Pharming combines the words “phishing” and “farming” to indicate large scale phishing attempts.
Phishing is online fraud where a scammer tries to trick you into giving them your personal information e.g. login and password, bank details etc. The scammer does this by pretending to be someone you would trust – e.g. a government department or a high street brand or BT or British gas etc.
The scammer gets you to click a link, believing it is to a reputable organisation but it is the scammer’s website and will steal your confidential information.
Pharming is the large scale version of this and involves either downloading malicious code to your computer which then redirects your browser to the scammer’s website, unbeknownst to you. Or it can involve changes to your Internet router that again automatically redirect your browser without your knowledge.
The Panix Attack
On 15th January 2005, the domain name for a large New York ISP, Panix, was hijacked and redirected to a website in Australia. The domain was restored two days later and ICANN’s review blames Melbourne IT. It appears they received a DNS change request and did not did not get express authorisation from the registrant in accordance with ICANN’s Inter-Registrar Transfer Policy.
Protection Against Pharming
Make sure you have strong passwords in place, anti-virus and anti-malware installed and staff are trained to avoid suspicious websites, links in emails, not to open unexpected attached files etc.
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Imagine you want to find the best place for your savings or the best place to invest a windfall or the best pension scheme available, for example.
You might go to a professional financial advisor or to your bank or other finance organisation you know.
But if you don’t have the money for an advisor then it might be a case of asking friends and relatives for their opinions or just using a search engine.
However, when you get to searching online, there is a huge number of finance organisations online and many criminals create fake websites that sometimes look exactly like the ones for genuine businesses.
Q. How do you tell which websites are genuine and which are fake?
The starting point is to ignore unsolicited emails, text messages, calls etc. – these are very likely to be fake and should be ignored.
Things to Look For
Check the message and website looking for mistakes
Correct URL e.g. Barclays Bank rather than Baclays Bank
Use of broken English
Simple spelling mistakes or serious grammatical errors
The content on the website doesn’t make sense
Pictures, diagrams etc. that fit in with the rest of the site and haven’t just been added at random to fill space.
We all remember the Timeshare explosion in the 70s with millions of phone calls, endless adverts and more to entice you into signing up for a Timeshare i.e. to buy a share of a holiday home, typically for one or two weeks per year.
The idea being that only paying for a couple of weeks must be a lot cheaper than buying your own holiday home and maybe cheaper than hotels and villas etc.
But, for whatever reason, Timeshare sellers went for the hard sell but combined it with getting people into a situation where they found it difficult to say no. They often gave people a free evening somewhere nice or even free holidays in sunshine resorts. However, the pressure to buy was relentless and many people ended up buying a timeshare just to stop the salesmen bothering them.
That all came to an end as the publicity over high pressure selling and the ability for people to cancel within 14 days according to law made it less profitable for the sellers.
But they didn’t go away completely and CLC (Club la Costa) are sending out mass emails and making phone calls to tell people they have won a free holiday. This is the Timeshare scam.
To claim your free holiday, you and your partner must agree to attend a 90 minute presentation (probably 2 hours or longer) at a CLC World Travel Centre in the UK.
You pay a £90 deposit up front to guarantee your attendance (which will be refunded when you have attended the full session). After attending, they offer you a free week of accommodation at one of their holiday sites, sometimes plus a voucher for Marks & Spencer or other high street chain, for about £50.
At the presentation they may offer a one to three year ‘trial’ but with destinations and dates. If you do commit to a long term membership, you’re likely to find that school holiday dates will have to be booked years in advance and the holidays you want simply aren’t available to be booked. Many people admit they felt bullied into signing up and then immediately cancel when they get home.
Is It a Free Holiday?
Yes. But you have to pay for your own flights, food, insurance etc. You will have to be very flexible – you may not get to travel on the dates, to the location or from the airport that is convenient for you.
During your free week’s holiday you must attend a resort tour and presentation (if you don’t, you will be charged for the accommodation. The presentation is again high pressure and they want everyone to sign up.
There are reviews of dealing with CLC and going on their ‘free’ holidays’ available on Money Saving Expert and TripAdvisor.
e.g. 1 I went on a CLC trip to Tenerife. Had to pay own flights and transfers. We had to go to the presentation for about 6 hours and it was very boring and wasted a day of the holiday. Other than that we got a nice apartment and weren’t given any hassle. If you can get cheap flights and don’t mind one very boring day then it’s ok for a cheap holiday.
e.g.2 If you’ve signed, got a few thousand on credit to pay, you go home. You then read every thing and find they never told you that you also pay £400 a year for fees.
Maybe a Timeshare suits you so why not take advantage of the free taster holiday. But for most people it’s too restrictive and too expensive when all costs are added up.
Plus, although they promise you that selling a Timeshare is easy – hundreds of thousands of people have found that it’s virtually impossible to do and that makes the Timeshare worthless.
If you have any experiences with Timeshare sellers – do let me know, by email.