These are articles we write for local Village magazines. I’ve posted them here so if you missed one, you can re-read it. The Buckland Monachorum Parish Magazine ‘Outreach’ has now stopped being published. The Horrabridge ‘Bridge Magazine’ is also not being published (Oct 21). I was astonished to find that my archive of articles goes back to 2016. I have only gone back to 2018 as much of the previous information is now out of date.
I should really start this article by wishing you all “A Happy New Year”, bearing in mind it’s only the 6th January as I type this. But of course it will be February before you read it, so maybe “How’s the year going so far?” might be more appropriate. We might even be on lockdown IV by then if ‘Plan B’ doesn’t hold up, or maybe looking at a new Prime Minister?
The scammers were busy thinking up new ways to trick us before Christmas, with the ‘parcel charge’ scam. They have also been targeting facebook accounts and if someone you know gets hacked, you get sent an “I think you’re in this video” message from them. I’ve not found out what happens if you click on the link. Another one is targeting people by posing as a friend or family member in need of help and asking for money. These messages can be via email, text or whatsapp so be careful if you get one of these as quite a few people have lost money from this one so ALWAYS be suspicious of money requests, especially when there’s an element of panic or urgency in the message.
With accounts being hacked, you should think about updating those passwords you haven’t changed since, well, whenever. While you’re doing this, also see if you’ve set up a recovery phone number or other email address and check that they’re still valid. I’ve had the odd few occasions where the recovery phone number is an old mobile number, long since replaced.
An interesting item has been in the news recently about phone lines. It seems BT (et al) are keen to get rid of ‘fixed land lines’, (those copper cables bringing the phone system to your house) and we will all have fibre-optic cables coming direct to the home instead. This will be known as ‘fibre to the home’ or FTTH, whereas now we have ‘fibre to the cabinet’ or FTTC. “So what?” I hear you ask. Well, the current copper land-line system is not affected by power cuts. If the power goes off to your house (or town/village) you can still call friends, or for help, because the system has a back-up supply in the telephone exchange to keep your plug-in phone working, (although of course the broadband is lost because it relies on a powered router in your home). The new system, uses “Voice Over IP” or VOIP for short (love all these acronyms!) and relies on the router in your house for a connection to the phone system. This means when the power goes off, so does your router, and bingo, no phone to call for help on! Now this isn’t too much of an issue if you have a decent mobile signal, but how many of us do? And how many of you have ‘WIFI Calling’ on your mobile which relies on, yes, you’ve guessed it, your router!
The answer will be to have your own battery back-up system. Some, (mainly businesses) have been using these for years to keep their computers going in a power cut, and to protect them from power surges. They vary hugely in price, size and how long they will keep things running, (which of course is also dependant on what power is drawn by what you have plugged in) but a reasonable sized one for your home should cost less than £100. I’m going to be trialling one at home to keep our current broadband running in a power cut, so I’ll keep you posted on how I get on.
December 2021/January 2022
For those of use who use Word 2016/19, there is one irritating feature which is easily switched off, if you know where to look. When you start Word, you are presented with a ‘Start Screen’ which is useful the first time you open word but drives you mad afterwards because to get to your documents there are umpteen clicks to do to get there. To bypass the ‘Start Screen’ (or should that be ‘Start Scream’?) then click on File, then Options. Under the ‘General’ heading, find ‘Start up options’ at the bottom and untick ‘Show the start screen…….’. Click OK and Word will now open automatically on a blank page
Another irritation is that when you click to open a document, Word presents you with a ‘Recent Files’ screen and to get to your documents, there are more clicks! To get Word to go to your Documents folder straight away, then it’s File, then Options, then Save. Now put a tick in the option ‘Don’t show the Backstage when opening or saving files’. Click OK again and Word will now open directly to your Documents folder!
As previously mentioned, Microsoft took everyone by surprise by suddenly announcing the ‘end’ of Windows 10, and the release of Windows 11. I have now had a chance to download and install a copy to see what it is like. The first thing you notice is that the ‘start button’ which has been in the bottom left of the screen since Windows 95 (yes that’s short for 1995 when it was released!) has now been moved into the centre of the bottom taskbar (although this can be moved back to the normal left-hand side quite easily). Any similarity to the Apple taskbar is no doubt co-incidental! First impressions are that everything looks different, but is still the same so it looks like ‘All Change – but stay the same’.
So what else do you need to know? Well, the release date is the 5th October (so not long after your copy of Outreach comes out) and apparently, your PC/Laptop will tell you when it is ready to install. Upgrading from Windows 7, 8 & 10 is free. There are some caveats though. The main one seems to be that you will need to have Trusted Platform Module (TPM) installed on your computer. Not every computer will have this as it is built into the processor, and/or the motherboard. Despite the fact that my test PC was built early in 2020, it didn’t have TPM installed, and it wasn’t part of the motherboard. I was able to download and install it though once I had enabled the option. There are other blocks to you getting Windows 11, to do with the amount of RAM, processor speed and available hard disc space, but these are best left for me to answer.
I will be testing more, slightly older, computers in due course, to see how the arrival of Windows 11 affects them. Microsoft say that Windows 10 will continue to get the updates until 2025, but these are likely to be just ‘bug fixes’ and not any new features as has happened in the past. Any new laptop or PC bought now should come with a sticker saying it is Win 11 compatible. I noted that several PC adverts say that they come with a ‘free upgrade to Win 11’ as though it was some sort of special bonus!
I have continued to upgrade computers with the new Solid State Drives, turning machines that seem to be wading in treacle, into fast nippy ones. This works especially well with ones that were originally Windows 7 and just had the free Win 10 upgrade in 2015+. So if your computer is one of these, or just seems really S-L-O-W, then get in touch and I’ll see what might be possible.
The big news this month is that while we were awaiting the latest update to Windows 10, Microsoft suddenly announced that they were releasing a new version of Windows, called, Windows 11. This surprised everyone in the IT world as Microsoft had previously said that there would be no new versions of Windows, as they would simply release updates and improvements to Windows 10. I haven’t had a chance to download and try the ‘beta’ version of the new version but I expect you will be hearing more in due course.
Scammers have been busy with the ‘Amazon Account’ renewal phone call, plus I’ve had emails offering a Government Covid refund on my TV licence and emails trying to trick me in bidding for government Covid business grants. A very plausible looking TSB email had me looking twice because it was so good. Even the email address looked perfect but the link to click on went somewhere very strange which didn’t have TSB in the URL! All phishing emails can be sent to: email@example.com and you should get a confirmation email back.
If, like me, you are a fan of Family History, you may have old photos of relatives from way back when. There is a website which can bring these photos to life, literally! Some will find the effect somewhat creepy, but I was amazed. You upload the photo of your relative to the site, and after a few seconds, it produces a short ‘movie’ of the person. It has to be seen to be believed so if you want to take a look, head for: ‘www.myheritage.com/deep-nostalgia’.
Now I return to one of my bête noires: passwords. I’ve just spent hours trying to convince Microsoft that the account the customer has forgotten the password for, is actually theirs. But with Microsoft, the computer says ‘NO’. The problem is worse because having set their account up using an online account, they put in a ‘normal’ landline number for the recovery as they don’t use a mobile. This means, that when you try to recover the account, the code is sent via text, which doesn’t work on a landline. You can’t ring them so have to fill out a ‘recovery form’ which the computer says isn’t enough and to fill out a form and round and round you go!
I went to a house a while back and working on my own upstairs, I needed to log into their WIFI to get a file. I called downstairs and asked for the password. The reply came back, “Start with a capital ‘s’ and then 1234”. Five letters? OK, well it’s their password I thought. However of course I couldn’t get that to work. Kept trying slight variations but eventually admitted defeat. “Can’t see what the problem is” after I called to check it. Customer comes in and types ‘S t a r t 1 2 3 4’!
I am pleased to say that I can open my shop in Chapel Lane, Horrabridge again on Wednesdays. You will also be able to admire the shiny new tarmac outside the shop as DCC have resurfaced the whole of our road at last. This means no more getting soaked from cars splashing through the numerous puddles in the road. If you do call in, please continue to mask up before entering.
I do need to highlight once again, that phone scammers are active in the area. I’ve had fake undelivered parcel messages, fake amazon account and ‘internet going to be disconnected’ warnings, but my favourite, (if there is such a thing) is the message that my national insurance number has been used for illegal activities! Scammers have also been sending email messages about closing my email account, (interesting, as I run my own mailservers!) about untold riches to be earned from bitcoin, plus ‘special offers’ from various supermarkets if I complete a survey. This can all make you very cross of course, but the Delete key is very therapeutic! As is winding up a phone scammer by pretending to play along with them. They won’t ever stop trying, so always remember the phrase; If it’s out of the blue, it’s not for you.
The next big update of Windows 10 probably won’t arrive on your computer until the autumn but updates still continue to arrive regularly every month (usually on the 2nd and/or 4th Tuesday). To see if your computer has updates waiting to be installed (as not all are done automatically) then click on start, then settings, then ‘updates and security’. Even if it says it is up to date, it is worth clicking ‘check for updates’ to double-check. You get ‘optional updates’ from time to time, and you may also see an ‘additional updates’ option listed. If you click on either of these, there will usually be extra patches and driver updates available.
One thing worth highlighting is that Microsoft is very keen for everyone to have an account with them and will try all sorts of ‘tricks’ to get you have one. For instance, when setting up a new PC or laptop, you get to a stage where it suggests connecting to your WIFI. If you do, you then cannot escape from the ‘sign in to Microsoft’ trap. Clicking ‘I don’t have internet’ gets a veiled threat about not setting up correctly but at least you can create a simple username for logging onto the computer. A recent Windows 10 update presents you with a ‘complete the set-up of your account’ screen. Clicking ‘next’ immediately tries to get you to sign in to Microsoft, which, if you normally sign in with your name, you won’t want to do. For the moment, you can cancel this and continue as before but I wonder how long it will be before it becomes mandatory.
As always, I am happy to help with any such issues so please don’t hesitate to call if you have a problem.
As we become more savvy with attempts to scam us out of our hard-earned cash, so the scammers will attempt to thwart our defences with more cunning and sophisticated tricks. From spoofing legitimate looking local phone numbers, to giving themselves ‘normal’ sounding names and now another twist, using an ‘English accent’ phone message rather than a terrible American accent one. Had this recently with the ‘amazon prime renewal call’ which seems to be back in favour right now. There was the requisite local(ish) code phone number and a lady’s voice thanking me for renewing prime for £79.99! If you get one of these, don’t press 1, just hang up. Remember: If it’s out of the blue, it’s not for you.
Likewise, with email. I’ve had lots of Morrisons/Sainsburys/Waitrose, ‘Shopping Experience’ email with a £90 ‘exclusive offer’ as bait, (from strange domains ending in .XYZ and starting with ‘deutsch’ in the name) plus get-rich-quick schemes from Bitcoin and Martin Lewis. I don’t understand ‘bitcoin’. I have tried but it sounds like a cross between a ponzi scheme and the emperor’s new clothes! How can something you can’t hold, see or ‘own’ be worth £60k each?
Looking ahead, (won’t it be nice to get to the pub, socialise and sink a nice pint or two of Doom!) the next update to Windows 10 is due in May. Hard to tell at the moment if there will be major changes. In the meantime, make sure you have version 20H2 on your PC. The quick check is to click on Start, then type ‘winver’ (without quotes) and press enter. If you haven’t got 20H2, then click Start, then Settings, then scroll down and click on ‘Update and Security’ and then ‘Windows Updates’. Install any updates that are waiting, including any which are ‘optional’.
Many of you will have be ‘warned’ by Google that they are limiting the free storage they give you with your account. I don’t have much but it prompted me to find a way to back up all my google pictures without laboriously clicking loads of photos. There is an easy way (there usually is!) and it will download ALL your google data if you are so inclined. Go to “takeout.google.com” and scroll down the very long list of things that google has about you (more than you ever thought I suspect). I just wanted my pictures so I ticked the photos box and waited. You eventually get an email with a link to download the files. They are all ‘zipped’ up so will need to be ‘un-zipped’ for you to view them.
And to finish: An IT engineer returned to his desk to find a message saying “please ring Mr Thompson – it’s urgent” and a phone number. He didn’t recognise the name but rang the number. A child’s voice answered the phone. “Hello?” said the voice. “Can I speak to Mr Thompson please?” asked our engineer. “No, Daddy’s not here.” said the voice. Long pause, “Ok…….is your Mummy there?” enquired our engineer. “No. ‘fraid she’s not here either” said the voice. Another pause, and getting slightly exasperated our engineer asked, “well…..is there anyone else there I could speak to?”. “Oh yes!” said the voice, “my brother’s here.” “Great!” says our engineer, “Can I speak to him then please?”, and the voice replied, “Yes, OK, I’ll just get him for you.” The phone was put down and there was an even longer pause, Finally, the voice returned. “I’m sorry, but I can’t lift him out of his cot!”
As lockdown Mk3 begins to bite, more people are asking about replacing laptops and PCs, or just getting their current ‘kit’ going faster. With more of us working (and schooling) from home, decent IT has become a must-have. Parts for tower PCs are still readily available but unfortunately, laptops are in short supply due to the very virus which is keeping us in doors affecting production. But what should you be looking for anyway?
Well if you are thinking of buying a new Windows 10 laptop, then the things to look out for are these. Processor: Avoid anything that has an intel Celeron processor as in my experience, they slow down very quickly (there’s an oxymoron for you!) and will drive you mad. But intel Pentium processors are OK but if you can find an ‘i3’ or ‘i5’ processor they are much better again. If it says AMD Ryzen 3 or 5, they are also great processors. You want a minimum of 4Gb RAM, but 8GB is better (more than that is a waste with day-to-day computing) and you want a minimum of a 256Gb Solid State Drive (SSD). Here, it is the SSD which is crucial as these drives are much, much faster than traditional ‘spinning’ hard drives. Screen size is up to you but generally, 10in/11in are great if you travel a lot, (not much good at the moment obviously) and 14in/15.6in are perfect for day-to-day working at home. There are 17in laptops available too if you need a bigger screen. With all these, it is possible to connect a second screen, (usually now via an HDMI cable) for multi-screen working.
If you already have a laptop, but it now seems slow, replacing the hard drive with an SSD and a fresh install of Windows 10 will almost certainly give your laptop (or tower PC) a new lease of life. I am happy to advise you with this upgrade. Just send an email or give me a call.
Keeping in touch with friends, relatives or business colleagues has never been easier during a lockdown. Facebook, Whatsapp, Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc, the variations are seemingly endless. They all use the Internet as a connection medium, meaning there are no call charges, so you can contact your cousin/aunt in Australia for free.
I have held and taken part in Zoom meetings and it’s really easy to do. If you are holding one for a group of people, (friends or business perhaps) then you will first need to create an account on the Zoom website. Create your meeting by selecting a date and start time and Zoom provides a link for you to send to each person you want to invite. At the appointed time, you start the meeting and as your invitees click on their link, they are brought to the meeting’s ‘waiting room’ and you click to allow them in. You don’t have to use video if you don’t want too, although that is part of the fun. A free account allows you about 45 minutes for your meeting but you can simply start another if you want to continue. For a longer meeting, you will need to pay a monthly, or annual fee.
You do need a reasonable broadband speed for Zoom but luckily our broadband speeds are now around the 35Mbs (apologies if yours isn’t). I have mentioned before about the differences but if you want know more, head over to the Buckland Computers website for more information.
Take care and stay safe.
December 2020/January 2021
Thank you once again for all the kind comments about these articles. I’m glad you find them informative and entertaining. I’m pleased everyone is now more aware of what the scammers get up to and if it stops them getting money, that’s a great result.
Following on from last month, where I mentioned ‘Quick Assist’ which I can use for remote access to your computer, I came across something which, potentially, could lead to serious problems if not guarded against. In fact, it was so obvious an issue, I’m surprised I didn’t spot it before. It’s to do with the way website passwords are stored on your PC.
I am fairly relaxed about whether you have a password or not when you start up your computer. My rule of thumb is usually that if you have work files, or children, then a password is a good idea. If you are the only person using the PC, then it’s not really necessary. I may change that opinion now. The reason for this is as we merrily go on day-to-day surfing the internet, buying things from Amazon, e-bay etc, we usually click the helpful “save this password” prompt so we don’t have to keep retyping it. This also happens with email passwords too. Which is where this particular alarm bell was sounded.
I was setting up someone’s email on a new laptop, when, having been asked for their password, said those famous words “I don’t have one, I click on ‘email’ and they download’. Groan! Whilst they consulted several notebooks, I recalled that in amongst the many settings in Microsoft Edge (and Google Chrome) there is a ‘Passwords’ option and that clicking on this, you get a list of all the websites you have visited, along with their stored passwords (if you clicked ‘Save’ that is). Seconds later, I had the person’s email password and was able to tell them what it was!
But it dawned on me afterwards, that if I could get that password so easily, then a scammer logged into the PC could do the same, (or anyone else for that matter) and get all your other website passwords too. When I checked this out later, I found that if there is a password set to log into the computer, when you try and access any of the stored ones, you are asked to confirm the login password, before you can see it. If there isn’t a log-in password, you can read any of the stored passwords quite easily. To view these, open Edge or Chrome, click on the three dots (top right) and select ‘Settings’ then ‘Passwords’.
So now you’ve all come back from looking at your passwords, what should you do? Well, if it’s just you using the PC and you are confident never to let anyone have access, then don’t worry. But, it might be a better idea to secure your files with a password, right now. And also go through that password list writing down all the ones you’d forgotten.
To set a log-in password, go to Start>Settings>Accounts and click on ‘sign in options’. You can create a password, and then if you prefer, create a pin-number too, to secure access. I tend to avoid the ‘sign in with your Microsoft account’ option personally but if you have a Hotmail or Outlook email address from Microsoft, then it’s up to you if you want to use that instead. If you have any concerns, just call me and I can help.
Stay Alert, Stay Safe, Beat the Scammers!
I have come across several PCs and Laptops which haven’t picked up April’s Windows 10 update and one or two of them have had very old versions of Windows 10 on them. The numbering sequence of Windows 10 is quite easy to follow if you know what to look for. Before I tell you what to look for, here’s how to check your version of Windows 10. With your computer on, right-click on the start icon (bottom left corner of the screen) and then select ‘Run’ from the menu. Type ‘winver’ in the box and press enter. A window will open with details of your version of windows (see pic).
If it says you have ‘version 2004’. This is for the April release in 2020. Last year’s numbering was 1903 (March 2019) and 1909 (September 2019). The numbering for previous years is the same, going back to the year 2015. Hopefully, you won’t have anything that old, but I have found some computers with 1803/1809 (March/Sept 2018) on them. These have been running very slowly!
Windows 10 is pretty good at keeping itself updated, but it can get out of sync and needs the odd ‘prod’ to get it back in step. To do this and check for updates: Click Start>Settings and then select ‘Updates and Security’ from the list. You may have to scroll down to find this as it’s at the bottom. Even if Windows says ‘you are up to date’, it is worth clicking ‘Check for updates’ and forcing it to check. Another possibility is that you will see a message about a ‘feature update’ which you have to ‘download and install’ by clicking the link. Note: if you have to do that, it will take quite a while to download and install!
I am also aware that there is a problem with some versions of Outlook (in Microsoft Office). If you try and search for a particular email, a message will appear above your search saying ‘Something went wrong and your search couldn’t be completed’, but then carries on and does the search anyway. This is a bug which came from a Microsoft update a while back. They are supposed to be working on a fix but it hasn’t reached me yet if they have!
A recent addition to Windows 10 that I have found very useful, is a feature called ‘Quick Assist’. Supposing you have a problem on your computer that I could fix easily if I were in your home, but we don’t want to risk a visit in these interesting times. This is where ‘Quick Assist’ will help. Both you and me run the program I click on give assistance, and you click on receive assistance. The app shows you a code number which you give to me and I put it into my PC and ‘Hey Presto!’ I can control your PC. Obviously you should only use this with someone you know as it won’t be long (no doubt) before some scammer cottons on to this and tries to get access to your PC. Currently these scammers use other forms of remote assistance to rob you. Never, ever, give access to your PC to anyone who rings you and claims to be from some big sounding organisation, no matter how plausible the tale they spin you sounds. It Will End In Tears! Yours!!
Stay Alert, Stay Safe, Beat the Scammers!
Email passwords! They are the bane of my life! I have lost count of the number of times I have gone to set up a new PC or laptop, and asked for the person’s email password, only to hear “I don’t have one. I click on BT/Sky/Google and it just comes up.” There then ensues several minutes of pointing out that there is an email password and that it was used on day 1 on the old computer which then remembered it for ever more……..until today when you need it!
We then have fun with the security questions (especially on BT) which were also used when the account was set up. First pet/car/friend/teacher, I’ve been through them all and as for mobile phone recovery numbers, it is very rare that the number that BT/Google has is the current mobile number! Having exhausted all these, it’s time ring ‘support’ (or the un-helpful desk as I like to call them). It used to be the case that when you got through, they would simply reset the password and allow you to get back in, but on one occasion recently, I was locked out of Hotmail for a month (yes, a MONTH) and on another, I found that BT would only post (yes POST – snail mail) a letter with a pin code, which you then had to ring up (again) with so that they would then reset the password for you.
So when was the last time you checked your email password and security seconds? Yes, I thought as much, probably never! OK, I know some of you have, but many haven’t and you should do it. Change the password for something new. Avoid obvious ones. Believe it or not, 123456789 was one of the most ‘popular’ passwords used last year. I have covered how to make a tricky password in the past but it is worth repeating. A favourite date is good, either just using numbers, or mix up numbers and letters, eg: 01012020 or 01jan2020. My personal favourite is to think of a phrase you like, a line from a film or a song, or maybe a quotation, and then use the initial letters from each word.
Just thought; we could have a bit of fun here. Work these out!! Omutbdfom or yamtssfa (hint: ones a song, one is Shakespeare). Or satccott and tlotrrotk (hint: a poem and a film).
Additional – Nov 2020: I came back to this and tried to remind myself what these were! FAILED!! Omutbdfom is ‘Once more unto the breech dear friends’ but yamtssta I really can’t recall at all!! But satccott is ‘stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone’ and the film is ‘Lord of the Rings, Return of the King’ (thanks to my friend Meg Langton for reminding me of this one!)
There! Chuck in a capital letter, add a number and you can have an easy to remember password that will be unique.
The reason I really brought up the topic of passwords, was because of an incident with a scammer. They tricked their way onto the person’s computer and proceeded to lock it with their own password, and then proceeded to delete the stored email password. I’ve never had a scammer do either of those things before and whilst the first was easy to resolve, the second….well you can guess from above what happened next!
Scammers are getting cleverer as we become more aware of their trickery, and people are still being caught out. I’ve said it before and will keep saying it, NEVER, never, ever respond to a phonecall claiming to be from Microsoft, Amazon, any Bank or from any official sounding ‘company’. Never, let them have control of your computer under any circumstance, even if it sounds plausible, because I can guarantee 100% it isn’t and I can also guarantee 100% You Will Lose Money.
There is one thing you need to remember: If it’s out of the blue, it’s not for you.
Windows 10 is proving to be a very robust operating system, and very quick too. Updates (generally) get installed with no fuss too. I know that many people were nervous of switching from Windows 7 and had heard ‘horror’ stories of problems with Windows 10 but I am pleased to say that once switched, everyone has said how similar they are to look at and work on. And the bonus has been that ‘old’ PCs have suddenly become rejuvenated and quicker to use.
However, and to return to one of my familiar themes, ie backups, I have found it does have a weakness (if you can call it that) in that when it goes wrong, it goes wrong in style! I have had two or three machines very recently which have all being working fine, but then suddenly refusing to start up. Closer investigation has shown that the hard drive has become corrupted in such a way that the data on it cannot easily be recovered. It is even more of a problem with some laptops which have their hard drive built into their motherboards, meaning you can’t unplug it to work on it on another PC. This means data is lost….permanently.
So please do back up regularly, especially if you have precious photos and documents. Cloud backup, using Microsoft’s Onedrive (which is installed with Windows 10) is also available.
The Internet and IT in general have been a wonderful resource to have in these days of ‘LockDown’. Being of a certain age, I can recall when having a phone was unusual, and there were only two TV channels. These started at 5pm and shut down at midnight, unless there was cricket or sport to show. Facts which send shudders through most teenagers!!
I will say though, that at the moment, scam phonecalls have all but dried up, and although I still get regular ‘get rich quick’ emails, fake invoices, phishing emails and endless emails offering to ‘run my website’ to get more custom. This is especially amusing with the RAF Harrowbeer history site. I often wonder if they bother to look at a site before sending the email (I guess not). What extra business they think they can bring to a closed, WWII airfield goodness only knows, although I did like the Viagra email I received for Harrowbeer!!
But the most irritating scam email is the one that comes from someone you know, in that their name heads up the email, but the actual email address is something completely random. It usually just says ‘Hi S’ or similar and then there is a web address and nothing else. My Kaspersky anti-virus always stops any attempt to visit said web-link and most (if you override) have been shutdown so I have no idea what these are attempting to do although I suspect you would end up with a virus on your computer at the very least. Thank goodness for the Delete key.
That’s all for now. Please do get that back up done. You’ll only realise you need to back up, the day you need the back up to recover files!
April/May 2020 (written before COVID-19 struck)
Email has been keeping me busy of late. Some customers are still using ‘Windows Livemail’ to read and send email and unfortunately Microsoft stopped supporting this software some years ago and when it goes wrong, it is difficult to recover messages etc. A recent Windows 10 update threw a spanner in the works causing all sorts of problems with the screen display. It was one of those faults where, as you look at the problem, you think, “How is that even possible!”. Quite often an error requires drastic action and I have to ask my least favourite question, “Can I have your email password please?”. The often quoted reply is “I don’t have one, the email just arrives.” Which leads me now to ask, if I had to reset your email software, do you know what your password is?
Gmail and Hotmail/Outlook have quite a good email reset system using a secondary email address or a telephone number. Known as ‘two-factor authentication’ these work well, providing you keep them updated! Many of you will know I am quite keen on the regular changing of passwords to keep one step ahead of the scammers, so if you haven’t changed or updated your passwords for email, amazon , or any one of the myriad of shopping sites, then it is worth taking the time to check or renew them. Do not forget to check the phone number that you have listed for emergency use is also your current one.
By the way, Banks will soon be demanding to know a phone number or email address, when you make any large purchases, either on line or when on the high street. What’s going to happen is that you will automatically be sent a one-time security code to confirm your purchase. Whilst this should help with credit card fraud, it does make your mobile (and phone number) a target for scammers.
There have been reports of thieves getting a person’s mobile provider to switch their phone number to a new phone, (by pretending to be ‘you’ and claiming that the original phone is lost). If you don’t use your phone much, the first you will realise something is wrong is when you go to make a call and the phone is dead. The scammer then has a phone with your number on it, and well, you can guess where that’s going. How the phone networks are going to deal with that potential problem is anyone’s guess?
Just as I was completing this article, I had a fresh ‘scam phone call’. This was ‘from HMRC’ saying I was being prosecuted for ‘tax fraud’ and that if I didn’t press ‘1’ immediately to speak to ‘an HMRC agent’, a warrant for my arrest would immediately be issued. Total rubbish of course, because if I was being investigated, they would be unlikely to warn me before turning up to arrest me! However, quite a frightening phone call to receive if you were a vulnerable person. If you get any such call like this, just remember, (and pass the word) to hang up the phone and never engage these awful people in conversation.
It’s pleasing to hear from feedback, that scammers aren’t doing so well locally as people wise-up to the phone calls alleging that your ‘internet is compromised’ etc. However, don’t think for a moment that they won’t be back with some other plausible story to try and get at your money. Please continue to pass the word that no-one is going to call you to tell you that you have a virus, or your Bank account has fraudulent activity on it, and never, ever, ‘Press 1’ to speak to someone. If you aren’t certain, hang up, then wait a while (or get to another phone on a different number) and ring whoever the caller was pretending to be to check their story.
Please make sure you have your precious photos and files safely backed up as I think ‘ransomware’ may come round again in 2020. Never open suspicious emails, or links within them. I know I’ve said this before, but it needs repeating.
When you read this, Windows 7 will have passed its sell-by-date with Microsoft and won’t receive any more updates and patches. Microsoft have said that their anti-virus package, Microsoft Security Essentials, will continue to get updates for the foreseeable future. This is a reversal of their earlier statement saying it wouldn’t. They realised that as they had to keep updating it for Big Business (such as the NHS) they might as well let the rest of us have it to.
I have recently upgraded a lot of Windows 7 PCs to Windows 10. Most users have said they dreaded the upgrade as they had heard Windows 10 wasn’t good and caused problems (amongst other things). Happily, all have said they didn’t see much difference with the operating systems and were generally pleased with their ‘new’ PC. Several have said their machines seemed to run faster too, which is generally what I have found. So it’s not too late to upgrade if you still use Windows 7. The upgrade licence from Microsoft is still free (even though their website says you have to pay!) if you go about it the right way.
I have mentioned that a new version of the internet browser Microsoft Edge was being worked on. By the time you read this, many of you will have had it automatically installed via windows updates. The new ‘Edge’ is a vast improvement on the old version, being quicker to load webpages and easier to configure to the way you want it. You can spot if you have it because the blue ‘e’ changes to a blue circle.
Finally, a little while back, we were travelling home at night on a GWR train from London. We were pleased to find the Pullman restaurant car service was still functioning, (anyone can use this BTW, you don’t need a first-class ticket) and as we were wondering where we were, we brought up Google Maps on our phone, and were able to track our exact location by following the blue dot on the screen. Sad to say It got quite addictive watching it!! I mention this because we realised it would be jolly useful if someone was meeting you at the station, to be able to tell them exactly where you were.