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Free tricks US iPhone: Tips and Tricks That Will Make You an iOS Expert

Apple iPhones arrived in 2007 running an unnamed operating system. A year later, it got the boring sobriquet of “iPhone OS 1.” By 2010, the marketing people got their acts together and came up with “iOS,” just in time for version 4 to debut.

We are now up to iOS 14, and the previous decade-plus has included a lot of changes—from embracing dedicated apps (in version 2) and dropping skeuomorphism for flat images (in iOS 7) to finally embracing widgets last year.

Apple iOS is so full of features that no review or story can cover it all. But we compiled our favorite tips, tricks, and secrets about iOS and the iPhone. Things that will make your day—and your life—more productive, and put you on the path to being an iPhone expert.


Input

Shift Your Keyboard Left or Right

Shift Your Keyboard Left or Right

Trying to type with one thumb? The default iOS keyboard offers a left- or right-leaning option. Hold your finger on the globe or emoji icon at the bottom of the keyboard (if you have three or more keyboards installed, it’ll display the globe), and in the pop-up, you’ll see an option for a left and right keyboard. Tap your preference. Tap the arrow pointing opposite of your preference to go back to full screen. (This only works in Portrait Mode).


Hold the Space Bar to Make a Trackpad

You’re typing along and want to move the cursor up and change something you wrote. You could tap the screen, but your thumbs are already flying. Keep them on the virtual keyboard by holding down on the spacebar. You’ll see the keyboard go blank and allow you to move the cursor whenever you want as you drag your thumb tip around. Drop the cursor as desired and delete or type as needed.


Create Text Replacements

Create Text Replacements

Got things you type over and over and over like “I’m on the way home!” or “I love you more than the sun and moon and stars!”? Go into Settings > General > Keyboard > Text Replacement. Click the plus (+) icon at the top to enter a phrase and then a shortcut. Any time you type the shortcut in the future (such as “otw”), the full phrase (like “I’m on the way home, leave me alone!”) will spring to life on the keyboard’s text preview to tap on. You can even use it to type a letter combo to bring up a frequently used combo of emoji.


Swipe Type to QuickPath

Many third-party iOS keyboards have had the ability to swipe-type—that is, moving your finger or thumb around the keys without lifting it to type words. As of iOS 13, it’s also part of the Apple default keyboard in iOS. Apple calls it QuickPath.


Screenshots

Screenshot a Full Page

Screenshot an Entire, Lengthy Web Page

If you’re taking a screenshot on your iPhone, a thumbnail will appear on the bottom left for annotation. Tap it to bring it full screen. If you took the shot while using the Safari browser, and the web page you’re on extends past the size of the screen, look at the top—you should see a tab that says “Full page.” Tap it and a slider appears on the right displaying the full page, even if you didn’t scroll through it all originally.


Sign Documents

Sign Documents

We don’t all have scanners and printers in our homes these days, but don’t fret. Apple offers an easy way to digitally sign a document. Take a screenshot of it and tap the thumbnail. On the lower right, click the Plus sign. One of the options is Signature. Sign it right on the screen (or use a stored one). Once you have a sig, hit Done, and then drag it up on to the document in the screenshot. Place it, resize it, and save it to send.


Safari

Change Settings Per Web Page

Customize Settings Per Web Page

Some web pages look great with default settings, others don’t. Create settings that are per-web site, so for example, one site comes in at a larger font, while the rest are smaller. Simply click on the AA font icon in the address bar when visiting a site. You can set the font size, but also click on Website Settings to specify if you want to always see the desktop version; jump right into the Safari Reader (which makes pages easier to read by stripping out extraneous stuff); or turn off all your content and advertising blockers.


Recording

Turn Off Your Microphone on Screen Recordings

Turn Off Your Microphone on Screen Recordings

To screen record your iPhone and iPad, navigate to Settings > Control Center and make sure Screen Recording is listed under Included Controls (if not, tap the green plus button down below). A screen-record button will then appear in your Control Center. When recording, you may notice that it’s also recording audio around you. That’s so you can make a voice over. If you’ll be adding voice later, or don’t need the voice over, long-press on the button in Control Center. Down below, you’ll see either Microphone Off or Microphone On—set your preference.


Broadcast Your Screen

Broadcast Your Screen

Holding down the Screen Recording button in Control Center also produces another option. You can pick an app into which your recording can be saved (like Photos) or do a direct broadcast. The apps that support broadcast include chats like Facebook Messenger, video meeting tools like Zoom, Google Meet, and Skype, or even social sharing networks like TikTok.


Enhance Your Voice

Enhance Your Voice

In Voice Memos you can use Enhanced Recording to reduce background noise. Make a recording, click the three-dot (…) menu, select Edit Recording, click the magic wand icon at the upper right and then Done.


App Store

apple app store icon

Force App Updates

Do you worry that the app you’re using may not be the most up-to-date version? Make sure the App Store is set to auto-update apps. Go to Settings > App Store and turn on Automatic Downloads. (If you’re worried about using up data, set it to “Always Ask” or “Ask if Over 200 MB”). If you don’t want to wait, open the App Store app, tap your picture, swipe down to update, and tap Update All, if it appears. (Bonus: if you see an app in that list that you don’t use anymore, swipe it left to delete it without having to go find the app on your home screen.)


Phone

Silence Unknown Callers

Image: Apple

Silence Unknown Callers

Inundated by robocalls? Go to Settings > Phone > Silence Unknown Callers. When that’s turned on, any number that’s not in your contacts, Siri suggestions, or recently called list will go directly to voicemail. A silent notification will tell you that a call has been silenced; you can view the number in your Recents list. If you’ve got to keep your line open to unknown callers, you should really be using a secondary number via a second SIM card or VoIP burner account.


Make Calls Over Wi-Fi

Make Calls Over Wi-Fi

If cellular service in your area is iffy, Wi-Fi Calling can tap into your home’s Wi-Fi network to place calls. You’ll need a wireless carrier that supports it, but if it does, go to Settings > Phone > Wi-Fi Calling to turn it on. Be sure to set up an Emergency Address for you phone; 911 centers can’t pinpoint location for VoIP calls. You’ll know it’s on when you swipe to see the Control Center and the word “Wi-Fi” appears next to your carrier’s name.


Hang Up Via Airplane

Hanging up on people, even when you really want to, is impolite. But if you are in a call and switch on Airplane mode, the call is cut off as if the call failed. Then you don’t look responsible. (Thanks to @kaansanity on TikTok for this idea.)


Interface

Move Multiple Apps at Once

Move Multiple Apps at Once

You can group apps together on the home screen by dragging one app atop another to make a folder. But what if you want to move a bunch of apps to another page on the home screen? Don’t do it one at a time. Instead, hold down on one app until it goes all wiggly, then use another finger to tap a bunch of apps. They’ll be grouped; you’ll see a number increment go up as they’re added. Without removing your finger, drag that stack to a new page and drop them all at once. It takes practice.


Change the Default Apps

Apple has long favored its own apps, which means links and emails default to opening in the Mail app or Safari. With iOS 14, however, you can now change your default mail or browser app to something like Gmail or Chrome. Here’s our full explainer our how to set it up.


Hide a Page of Apps

Hide a Page of Apps

Got some apps on your phone you want to hide but not delete? Put them all on a single screen. Then, hold your finger on the screen to go into the wiggle mode, and tap the home screen scroll dots at the bottom. You’ll get an Edit Pages interface that lets you turn off the view of an entire page of apps. This doesn’t delete apps, and you can still swipe down to access Spotlight search and find the apps easily. But it’s a quick way to keep some apps from prying eyes.


Drag the Volume

Previously, you could only increase or decrease the volume on your phone by using the physical up and down volume buttons on the left side of the iPhone—which added a volume overlay on the screen. With iOS 13, Apple banished that large volume box for an unobtrusive slider. Plus, when you click the volume button, you can also tap the slider to pump up the jams or take it down a notch. That slider also features an icon if it’s playing on a speaker or via Bluetooth.


Three-Finger Symphony

Want to quickly undo a mistake in iOS? With iOS 13 and above, you have a few options.

  • Swipe three fingers to the left
  • Single-tap three fingers on the screen
  • Shake to undo

Swiping left will automatically undo, while a single tap will produce a quick toolbar at the top that shows an undo curly arrow (plus cut/copy/paste and a redo button). Shake to undo, meanwhile, could be annoying in other circumstances, so you might want to disable that one in Settings > Accessibility > Touch > Shake to Undo and toggle it off.


Take the Night Shift

You shouldn’t look at your iPhone before you go to bed—that blue light doesn’t help you sleep. But we all do it, so activate Night Shift via Settings > Display & Brightness, which reduces the blue wavelength of light on the screen. It will add a yellowish tint to the screen (which you can control in Settings), so it may make video look a little off, but it’s fine for reading. Set it to activate at pre-scheduled times and shut off in the morning, or you can manually turn it on until the next day.


Set an Animated Lock Screen

If you’ve got some fun Live Photos on your phone—which include a few seconds of video—you can put one on your iPhone Lock Screen to view whenever you whip out the handset. Go to Settings > Wallpaper > Choose a Wallpaper. Scroll down to the Live Photos option to see all the Live Photos you have stored. Pick one and drag it around with one finger to place it, or zoom in and out with two fingers to get it just right. Push down on the screen with one finger to see what the animation will look like. Tap Set > Set Lock Screen. (If you select Home Screen, or Both, it’ll also appear on your iPhone home screen behind all the app icons.) To enjoy it, push on the screen to watch the photo in motion before you unlock your phone.


Customize Icons, Widgets, and More

Customize Icons, Widgets, and More

iOS is now (almost) as customizable as Android. For full details read How to Add Custom Icons, Widgets to Your iPhone Home Screen in iOS 14.


Networking

Share Your Wi-Fi Password Automatically

Want to share your Wi-Fi password without writing down a complicated string of numbers and letters? Make sure you and your guest both have Bluetooth turned on. Then, have them navigate to their Wi-Fi settings. If they have an iOS (12 or higher), iPadOS, or macOS (High Sierra or later) device, and they’re in your contacts list, a pop-up will appear on your screen saying Do you want to share the Wi-Fi password for [network name] with [contact name]? Tap Share Password and that person will be logged in.


Quick Switch a Network or Bluetooth Connection

Quick Switch a Network or Bluetooth Connection

Stop going into Settings every time you want to manually switch a Wi-Fi network or Bluetooth connection. Instead, swipe to get the Control Center. The top-left section has the connection buttons for Airplane mode, Cellular, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth grouped together. Long-press on the group and a menu pops out showing them, as well as AirDrop and Personal Hotspot buttons. Hold down on Wi-Fi for a quick menu of all available networks; do the same to Bluetooth for a list of possible connections.


Siri

image of sound waves on a woman's face

Change Siri’s Voice

Voice assistants have long defaulted to female voices. Siri has offerred the option to switch to a male voice since 2013, and the female voice will soon reportedly no longer be the default. But if you want to change up Siri’s voice after the fact, go into Settings > Siri & Search > Siri Voice. In addition to a generic American female voice, you can select an Australian, British, Indian, Irish, or South African accent with a male or female voice. Or set the language, so even if they sound Irish, they’d use US phrases.


Teach Siri Names

Teach Siri Names

Sometimes Siri gets names tragically wrong, especially the people in your contacts. Sometimes she recognizes that and will ask if she should learn how to pronounce it, but other times you have to correct her. Say “Hey, Siri, learn how to pronounce [name].” Once she confirms the name in your contact that you want, she’ll have you pronounce it, and give you choices on screen. Pick the one she got right.

Find Your Other iOS Devices

If all your iOS devices are on the same Apple/iCloud account, it won’t be hard to find them. Say “Hey, Siri, find my iPad” (for example) to the device you actually have in your possession. The iPad will start playing a chime, which should continue until you find the device and turn it off. You can also use the Find My app.

For more, read 10 Tips for Using and Tweaking Siri on Your iPhone or iPad.


Calculator

Swipe to Delete Calculator Entry Mistakes

The calculator built into iOS is pretty basic, though it becomes pretty powerful when you turn your phone to landscape mode, which transforms it into a scientific calculator full of exponential, logarithmic, and trigonometric options. You can tap the Clear (C) to clear your last entry, or All Clear (AC) to clear all your entries. But if you put in one wrong digit, and catch yourself, simply swipe. Any swipe on the calculator’s display up top in either direction deletes the last number you typed. Keep swiping to trash a few in a row.


Skip the Calculator to Calculate

Skip the Calculator to Calculate

If you have some quick and dirty addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division you need to hit quickly, just use the search bar. On the home page or widgets page, swipe down from the middle of the screen for search, type in the operation, and you’ll get the answer up top. It’s flexible enough to realize that an “x” and a “*” can both be used for multiplication. It can even handle operations like 9^2 (which equals 81, as that’s 9 squared) or 9% 100, it shows as 9 (because that’s 9% of 100). Click Go on the keyboard and it will push you to the Calculator app.


FaceTime

Zoom Yourself

Want to zoom in on your face during a FaceTime call? Double tap and your thumbnail expands to full-size. It doesn’t zoom in anything for the person on the other end.


Take a FaceTime Pic

Click the screen as you’re chatting to bring up the menu. You’ll see a round white shutter button right over the video. Click it and you’ve taken a Live Photo (the kind with Harry Potter-esque motion) of the person on the other end.


Stop Making Eye Contact Against Your Will

In a video call, we usually look at the person we are conversing with on the screen. That’s natural to us, but it means that you are not really making eye contact with the person on the other end—because you’re not looking at the camera. In iOS 14, Apple built in a feature by default into FaceTime called Eye Contact that subtly, digitally adjusts your eyes so they appear to be looking at the camera, and thus at the other person. It works well, but if you don’t want it, go into Settings > FaceTime > Eye Contact to deactivate.


Contacts

Make Custom Ringtones for Each Contact

Want to know who’s calling without looking at the screen? Assign a custom ring tone sound to your most frequent callers. Enter their contact entry, click Edit at top, and scroll down to Ringtone. You’ll get the full list of available ringtones on your iPhone. Click Classic at bottom and you’ll even see the list of original ringtones that came with the first iPhones. Even the Alert Tones you’d usually use for an incoming Message can be used for phone calls. (If you don’t see one you like, tap Tone Store to go into the iTunes store and buy a tone for around $1.29 each.) While you’re in that contact, you can also set a custom Text Tone in exactly the same way.


Make Custom Good Vibrations

If your phone is on vibrate, a custom ringtone won’t help you ID a caller or texter, sight unseen. Assign frequent contacts an individual vibration pattern. On the contact, tap Ringtone again and at the top, tap Vibration. It is likely set to default. You’ll see a few options in there like “Alert” and “Heartbeat” and “Symphony.” But you can create your own by clicking Create New Vibration. On the next screen, tap a pattern. Click Stop, then Save, and give it a name. Click back to Ringtone screen and click Done to finish.


Create an SOS Contact

Create an SOS Contact

First, make sure your most important people are in your contacts. Then go to Health, click the icon of your face, then Medical ID > Edit > Emergency Contacts to designate one or more as emergency SOS person(s) if you have an issue. (SOS also contacts emergency services.) A red asterisk icon will no now appear next to them in the Contacts list.

To send an SOS, hold down the power button on the right and one of the volume buttons on the left at same time. You can either use the Emergency SOS slider, or keep holding the buttons—a countdown will start, an alert will sound, and when the call goes through to 911, messages are sent to your emergency contacts.


Camera

iphone 12 cameras

Use Volume Buttons as Shutter Buttons

If you’re in the camera app, you don’t need to use the button on the screen. Click either of the volume button to take a snapshot. It’ll also start/stop a video capture.If you’ve got wired earbuds connected to your iPhone, you can use the volume buttons on the wire to do the same thing, essentially using it like a remote shutter.


Hidden QR Code Scanner

The Camera app includes a QR scanner, but for quick access, Apple has a hidden, standalone QR code scanner app. As Lifehacker notes, swipe down from the the top of the screen, type CodeScanner, and an app will appear. Tap it to open and snap a photo of a QR code.


Lock Camera Focus

In the Camera app, the iPhone refocuses instantaneously as you move or your subject moves. If you don’t want that, hold a finger on screen on the area you want in focus—you’ll know it worked when it says AF Lock at the top.


Mirror Selfies

Look at yourself in the front camera of your iPhone. You are seeing a mirror image, to keep it natural to humans used to seeing their reflection. When you take a pic or video, the image gets flipped, so it appears as if someone were behind the camera. You usually want that. If you don’t, go into Settings > Camera and turn on Mirror Front Camera.

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Burst Changes

Initially, you held your finder down on the white shutter button to get a burst mode of several pictures. In iOS 14, that changed—now holding down your finger on the button starts shooting a video until you release it. (Drag it right to keep it going without your finger). You can still get a Burst—a great way to get still images of things in action. Hold the button and drag it left. Or in Settings > Camera > Use Volume Up for Burst, you can set that to happen.


Strip Data from Photos to Share

When you’re sharing images directly from the Photos app to just about anyone or any service, they take with them all the information collected at the time the image was shot, in particular location data. Now, when you do that, click the Share Button, but before you send/share, click Options at the top. The options include stripping out the GeoIP metadata that spells out the location. If you select All Photo Data, that takes out everything like the edit history, crops, filters, and Live Photo effects you may have applied.


Notes

Scan Multiple Pages into a PDF

Scan Multiple Pages Into a PDF

Hold down your finger on the Notes app icon and you get an instant menu of things to do, like add a new note, a new checklist, or even Scan Document. That’s a powerful one, giving you a way to take a picture of all the pages in a physical document, and stitch them together into one long PDF. You can then go in and view it page by page in the app, or share it with others.


Draw a Note

Draw a Note

Sometimes you just want to write out a note, or even sketch it. You can get fancy apps for that, but the Notes app can handle it. In any note, new or old, click the pen nib icon to get a menu of possible writing implements at the bottom—a marker, highlighter, or pencil, along with an eraser and a lasso to grab entire areas of the drawing. Hold a finger down on the tool and you’ll get different line thickness options. Tap the color wheel to change the color and opacity of your virtual link or lead.


Password Protect a Note

First go to Settings > Notes > Password. Tap either iCloud or On My Phone—it depends on where you store your most important notes—then enter a password, verify it, and give yourself a hint. You can also turn on Touch ID or Face ID (depending on your iPhone) to require it to open notes—but that still requires putting in a password. This doesn’t instantly put a password on your Notes app. Within the app, swipe left and tap the lock to lock down a specific note.


Messages

Draw Your Message

Sometimes you want to send a hand-drawn picture to a friend. You don’t need to sketch on paper and take a picture. Just turn your phone. When you’re in a Messages thread, the keyboard will display an icon that looks like a hand-drawn loop. Click it for a blank canvas on which you can draw (only in black “ink”). Pre-written options can be found listed at the bottom, and anything you send will also join the list. Hold a finger down on a pre-written note to delete it.


Name a Group

Name a Group

Group messaging is a hallmark of any good message service. Now in a thread with other iOS or macOS users, you get enough to control to name the conversation. You can even assign an over-arching emoji or Memoji to the group for easy access. Click where it says “X people” under the icon then Info > Change Name and Photo, to provide a Group Name. You’ll also see a section of avatar options. If you don’t like those, pick one anyway, and on the next screen you can replace it with any emoji. (This doesn’t work if you’ve got a non-iOS user, say someone with an Android phone, in the group.)


Thread Messages in Group Chat

Thread Messages in Group Chat

Like a Slack channel, sometimes group messages in the Messages app get out of hand with everyone talking. Instead, thread your replies. Hold a finger on a particular message, tap Reply, and everything else gets grayed out while you type a reply to send. Once sent, a mini thread appears at the bottom. (Keep in mind, it’s not private—anyone in the group can see the threaded reply and also chime in.)


Security

Enhance Password Security

Enhance Password Security

iOS 14 features Security Recommendation, which are handy if you store a lot of passwords in iOS, be it for apps or website visits. It’ll tell you if a password appeared in a known data breach/leak, and suggest you make changes if you have repeated passwords (because that’s a big no-no). Visit this at Settings > Passwords > Security Recommendations.


Hide Your Precise Locale

Smartphones track not only what you do, but also where you are. Block some of that. Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services and you can see the settings for every app; go into each to turn off the Precise Location. Some apps need that—but most don’t need exact coordinates.


Turn Off Ratings Nags

Do you hate when apps constantly ask you to rate them? They need it for a better rank in the App Store, but it can get annoying. Go to Settings > App Store and turn off In-App Ratings & Reviews.


Set Face ID to Work (Hopefully) With a Mask

We live in the age of COVID and going forward plenty of us will still be masking. Apple has yet to fix Face ID to fully support wearing a mask, though hope is there for an upcoming feature that lets Apple Watch users unlock even while masked. Currently, Face ID is meant to work with eyes, nose, and mouth all visible to the camera. However, there’s a workaround. First, set up a normal Face ID with your face uncovered. Then, set up an Alternative Appearance. Fold a mask in half and scan half your face with it, as it covers just the tip if your nose and half your mouth. You may get errors, so move it around a bit to get it to scan. Then test it to see if it works with your mask fully on. You can read full instructions over at 9to5Mac.


Accessibility

Unlock via Voice

This one only works if you have a 5-digit or fewer passcode on your phone, but it’s a great option when you’re out wearing a mask and have to access your iPhone a lot. Go to Settings > Accessibility> Voice Control. Turn it on, tap Customize Commands > Custom > Create New Command… and type in a phrase you want to say like “Saddlesoap.” Click Action to pick Run Custom Gesture. Tap or swipe a gesture that would hit your passcode. (This requires you knowing at least approximately where the number pad keys will be.) Tap stop and Save at the top a couple times. Next time you’re out, tap the screen, look for the icon of a microphone in a blue circle at top—that means the iPhone is listening—and say “Saddlesoap.” Watch your phone unlock itself for you.


Flashy Alerts

A noise for every alert isn’t always enough. You can get your iPhone’s LED light to flash when certain messages come in. Go to General > Accessibility > Enable LED Flash for Alerts.


Turn Voice Off (or On) via Voice

If you want to stop using Voice Control, say “hey, Siri, turn off Voice Control.” Or use the reverse to turn it on. When it’s on, say “Show me what to say” to get a list of commands for your iPhone, such as “go to sleep,” “wake up,” “lock screen,” or “show grid continuously.” That last one puts an overlay grid on your screen, with numbered boxes. Say the name of the box and it can zoom in or “push” an icon or button for you.


Mouse Around the iPhone

Did you know you can connect a Bluetooth mouse to your iPhone, and use it to mimic your fingers? Go to Settings > Accessibility > Touch > Assistive Touch, and turn it on. Then scroll down to Devices > Bluetooth Devices. Turn on your Bluetooth pointing device, and pair it here. Customize the mouse clicks to reflect how you use your fingers.


Back Tap to Success

You can set up Back Tap so that a double-tap or triple-tap on the back of your phone performs an action you might otherwise have to work at. Go to Settings > Accessibility > Touch > Back Tap to turn it on. Then pick a system action to perform for each, including muting the phone, taking a screenshot, activating Siri, locking the screen, activating various Accessibility options (like Voice Control or Zoom), and even activating shortcuts. For more read Accessibility for Everyone: How to Use Back Tap on Your iPhone in iOS 14.


Shortcuts

I'm Getting Pulled Over

I’m Getting Pulled Over

This mashup of Siri, Accessibility, and Shortcuts is perfect for anyone who wants an instant record of a problem interaction, such as getting pulled over. Once installed, “I’m getting pulled over”—created by Robert Petersen—will let you say “Hey Siri, I’m getting pulled over” or tap it in the Shortcuts app, which will:

  • Turn on Do Not Disturb
  • Dim your screen
  • Pause any playing audio
  • Text your location to pre-selected contacts
  • Start recording video

Here’s a full rundown on how to set it up.


Set Do Not Disturb by Location

Set DND by Location

In the Shortcuts app, click Automation > Plus sign (+) > Create Personal Automation > Arrive. Then enter a location address, such as your school or workplace. Click Done, leave it at Any Time or set a Time Range (like 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.), then Next. Click Add Action > Scripting > Set Do Not Disturb. Where it says “Off” toggle to “On;” where it says “Turned Off” pick “until I leave.” Tap Next. You’ll see the new shortcut listed in Personal, and you don’t have to do anything to activate it other than show up.


Say Cheese Via Siri

This is another Shortcut you can download. If you have it and say, “Hey, Siri, say cheese” the Shortcut will activate to take a hands-free photo for you. You can set it up to default to the front or back camera, and also tell it where to save the image in your Photos app. Click on the entry for it in Shortcuts to make sure you give it access to your camera. Also, the iPhone has to be unlocked for it to work.

Worst Scams Targeting Older Americans in 2021
scam

Frauds aimed at older adults are becoming more creative. “Scammers stay on top of whatever is new, such as the popularity of Zoom, COVID-19 vaccines and online shopping,” and then move fast to create ploys that best fit the moment. Here are nine such frauds happening widely right now.

1. Zoom phishing emails

Con artists registered more than 2,449 fake Zoom-related internet domains in the early months of the pandemic, just so they could send out emails that look like they’re from the popular videoconferencing website, according to the Better Business Bureau.

The scheme: “You receive an email, text or social media message with the Zoom logo, telling you to click on a link because your account is suspended or you missed a meeting,” says Katherine Hutt, national spokesperson for the BBB. “Clicking can allow criminals to download malicious software onto your computer, access your personal information to use for identity theft, or search for passwords to hack into your other accounts.”

How to avoid: Never click on links in unsolicited emails, texts or social media messages, Hutt says. If you think there is a problem with your account, visit Zoom’s real website at Zoom.us and follow the steps for customer support.

2. COVID-19 vaccination card scams

Many who got a COVID vaccine posted selfies on social media showing off their vaccination card. Scammers immediately pounced.

The scheme: “With your full name, birth date and information about where you received your shot, scammers have valuable data for identity theft, breaking into your bank accounts, getting credit cards in your name and more,” Hutt says.

How to avoid: If you want to inform friends and family that you got your shots, a selfie with a generic vaccine sticker will suffice. “Or use a Got My Vaccine profile picture frame on social media,” Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody suggests. And review your social media security settings to choose who can see your posts.

3. Phony online shopping websites

Phony retail websites aren’t new, but they look more real today than ever before. “Fake sites are using photos from real online retailers and mimicking their look and feel,” Hutt says.

The scheme: You click on an ad online or on social media, see stuff you like at a great price, enter your credit card info … and never receive a product. “Or you receive a lower-quality item shipped directly from an overseas seller,” Hutt says.

How to avoid: Never click on an ad to go to a retailer’s website. Instead, bookmark the URLs of trusted shopping websites you visit frequently and use those, suggests Tyler Moore, professor of cybersecurity at the University of Tulsa. “Don’t bother with trying to figure out whether the web address is real. Attackers adapt and change them frequently.”

If you’re considering buying from a new site, first check online reviews as well as the company’s track record via the Better Business Bureau’s online directory (bbb.org).

4. Celebrity impostor scams

Real celebs like Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber grabbed headlines during the pandemic with social media money giveaways. Fans posted their cash-transfer app identifier (or $Cashtag, in Cash App) for a chance at free money. Right away, scammers posing as celebrities started offering fake giveaways as a way to get people’s private information.

The scheme: You get a note via social media, email or text message, claiming you won! You just need to verify your account info and send a small deposit up front.

How to avoid: If you really win, you won’t be asked to send money first, says Satnam Narang of Tenable, a cybersecurity firm. “The easiest way to defeat this scam is to block incoming requests on your cash-transfer app. Remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

5. Online romance scams

They’re not just lurking on dating sites. “Romance scammers are getting close to unsuspecting women and men in online prayer groups and book groups, through online games like Words With Friends and other groups people are turning to during pandemic isolation,” Nofziger says.

The scheme: Scammers typically lure their romance marks off of sites that may be monitored and onto Google Hangouts, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, where no one’s watching. Eventually they hit you up for money.

How to avoid: Rule number one: Never send money to someone you’ve never met in person. And say no to requests for suggestive selfies and videos that a scammer can later use to blackmail you. “It’s flattering to be told you are attractive,” Nofziger says, “but it will be used against you.”

6. Medicare card scams

Scammers are emailing, calling and even knocking on doors, claiming to be from Medicare and offering all sorts of pandemic-related services if you “verify” your Medicare ID number.

The scheme: The offers include new cards they claim contain microchips. Some posers are asking for payment to move beneficiaries up in line for the COVID-19 vaccine.

How to avoid: Hang up the phone, shut the door, delete the email. According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Medicare will never contact you without permission for your Medicare number or other personal information. And it will never call to sell you anything. Guard your Medicare number and never pay for a COVID vaccine. It’s free.

7. Peer-to-peer (P2P) payment scams

The rise of smartphone tools like CashApp, Venmo, Zelle and PayPal, which let you transfer money directly to another person, has led to a range of frauds.

The scheme: “One of the more pervasive is the so-called ‘accidental transfer of funds’ scam,” Narang says. “A scammer sends hundreds of dollars, then sends a follow-up message requesting the money back, claiming it was ‘an accident.’ “ But the original transfer was made with a stolen debit card; those funds will eventually be removed from your account. And you’re out the money.

How to avoid: Scrutinize money requests before hitting “accept.” To be extra diligent, “disable [or block] incoming requests altogether on your app and only use it for sending money,” Narang suggests. Enable it when someone you trust is about to send you cash. And ignore a notice to return an accidental deposit. Report the incident to the app’s support team to resolve the dispute.

8. Social Security scam calls

Scammers are using “spoofed” phone numbers that look like they’re coming from Washington, D.C., to appear credible.

The scheme: You get a scary phone call saying your Social Security number was used in a crime — and you’ll be arrested soon if you don’t send money to fix it. “They may say your number was used to rent a car where drugs were found and that the Drug Enforcement Agency is on their way to your house,” Nofziger says. “The caller may refer you to a local law-enforcement website where you can see the person’s picture. You think you’ve checked it out, call them back and send money.”

How to avoid: “Don’t pick up the phone unless you absolutely know who’s calling,” Nofziger says. “If it’s important, they’ll leave a voicemail.”

9. Account takeover scam texts

Scammers are sending fake text messages alleging there’s big trouble with your internet account, a credit card, bank account or shopping order on Amazon. They want you to click on links and provide personal info.

The scheme The urgent-sounding text message may have a real-looking logo. “People don’t expect scammers to use text messages, so they’re more likely to click,” Moore says.

How to avoid: Remember, don’t click on links in emails and texts that you haven’t asked for. Call your bank or credit card company to check for a problem. Installing security software on your computer and keeping it updated is also crucial, says cybersecurity expert Brian Payne, of Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.

If you’ve been swindled by a forex scammer, it’s not too late. While you may need to go to court if you’ve paid them by cash or check – good luck suing a con artist in Belize – credit card and bank transfer payments are more common, since they allow easy transfer of funds from country to country. In this case, you can simply have your bank or credit card company issue a chargeback to recover your money. This can be a complex, time-consuming, and intimidating process for the average person. Shieldforensics has been getting people’s money back for years. Contact us for a free consultation. We recover your money or you owe us nothing. It’s that simple.

The Best Cannabis Stocks Of 2021

Best Cannabis Stocks Of 2021

With the growing acceptance of cannabis among American consumers and their elected representatives, this edgy asset class offers your portfolio an excellent source of growth. According to data from Leafy, an online marijuana marketplace, legal U.S. cannabis sales—medicinal and recreational—increased 71% in 2020, to a total of $18.3 billion.

To help you choose the best cannabis investments, we take a closer look at 14 stocks and funds, as well as a few less dank offerings it’s perhaps better to avoid. There are both pure plays—firms that specialize exclusively in bud—and large-cap names that also have some pot industry exposure.

As always, you should ensure any potential investment choice aligns with your personal goals and risk tolerance. And please note, stocks and funds are listed below in alphabetical order only, by category.

The Best Pure Play Cannabis Stocks

•   Amyris Inc. (AMRS). Buckle up because this stock has gained about 600% since this time last year. Amyris has been working to create synthetic cannabinoids that could revolutionize the industry and make it less reliant on large, expensive growing facilities. With a $3.5 billion market cap, Amyris most recent quarterly results posted quarter-over-quarter sales figures up 96%. No dividends to report yet, but investors willing to take on the risk of this up-and-coming stock when it hit a low of $1.88 per share in November 2020 would now hold shares worth over $12 each.

•   Cara Therapeutics (CARA). How can you ignore a cannabis company posting quarter-over-quarter sales up a whopping 2,384%? No, there’s no decimal missing in that. This biotech company’s goal is better pain management, offering a quality of cannabis and CBD that advocates swear by. Cara has the smallest market cap of the stocks profiled in this article, and it boasts the largest returns. Investors might find a bargain buy here as shares currently trade near a 52-week low in the $12 per share range, down from the April 5, 2021, high of over $28 per share after news came out that one of its leading offerings showed poorer results in testing than expected.

•   Cronos Group (CRON). As a global brand that makes a wide variety of adult-use cannabis and CBD products, quarter-over-quarter sales are up a respectable 133%. Maybe it’s the pandemic. Maybe it’s a carefully cultivated reputation for high-quality cannabinoids. Either way, Cronos displays controlled growth, but investors need to have a sense of adventure, with its 52-week price fluctuation between $4.62 and $15.83 per share.

•   GrowGeneration Corp (GRWG). Back in the day, hearing “hydroponics” made you instantly think of someone growing weed in their basement. Today, hydroponics is one of the top cultivation methods for the legal cannabis industry, and GrowGeneration stands as the leading supplier of hydroponic equipment in the U.S. Offering over 50 retail centers throughout the U.S., this young company (founded in 2014) is growing by leaps and bounds. No dividends as of yet, but a P/E ratio of 90.27 says that growth-oriented investors might find what they’re looking for.

The Best Pure Play Cannabis ETFs

•   AdvisorShares Pure US Cannabis ETF (MSOS). Actively managed ETFs are hard to come by, but here’s one for the cannabis sector. If you’re looking to dip a toe into cannabis, this ETF can help you get all the benefits of an actively managed mutual fund with the real-time liquidity of an ETF. A relatively new fund, it’s showing returns in excess of 17% YTD as of early May 2021. The expense ratio is high for ETFs, however, clocking in at 0.74%.

•   Amplify Seymour Cannabis ETF (CNBS). At the end of Q1 2021, this strictly cannabis ETF posted year-over-year returns of (gasp) 233%, but like most of this sector’s ETFs, it’s short on history—inception date: 2019—which gives investors little to go on for historical performance. However, with a low NAV in the $20 per share range, inventors can get a taste for the industry without risking a positive drug test at the workplace. Like other ETFs in the cannabis sector, the expense ratio is high (0.75%), but it does offer a rare dividend, currently $0.101 per share.

•   ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF (MJ). Providing a YTD return of 45% as of early May 2020, this ETF that tracks the Alternative Harvest Index is no slouch. With an at-present highly accessible cost-per-share under $30, investors wanting to try the cannabis industry on for size can do so at a low price of entry. Shares come with a steep expense ratio for a passively managed ETF, though: 0.75%.

•   Global X Cannabis ETF (POTX). With the lowest expense ratio amongst the ETFs noted in this article (0.51%), this ETF also posts respectable returns in excess of 47% YTD early May 2021. This passively managed fund outperforms many of the actively managed funds above, making the combination of a lower expense ratio, better performance and a rare dividend yield of roughly $0.14 per share, as of writing, an attractive prospect for those looking to tap into cannabis sector growth.

The Best Large-Cap Stocks with Cannabis Exposure

•   Altria Group Inc. (MO). You’ll know this stock best as the maker of Marlboro and one of the behemoths in the tobacco sector (along with its dabblings in the adult beverage industry). Because of that, for ESG investors, Altria’s likely not an option. For those who don’t mind the vice, the company’s making a play for cannabis, holding a substantial stake in Cronos Group, detailed above. While the stock took a substantial hit from its investment in JUUL, share prices have been on rise since top of 2021. Analysts have noticed and the stock comes complete with several Buy and Strong Buy ratings and a dividend yield that only stocks in this sector can bear: 7.1%.

•   Constellation Brands, Inc. Class A (STZ). Spirits are Constellation’s main game, but like Altria, this company is diversifying into cannabis via investment in Canopy Growth (CGC), a Canadian cannabis producer. Holding a 38.6% share of the company, Constellation saw a substantial return on investment in 2020. While not a pure cannabis play, this analyst-favorite stock is having a heyday with a YTD return of almost 10% and a dividend yield of 1.27%. Again, likely not a consideration for ESG-minded investors but with a P/E ratio over 23, investors could see modest growth ahead with this company with a long history.

•   Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. (SMG). Where does a company best known for plant fertilizers come into the cannabis mix? If you can make backyard plants grow, odds are you can make cannabis grow. For investors looking for the proven track record of a large cap stock with a leg in the growing cannabis industry, Scotts could be a fit. It’s acquired multiple cannabis-adjacent and pure cannabis companies and even built a brand new 50,000 square foot facility for R&D to explore how their fertilizer products impact cannabis growth. With a P/E ratio around 25 and a 1.03% dividend yield, Scotts stands as a respectable choice for investors exploring cannabis in their portfolios.

The Best REIT with Cannabis Exposure

•   Innovative Industrial Properties Inc. (IIPR). Cannabis has to grow somewhere, and that’s what Innovative Industrial Properties is betting on. This REIT (or real estate investment trust) invests in the industrial side of the cannabis industry: greenhouses and other industrial facilities that support cultivation and distribution. With a dividend yield of 2.93%, it’s attractive from an income perspective and a P/E ratio of 54 says that investors could enjoy dividends in anticipation of growth down the line. For those looking to diversify holdings into real estate, this could be an interesting portfolio addition, especially considering that this REIT has generated a three-year return of over 440%.

The Rest: SPACs and More

Are there other ways to invest in cannabis? Sure. However, the rewards might fail to outweigh the risks with these options.

Marijuana Stocks on the Outs

•   Canopy Growth Corp. (CGC). While sales are up 23% quarter over quarter, Canopy’s caught the ire of industry analysts and has recently suffered a slew of downgrades and declining returns. ESG investors will want to note that, again, Altria holds a significant ownership stake in Canopy Growth.

•   Tilray (TLRY). While making several other top pot stock lists, Tilray has recently been downgraded by several analysts and returns have been flat. For investors looking for cannabis industry diversification, there are plenty of other options that keep you out of recently downgraded territory.

Pot SPACs

Going public has never been easier now that SPACs—special purpose acquisition companies—are on the scene. The easy road to IPO makes these entities more worth watching while they prove their place in the market as opposed to immediate buys, especially for investors looking to try their hand at cannabis-related holdings.

•   Merida Merger Corp I (MCMJ). This cannabis-centric investment group has shown relatively flat returns since going public in late 2020. Risk-averse investors might prefer the transparency of a pure cannabis stock or a large cap stock with cannabis exposure.

•   Silver Spike Acquisition Corp (SSPK). Returns in 2021 have been mostly flat and the company is in the process of a merger with Weedmaps, a leading cannabis industry tech player. The company is also currently under investigation for the fairness of its recent merger activities.

The Bottom Line on Cannabis Stocks

Depending on your personal preference and portfolio needs, there are a wide variety of ways to test cannabis-related holdings in your portfolio. With all emerging industries, investors should be aware of the risks and have an asset allocation and diversification strategy to help absorb inevitable sector volatility.

For the best management of cannabis investment we recommend FTI-CONSULT. Financial Trading Interim & Consulting offers a variety of solutions and services to Business owners, investors and any other entity within the cannabis industry to bolster profitability, enhance reputation, maintain brand integrity, and ensure regulatory compliance. We understand the unique challenges of the cannabis industry in both the United States and Canada. FTI-CONSULT

Shieldforensics.com have one of the largest databases of listed unregulated brokers on the market, which they have successfully recovered monies from.

A few facts about Shield Forensics

Situated in the World\'s Financial Center, New York, Shield Forensics has a strong stand point against online fraud. We provide wealth recovery services for individuals and companies who have lost money through fraudulent online platforms such as fake binary options brokers, forex and our network of investigative associates spans across the globe making us quite prominent in this field.


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