One of our frequent correspondents had a near miss.

That’s a near miss from disaster when he got a phone call telling him his PayPal account had been compromised and he owed $340. The caller said they could fix the problem for $299 but they needed to take control of his computer. They said they needed his bank account number too, so he gave it to them.

There was a lot of background chatter on the caller’s end of the line. The red flags went up, the rockets exploded and the bells started ringing. He turned off his computer, told the caller he just had a power outage, hung up and moved everything from his checking account to his savings account. Then he removed the software the callers installed. Whew. This is a pretty savvy guy we’re talking about, so this can happen to anyone.

So here’s the message: Never, we mean not ever, give control of your computer to someone you don’t know and trust. And … there’s no reason on Earth they need your bank account number. In fact, once he did that, even though he took alarm and took the right defensive action, the same people still call him. They figure they have a live one.

What is to be done, to be done, to be done?

We have had similar run-ins over the years. On one occasion, Joy gave control of her computer to someone she thought was from Microsoft. On hearing this, Bob, who has the same level of suspicion as a CIA agent who’s also paranoid, said hang up the phone and do it now. Joy had to reformat the computer afterwards.

So, when you have a problem with the computer, be it large or small, where do you turn? The stores that offer tech services have a natural conflict: they charge quite a bit for doing not much but the real profit is made in selling something additional. So the guys and gals who do the tech work often find it easier to tell the person seeking help that it’s better to just reinstall Windows. We’ve had this from two people we know just in the last couple of weeks. It’s a never -fail fix, somewhat expensive, but everybody comes out happy. Of course, there’s the additional expense of replacing the programs that got wiped out when you reinstalled the operating system.

We have tried the sites that provide contacts with freelancers who sell various skills and have various levels of expertise. The results have varied. There are lots of these sites. Last June, Forbes Magazine had an article called “79 Websites to Get Freelance Jobs Fast.”

These sites are legitimate and the freelancers do the work but results vary. Years ago, we went to a website called CrossLoop and by chance got a guy who was terrific on computer problems. The web site is no longer in operation. The guy’s name is Kenny. We’ve never met him but he’s who we recommend when there’s a problem. He’s at We’ve also gotten great help from Esther, a website expert, at By the way, we get no percentages on this or any other kind of payback from anything we write about; we want to go to “Reporter Heaven” when the time comes.

Going on Wheel of Fortune

Joy wanted to be a Wheel of Fortune contestant and they ask you to upload a one-minute video. So she got up early one morning and did it, putting her Android phone on a shelf, making sure the camera was facing her, and tapping the video button. It worked fine, though she had to try four times to get it under one minute.

The video was automatically uploaded to From there, she put it on YouTube (unlisted) and shared the link with Wheel. Unfortunately, the next step proved impossible.

The directions said to upload a headshot. But she kept getting “upload fail.” She tried three different browsers, two kinds of photo formats, three resolutions, and used two different computers. Finally, she tried submitting her application with just the video and no headshot, and that worked fine. We’ll let you know if she makes it.

Killer Course

Google is offering a free crash course in machine learning. That’s the kind of learning a computer does when it learns by watching rather than from explicit directions. As Yogi Berra once said: “You can see a lot just by looking.” Quite so. That’s how a Google computer beat a world champion in the game of Go and that’s how the future “Terminator “will figure things out.

Machine learning doesn’t happen automatically; it requires a savvy program. If you’re interested in learning, search on the phrase “Machine Learning Crash Course,” and look for the Google link. The prerequisites are mastery of entry level algebra and proficiency in programming, especially coding in Python. There are free tutorials in Python on YouTube, and we also like the paid lessons at


The Numbers Report

  • According to researcher Dscout, the average person touches their phone 2,617 times a day. Heavy users touch theirs 5,427 times a day. By touch, they mean every tap, swipe, type or click. The company recruited 94 Android users and installed touch monitoring software on their phones. Those people are now in rehab.
  • reports people are clicking on links they get from Google more than the ones from Facebook and other social media sites. This is a shift. For the past three years, most people used a Facebook link or similar social site to get to another website. Facebook lost 12.7 percentage points in share of visits between 2016 and 2017 while another social site, Instagram, saw their share increase ten times. Of course, Facebook owns Instagram.



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