Be Scam-Free in This Pandemic

More than phishing scams and ransomware attacks, various text scams have been on the rise again, even during these times of a pandemic affecting the entire world. You would think that this disaster affecting millions across the earth would make scammers and criminals more considerate and this, let them ease efforts on defrauding people who are already suffering as it is. But no, so many scams have become commonplace these days, much to the disadvantage of victims who are already coping with so many other matters.

But then again, it might be that these scammers are ahead in their game. They feel like with so many problems besetting people these days, they might be too distracted to realize that they are being scammed. Alas, that may be true because so many people are complaining of their bank accounts getting wiped clean of money when all they did was to respond to texts or emails coming from what looked like authentic departments of their banks. So now, we have a huge problem.

Why the rise?

The anxious mix of people getting distracted by pandemic news, being not in touch regularly with family and friends, and the general uncertainty of the situation makes us all the more susceptible to these scams. Of course, scammers have taken advantage of this situation by also playing to our paranoia, as some schemes are using contact tracing and the virus itself to force people into revealing personal information, leading them to get scammed easily.  On the other hand, with people’s finances not in the best shape these days, scammers have also found ways to fool people into participating in get-rich schemes to improve their situation, unknown to these victims that they are about to lose more money.

We all get distracted and stressed out: The boss wants that report by noon. The kids can’t get the Zoom classroom to open while we’re on a conference call. The dog is barking nonstop. Make the phone stop dinging and just answer the text!

(Via: https://www.lifewire.com/why-we-fall-for-texting-scams-and-how-to-stop-5077031)

Scam here, there, and everywhere

One scam in the UK involves a government agency sending SMS messages to people that they are eligible for government aid because of the pandemic and after being led to a legitimate-looking website, they will be asked of their bank details where the supposed government subsidy will be deposited to and passport numbers to facilitate verification. In the US, text messages informing shoppers of “packages” to be sent to them also victimized hundreds in August. Lately, fake recruiter emails and schemes where work-from-home opportunities are provided to job seekers who can deposit placement fees to scammer have also occurred.

Over the past two weeks, people across the

How to Be an Ace Online Student With a Few Steps

The thing about being on lockdown and avoiding too much of the outdoors is that everyone it seems has lost track of time. In case you are one of those people who has forgotten what date and time of the year it is, this is a reminder to tell you that it is already fall! Yes, that picturesque season with beds of falling orange leaves covering the ground, cool weather perfect for sweaters but not too cold that you feel lethargic, and of course, school opening! Many, if not all schools are welcoming back students to their fold, albeit everything being a virtual event as nobody dares to endanger the young by getting them to physical buildings where the risk of getting sick is higher.

With schools virtually opening come memories that flood back the minds of office workers who had to adapt to work from home strategies only months ago. And just like that event in March, school children and hapless parents are beset with challenges once again as they must adapt to this “new normal” of virtual classrooms and online modules. And just like office employees, students will also surely get used to learning in this environment, if only the learning and adaptation curve will be to their advantage very soon.

Studying is hard, studying online is harder

Just imagine, as an adult, having to sit still and appear very interested in your Zoom meetings with your office team, resisting the temptation to click on that N icon on your device and finishing the next episode of Money Heist you have promised yourself to watch as soon as the day ends. If that scenario is that challenging to supposedly mature and level-minded adults, imagine how much of a challenge that would be to kids and teenagers who generally have attention spans that can only be rivaled by Dory in Disney’s Finding Nemo movies. Confusion ensues when facial expressions and tones of teachers may be misinterpreted by children who may not be that equipped with enough maturity. Alas, there’s the challenge of intermittent internet connections. What’s a kid supposed to do?

But going to school on a laptop came with a litany of difficulties on day one: Parents were dealing with hangry kids who weren’t allowed to eat while on screen, demystifying confusing class schedules, and managing the various passwords needed to unlock an online education.

(Via: https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/09/16/metro/its-bizarre-its-how-were-doing-it-parents-students-adjust-virtual-classrooms/)

Where to study?

As with how adults had to face that challenge of having to work in the kitchen or in their beds during the early weeks of the lockdown, the same challenge is faced by students who may be more susceptible to getting distracted by even the slightest of …

Do You Have the Tech Basics of Podcasting?

With the pandemic still in full swing, most of us have taken so many hobbies and activities that occupy us, allow us to pass the time, and in a way reminds us that there is still that big, outside world we can connect to and just can’t explore for the meantime. Some of us have held monumental marathons on Netflix, some of us have explored skills in the kitchen, while others have honed their (or verified that they don’t have a) green thumb. Yet others, to remind them of those days of commuting to work and having a drink with colleagues after office hours, continue to listen to podcasts that we have been loyal to even before COVID-19 disrupted our lives.

But then, has it ever occurred to you that you can also do a podcast? There has been a surge in the amount of content people publish. Whether it is to bring some semblance of normality in their lives or to remind others in their network what they’ve been up to in these boring times, sharing podcasts can be quite therapeutic and effective as a social activity these days. If you are currently thinking, “Why not? That sounds like a lot of fun,” then maybe you should read on and check whether you and the people you want to do podcasts with have these already. Of course, it goes without saying that you would need an internet connection and a laptop or desktop computer in order to stream a podcast. Here are other items you would need:

Get a microphone
A microphone is a must so that you can put your voice into the computer for recording. The variety of microphones run from affordable to high-end, and the good news is you really don’t have to go for the more expensive mics to ensure great function. The more basic microphone models can also do a good job with reasonable quality. The thing to remember is to check the quality of the sound with the mic you are going to get. The better the quality, the more professional you will sound, the higher the likelihood of people listening to you. Suffice to say the basic mic or headset you use for Zoom and Skype calls may not really cut it.

Whether you’re picking podcasting up as a hobby or a new venture, one thing’s for sure: Low-quality equipment could make or break even the most compelling content, as otherwise interested listeners might be too distracted by background noise. The best podcast microphones will ensure rich, clear vocals, so even if you’re a one-person show, you won’t sound like one.
(Via: https://www.rollingstone.com/product-recommendations/electronics/best-podcast-microphones-1061917/)

Get a headset
A headset is a must …

Rolling in the Deep(fake)

In this era of fake news, it’s almost a given that you’ve come across videos like Jon Snow apologizing for the rather underwhelming finale episode of Game of Thrones, Mark Zuckerberg boasting of being the owner of people’s stolen data, and Steven Buscemi attending the Golden Globes wearing what people remember as Tilda Swinton’s gown. These videos have been our exposure to deepfake, the 21st century equivalent to photoshopped pictures. These videos are possible through artificial intelligence that produces fake images of events that have never happened. Most deepfakes have become tools for personalities to be embarrassed and have their reputations ruined, with some becoming effective in “fooling” unsuspecting viewers and in millennial-speak, “canceling” personalities.

Given how gullible we have all become to these fake videos, we need to inform ourselves of them lest we are fine with being unresisting victims. How they are made, how to know the difference between real and deepfake graphics, what the consequences of deepfake are, and possible solutions are some things we need to know. After all, there will come a time when technology becomes more common and accessible to just about everyone. When this time comes, deepfake will not only victimize celebrities and world-renowned personalities but even ordinary citizens like you and I. You definitely wouldn’t want to be left scratching your head when you fall target to a deepfake item.

What do you need to make a deepfake?

As of the moment, it takes a lot to produce deepfake. A standard laptop or desktop PC won’t do. You need a high-end desktop armed with professional-grade graphic cards and storage capacity. After all, one deepfake video alone may need a least 40,000 high definition pictures of the person you would like to be put in the video. HD photos are huge files that cloud storage is actually preferred. Fast computing power is also a must, or you will end up taking a month just to come up with a video that’s two minutes long. You also need tools and apps, which cost according to the quality of their outputs.

Right now, it’s actually not difficult to make deepfake videos, thanks to free apps and programs that allow even ordinary people to make them. Cost-free source codes and machine-learning algorithms are abundant online, and the only things you need to make yourself a video are time and materials.

(Via: https://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com/2020/05/17/features/deepfake-artificial-intelligence-pornography/20200517190700189.html)

 

Can you tell the difference?

Prior to 2019, when technology experts were asked how one can detect a deepfake, they will readily answer that it’s all in the eyes. Eyes in deepfake videos don’t naturally move, much less blink. After all, you can’t really see a lot of photos where a …

Getting Financially Fit Even During a Lockdown

While our ancestors have braved pandemics before and we have also had our fair share of crises and dealing with them, I do not think the world has faced a disaster of this magnitude. The various ways we cope with the COVID-19 calamity are quite pragmatic, as this is the first time we are facing problems like this. There is no blanket, one-size-fits-all solution yet, so we try to manage the best we can.  But then, there may be suggestions on how we can secure our survival that we can all try and apply. Thousands are losing their means of income with mass layoffs happening daily. Businesses have contracted, with some deciding to shut off permanently.  We can try and extend a hand to everyone in need of help, but before we can do that, we need to look out for ourselves as well. After all, if we are not that strong ad secure financially, how can we help others?

Thus, with still months (and even years, according to some) to go before we adopt a “new normal”, let us assess ourselves and see whether we can be confident with our state of fiscal being. That way, we can ease mental stress, focus our energies on the more important things such as keeping physically healthy, and be our full selves so we can possibly have something to give other people. Here are some ways we can be assured of strong financial health during this COVID-19 crisis.

 

Try to scrap unnecessary expenses

As you may already be working from home for the past weeks, if not months, try to do an inventory of your expenses since the lockdown started. See which areas you can cut down and calculate how much you can save. Be detailed down to the last cent. Remember, you should already have been saving on gas and transportation costs since you haven’t been using your car anywhere. But then, you might already have been using your savings to buy something online or add to the grocery budget. Set aside these savings instead of funneling them on things you don’t necessarily need.

There are ways to boost your saving skills while you’re stuck at home, though, to get your finances looking a little healthier (even if only to blow everything you have on holidays, pub trips, and fast food the second this is all over).

(Via: https://metro.co.uk/2020/04/24/simple-ways-cut-spending-save-money-lockdown-12604973/)

 

Get reminded of how important an emergency fund is

Remember when you were encouraged to set aside a portion of your income so that you can have something “for a rainy day’? Well, that rainy day is the present, with people losing jobs and getting their salaries cut. If …

What Will the New Normal Be Like?

We are indeed living in some of the most interesting times. There have been some events in the history of the human race that has changed the way we live, that is true, but these happenings took years to effect drastic changes. Wars raged on for years before affecting the entire world, whole continents used to be spared from medical pandemics. Now, COVID-19 has affected each and single country directly or indirectly. In a matter of weeks, the way we lived has changed. What is exciting and a bit scary is that months from now when we will eventually come out of our lockdowns and quarantines, there is a huge possibility that there will be no going back from the way we live only months ago.

The new normal as pundits have coined the period pos-COVID-19, will indeed be new and will be markedly different from how we used to do things in February. The COVD-19 pandemic is one for the history books – so devastatingly major that we humans may already define our lives as everything that happened pre-COVID and months from now, post-COVID. This can be both good and bad. The environment’s condition has improved, we now have a deeper appreciation for personal relationships, health has become a priority. But then, freedoms we used to take for granted such as mobility and assembly have been curtailed. The new normal does have pros and cons to it.

Our current lockdown situations are serving as a dry run for the major effects the COVID-19 will eventually impose on our lives after its reign. The question is, are you ready for this “new normal”? Here are some changes you need to be aware of now:

Commerce and the nature of work

Not only has this pandemic changed the nature of business and work, it has forced some of its facets to mature. COVID-19 has created a survival of the fittest scenario among commercial and work practices, and what remains will not only survive, but will compose what will be the “new normal.” And we realize that some of our pre-COVID habits are actually impractical and don’t make sense, so that’s good. After all, there’s really no need to constantly use the ATM and get cash, drive to a store to buy things, and use your cash to pay for your purchases when you can have anything delivered to your house. Why waste an hour of two to commute to work when you can finish everything at home and even extend your work hours for an hour or two?

So, perhaps the conversation that we should be having as a society isn’t about where we are going to work after the post-covid

Make Yourself In-Demand in a Post-COVID World With These Skills

If the death toll of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is not giving you serious bouts of depression, here’s something scarier: For the past month, 10% of the US workforce, or close to 15 million people do not have jobs anymore, also thanks to the pandemic. As of the end of April, over 26 million people have looked into unemployment benefits, and the figure is not showing any signs of decline. This is millions of us who are struggling on multiple fronts: how to stay healthy, how to pay the bills, and how to keep sane with everything that’s going on.

With the job market at its rockiest in history, laid-off employees may want to use this lockdown period as an opportunity to reassess themselves in terms of their careers, what they really want to do as work, what their skills are, what the job market needs, and what skills they can develop to make themselves more “marketable” when the “new normal” kicks in.

The same goes for you, still working reader. You may be “secure” in your current job, but with the way the world economy is going, no one is dispensable. The business and commercial landscape is evolving, all the more because of the COVID-19 crisis. Demands from companies are changing, and if you plan to stick around in the employed sector of the economy, you need to keep your skillset updated to these demands. It doesn’t matter if you are “not so technical” and past your prime; if you want to stay employed, you have to reskill, upskill, and get your available skills in line with what the market needs.  What skills are these? Take note of these skills that you need to acquire as soon as possible:

 

Up your critical thinking and problem-solving skills

According to a Society for Human Resource Management survey, the top soft skill that is absent among candidates according to 37% of employers is critical thinking and problem solving. The chance of someone with demonstrated problem solving and critical thinking skills getting hired is very high, as they are valued for providing options and solutions when companies face problems such as the current one everyone is facing.

Employers say they need a workforce fully equipped with skills beyond the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic to grow their businesses. These skills include critical thinking and problem solving, according to a 2010 Critical Skills Survey by the American Management Association and others.

(Via: https://www.dol.gov/odep/topics/youth/softskills/problem.pdf)

 

Up your social media and digital marketing skills

With the current lockdown forcing businesses to shift to methods that do not require physical contact and the near future most probably seen to continue with this, efforts to …

Cache-Free Your Way to Device Spring Cleaning

Every time you browse a website for the first time, information from it is stored in temporary files, and these files are called cache.  Why is there cache, you ask? Isn’t this a little invasion of your privacy because your browser or gadget retains some information about the sites you have visited? Shouldn’t this be prohibited? Cache files, terrible as they may seem when it comes to your security, is helpful when it comes to your browsing speed. See, those temporary files allow you to load the website faster and directly the next time you visit it, leading to a more satisfying browsing experience from you since you don’t have to wait that long for the site to load. If cache files are not present, the browser would need to connect to the site’s server again for proper reloading.

But then, security is not the only downside to cache files, as helpful as they may be. They also slow down your apps and device systems since they use memory and RAM.  Besides, a good number of sites only get visited by a user once, so there is not really a necessity for the cache of these sites to be saved.  Now, the question is, is it a good habit to clear your device’s cache? The answer is yes, and regularly. Why?

You will not see all changes made to the webpage if you rely on the cache. If you frequent a website and are religious in clearing the cache memory of your device, the browser, or the app you are using will be alerted to fetch the webpage’s latest version all the time. Also, when you are using a device that other people may have access to, as mentioned earlier, the next user may get access to your information, as the cache can store information such as your payment modes (e.g., debit and credit card information) and log-in credentials. That’s an additional privacy threat!

So, how do you clear your cache? With a laptop, since most online activities are done through browsing, then clearing the cache of your web browser is the way to go. Otherwise, you can also clear the cache of your iDevice or Android device. Here’s how:

 

Remove your cache in Chrome

Personal laptops run on Chrome. I mean, who uses IE or Microsoft Edge on their personal laptops? To remove cache on your Chrome browser, here are the steps:

To clear the cache and cookies in Chrome, you’ll need to access the browser’s Settings menu. There are three different ways you can get here.

The first way is to click the three vertical dots icon in the top-right corner of the screen, hovering over “More

Getting Your Cloud Knowledge On This Lockdown

Since a majority of us are working from home these days and so many pundits are claiming that office work will never be the same again (or at least in the near future), cloud services have become an integral part of the “new normal.” With physical offices becoming passé, cloud storage has become the most suitable option for keeping data. Just months ago, storing data and online files for companies would automatically mean physical devices and in-house servers. But with offices currently located in the living room of a supervisor and a kitchen of a secretary, cloud servers have become a must for storage for various reasons. Accessibility and affordability are just some of the reasons why anyone should be knowledgeable about cloud drives.

For one, online document storage using a cloud is super user-friendly. All you need to do is drag and drop the files in the cloud storage and voila, your document has been “saved” or “uploaded”. You can now access it anywhere as long as you have an internet connection and a device. You can also share your document with your colleagues and teammates by simply giving those you want to have access to the document a link. They can then download the file from their end, thanks to the link you shared. Of course, another benefit of cloud storage is that your files will not be compromised if your gadgets or devices get damaged. Afraid of losing all your beach photos because your phone got wet? Are you in panic mode because you dropped your laptop day before an important meeting? Not to worry if you have tweaked your settings to automatically save everything on a cloud.

Let’s have a look at your options available for the best cloud storage and which expert users constantly recommend:

Microsoft OneDrive

While Google seems to always edge out Microsoft in terms of innovation with online products, the latter can boast of holding its own when it comes to cloud storage solutions. One huge advantage Microsoft OneDrive has over Google or any competition in this field is its seamlessness with other products in the MS Office suite, So, if you are a heavy Excel, Word, or PowerPoint user, then OneDrive is your best cloud storage option.

If you’re more interested in integrating online storage with Microsoft Office then OneDrive is the way to go.

(Via: https://www.pcworld.com/article/3510499/google-drive-vs-microsoft-onedrive.html)

 

Google One/Drive

The fact that so many people are on Gmail would be Google One/Drive’s main selling point. You can easily save attachments and everything you receive on your Gmail on your drive. Any attachments coming from you are also automatically saved on your Google Drive. How’s that for convenience? Moreover, Google …

Making Yourself Mentally Strong in a Crisis is Possible

We are living in tough times. While we started off thinking a lockdown is a novelty and having fun with it (Imagine not having to go to the office to work? How cool!), we have settled into the reality where people are away from each other, we are prohibited to gather, and we aren’t allowed to travel. Suddenly, this lockdown has become such a bore and hassle that we have forgotten the fun side of everything. Before, we considered what’s happening like a little inconvenience. After all, we are only asked to stay indoors as our contribution to the world overcoming this crisis. But then, everything has started to lose significance and meaning. What started as a fun and even ideal set-up for most of us working has become something that has affected our mental state, big time.

Since we can’t meet up with friends physically, we’ve lost our rhythm, we can’t blow off steam by engaging in outdoor activities, our stress and anxiety levels have gone haywire. We may be suffering from simple cabin fever, but then, there surely has to be something more to what we’re experiencing now.  What can we do to get back our “sanity”? How can we keep our heads together and come out thriving even when the COVID-19 crisis is through?

Build positive habits

Think of what your life will be like once the world shifts to the “new normal”. Would you still want to wake up at 10 in the morning and go through the rest of your day in pajamas and uncombed hair? Surely not! Continue good habits you’ve had prior to the lockdown, such as your early morning jog and a healthy breakfast after. You will have to tweak some elements of your habits like doing a home workout instead of a jog, but you get the idea. They say you form a habit after doing it for 21 days straight, so if you start developing one now, you should have enough time to make your system get used to it. Before you know it, you will keep on doing the activity without even thinking about it.

The thing is, habits are pretty important right now. They’re a big part of how able we are to cope. More than ever, we need to look after ourselves, mentally, physically and emotionally.

(Via: https://www.tes.com/news/coronavirus-lockdown-wellbeing-4-ways-maintain-positive-habits)

Extend yourself

Nothing can set your head straight then feeling a sense of accomplishment because you have helped another human being. Doing something good for your community doesn’t require you to leave the corners of your home. Check out volunteering opportunities that would usually be posted on social media and see where your skills can take you in …