Sue George • Director of Communications & Technology

On a recent Saturday morning, I opened my inbox and read about how a respected  New York Times journalist was scammed out of $50,000 for answering a call on her cell phone from someone “calling to check unusual activity on her Amazon account.” 

The next article that popped up told about a social media post in which Jennifer Aniston promised to sell MacBook Pro computers for just $10. These scam videos on Facebook and Instagram used audio deepfakes of celebrities like Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, Tiger Woods, Kylie Jenner, and Vin Diesel to hawk fake product giveaways and investment opportunities.

Then there was a weekend last month when many of you reached out to Pastor Stephen because you received suspicious emails that looked like he sent them, but were really phishing emails from bad actors trying to hook you into falling for a scam. 

As these bad actors refine the uses of artificial intelligence, all these kinds of scams will become more prevalent and more difficult to spot. What can you do to protect yourself? 

First, be skeptical of every email, text message, and phone call you receive. Look carefully at the email address: is it really from the person claiming to send the message? If you can set your cell phone to block unknown callers, do it. If it’s an important call from someone not on your contact list, the person will leave a message that you can return right away. 

Whenever an unknown caller asks for personal information or claims to be from your bank or a provider you use, HANG UP IMMEDIATELY. Then YOU call your bank or the provider and ask if they are trying to reach you. 

Next, don’t just delete junk mail that comes into your inbox: instead, send it to your junk or spam folder. That action trains your mailbox to learn what is junk and what is legitimate email. It’s good practice to go into your junk/spam folder every week or two and scan through those messages to make sure it’s not holding good emails. Send the good stuff to your inbox (or mark as “not junk”) and erase the rest.

I’ve been very pleased with Gmail as an email provider. It’s free and does an excellent job of keeping junk mail out of my inbox. If you are using Verizon, AOL, or Comcast as your mail provider, I urge you to close that account and move to Gmail. Yes, it’s a hassle to make the change, but in the long run well worth the effort. You can do it in small steps over time, and before you know it, you’ll have made the switch.

Topics like these come up every week in Tech Time, the Zoom gathering I’ve been hosting every Monday afternoon from 1-2 pm since the pandemic started in 2020. Some regulars have been with me from the beginning, and new folks drop in regularly to ask a question or share a good idea they’ve learned. I love having the opportunity to learn something new every week, because I sure don’t have all the answers. Together we’ve tackled questions about using cell phones and iPads, tested new Zoom features, discussed whether password managers are a good idea (yes!), learned how to take screenshots and how to use CarPlay, and much more. Recently Derry member Lauren June dropped by and presented an excellent tutorial on Pinterest

I invite you to join us on any Monday afternoon that works in your schedule:  just click this link. You’re welcome to drop in, ask a question and duck out, or stick around for the hour.  If there’s a topic you’d like to know more about, let me know and we’ll make it happen. 

Tech Time started as a way to practice using Zoom when it was new to all of us, and it’s continued because technology is constantly evolving and changing, and it’s not easy for any of us to keep up. Just having a forum to share frustrations, ask questions, and learn how to stay safe has been helpful. I hope you’ll join us.