Fact Checking Websites

It’s not difficult to build a website that copies or is similar to an established news website — and it’s easy to then post from it onto social media to encourage people to click to get to what they think is a reputable web site but may be the opposite.

Information can spread really fast but not as fast as conspiracy theories and fake news.

There is so much fake news, misinformation and conspiracy theory  around and it’s up to each of us to filter the ‘information’ we take in. Judge everything in it’s context and how trustworthy the source is.

Anyone can publish anything they want subject to libel laws.

Here are some sites that can help identify the truth in amongst the dross and lies.

The BBC Reality Check

www.bbc.com/news/reality_check

This is quality journalism looking at recent claims by high profile figures and analysing the truth or lack of in their statements.

The BBC say “Worried about a story you’ve seen online or on social media? BBC Reality Check is a BBC News service dedicated to clearing up fake news and false stories to find the truth. Examining the facts and claims behind a story to try to determine whether or not it is true”.

Snopes    (www.snopes.com/fact-check/)

Probably the oldest fact-checking site online is Snopes, which has been fact-checking weird stories since before Google had a search engine. They have a long record of being unbiased, showing their work, and keeping up the irreverent tone that true internet nerds love. They’re also great for everything from urban myths to political statements.

FactCheck.org (www.factcheck.org/)

If one of your hobbies is fact-checking the things politicians say, then FactCheck.org can be a big help. The site is a non-partisan “‘consumer advocate’ for voters” that monitors and checks the things people in politics say in “TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases.”

Politifact (www.politifact.com/)

Politifact is another one for fact-checking what politicians say.

Washington Post Fact Checker (www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/)

Plenty of expert analysis alongside the fact-checking.  The publication tends to lean liberal, but this tool has a reputation for being non-partisan. They also have a funny Pinocchio graphic that gauges just how big the lie really is.

If you have any experiences with these scams do let me know, by email.

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Ransomware as a Service

Software as a Service (SaaS) is common and is where companies or individuals pay a subscription to access software rather than actually buying it. This is how Microsoft 365 works – you pay a monthly or annual subscription to use Microsoft Office on your devices.

Unfortunately, criminals are now treating ransomware like this – with some criminal setups letting scammers make use of their ransomware for a subscription charge.

This makes it easier for the scammers who are less computer literate as they don’t need to make or buy the ransomware software.

The Coveware 2020 report shows that ransomware attacks have increased by 25 percent from Q4 2019 to Q1 2020. The monetary value of the average ransom payment has also increased from an average ransom of $41,198 to $84,116.

Ransomware is malware that once it gets onto a computer system encrypts information files and then issues a demand for a ransom to be paid or the decryption key to unlock those files will not be provided.

Payment is often demanded in Bitcoin or other untraceable methods.

Once infected with ransomware, it is very difficult for the victims to save their data and recently, these criminals have started to publish the information they find, onto the Internet as a way of embarrassing the owners and trying to force them to pay the ransom.

All computer systems should be protected against ransomware by the standard practices of

  1. Making regular backups of all important files
  2. Taking backups off site
  3. Keeping anti malware up to date and installed on every device.
  4. Maintain firewalls and all other protections against intrusion

If you have any experiences with these scams do let me know, by email.

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Fake IDs

We all see criminals on TV shows and movies going to suspicious characters to have fake passports, driving licences, IDs etc. created for them.

Nowadays there are many companies on the Internet openly selling fake IDs – you may have seen adverts for these and wondered how this can be legal.

The companies advertise openly but their websites make it clear that the documents faked are for fun and entertainment only and many even warn that they must not be used to deceive anyone.

So that’s the get out clause.

  1. Is it illegal or immoral for people to buy and use these fakes?

That depends on the situation – if you use a fake ID to play a joke on a relative or friend or something similar then no harm done but clearly if you’re underage and use a fake document to access alcohol then you are breaking the law.

Likewise with similar use of other documents and claiming it was just for fun won’t go down well with the Police.

These companies are engaged in activities they know will lead to cheating, so don’t support them.

If you have any experiences with these scams do let me know, by email.

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The Dead or Alive Scam

An email arrives with the title:

“*****ARE YOU DEAD OR ALIVE ********”.

Seems a little serious but is just the opening to a standard advance fee scam.

The message claims to be from a barrister at the International Monetary Fund, although his email address is not of the IMF.

The gist of the message is that two men have presented themselves as my agents at the IMF ready to claim on my behalf, a sum of $12.5 million that is due to me.

They claim that I died of throat cancer some months previously and they have power of attorney from my estate.

This may sound very strange but many scammers do love their complex highly improbable stories.

The message says I just need to forward proof that I am alive otherwise the money will be paid to the two men.

Proof in this case means providing identification documents along with personal details such as my address and date of birth.

This is all just a scam to get my confidential information to be sold to other criminals for identity theft purposes.

The second half of the scam in many cases is the advance fee part where I would have to make a small payment for release of the millions of dollars and of course there would then be another payment and so on until I realise there is no pot of money and give up.

These advance fee scams come in many guises but any offer of money or valuables for essentially nothing is always a scam. Only the scammer wins.

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Stupidest Spam of the Week Breakfast Trick

The message claims to be from “Dead Metabolism”. That’s not a subtle start.

It begins with “Before you eat breakfast do this ONE shockingly simple “morning trigger” to activate and turbocharge your dead metabolism…..  It takes just 10 seconds of your time.”

So, it’s another common scam with some magical means of almost instant weight loss.

“Penelope does it every morning and has dropped 49lbs..”

“Nicholas lost 45lbs with this bizarre trigger and no dieting or exercise..”

“Verity lost 33lbs in time for her wedding day..”

“This metabolism turbo-boosting was previously known ONLY to the inhabitants of a small island in the Indian Ocean, but now it’s possible for YOU to see too”.

That’s the usual fantasy stuff intended to convince the reader that it works.

The second half of the email has a page of text copied from a history of British Columbia.

British Columbia’s political history is typified by scandal and a cast of colourful characters, beginning with various colonial-era land scandals and abuses of power by early officials (such as those that led to McGowan’s War in 1858–59). Notable scandals in Social years included the Robert Bonner Affair and the Fantasy Gardens scandal which forced Premier Bill Vander Zalm to resign and ended the Social era. NDP scandals included Bingogate, which brought down NDP Premier Mike Harcourt, and the alleged scandal named gate which drove NDP Premier Glen Clark to resign. A variety of scandals

Scammers add this kind of text to try to get past the email providers scanning system that delete the most obvious scam and spam messages

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