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Woman getting dressed in 26th floor apartment terrified by peeping drone

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A high-tech Peeping Tom terrified a Seattle woman getting dressed in her apartment.

Lisa Pleiss spotted the drone just before 8 a.m. Sunday and reported it to her concierge, who called Seattle police.

“It was freaky,” she said. “You don't expect to be walking around indecent in your apartment and have this thing out there potentially recording you.”

When Pleiss grabbed her camera to a take a picture, she said the drone seemed to react.

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“It, like, swooped out of frame immediately, really quickly,” she said, “which made me think they were looking at me because they were reacting to my actions.”

Pleiss lives on the 26th floor of her building, which is in downtown Seattle at the corner of Terry Avenue and Stewart Street.  She she’s never had to worry about someone looking through window before. She called down to her concierge, who spotted two men operating the drone.

“One had this big tripod with big equipment on it and it had something else that went with it,” Pleiss said. “They immediately grabbed it and kind of ran across the street.”

The men took off in a white Mazda, though there was no license plate on the front of the car.

Police emphasize that owning and flying drones is legal, though they will respond to complaints.

"If you feel threatened by it or you get hit by it, free to tell a person, ‘Hey look, that's not cool,’ or you can call police and we can do the talking for you if you wish,” Officer Patrick Michaud said.

But when it comes to a drone potentially taking photos or video, KIRO-TV in Seattle found out it could be a different story. An attorney for the station said there could be legal issues with drones recording people in private places.

Pleiss has posted her photo online to see if anyone knows why the drone was outside her window.

“I do know that there's a lot of buzz and concern around drones and I now understand why,” she said.

Police are investigating whether any surveillance cameras in the area captured the incident.

'Breaking Bad' star is freaking out Xbox owners

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Xbox One owners are complaining that a new TV commercial featuring actor Aaron Paul is switching their consoles on without their permission.

In the advertisement, Paul says "Xbox On," which is apparently triggering Xbox One consoles equipped with a Kinect voice/motion sensor to turn on. 

Xbox One owners have taken to Twitter and Reddit to complain. According to the DailyDot, effects of the voice commands spoken in the commercial range from turning on consoles, launching games and turning off televisions.

New Nintendo game won't allow gay marriage

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Nintendo's upcoming release of "Tomodachi Life" for the 3DS is already causing controversy. 

In the game, you create a character, called a Mii, and can go about the world wreaking havoc or even making the characters fall in love. That's where the controversy comes in. (Via Nintendo)

"The characters eat and shop and fall in love, but only heterosexual couples are allowed to marry in the game." (Via KSAZ)

This especially didn't sit well with Tye Marini, who has started a campaign called "Miiquality," complete with Facebook and Twitter pages - along with this video :

"The game does not support same-sex relationships. Being a gay male myself, this news is very disappointing to me." (Via Vimeo / Tyeforce)

Relationships and marriage are part of the game - and some features can't be unlocked unless you're married. However, WTOC reports Nintendo doesn't seem to be budging.

"Nintendo says it won't bow to the pressure to allow players to woo characters of the same sex in English editions of this game." (Via WTOC)

However, since the game is scheduled to be released in the U.S. in June, we should note there really isn't time for developers to go back and change the game without changing the release date. 

There are games that do promote virtual equality, like the SIMS, for example. (Via YouTube / Juan Mamaril / Electronic Arts Inc.)

But Time puts it all in perspective. "Dozens of countries across the globe now allow gay marriage, but it’s still verboten in some virtual worlds."

Read more at Newsy.com

Ransomware: Holding Your Computer Hostage for Money

Clark Howard is a nationally syndicated consumer advice expert

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The worst ransomware to date is freezing up computers until consumers pay scammers hundreds of dollars to supposedly implement a fix.

Crypto-Locker is apparently making the rounds and encrypting all the files on your computer hostage until you pay criminals $300 for them to unlock your files, according to The Cleveland Plain DealerIn some cases, even after you pay them, the crooks continue spying on you remotely with keyloggers. At this point, there is no fix for Crypto-Locker. That's why it's important you don't get it in the first place. You know the usual routine: Don't click on attachments, don't watch unsolicited, keep your anti-virus up to date, etc. The best advice I can give is this: Back up everything you have so you can abandon a computer if it's infected with Crypto-Locker. There are two ways you can do this. Either use afreemium back-up cloud service for data or use a back-up external drive. The latter is really cheap starting around $30.The last instance of ransomware I reported was about a year ago. At that time, the Internet Crime Complaint Center said that Reveton malware was seizing up computers with pop-up windows branded with the FBI logo! The pop-up window typically warn the computer contains "child pornography, unlicensed materials or 'computer-use negligence,' according toThe Cleveland Plain Dealer.If someone is holding your computer hostage for money, never pay the ransom. There's no way to tell the scammers will do what they say and not load additional viruses on your computer. Second, you're rewarding bad behavior if you pay them. Normally I talk about using free antivirus software to prevent something like this. But now the warning is that won't get it done. The recommendation I have is to contact a professional to clean your computer. Even if you're able to unfreeze your computer yourself, elements of the virus could remain behind.Here's how to protect yourself going forward:

  • For basic protection, use anti-virus and anti-malware software and keep it up to date. See my Virus, Spyware and Malware Protection Guide for links to free options. 
  • Keep your browsers, applications and plug-ins up-to-date with the latest security patches and updates. Be sure to do this at home on your own secure connection.
  • When using WiFi at a hotel or other public hotspot, make sure you are using the real WiFi connection.  Some scammers try to lure people to a fake WiFi connection that can steal your info.
  • When using public wifi of any kind, don't access your financial institutions or do any kind of bank transaction--do that at home only!

Smartphone and Data Plan Guide for 2014

Clark Howard is a nationally syndicated consumer advice expert

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The cost of monthly cell phone service is dropping. The change for your wallet is the best since the last big wave of discounting 15 years ago. Plans and services are morphing in many different directions all at once. That makes saving money more complicated and requires you to decide what compromises you are willing to live with to save money.Cell phone service can now be divided into 3 types: The Big Four, discounters, and innovators.

The Big Four

T-Mobile changed the market for the Big Four with its Uncarrier strategy. You sign up no contract and pay a real price for a phone. The first person pays $50 per month, the second person on your plan pays $30, and 3, 4, and 5 people on your plan pay $10 per month. That works out to $22 per month per line for 5 people with unlimited talk and text, but only 1/2 gig of data per month. Each person can add an additional 2 gigs as needed at $10 extra per month. If you want unlimited data including a free hot spot service from your phone that is $20 extra per line.In my case, I have 5 people on my T-Mobile account. Two have unlimited data and 3 get by with 1/2 a gig. That makes the bill for 5 lines $150 per month or $30 each line.AT&T has suffered the most lost customers of anyone to T-Mobile as both companies use the same technology called GSM. That has set off a poaching war with AT&T paying you a bounty if you move from T-Mobile to AT&T. T-Mobile in turn will pay termination fees for you if you leave any contract carrier and come to them.Feeling the heat from T-Mobile, AT&T has now instituted a big price cut as well for families starting February 2nd. The first two lines cost $130 per month. Not great. However, each additional line is $15 per month. For 5 lines you pay $175 per month or $35 per line. That includes unlimited talk and text for all lines and 10 gigs of data to share among the lines.Sprint has its "Framily" plan which is a crazy, wild, confusing, and cheap plan. If you can get 7 to 10 people together, each pays $25 per month billed separately. So one person is not responsible for the bill like with T-Mobile or AT&T. The $25 gets you unlimited talk and text and 1 gig of data per line per month. Sprint Framily now has a tie-in with Spotify for a deluxe music service at $5 a month. That's a real deal for musicaholics.The T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint offers are all non-contract. That means you pay a real price for a phone. That is really easy with T-Mobile and AT&T. Cheap GSM phones are widely available.Verizon has stayed on the sidelines so far and will likely cut rates only if the other 3 take customers from them in big numbers. Now comes more damning news for Verizon; they're reportedlycollecting info on all your online habits and selling it to marketers to feed ads to you.

The Discounters

The discounters have grown their number of customers by big amounts in the last 3 years. However, I don't expect much growth unless they cut rates again. Led by Straight Talk, this group charges around $45 per month for unlimited talk and text with 3 to 5 gigs of data a month. All are non-contract and all buy blocks of time on the networks of the Big Four. Straight Talk is the largest and has service on all 4.Boost Mobile, meanwhile, is offering a new special 4G service for $35 per month (for 6 months) with unlimited talk and text and 3.6 gigs of LTE data. This introductory monthly rate increases to $50 a month after 6  months. At that time, you are eligible to earn remaining Shrinking Payment milestones (potentially reducing payment to $40 month after max milestones earned).With any of the discounters, the phone you buy or bring determines whose network you will be on.

The Innovators

This is the area that has the most opportunity to save money and the most odd terms of use. I have spoken at length about 3 of them. All 3 use wi-fi as a way to pass savings on to you.Republic Wireless is my favorite. For $25 per month you get unlimited talk, text, and data. That is the best deal in America. You buy a very good Android called the Moto X for $299 or a decent phone called the Moto G for $149. Then you use the phone like any other, except most of the time you are on wi-fi instead of cellular. Thus the savings. (Read my review of Republic Wireless.)Scratch Wireless offers a free plan that is hard to wrap your mind around. You buy a Motorola Photon Q for $269. It is a dated midrange Android. You have unlimited everything anywhere there is wi-fi, and get unlimited free texting everywhere including on cellular. If you want talk and data on the go, you can pay a daily or monthly fee. Scratch is counting on the fact that most of the time we are somewhere where there is free wi-fi.Freedom Pop offers a freemium service. You buy any of a variety of Androids with prices all over the place (starting at around $99) and get 200 minutes, 500 texts, and 1/2 gig of data per month for free. There are a variety of paid options including unlimited talk and text for $10.99 per month. Meanwhile, you can now use the iPhone on Freedom Pop. See their website for details.There will be many more new innovators in 2014. Look around and take your time before you choose. And NEVER sign a 2-year contract again!For further reading:

Cell phone overage fees going away

Clark Howard is a nationally syndicated consumer advice expert

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The prevailing business model from the major cell phone companies has been to lure you into a bear trap and fee you to death. But that’s changing quickly. And pesky overage fees are the next to bite the dust.

T Mobile CEO John Legere is no stranger to causing commotion, and he’s doing just that at the expensive of the other major US cell phone carriers. He announced on his blog last Wednesday that T Mobile is doing away with all of their overage fees. And he’s also asked Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint to join him. That request was mostly met with a curt, “no comment.”

These fees cost consumers an estimated 1 billion dollars a year according to T Mobile! We’ve been hearing complaints from listeners for years on surprise fees that can add up to incredible dollar amounts. Some of those have fees have even been in the thousands of dollars. To see those overage fees gone for good would be a boon for consumers and would create more transparency as well.

The wireless revolution is in full swing at this point. From the small discounters like Freedom Pop and Republic Wireless to the major disruptor T Mobile, the landscape of mobile is already vastly different than it was just a few years ago. But did you know that you can still overpay? If you sit on your hands and do nothing it’ll cost you big-time. The real savings come when you switch to one of the deal-oriented carriers and say adios to the behemoth companies.

Also, Republic Wireless is launching their new, far cheaper phone. They now add an inexpensive handset  to their already impressive plan offerings which start at just $5 a month! So don’t just sit there and take what the overpriced big guys offer you. And if you’re in a contract, there’s a solution to that as well.  

True privacy on the web at the click of a mouse

Clark Howard is a nationally syndicated consumer advice expert

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Are you concerned with all the discussion about online tracking by the government and private industry? There are some simple steps you can take to limit it.The use of cookies to track your web browsing and serve up relevant ads is one of the easiest things to stop. For example, Firefox has  Do Not Track capability that you can easily activate in their browser.Ad Block Plus, a browser "add-on" designed to remove many ads from your browser display, can also help disable online tracking  as you’re web-surfing, and it’s available for most major browsers.But if you really want to stop the browsers from tracking you, you'll want to take the following steps, courtesy of The New York Times. 

REMOVE AND DISABLE YOUR SEARCH HISTORY

GOOGLE

  1. Go to Google.com/history and log in to your Google account.
  2. Click the gear icon in the upper right and select 'Settings.'  
  3. Click the 'Turn Off' button. As an additional step, be sure to click the 'delete all' and 'recent activity' links.
  4. You can also opt out of targeted and search ads on the web and in Gmail by going to Google.com/settings/ads.

BING

  1. Go to Bing.com/profile/history.
  2. Click both the 'turn off' and 'clear all' buttons in the upper right corner.

YAHOO

  1. Go to Search.Yahoo.com/preferences.
  2. Select 'search history off.'

 

USE A PRIVATE, NO-TRACK SEARCH ENGINE

Ignore the online trail that you leave behind at your own risk.  I recently learned that the #1  weapon fordivorce lawyers in contentious cases is requesting disclosure of e-mail and search history,  as well as who you "friend" on social media.If you want to avoid leaving a trail, you can do your searches through a popular new search tool called DuckDuckGo.

Since 2013 I've been using this tool instead of Google. It delivers cleaner search results with fewer advertisements and does not record your searches.

DuckDuckGo was started by 33-year-old Gabe Weinberg. Weinberg thought it was crazy that ads pop up on Google so prominently and they track you everywhere you go and then serve you more ads based on what you search. He just wanted a straight, clean search, and that's what he developed. With no real business model, he's still trying to figure out how to make real money from this creation. But the use of this non-tracking search tool has exploded in recent months.For other no-track search options, The New York Times also recommends Private LeeQrobe.itIxQuick, and Disconnect Search.

STOP TRACKING ON YOUR PHONE

In reality, the greatest breach of your privacy may be through smartphones. They are a gold mine for people looking to track you, dissect who are, and sell to you. In fact, you have to go back to using a feature phone if you want to avoid data miners! But there is a way to limit the surveillance.Simply go to SmartStorePrivacy.org and you can opt out of this mobile tracking. Not every player in the tracking business is on board with this privacy initiative, but many of the bigger ones are.Just click Take Me to Opt Out, enter both your WiFi MAC address and Bluetooth address and then you're opted out. Full instructions on how to determine your MAC and Bluetooth address are also available.

You can also install the DuckDuckGo app on your iPhone or Android device.

 

CONCLUSION

If you really want to go off the grid, use a feature phone like an older flip-phone; use cash instead of credit or debit; and don’t surf the web.There are less extreme ways to mitigate and limit tracking too. For example, you might segregate your emails and/or browsers -- one e-mail for social media, another for e-commerce, another for news and info sites, etc.You do have choices if you want to take some control. It’s only a question of how much control you want to take…Melissa King, a Savings.com DealPro, lives in Savannah, GA. She enjoys "Paying It Forward"  in her community. Check her out on her blog at ThisMommySavesMoney.com.For further reading:

Two-year-old saves mom by using FaceTime

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A tech savvy 2-year-old in Arizona helped save his mother's life after a dog nearly bit her finger off. 

"I begged my daughters to call 911 and they're four so they were quite afraid to touch my phone because it was covered in my own blood." (Via ABC)

Laura Toone was loosing blood fast, and just as she thought she was going to pass out... 

"Here comes my son from the kitchen bringing me our dish towel and he came over, wiped off the blood himself and proceeded to call my friend on FaceTime." (Via KGUN)

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Now, little Bentley is no stranger to FaceTime prank calls to his mom's friends, and he does it so often his calls often go ignored. (Via Buzzfeed

But this time Connie Guerrero picked up. 

She said at first she could just see Bentley, but then she heard screams in the background and called for help. (Via KGUN)

Little Bentley even unlocked the door when firefighters arrived.

New scam targets Netflix subscribers

Clark Howard is a nationally syndicated consumer advice expert

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If you're a Netflix subscriber, you're on the hit list of cyber-criminals who want into your wallet!

Huffington Post reports some subscribers are being hit with a pop-up phony webpage that looks exactly like Netflix.When you enter your account info to sign in, you get a message that says, "We have detected unusual activity on this account. To Protect your account for unauthorized use, we have temporarily suspended this username. To regain access to your account please contact Member Services at 1-800-947-6570."I should note that the real Netflix customer service number is 1-866-579-7172.If you call the fake customer service number, you're told to download special software that is a Trojan virus. It allows the criminals to take over your computer and look for sensitive financial info on it.http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid29023586001?bctid=3033276615001

Netflix has become so popular that it's now a big target for crooks. Be very careful out there! If you ever need to call Netflix, make sure you call the right number. Do not respond to anything in any pop up!

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$25 smartphone is coming

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Forget about the latest iPhone or the newest Samsung Galaxy. The hottest smartphone of 2014 could be one that costs as little as $25!Mozilla has teamed up with Chinese manufacturer Spreadtrum to announce a $25 smartphone.The technological breakthrough that will allow such a cheap yet fully featured phone is the SC6821 chipset.According to a press release, the SC6821 promises "a unique low memory configuration and high level of integration that dramatically reduces the total bill of materials required to develop low-end smartphones." The as-yet-unnamed phone will run Firefox OS, so it may take some getting used to!As we move to a no-contract world, you'll have to buy your own phone at a real unsubsidized price. $200 is the high point of what most people will pay. But most people are more comfortable under $100.This coming Christmas, you'll see how entire market changes with super-cheap no-contract smartphones!For further reading:

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