letters and numbers.  And don’t use the same password for multiple websites. A password takes about a minute to change, but could save you HOURS of frustration.

2) If you get strange emails from your friend who has an AOL email address (or yahoo or another free email service), with weird web links in that email, your friend’s AOL account was broken into and hackers/spammers are using that account to send spam.  Contact your friend immediately and tell them to change their AOL password ASAP.

OH and if you are using AOL for business email, call us today and we will get you setup with your own company email and help bring your business in to the 21st Century!  If you use AOL, you have no idea how many emails you might not be getting from your customers, clients, prospects and/or leads… In this economy, its not worth the risk to use AOL for business.