Category Archives: Spam

Another PayPal scam

Scammers are aware that people are getting wary of clicking links in emails. So the latest variation doesn’t do this. An email going round tells you that you have bought $500 of a cryptocurrency via Cleverbridge (a legitimate payment system). If you want to cancel this, then rather than clicking a link they invite you to call a US number. It’s so much more comforting to give your card details to a real person!

Use email aliases to reduce spam

So often we have to supply an email address on a web site and who knows where that will go.

Mozilla has made it easy for you to set up aliases that forward email to your real email address. If the alias starts attracting too much spam, then shut it down.

Firefox relay is an addon for firefox, Chrome and Edge. Add it to your browser and sign in with a firefox account. Then you can have up to five aliases for free or many more for 75p a month.

Scammers are still succeeding

Nearly a million people fell prey to scammers over the summer according to OfCom research. 45 million people were targetted by emails, phone calls or texts between June and September.

So we still need to be on our guard. One new service is the 159 number. Calling this from a different phone will get you through to the customer services department of your bank (nearly all major ones are signed up). So if you get a call from your bank, the police, HMRC or any financial matter call 159 to check it out.

Stop your emails ending up in the junk folder

It’s so embarrassing when you have to ask the person to whom you sent an email to check their junk folder! That’s because the automated spam filter has decided your email is a bit risky – and of course it isn’t, is it?

Here are some tips to stop you being in that position:

  1. Make sure there is a subject line. No subject is a big clue that it is spam;
  2. Avoid using words like ‘free’, ‘special’, ‘urgent’ and punctuation like ‘!!!!’ too often, especially in the subject line. Think what USA on-line marketeers do and do the opposite!
  3. Get your spelling and grammar right;
  4. If you are including a link make sure there is quite a bit of text in the email. Don’t just send the link;
  5. Keep away from link shortening services like bit.ly;
  6. Keep the number of recipients down. If you need to send to a lot of people use a service like Mailchimp. Makes life easier anyway;
  7. Attachments can trigger spam filters;

and a few general points –

Some email services like BT have web-based spam filters to trap emails before they get to the recipient, so if your email isn’t in their email get them to check their webmail.

Should you have a problem sending to a specific person, then get them to add you to their ‘permitted senders’ list.

If everything is being bounced back or marked as spam, talk to your email provider to check your SPF record and also see if your email IP address is marked as being a spam sender.

The scammers are still there – please read this

I know that I’ve written several times about scammers, but they are still there and getting better – and catching people from all and every walk of life.

To be clear: Microsoft, your internet provider or anyone else does not know the status of your computer. Frankly, I doubt if they care about your computer. I don’t see why they should and anyway, if they did then they would fix it for free and not ask for money like the scammers do.

Scam number one works by ringing lots of people and eventually they will chance on someone who thinks they have a problem. So the scammer gets believed.

Then they will ask you to run something like Team Viewer to get onto your computer. This lets them show you all the problems on your computer by showing you Event Viewer to convince you to pay them money and thus get your bank details. Alternatively while they are doing this they will be looking at your web browser to try and find your passwords.

  • Never, ever, let anyone connect to your computer unless you absolutely trust them (Takes a small bow!).
  • If they start talking about money put the phone down straight away. They will ring back to try to pretend to be genuine. They’re not.
  • If you see your mouse or anything else suggesting that your computer has a will of its own, just shut it down by pressing the power button until the lights go out – about four or five seconds.

Then get expert assistance.

Scam number two is an automated call telling you that something major will happen (like your internet being cut off or failing to get a refund) unless you press button ‘1’ on your phone. This puts you through to a person who will try to extract your bank details and enough information about you to pretend to be you.

  • Again, just put the phone down.

Scam number three pretends to be your bank, Amazon or someone. They will be trying to get your credentials, maybe asking you for security details.

  • Just say ‘thank you’ and put the phone down. If they are genuine they won’t mind. Then visit the website of the organisation they claim to be from just to make sure – or call them on the number on a statement or card from them. Don’t use any number or website the caller gives you.

In all cases, if you have given out any bank or card details:

  • call the card issuer or bank immediately and tell them;
  • Change your online banking logons and passwords;
  • Sign up to a free credit checking service and monitor that for a while in case the scammers try anything;
  • Change any other passwords on any websites that are important to you or access your money like Amazon and PayPal.

It’s a great shame that the world is like this but that’s the way it is. Treat any phone call as a potential scam.

Dealing with Spam

We all get spam (AKA Junk). So how do we deal with it?

First of all, don’t reply or unsubscribe. This tells the sender that your email address is live and you will get tons more.

Second, check whether your ISP has junk settings to stop emails getting to you at all. Sometimes these can prevent real emails getting through. There may be a ‘whitelist’ setting where you can tell the system that emails from these addresses are not junk.

Third check your email client (Outlook, Thunderbird, etc.) if you use one and activate/customise its junk settings. And do the whitelist thing I mentioned above.

Fourth, check the junk folders on the web and your client from time to time to see whether any ‘real’ emails have been snagged. If so, add the sender to the whitelist. If people insist they have sent emails but you haven’t got them, this may well be where they are.

Oh, and if you suddenly get lots of emails saying that emails could not be delivered, that means that someone has ‘borrowed’ your email address. Avoid panic as it is unlikely that anyone has hacked your email. They are just using your email address as a cover on their systems. It will pass, but if you are concerned change your email password.

‘OfCOM’ payment scam

Yet more people trying to get bank details. They never tire!

They will phone you and tell you to pay an outstanding amount for your broadband or phone service. If you don’t give them your bank details, then you will be disconnected.

Alternatively, an automated message will say the same and to press ‘1’ or a similar number to resolve the issue. This just connects you to a premium rate number while they get your financial information.

OfCom doesn’t collect money for phone companies, so the real Ofcom isn’t going to ring you up.

Or finally you might be rung on your mobile by a number that hangs up immediately. When you ring back to see who it is, it’s a premium rate line that you are calling.

Avoid spam phone calls

Having so many unneeded calls is a pain and really interrupts my work. There is an app available for Android and iOS that I have been using for some time called ‘Truecaller’. It’s a bit like an enhanced contact list for numbers that ring me that I don’t recognize.

I’ve blocked calls from ringing me at all if they are on the Truecaller spam database. Then, if the caller isn’t in my address book, then Truecaller puts up a window telling me who it is from if it is in their database. If not you will get a geographical location. It also show how many other Truecaller users think it is spam.

One potential downside is that using Truecaller will send all your contact list to Truecaller, but this system is about crowd-sourcing information to create a mobile phone directory and the data is publicly available anyway.

If you do answer a spam call, then you can mark it as such after the call and it will be blocked. The paid for version offers more features but I am very happy with the free one.

Even more dodgy emails

I’m seeing yet more emails trying to get personal information or to download really bad software – like ransomware.

Never click a link that takes you to a website. If you do think your security has been compromised then go directly to the organisation’s website yourself. Even if it is from your bank or Apple …. or anyone.

Secondly be very careful about opening attachments. This is the favourite way to have the bad people screw your computer – and your business – up. If you were not expecting it, then check with the (apparent) sender.

But as ever, back up, back up, back up and then back up again.