A banner image of the MacNinja with the headline: How to check to see if you have any subscriptions in iCloud

It can feel very uncomfortable to not know what subscriptions you maybe are getting charged through your Apple account. We all know the feeling— perhaps you downloaded some app Apple’s app store and it just feels sketchy. Perhaps you received a spam email telling you that you are being charged some outrageous fee through your iTunes/AppleID account. Apple’s latest iOS operating systems make it very easy to check.

    1. Open up the Settings app.
      A picture of the default home screen. The Settings app is highlighted.
    2. Click on the AppleID/ iCloud / iTunes / App Store settings button at the top.
      The main page of the Settings app, with the AppleID/ iCloud settings, which is the first button, highlighted.
    3. Click on the fourth button, the Subscriptions button.
      The AppleID/iCloud settings page showing Subscriptions, the fourth button, being highlighted.
    4. Any subscriptions on your account will be listed here. Unlike a scam email, you can trust that any and all subscriptions you have through Apple will correctly show up here. You can click on any you want to cancel.
      The Subscriptions page of the Settings: AppleID/ iCloud app. You can clearly see all subscriptions listed. Click on a subscription to see details.
    5. You will see information about what the charge is, how often it is charged, and when the renewal date is. There is a clear Cancel Subscription button. Just keep in mind that if you cancel a subscription, it will still show up on your Subscriptions page until the current subscription period expires. In this screenshot, it would still show up until November 23, 2021. I would also still be able to watch movies and TV shows in that app until that date.
      The Edit Subscription page in the settings app. The Cancel Subscription button shows up in prominent, red text. The current subscription renewal/expiration date is also clearly visible.
    6. A confirmation dialog box will appear. You must click the Confirm button to complete cancelling a subscription.
      The button to confirm cancelling a subscription.

I am a long time Apple Mac user and I have become set in my ways. Apple has made changes to their default settings over the years, and I don’t always like all the changes that Apple has made.

  1. Turn on scrollbars— Even though I really like to be use a 2–finger swipe to scroll on my MagicTrackpad, I still like to have the scrollbars visible on my Mac. Before the advent of iPhones with touch screens, scrollbars were the norm. Apple tried to make things look sleeker by hiding the scrollbars on the Mac, but I still prefer for them always to be visible. If you go to System Preferences: General, you can set your scrollbars to be always visible.Screenshot of General preferences with Show Scroll Bars circled.
  2. Scrolling direction unnatural— Speaking of how mice/trackpads work, Apple changed the default direction for scrolling. Back in the 1990s, I started using mice with scroll wheels and it felt natural at the time to turn the scroll wheel on my mouse in a downwards motion in order to scroll downwards. Once the iPhone came out, Apple was faced with a dilemma in that with an iPhone, you are conceptually pushing a piece of paper around on your phone’s screen. In that sense, you would push the paper upwards if you want to see something further down the page. Apple changed the default scrolling in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion in order to make the default scrolling match the iPhone. I would suggest going to System Preferences: Trackpad or System Preferences: Mouse in order to turn off the scroll direction “Natural” setting.Screenshot of the Trackpad preferences with the Scroll & Zoom tab selected, as well as Scroll Direction:Natural circled and unchecked.
  3. Show your hard drives and your filename extensions in the Finder— Macintosh computers always used to show you an icon for your hard drive right on the desktop. This helped to teach you about the hierarchical filing system by letting you click on a folder and see the folders nested inside. You could drill down to a specific folder to save a file for your project. I still prefer to see an icon for my hard drive right on the desktop. Filename extensions were a necessary feature for Windows computers which have no way of knowing what application can open a particular file unless the name contains a 3 or 4 letter extension to identify the file type. I prefer to always see those extensions. For instance, if I look at my digital camera’s photos, I can instantly tell which file is a JPEG and which is a RAW photo by seeing the .JPG or .CR2 extensions on two otherwise identical photographs. You can go to the Finder: Preferences to turn on Show Hard Drives and Show Filename Extensions.Screenshot of Finder Preferences with the General tab selected. The options for Hard Disks, External Disks, CDs, DVDs, and iPods, and Connected Servers are all checked.Screenshot of Finder Preferences with the Advanced tab selected and Show All Filename Extensions checked.
  4. Have your Mac restart more quickly— The Macs of old always started up as a tabula rasa, or blank slate. That is, they started up with no programs running and everything reset to default. Later, Macs gained a default option to try to save the state of all running applications are restore that state when you restarted the computer. Back in the days of spinning hard drives, this could add a minute or more of waiting time for your computer to immediately load up all the applications you were running when you shut down. The wait is not so bad now with solid state drives, but I still prefer my Mac to start up as quickly as possible, fully open to all possibilities. Whenever you go to the  menu and choose restart, you will see a checkbox for whether your Mac should reopen all applications. I turn that off.Screenshot showing the option to Reopen Windows When Logging Back In being unchecked.
  5. Take back your choice on whether to save your files— A feature of the Classic Mac OS that I always loved was that it would always ask you if you wanted to save any unsaved changes to your work if you tried to quit an application or restart the whole computer. Apple even made that better in Mac OS X by including a subtle shadow on the red close button if your file had unsaved changes. Starting with Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, Apple made some bold changes to make a modernized Document Model that would free users from the tyranny of having to know where they were saving their file. It also meant that they didn’t have to worry about saving their files. I have seen people who accidentally keep saving over and over the same document because of this new document model, so I always like to explicitly manage saving my files by hand. So I go to the System Preferences: General and then put a checkmark next to Ask To Keep Changes When Closing Documents and also Close Windows When Quitting An App.Screenshot of System Preferences: General with Ask To Keep Changes When Closing Documents and Close Windows When Quitting An App both selected.
  6. Make the cursor easier to see— I love my big screened Macs, but that extra screen real estate does make it easy to lose track of the cursor. So I like to go System Preferences: Accessibility: Display: Cursor and then raise the Cursor Size Slider by one step.Screenshot of System Preferences: Accessibility: Display: Cursor with the Cursor Size slider adjusted larger by one step.
  7. Just make everything more legible— For some reason Apple’s large screened iMacs are perfectly comfortable for me at their default setting of 220 PPI (points per inch) but on the smaller screened laptops, my eyes are starting to bother me. So if I feel like it is hard to read things on screen, I will go to System Preferences: Displays and change the Scaling.
    Clicking on the Scaled options will give you a few different sizes to choose from. It’s a bit counterintuitive, but by showing less points on screen, they all have to be stretched larger to fill the screen, so everything instantly gets a big bigger. Notice the difference in size between the screenshot below and the previous screenshot? 

I use a program called 1Password to keep my life more secure and more organized. One of the nice features it has is that you can add an expiration date to anything you add to 1Password. This works great in conjunction with a separate, optional feature of 1Password called WatchTower which will automatically alert you when one of your item’s expiration dates are coming up. According to their website, the Expiring alerts show items that are expiring soon, so you can take action:

  • credit cards, memberships, and drivers licenses that are expiring within 2 months
  • passports expiring within 9 months
  • items that have already expired

Here’s how to make use of that feature.

  1. Only certain categories of 1Password version 7 include an expiration date field: Passport, Credit Card, Driver’s License, Membership, and Outdoor License. Let’s create a membership item by opening the 1Password program and then clicking on the + button and then choosing MembershipScreenshot showing the creation of a Membership item.
  2. Enter information as needed, making sure to enter an expiry date. I chose this month and then clicked Save.
  3. You will have been asked if you would like to enable Watchtower functionality when you first run 1Password. If you didn’t enable it then, you can go to Preferences and then find the Watchtower section. I enable the first three choices: Check for compromised websites, check for vulnerable passwords; and check for two-factor authentication. I am a little unclear on the last item: Ask before checking for a secure connection. I would always prefer for my browser to try to use a secure connection if it is available, and this is becoming the default behavior for most browsers. If I typed in a website as http://website_example.com, it would be nice for 1Password to automatically update the url to use https://website_example.com but I cannot tell from the description if leaving it unchecked would allow 1Password to automatically choose the secure version instead. I will seek clarification from AgileBits, the company that makes 1Password to find out for sure.
  4. This looks better.Screenshot of the Watchtower preferences with first three items checked.
  5. I want to receive notifications in a prominent manner if there is a problem, so I went to the Notifications section of preferences and turn on all three options: One-time passwords, Vault access; and Watchtower alerts.
  6. By default, the Watchtower section of the interface does not show. You will want to click on the disclosure triangle to the right of the word WATCHTOWER.  
  7. Now we can see the various alerts and start going fixing things. We can see the expiration warning on the membership we recently created. Hopefully this will help you avoid accidentally letting something important expire. My wife just informed me that the Oregon Liquor Control Commission is temporarily allowing people to still use recently expired driver’s licenses at the bars, so it must be a common problem during the pandemic.



Apple has done their best to make setting up one of their Bluetooth enabled Magic Keyboards as easy as possible. Here’s a step–by–step guide for you.


1) Go to the menu and click on System Preferences.

Clicking on the Apple menu


2) You will see a list of Bluetooth devices that are in range. The little spinner will constantly be turning to indicate that your computer is actively scanning for Bluetooth devices. (In my case, my Philips Respironics CPAP always shows up with the name PR BT 11EF. Took me a while to figure out what the mystery device was. My neighbor’s Samsung TV sometimes shows up as well.)

3) You will see a list of Bluetooth devices that are in range. The little spinner will constantly be turning to indicate that your computer is actively scanning for Bluetooth devices. (In my case, my Philips Respironics CPAP always shows up with the name PR BT 11EF. Took me a while to figure out what the mystery device was. My neighbor’s Samsung TV sometimes shows up as well.)


4) Now is a good time to turn on the power switch to your new keyboard. It’s a small switch on the back corner of the keyboard. When you slide the switch to on, a small green sticker will be visible. You can also see in the center of the keyboard the lightning port for charging the keyboard. A lightning cable is included in the packaging, so don’t throw it away by accident.


5) In a few moments, the keyboard should show up as available to connect. Go ahead and click on the Connect button.


6) An alert should pop up in the middle of the screen to let you know a device has connected.


7) It should connect, and your Mac should even rename the keyboard based on your User Account name. Congratulations! Your keyboard should now be ready to use.


8) The battery in the keyboard should last a couple of months of normal use. You can check the battery charge level at any time by clicking on the Bluetooth menu. You don’t have to worry much as the computer will automatically warn you when the battery gets to 20% and you can even continue to use the keyboard while charging it using the included Lightning cable. I would suggest not leaving the keyboard plugged in to the charging cable 24/7 as that will damage the battery over the long term.

A step-by-step guide to transferring your data to your new Mac.

Guide to Apple’s Migration Assistant

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of buying a new Mac, but then feel intimidated about the details of how you will actually move your data from your old Mac to your new one. Here’s an illustrated guide to help. 

Things you will need: Your old computer’s administrative password. Your AppleID password (if you use iCloud). 

Preparing the old Mac

1. Let’s concentrate on just the old computer for now. Leave the new computer turned off and start up the old computer.Start up your old computer


2. Click on the Finder icon in your Dock (or double-click on your hard drive icon) to open a new Finder window.Open a new finder window on the old computer.


3. Click on Applications from the sidebar to jump to that folder.Click on the Applications folder in the sidebar window and navigate to Utilities.


4. Double click on the Migration Assistant icon.

Double click on the Migration Assistant


5. You will get a warning that Migration Assistant must quit all running applications in order to migrate your data. Click on the Continue button to move on.Press Continue to open the Migration Assistant.


6. You will need to enter your Mac’s Administrative Password in order to migrate your data. This is required in order to establish a chain of trust that you are authorized to move the data from the old computer to the new.Enter your Administrative password.


7. This is what the Migration Assistant looks like. The computer will be busy for a bit indexing what information must be transferred.

The Migration Assistant will open.


8. The Migration Assistant starts out with importing data as a default.It will start up on From a Mac, Time Machine backup, or startup disk.


9. We want to click on To another Mac in order to prepare your old Mac to transfer data to the new Mac. Press the Continue button.

Click on To another Mac.


10. You will see an Spinner continuously rotating in order to indicate activity as the old Mac awaits orders from another Mac. Time to turn our attention to the new Mac.The Mac will now be "disoverable" by other Macs.



Preparing the new Mac

11. Let’s turn on the new Mac.Turn on the new Mac.


12. The first thing that happens is that a Setup Assistant will launch. It will try to set up language options for you so you can continue. Choose your country.Select a country in the Setup Assistant.

13. You will then need to confirm your language settings.Confirm your language.


14. Now that Apple knows what language you understand, they offer Accessibility options to make the Mac available to more people. You can click on any Accommodations that you require. If you don’t need any, then just press the Not Now button. You will then be asked to choose a Wi-Fi Network and also enter the Wi-Fi Password.Accessibility options will be available.


15. You will see a Data & Privacy notice as required by the European Union’s GDPR (Global Data Privacy Rights) act. You can simply press Continue.The GDPR notice will appear.


16. You will now get to the Migration Assistant. The From another Mac, Time Machine backup, or Backup disk option will be chosen, which is what we want. Press Continue.The Migration Assistant will appear.


17. You will see a spinner constantly turning to indicate that your new computer is actively looking for other Macs that are running Migration Assistant. Don’t be surprised that the spinner will not stop moving. Just wait until your see an icon appear representing your old Mac and then Click on it.The new computer will now start looking for other Macs to migrate from.


18. With your old Mac now highlighted to indicate that it is selected, press Continue.Click on your old Mac and then press continue.


19. Because there could be potentially be multiple computers on the network trying to migrate at the same time (just ask a technology assistant at any public school), the new Mac will generate a random PIN code. You should see the exact same PIN code on the old Mac. Click on the Continue button of the old Mac to confirm you want to migrate your data to the new computer.A PIN code will appear for confirmation.


20. Your new computer will work for a while to process the index of data that can be migrated to the new computer. Note: It is not necessary to wait for the sizes of all the data to be tallied up before you continue to the next step.

The new computer will display what information can be migrated.


Optional step to skip a user

21. If there are any users you don’t want to migrate from the old computer to the new one, now is your chance to deselect any users you don’t want to migrate. Optionally, you can deselect any accounts you don't want to transfer.



The final steps

22. You will need to set an administrative password for the user(s) you are migrating to the new computer. This will be the password that is used to install any new software or to create new users. It can be the same password that you used to use. Click on the Set Password button for all the users you are migrating.You will need to set a new password for the account you are transferring.


23. Again, this can be the same password you used for the old computer if you want. The only requirement is a minimum of 4 characters. Type the password in and then type it exactly the same again to confirm it. Capitalization matters, so be careful. Press Set Password to continue.Type in the password twice to confirm it.


24. Congratulations! You are now ready to finish up by pressing ContinueYou are now ready to click continue.


25. This last step can take anywhere from 45 minutes to several hours depending on how much data you have to migrate. There will be an estimate, but you will see the time remaining swing up and swing down during the whole process, so I suggest you take a break from the computer and just check back in an hour. The new computer will need to restart when the process is complete. You might be asked a few more questions, including your AppleID password. After that, you should see all your old data from the old computer on your new computer.

Logo of the MacNinja squatting in front of a History of OS X poster

Where to download operating system updates from Apple.

It used to be that the only way to download older operating system updates was to have “purchased” them in the first place so that they would exist in your purchase history. Thankfully, Apple has made a single webpage to download the systems from Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite up until the current release. 


Addendum 2021-06-30
Apple has finally restored the ability to download two more older operating systems: 
Mac OS X 10.7 Lion and Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion.



From retail sales to free downloads

Apple used to sell operating system updates. I can’t find the retail price of System 7, which was released on May 13, 1991. But I found a picture of what was included in the box:

An image of 12 floppy disks comprising the Mac's System 7 operating system

Wikipedia claims there were 15 floppy disks, though this image only shows 12. It’s interesting to note that the Before You Install floppy (pictured in the lower lefthand corner) is a 720 Kilobyte standard density floppy and that the Fonts disk (pictured in the lower righthand corner) is a 1.44 MB High Density floppy disk. Apple later changed to using CDs to distribute their updates. 

Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard was the last release to primarily focus on retail boxes. Starting with Mac OS X 10.6.9, Apple created the Mac App Store and initially it was the only way to purchase Mac OS X 10.7 Lion for $29.99 (Apple later released USB keys and CDs that could be special ordered). Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion sold for $19.99, and every release after that was released for free through the Mac App store. 

Those early operating system installers were the first ones to “disappear” in that Apple initially stopped allowing 10.7 Lion to be “purchased” from the Mac app store after the release of 10.8 Mountain Lion. In a sort of Catch-22, the only way to download those operating systems at the time they were removed was if you had previously “purchased” them for free and they were in your purchase history. 

Illustrated history of OS X releases microsite

I really love this little website with beautiful illustrations covering the different releases of Apple’s OS X series of operating systems. I even bought their poster.

The History of macOS


The MacNinja in front of a Keynote Icon

I had the honor of presenting at the PMUG General Meeting on September 14th, 2020 where I talked about how to use Apple’s free Keynote program.

It’s a great program that I have used to make all my presentations to the group. One of the key thoughts I wanted to convey is that Keynote is part of a trio of programs that includes Pages and Numbers, and that learning one program will get you 90% of the way to learning how to use its sibling programs. 

 Here’s a link to the Keynote file that I used to give the presentation.

My intention is to for this presentation to serve as a multifunctional document that both works as a standalone presentation but also as a learning tutorial.

I’ve tried to structure the Keynote so that the first time someone watches the presentation, they will just see a smooth flow of ideas. But I have also taken time to write out Presenter’s Notes that I hope will provide an extra layer of information, like Programmers Comments, that explain my rationale for why I chose specific transitions and what they do, or how I layered an animation sequence.

I also include some exercises for the reader to try on their own. 

In fact, you can download any of my older presentations from here.

Did you know that you can now embed Apple Music links on the web? I believe that Apple is moving towards making music streamable straight from the web without having to have a Mac or iOS device. This would allow them to sell their services to more people, so it makes sense. Here’s a link to a playlist I made that is all instrumental music tracks.

I find this playlist relaxing to listen to as I try to concentrate on my work. You can sample the first 30 seconds of each track without having to have an Apple Music account. If you are signed in to Apple Music, then you can play the whole playlist with complete tracks. Pretty neat.

How would you like a helper who always watches over your shoulder and never forgets?

Larry Tesler (1945-2020)
Larry Tesler (1945-2020)

I woke up one day in mid-February to read the sad news that Larry Tesler had passed away. I knew him as the luminary who had worked at Apple for many years, and before that had worked at Xerox’s PARC (Palo Alto Research Center)  which was the legendary birthplace of so many essential computer technologies like graphical user interfaces, laser printers, and ethernet networks. It’s safe to say that without the work done by Xerox PARC that we wouldn’t have the Mac today.

What I didn’t know was that Tesler was widely considered the father of the Cut & Paste computer commands. (His co-worker at Apple wanted to name them move, copy, delete and transpose) Though cut & paste had been originally been used only for text data, Tesler dreamed of a more flexible system that would really take advantage of the power of computers and eventually brought it to life with Apple’s Lisa and Macintosh computers.

Why is it called Cut & Paste?

I worked on a college newspaper back in 1991 and I remember how we would have to write out our newspaper articles and print them on plain paper. We then had to physically cut out the articles with scissors and run the pieces of paper through a machine that applied a thin layer of hot wax to the back of the paper. The wax had to cool off enough to harden, and after that, we pressed the print outs onto a big sheet of cardboard that would be photographed to make a final newspaper page. It was literally cutting and pasting to publish a document.

An editor pastes up elements on a cardboard page
An editor pastes up elements on a cardboard page. Read the original article at CreativePro.com by clicking on the picture.
A mechanical wax machine
This looks just like the machine that I used to use at the newspaper. Read the original article at CreativePro.com by clicking on the picture.

In working with clients, I will sometimes casually mention the concept of cutting and pasting and how the information is held in the clipboard. Enough clients have asked me to explain what I was talking about that I realized that this blog would be a good place to help explain it better.

Just as I needed a safe place to temporarily hold the newspaper article I was cutting and waxing before affixing it to the final cardboard sheet, your computer needs a memory buffer to hold whatever data that you have cut or copied before you paste it. For the Mac operating system, Apple labeled that temporary buffer as The Clipboard. And consistent with Larry Tesler’s dream, Apple did not stop with the simplest implementation but instead worked to add a lot more smarts.

Let’s look at some examples:

Apple’s first few computer models of the 1970s had no facility for cut & paste, let alone a mouse. Interaction was pretty much only through the keyboard. Around the same time, Xerox had hired a bunch of computer visionaries and let them dream up the future in a facility they called the PARC (Palo Alto Research Center). In 1979 Steve Jobs and Apple negotiated a business exchange with Xerox in order to get some tours of what PARC was doing. They were permitted by the leadership of Xerox over the protestations of PARC staff and Larry Tesler (who still worked for Xerox at the time) led the meeting. He recounts being impressed by how Jobs was able to immediately grasp the benefits of the advanced computing environment that Xerox had created, but which the leadership of Xerox had no idea how to market, and Tesler soon quit Xerox to join Apple.

Copying and Pasting is actually a lot more complicated than you would assume. In the first place, how do you make it easy for people to discover how to perform the command? Then, consider the philosophical implications. Let’s take the example of copying stylized text (advanced digital typography was one of the inventions at PARC). Philosophically, should you copy just the content of the text, or should you also encompass the styling elements? 

Here’s an example of styled text:

For the Macintosh, Apple followed the lead of the early PARC folks in implementing a mouse that would allow you to select text and perform commands on it. Semantically speaking, this creates a subject-verb relationship. In this next example, I have held down the mouse button and dragged the pointer across a line of text, selecting its whole contents.

The Macintosh has an Edit menu that appears at the top of the screen in every program and forms part of the DNA of the Mac experience. You will always see an Undo command first, then Cut, Copy, and Paste commands. Optionally, additional text editing utilities can be provided, and I will talk about them at some point in the future.

I think it is brilliant that the Macintosh still contains keyboard shortcuts that can implement the same commands that you can click on with a mouse. Apple chose ⌘C as the equivalent to Copy as a mnemonic device to make it easier to remember. They then chose the surrounding keys to implement similar commands. Cut became ⌘X, paste became ⌘V, and undo even became ⌘Z because you can easily press any combination with the thumb and a finger of your left hand.

The editing keys for undo, cut, copy, and paste are all right next to each other.

It is no accident that Windows somehow ended up with a copy of the same keyboard commands in their Edit menu. I used to be incensed at the copying but now I am grateful that it is just a universal standard and aids anyone who has to transition between operating systems.

So what is the clipboard?

When you cut or copy something, the computer has to store the data in a memory buffer so that it can be held until you are ready to paste it somewhere. Apple came up with the name Clipboard for that memory buffer. It is invisible— there’s no way to see it or manipulate it directly apart from replacing its contents by cutting or copying a new piece of data. It is like a silent assistant, always standing at the ready. The great thing about the clipboard is that the contents will stay there as long as the computer is running. And you can paste the data into your work as many times as you want. This is great if you are doing something repetitious. If I copied the previously selected text, the clipboard would contain something like this.

So let’s get back to the philosophical implications of copying and pasting. Back in the earliest 1970s implementations of copy and paste, only the content was copied. If we pasted the contents of the clipboard back into the document, we would get something like this. The bold, italic, and red formatting would be lost.

Tesler dreamed of having a system that was powerful enough to be able to carry along that formatting information. On a modern Mac, when you paste, you get the results of the third line (as you would have expected). Some apps even give you a command called Paste And Match Formatting so that you can have the best of both worlds. Using Paste and Match Formatting would be just like the 1970s paste— all the bold, italic, and red formatting would be lost. Apple even went further.


Apple even made cut and paste powerful enough to mix file types. Here I’ve taken the same text data and pasted it into a graphics program and the formatting remained. This requires the clipboard to have to understand what is being copied and pasted, sometimes making translations in file type along the way. It’s actually kind of mind blowing when you think about it. The Mac makes it so easy that you can even copy and paste text and a photograph right from one program to another. 

To sum it up:

Copy and Paste makes duplicating a chunk of data look so easy that one can take it for granted. The clipboard is an invisible place that holds your data until you are ready to paste it somewhere.

One of my customers recently contacted me about a nasty letter they got saying that someone had gone in an signed them up for a Netflix account. The possibility that they might have been hacked both startled them and also made them anxious enough to click on the link right in the email.

They were taken to a page that looked very much like the current Apple website, but something in their intuition made them stop and check out the site. 

As they checked out the site, they realized that none of the dropdown menus on the website worked, unlike the real Apple website. The website looked just a little fuzzy, and indeed, it was a picture of the real Apple website. 

Something in their gut told them not to trust what was happening, and so they stopped and called me.

They were kind enough to share with me what they received in their email, which consisted of some text as well as a PDF attachment. I haven‘t checked, but I would bet the PDF probably has a virus in it that could zap Windows machines or out-of-date copies of Adobe Acrobat. That is just one more reason to use Apple’s Preview program, which I will cover in a future blog post. Let’s take a closer look at the telltale signs that showed this was a scam email:

An analysis of a spam email

The weapon that spammers use against us is alarm. They try to use intimidation techniques to both inspire fear and sometimes shame so that you stop and react without thinking. The very best defense you have any time you see something alarming is to stop and take a deep breath, and then take a gut check.

Stop and re-read the email. Let’s look at some salient points:

  • The email starts with Dear Customer, which is terribly common with spam email because the scammer is blindly sending out emails and they don’t have any of your personal details to go on at the beginning. A big company like Apple will have a personal relationship with you and will always use the contact info you gave them when you set up your account.
  • Apple is a company that prides itself on attention to details. They would not let incorrect grammar or punctuation go out in customer facing email. Notice that the first paragraph is missing a period at the end of the last sentence.
  • The last paragraph has a comma which is then followed by a capitalized word. That’s a sign that this email was not written by someone who speaks English as their native language. That does not totally implicate the sender as a scammer, but it is a feature common to scammers.
  • No AppleID is listed. Apple would always tell you about the AppleID involved with a problem as some customers have more than one AppleID.
  • You can’t tell from this picture, but the original email was actually sent as PNG image instead of as text. The print looked fuzzier than regular text so that immediately caught my eye as a warning sign. I think that the scammers sent the spam as an image so that the text would not trigger and junk mail filters.

Now let’s look at the PDF attachment that came with the email.

This email also displays a woeful lack of grammar, still starts with Dear Customer, and finally, it doesn’t contain any valid credit card information like the last 4-digits of the credit card number.

A wonderful feature in the macOS Mail program for email is that you can place your mouse over a link in an email and see where it will take you without actually clicking on the link. The first thing I do whenever I see an email that I have questions about is to check the links to see if they go to a legitimate website or not. In this case, it surely does not.