Category: Warning

Call Connection Services

Would anyone choose to pay £3.60 to be connected to a phone number that is well-known and free of charge?

The answer to that is that they wouldn’t do it deliberately.

However, imagine for example, your car breaks down and you’re stopped in a difficult place and in a hurry somewhere and it’s dark. A quick check on Google on your phone gives you a number for the RAC breakdown service and you call it.

Only afterwards do you realise that you called a call connect service rather than calling the RAC directly.

They advertise on Google and elsewhere to catch out people who are in a hurry or just inattentive to what’s actually on screen.

Your call will have cost about £10 more than it needed to.

Call connect services offer simply to put your call through to whoever you wanted – in this case the RAC breakdown line but they charge a lot for doing so. The RAC has free numbers but in the rush you missed that and the penalty for lack of attention is a bill you didn’t need.

Some of the call connection companies that place these adverts on Google etc. are up front about the fact you can dial directly and save money but some hide this fact.

Always call direct to save money and beware of ads on Google etc. designed to catch you out.

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Craigslist Scams

Craigslist is a very popular classified advertisements website and it has had problems with scammers in the past.

 

Craigslist publish the following guidance on how to avoid scams.

  • Deal locally, face-to-face —follow this one rule and avoid 99% of scam attempts.
  • Do not extend payment to anyone you have not met in person.
  • Beware offers involving shipping – deal with locals you can meet in person.
  • Never wire funds (e.g. by Western Union) – anyone who asks you to do this is a scammer.
  • Don’t accept cashier/certified cheques or money orders – banks cash fakes, then hold you responsible.
  • Transactions are between users only, no third party provides a “guarantee”.
  • Never give out financial info (bank account, social security, paypal account, etc).
  • Do not rent or purchase sight-unseen—that amazing “deal” may not exist.
  • Refuse background/credit checks until you have met landlord/employer in person.

How to Recognise Scams

Most scam attempts involve one or more of the following:

  1. Email or text from someone that is not local to your area.
  2. Vague initial inquiry, e.g. asking about “the item.” Poor grammar/spelling.
  3. Western Union, Money Gram, cashier check, money order, paypal, shipping, escrow service, or a “guarantee.”
  4. Inability or refusal to meet face-to-face to complete the transaction.

Examples of Scams

  1. Someone claims your transaction is guaranteed, that a buyer/seller is officially certified, OR that a third party of any kind will handle or provide protection for a payment:

These claims are fraudulent, as transactions are between users only.

The scammer will often send an official looking (but fake) email that appears to come from Craigslist or another third party, offering a guarantee, certifying a seller, or pretending to handle payments.

  1. Distant person offers a genuine-looking (but fake) cashier’s cheque.

You receive an email or text (examples below) offering to buy your item, pay for your services in advance, or rent your apartment, sight unseen and without meeting you in person.

A cashier’s cheque is offered for your sale item as a deposit for an apartment or for your services. The value of the cashier’s cheque often far exceeds your item—scammer offers to “trust” you, and asks you to wire the balance via a money transfer service.

Banks will cash fake cheques and then hold you responsible when the cheque fails to clear, sometimes including criminal prosecution.

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The Danger of Internet Connected Gadgets in Your Home

Some homes are now filled with dozens of appliances, devices and children’s toys which can be connected to Wi-Fi and some are useful while others are just for fun, but if they are not fully secure the consequences can be unpleasant .

Often set with a default password or no password, these devices can  provide an easy route for cyber attackers to get into your systems and look for confidential information.

The Internet of Things

The “Internet of Things” is a name for the adoption of Internet enabled devices in the home. The idea being that more and more household objects will communicate over the Internet. Common such items now include thermostats controlled by an APP, smoke alarms that phone you, toys that access Internet stories and music, the Alexa and Google Home devices that you can say instructions to and they use WI-FI to control other devices or find information or translate something. This also includes Internet-connected “wearable” devices, such as fitness bands which upload your GPS co-ordinates and telemetry to the Internet so you can access the data on your PC.

Many companies are working on more of these Internet of things devices.

These devices can give out information to interlopers that you may not consider e.g. the recent case of American Special Forces soldier wearing fitness bands and their location being broadcast on Google.  OOPS.

How to Make Your Connected Home More Secure

  • Secure the wireless network. Use the WPA2 protocol if your broadband router allows that option.
  • Give your Wi-Fi network an unusual name that doesn’t identify your address e.g. General Electric.
  • If guest access is enabled on the network – disable it.
  • If your router is capable of creating two separate WI-FI networks then use one for computer devices and a separate one for household gadgets.
  • Always use strong passwords that cannot possibly be guessed by anyone e.g. a string of random words.
  • Login name is often admin or administrator by default – If you are able to change the login name then change it to something that cannot be guessed.
  • Disable any remote access for gadgets. If you ever need it for allowing the supplier to fix a fault then you can re-enable it temporarily.

Some of these gadgets have appropriate Internet security and insist on strong passwords etc.  but others have little or no thought of security, so you must take care to plug any holes in security.

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BT Support Internet Scam

This is a latest version of the support call scam.

The Fightback Ninja received a call from ‘Agnes’ at BT support.

She told me they have found that my Internet connection is not working properly and that my IP address shows up as being in California. So they suspect someone has illegally gained access to my Internet connection and that is bad.

Once they have checked they will be able to help me to block this problem.

I just agreed with her as she listed each step, knowing this to be a stupid scam but interested in the process the scammers go through to steal from people.

There were a lot of people talking in her background and I complained that I could hardly hear over the noise. She told me I could hear perfectly well. ‘Agnes’ is a bossy scammer.

Agnes then asked me to check my IP address and said she could explain how to do that.

I checked online and my IP address of course shows my real location, not California as ‘Agnes’ claimed.

Agnes was now getting angry when I told her I could see on screen that the IP address was showing its location correctly. And she accused me of telling stories.

I told her I wasn’t a lying cheating scammer like her.

Then she put the phone down as it was obvious I wasn’t going to be scammed.

These horrible people will take money from anyone – do not believe cold callers unless you can prove who they are and what they say.  Anyone cold calling your home about your Internet connection is almost certainly a scammer.

Note: If you want to know the IP address for your device  there are various ways to check depending on what  device you’re using but a simple website such as https://www.iplocation.net/ will tell you your current IP address and also give you the apparent location of that IP address.

The apparent location will likely show the nearest town but sometimes may show the location of your Internet Service Provider instead so don’t be concerned if that’s the case.

The apparent IP location is generally unimportant – it’s mostly just for the curious.

If you have any experiences with scammers, spammers or time-waster do let me know, by email.

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Is Your PC Mining Bitcoins for Someone

Criminals keep finding new ways to take advantage of us. Bitcoins and other cyber currencies are constantly in the news and this has led to endless scam offers of untold wealth from Bitcoins and other cyber currencies. But there’s also a new way for criminals to take advantage of you.

The Creation of New Bitcoins

This is through a process called ‘mining’ and it applies to all cyber currencies.

Mining uses huge amounts of computer processing power to keep the blockchains consistent, complete and unalterable. The “blockchain” is how the records of the Bitcoins are stored. Mining becomes progressively more difficult as more Bitcoins are created over time – requiring more and more processing power.

Bitcoin has been in circulation for some years and effective mining requires super computers.

However, hackers get around this by commandeering processing power from large numbers of other people’s computers – possibly your computer.

The hackers infect your computer with malware that lets them download data to be processed and upload the results back to themselves. If you find your computer is always slow and seems to be busy doing something you haven’t asked it to do – this can mean your computer has been infected and is busy working for someone else.

The same hacking tool that allowed the Wannacry ransomware to wreak destruction in 2017 has also been used by hackers to take over people’s computers and use them for mining.

Another similar one is called Smominru and makes infected computers mine for the cyber currency Monero. It is thought that up to half a million computers have been taken over for this purpose.

Make sure your computer is protected against these attacks through the use of anti-virus and anti-malware, take regular backups in case of data corruption or ransomware attacks.

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Strange Happenings at romancescams.org

Romancescams.org was set-up some time ago to warn people about the many varieties of romance based scams that go on.

There is a lot of information to help people to avoid being scammed, but recently the site seems to have been taken over by a business that advertises dating sites.

These are legitimate sites, so no real problem but it is odd that such a business would acquire a scam warning site.

The scam warnings are still on the site but there are also lists of reviews of dating sites and recommendations on dating sites to use.

Perhaps it was a temporary issue but the Report a Scam button didn’t work for me.

Do you know anything of what’s going on with this site? Let me know.

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Bitcoin Machines in Shops

We’re all used to ATMs in supermarkets and shops. Some charge for getting your money and some do not.

But recently, Bitcoin ATMS have started to appear in betting shops, general shops and elsewhere.

These don’t give you money – instead, they let you buy Bitcoins.

Bitcoin is a cyber currency that has been in the news a lot recently due to its rising price, thefts of Bitcoins and its use by online criminals.

These new machines are used by people wanting to invest in Bitcoin cyber currency but also there  is anecdotal evidence that they are used by criminals.  Some shopkeepers estimate that 50% – 80% of use is by drug dealers and other criminals wanting to change large amounts of cash into something they can access elsewhere, plus the cash is effectively laundered i.e it appears legitimate.

Once purchased, Bitcoins can be changed back into any currency in many places around the world.

The shopkeepers where the Bitcoin machines are situated sometimes get a  flat fee of £100 – £400 per month and sometimes they can get up to to 30% commission.

This shows that the charges the buyer has to pay to the machines must be very high to allow for such commission to be paid to the shopkeeper.

The machines generally have a limit of about £500 per transaction, but no limit on the number of transactions per person.

For criminals, these machines are ideal repositories for their ill-gotten gains.

The price of Bitcoins rose rapidly throughout much of 2017 but it is very volatile and could easily crash at any time and become almost worthless.

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The Battle Against Illegal Medicine Websites

There are countless Internet sites selling drugs and medicines, without prescription, that should only be available with a Doctor’s guidance and prescription.

The reasons people buy medicines from Internet sites can be just about saving money but can also be about anonymity, fear of approaching a doctor, ignorance of the dangers involved and so on.

There is a government campaign called #fakemeds with a website at https://fakemeds.campaign.gov.uk/

You can use this website to check if a website you are thinking of buying from is registered to sell medicines and you can report suspected fake medicines and suppliers.

The potentially dangerous products seized by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) had not tested for safety and have been found in some cases stored in dirty, rat-infested warehouses and garden sheds. In 2016, MHRA seized more than 4.6 million fake medical products and closed thousands of websites selling medicines illegally.

The three key messages are

  1. More than half of all medicines bought online are fake
  2. Side effects can include heart attacks, strokes and death.
  3. Buying from dodgy websites also increases the risk of being ripped off through credit card fraud or having your identity stolen.

The #fakemeds campaign is run by MHRA and a recent study in co-operation with Slimming World shows:-

  • One in three slimmers have tried slimming pills purchased online.
  • Three quarters of slimmers (77%) were enticed by promises of rapid weight loss, more than half were attracted to being able to order discreetly (57%) and more than four in ten (44%) ordered online because they didn’t want to speak to a GP or pharmacist.
  • Nearly two-in-three (63%) suffered unpleasant side effects after taking slimming pills bought online. These side effects included diarrhoea, bleeding, blurred vision and heart problems. Worryingly, four out of five (81%) didn’t report these side effects to anyone.
  • Four out of 10 respondents said they had used the slimming pills knowing there were health risks, with more than six out of ten (62%) doing so because they were ‘desperate to lose weight’.

Be careful buying medicine online and if you should get a prescription for the product then do speak to your doctor and do not risk your health on cheap dodgy products.

More than 5,000 websites illegally selling prescription drugs were shut down in 2016.

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