These are articles I write for local Village magazines. I’ve posted them here so if you missed one, you can re-read it.
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.
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.
At the end of last month’s article, I mentioned that there was a scam phone-call doing the rounds, where a recorded message told you your ‘BT internet’ had been ‘hacked’ and you were going to be cut off unless you pressed 1 to speak to their ‘team’. Well this didn’t work very well I guess, because it quickly morphed into a similar message saying your ‘amazon account’ had been hacked etc etc. I doubly-dislike these calls as you can’t have fun winding up the scammer on the other end of the line! Don’t ever be tempted to press 1, because I have no doubt it instantly connects to a premium rate phone line.
Getting caught out by a scammer can happen at any time. A friend was recently trying to get a new piece of computer kit to work, and was searching the Company’s website looking for help, when a little box popped up asking if they needed help. So they thought, ‘hey that’s handy’ and assumed they were ‘talking’ to a tech person from the company. Having been encouraged to allow access to their PC, it was only when said ‘tech’ person started showing them lots of ‘corrupted files’ on their PC, and asking for money to sort the issue that alarm bells started ringing. They quickly disconnected the link. Was it a coincidence that the ‘help’ box appeared when they were looking for help? Or a piece of click-bait planted into the website?? We’ll never now, but please be aware that scammers are like that old Martini advert. They can strike, any time, any place, anywhere!
By the time of the next Outreach, Windows 10 will have been effectively abandoned by Microsoft. January 14th 2020 is the cut-off date. So just to remind you: after this, Windows 7 will continue to work as normal, it just won’t receive any more updates or patches from Microsoft. As I type this up, the latest update to Windows 10 is installing on PCs everywhere. You can check which version of Windows 10 you have by simply left-clicking the Start button, and then (without touching anything else) typing WINVER and then pressing return/enter. A window will open and the version number is easy to spot. It should say 1903 (for the May update) or 1909 (for the latest one). Any other number means you aren’t getting updates! I came across a laptop the other day with version 1703 on it. That’s the update from March 2017.
Now for something slightly different: If you are using a laptop and you are interested in how well your battery is doing, did you know you can get a battery report from Windows? Nope, neither did I. Now, I am using windows 10 but this should work on windows 7 too. Click on the start button and type ‘command’. A window will open and at the top, you should see ‘Command Prompt’ (with APP) below it. Left click on this and a black ‘command prompt’ window will open. Now, for those with long memories, this will look like the days of DOS 6.22 and Windows 3.1 and it pretty much is exactly what it looks like, because good old DOS (for Disk Operating System) is still the backbone of every version of Windows. Anyway…I digress! Click in the black box, and then type (without the speech marks) “powercfg /batteryreport” after a second or two, a message will tell you the report has been saved in your user files (c://users/<name>/battery-report.html). Find the file and open it and you will see lots of info about the state of your laptop battery.
Unfortunately, I have to start this article with another warning about phone scams. In the last month, I have heard of three attempts locally to scam people which shows that you can never let your guard down. There is one golden rule to follow and it is this: If anyone rings you saying that there is a fault on your phone line; that your computer is telling, (insert impressive sounding company name here) that is has a virus; that there is a mystery transaction on your bank account; or in fact just about any variation of the above, the simply HANG UP. Treat any such caller as though they have the plague.
One person was rung by their ‘Bank’ saying there was ‘mystery transaction’ on their account. They were talked into going to their bank to draw out a large sum of money, which they would then hand to a ‘policeman’ who would meet them, for safe keeping. Luckily, this person spoke to a relative on their way to the Bank, who was able to put a halt to this. Another person had all their documents, pictures, etc, deleted by a very irate scammer who realised he had failed with his scam attempt so took revenge as he had control of the computer. I was able to recover all the deleted files from this one luckily.
I have mentioned the ‘sextortion’ emails previously and they have got more vicious recently which shows, possibly, that they aren’t as successful in catching people out. Still, it can be quite frightening when you get an email saying you have been ‘videoed’ by your webcam, ahem, ‘enjoying yourself’ and demanding bitcoins to stop them sending the video to friends and family because they hacked your email account. All tosh of course. What’s fun for me is that because I monitor about five or more email addresses, I get EXACTLY the same email sent to each account! Email addresses are regularly bought and sold on the ‘Dark Web’ so there is no way of stopping them, although I do feel that Internet Companies could easily cut these off at source if they were so minded.
And now for something completely different. (did you know Monty Python’s Flying Circus is 50 years old?)
You must all now be aware that Windows 7 will not be supported by Microsoft after January 2020. This means no more patches and updates, although I am certain any major security hole would receive a patch if one was needed. Most Windows 7 computers are capable of being upgraded to Windows 10 (which isn’t as bad as some make out by the way). The upgrade licence is still (at the time of writing) free from Microsoft. You can do it yourself, (google ‘Windows 10 upgrade’ for instructions) but make sure you have backed your files up first, or you can bring it to me.
If you already have Windows 10, then there is a new version of Microsoft Edge, the internet browser that has replace Internet Explorer, (IE). Up until now, Edge has been rubbish in my opinion and I have generally used Google Chrome, or IE (which is still there on Windows 10 if you didn’t know). However, Microsoft took all the criticism to heart, and Edge has had a complete makeover which has completely transformed it into a much more usable, and speedy, browser. You can download and install a copy by visiting the Buckland Computers website; www.bucklandcomputers.com and following the links there.
That’s all for now. I have to go now because I have just had a recorded message on the phone from ‘BT’ saying my internet is going to be disconnected unless I press ‘1’ to talk to someone. Sigh! You couldn’t make it up!!
I recently had a phone call from the ‘Cyber Crime Technical Team’. (scam alert!) On this occasion, having a bit of time to spare, I decide to have a bit of fun so I played along. Sounding very concerned, I asked what the problem was. The man on the phone told me my internet connection had been ‘compromised’ and had been used for ‘illegal activities’. I replied with shock to this, saying ‘Oh No!’ over and over. Sensing a possible victim, the man on the phone ramped up the ‘problems’, with me replying with groaning and more ‘Oh No!’ responses. I then decided to go full-on and told him to wait while I spoke to my Wife. I then held the phone at arms-length and began to rant that we were in trouble and that ‘the kids must have been downloading stuff’ and finally…began to weep!!
He rang off!! And hasn’t rung back since!
Although I don’t condone it, stringing them along and wasting their time can be fun and it does mean they’re not scamming someone else whilst you’re doing it. However, I never rise to the bait with email scams as that can backfire. It is really tempting though, to send back one of those laughing emojis! Unfortunately, all this will do is confirm that the email address they have targeted is valid. If you get an obvious scam email, then send it to: NFIBPhishing@city-of-london.pnn.police.uk
By the way, I am pleased that so many of you are now alert to scammers ringing you up. However, if in doubt, don’t hesitate to ring me to ask advice.
Those of you still hesitating over upgrading your Windows 7 PCs and Laptops, have another five months to take the plunge before Microsoft withdraws support for it. It will still work of course but they won’t be updating and patching it anymore. Well, that’s what they say but they recently released a security patch for Windows XP to plug a vulnerability so I expect the same will happen with Windows 7.
With security firmly in mind, you can check to see if your email address has been compromised in one of the many hacking incidents with the likes of tallktalk et al. Head over to the website: https://haveibeenpwned.com/ and put in your email address and it will check known databases of hacked accounts. If you haven’t changed your email password lately, it is worth doing it. And don’t forget other passwords you (don’t) use regularly (because the websites hold them) like Amazon, Paypal, ebay, Facebook etc.
Paypal is a useful way to pay for things on-line. It means that whoever you’re buying from doesn’t get your card details, as paypal acts as an intermediary, handling the payment to the merchant. You then pay Paypal.
That’s all for this month! Enjoy the sunny weather (it’s very warm as I type this) and stay safe on the Internet.
There appears to be a bit of a lull in scamming attempts at the moment. The only one I’ve been getting is the email that appears to come from my own email address telling me (via the ‘hacker’) that my email account has been hacked and he/she knows my password. This is sometimes displayed as well for effect, but is always a very old one that was changed. If you get one of these, don’t panic because they haven’t hacked your account, they have just got clever at ‘spoofing’ the address so it appears to come from yourself. It’s similar to the trick of mimicking a local phone number when a scammer rings you up with some story or other.
However, do not think that the scammers have been beaten! They are no doubt out there, somewhere, plotting their next move! Happily, articles such as mine keep reminding everyone to be vigilant and to be suspicious of any strange email or odd phone call.
I’ve recently seen several PCs which have ‘driver updater’ software installed on them. The owners had no idea how it got installed, it just “…appeared.” I’m not a fan of these programs at all, whether they are paid for or free. If your computer is working fine, why fiddle with installing unknown updates? There is much in the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. So if you find one of these has mysteriously appeared on your PC, just un-install it. Don’t be tempted to comment on any removal webpage that pops up either, that may just highlight your email address leading to more rubbish.
With that out the way, let’s have a refresher on some of the more fun things to do with the internet. To track or discover that aircraft flying overhead: www.flightradar24.com is the one to use. Then frighten yourself by scrolling around to see just how many aircraft there are in the air at any one time! Want to track whether or not it’s going to start/stop raining? Then www.netweather.tv/live-weather/radar is then website to use, and you can also track local thunderstorms here too. For a world view of lightning than try: www.lightningmaps.org .
You can track down old films now on: https://archive.org/details/moviesandfilms and www.gutenberg.com has a library of free books for your kindle/e-reader. For more up-to-date books then try: https://openlibrary.org/ and if you can’t face reading them then you can find audio books here: https://librivox.org/ . If you want to transfer large files then use: https://wetransfer.com/ where you can send anyone up to 2Gb of data for free. That’s a lot of photos!
For a bit of entertainment, the try the website www.printableboardgames.net where you can print off all sorts of basic board game items. Thought there was only one way to fold a paper airplane? No there are dozens of ways! Try some here: www.foldnfly.com .
Another year, but the scams keep coming! As 2018 rolled over into 2019, news of a clever scam tricking people into thinking that their TV Licence had ‘expired’ was reported in the press. Like all these ‘phishing’ scams, the crooks are after your bank details, but happily, most of us are becoming a lot more aware of the tricks being tried. Even my preferred anti-virus supplier, Kaspersky, was targeted recently, when customers started getting messages saying their licence had expired. Luckily, most knew to click on the Kaspersky icon to see just how many days their licence actually had left. We have also had ‘sextortion’ emails, alleging naughtiness online, and this has now been followed by a much darker variation, threatening to send round a hitman for ‘swift and painless execution’ if you fail to pay a ransom. Eeek!
On a more pleasant note, those of you using Windows 10 should now be receiving the much-delayed September update to your operating system, (OS). Microsoft had major issues with their latest release with all sorts of problems reported. This led to them withdrawing the update twice before they got it sorted. I have loaded it on several PCs and have had no problems so far.
Which leads me on to talk about Windows 7. This superb OS is due to be pensioned off by Microsoft in exactly 12 months’ time, in January 2020. You may be surprised to hear it is over ten years old now! After that, it will still function quite happily, but will no longer get any patches or updates from Microsoft. Note that Windows 8 (and 8.1) are also in the firing line but not for another year or so. If you are still using either Windows 7 or 8, then it is still possible to get a free upgrade to Windows 10 on your laptop or PC from Microsoft. But it has to be done in a specific way. If you are using Windows 7 or 8 and would like to upgrade to Windows 10 then please get in touch with me. Incidentally, Microsoft say there will never be another version of Windows, they will just keep upgrading Windows 10.
Some of you will recall me banging on about backing up photos etc, so that you don’t lose any precious memories. (You are backing up your photos aren’t you!) At the time I suggested either an external hard drive or by creating a Google account and using the [unlimited] online storage. I discovered that this latter suggestion has hidden benefits in that Google Photos neatly catalogues all your photos and videos and stores them in date order. You can search through them, create albums and photo books, which you can share with others using email links. Yes, Google does weird things like trying to ‘enhance’ your photos, and I’ve even had it join my panorama photos into one huge photo without being asked. Seems a bit creepy at times! However, they are safe in the ‘cloud’ and don’t require checking to see if they are OK (as they would do on a hard drive).
That’s all for this month.
September -October 2018
As I was pondering what to put into this month’s article, several stories hit the headlines. First there was the sad story from the Tavistock Times, that yet another person had fallen for the ‘talktalk’ “we owe you a refund so if we can just have your bank details…..”. This resulted in £20,000 being stolen from them. It is so frustrating to keep hearing of this happening, given all the publicity in recent months. So I will repeat it once again here: if someone rings and starts telling you that there is a fault on your phone/computer, or you are owed money or whatever, treat the caller as if they have the plague and HANG UP!
The second one is a slightly new twist on a phishing email. We’ll call this one ‘sextortion-ware’! The email alleges that you have been viewing ‘naughty websites’ and that this person has put a virus on your machine and has videoed you in a ‘compromising position’ shall we say! Well this is a family magazine!! The email also lists an old password you might have used in the past, so evidently hacked (or bought) from somewhere. A sum of money in bitcoin is demanded, or else all the contacts in your address book will get to see the video. Unfortunately for the scammer, when I got this email, it arrived in all my other accounts too, they were all from different ‘people’. Some had the password in, some didn’t. A variation of this email uses a phone number in place of the password apparently. Anyway, I hit the delete button.
Another threatening call we had, was from ‘BT Technical Department’ who were going to turn off our broadband for two weeks because of attempts to hack our account. When we started quizzing them, they first claimed to be a Government department, but then ‘James’ (with a thick foreign accent) got suspicious of our questions and rang off. A quick check online revealed a number of people reporting the same type of call.
The last story was about a free program called ‘Ccleaner’ which I have recommended in the past as a great way to clear out temporary files etc on the your laptop or PC. It seems that the Company that created the program, Piriform’ were bought up by Avast, the anti-virus Company. Ccleaner was still free to download and use, but now had hidden ‘extras’ which weren’t so good. First, unless you unticked the monitoring tick-boxes, Ccleaner installed itself and ran in the background, ostensibly looking out for a build-up of junk files but in doing so, sent tracking data back to Avast. It also kept popping up adverts all the time. To start with, you could turn this off, but the next update seemed to make this more difficult! After lots of online complaints from users, the update was withdrawn and we are now waiting for a completely new version. So if you use this program, ignore requests to update it and stick with an earlier version.