The internet is great, I think. But in other ways it’s a load of old cobblers.
All right, I don’t really mean that, I suppose. But there are definitely some problems it’s caused, even though in other ways the things it lets you do are fantastic.
One way is the millions of scams around. Cons, email scams – all sorts. And there are two in particular I wanted to tell you about today.
One’s (fairly) new and the other is an old one but seems to have become more common in the last couple of weeks.
Let’s take the old one first.
How it works is you’re sat at home and the phone rings. It’s Microsoft, saying they’ve had a warning that there’s a problem with your PC and if you click a few buttons they can put it right.
Maybe they’ll say it’s been hit by a virus or maybe they’ll say it’s on the verge of failing – but they’ll be adamant that you need to let them access it. Or visit a particular website and download a particular program.
The thing is, it isn’t Microsoft, it’s a bunch of horrible little scammers trying to get hold of your hard-earned.
They’ll either use the access you give them to put software on your PC that tracks whatever you’re doing – including any card details you use. Or that locks your PC so they can charge you to unlock it (like the recent ransomware attacks). Or use it to take over your PC and use it to spread viruses to other computers.
Or all three.
Oh, and they don’t always say they’re Microsoft. Sometimes (especially if they think they’re talking to someone in a business) they’ll say “It’s the IT department.” I find this one especially funny if they call me. I know our IT department – it’s me and Mike. And if they don’t sound like Mike and I’m not talking to myself, it’s not our IT department!
Sometimes they’ll say they’re from BT – and if your internet connection really is through BT, you might find that persuasive. Just remember they could say that to everyone and probably half of everyone they talk to has their Internet through BT, so they had fairly good odds of getting it right.
If you do get a call like this, just ignore them and hang up. Or if you feel like having some fun, say “Oh, I don’t have a PC” or “Which one, I have 8 different PCs – is it one of the Linux ones or the ones running MS DOS?” and listen for them to get confused and hang up.
The second scam is a fairly new one, as far as I know.
What happens is you get an email saying you’ve been caught speeding in London (or wherever) and you have to pay a fine.
Of course you might think “But I don’t live anywhere near London (or wherever it is) so that can’t be true”. Here’s where it gets sneaky.
There’ll be a link in the email to click to watch video footage from the camera that “caught” you. And if you know it couldn’t have been you because you don’t live there, there’s a good chance you’ll want to click it to find out how they got it wrong… and so you can reply saying “that wasn’t me, you’ve got it wrong”.
But when you click the link, it takes you to some dodgy site that installs nasty stuff on your computer – again it might be something that watches for any card details you enter.
And though I say computer, if they’re clever, it’ll check whether you’re on a computer or tablet or smartphone and on some devices could install dodgy stuff on a tablet or phone as well.
Even if you have it set up to check with you before allowing it to install anything, it would probably say something like “To watch this video you need to install SpeedCamViewerFree – click OK to go ahead” to get you to tap or click on OK – only SpeedCamViewerFree would actually install whatever dodgy programs they wanted to get onto your device.
If they’re really clever, they’d then show you some unrelated speed camera footage, just so you don’t realise you’ve been scammed, at least straight away.
So if you get an email like this, don’t click the link. If you’re worried maybe you really have got a speeding ticket, ring up the relevant department (best get their phone number from the internet, not from the email – I don’t know for sure but they might have put a fake phone number that goes to their own people in the email) and ask. You need to look for the number for your regional police force and look for the Fixed Penalty Unit or the Central Ticket Office or something like that – they have different names in different places.
Phew – definitely the less pleasant side of the internet. On the other hand, I suppose, the internet and email makes it much easier for me to warn you about them, so there’s definitely a bright side too.