“Hello, this is the TalkTalk technical department. This is to notify you that your broadband line will be terminated from today. To solve this problem…”
That was what you’d have heard were you tapping my phone on Wednesday. And it was a new one on me.
Like most people, I sometimes get calls from people saying they’re from Microsoft and that my computer has a virus and they can help me fix it if I just let them take over control.
Of course, they’re not from Microsoft at all, and they don’t even know I have a PC – they just ring lots of people until someone lets them, then either install software to nick any card details I use on it, or deliberately mess it up, then say that to fix the problem I’ll have to pay.
And I also get the phone calls where it’s just a recording saying that due to government grants I can get a free gas boiler. Which is interesting, since my village doesn’t have mains gas, so it wouldn’t be terribly useful to have a gas boiler. I suppose it could make a sort of shelf…
But this one was an automated call – you know, where it’s a recording played back at you. And pretty obviously so, it wasn’t one that was well recorded to sound natural.
It was a scam of course, and had I gone ahead and done whatever they wanted me to do, then no doubt I’d have ended up having to give them my card details or give them access to my broadband account or reveal personal details (that would let them pretend to be me) for “security reasons”.
So I just put the phone down: CLICK.
And, five days later, funnily enough, my broadband has not been “terminated”.
If you get a call like this, just ignore it. Put the phone down. If you’re really worried about “what if it’s true”, then afterwards call your broadband provider and ask them. Get the phone number from their website or from a bill. But first, check the phone line has genuinely cut off from the previous call – ring a friend or the speaking clock (123) to make sure you’re not still on the line to the scammers.
If they do say they’re TalkTalk and you are with TalkTalk, you might wonder how they know. Well, it’s probably not that hard to hack into enough to find that out. But to be honest, they probably don’t bother and just ring lots of people saying they’re from TalkTalk.
Some will say “What nonsense, I’m not with TalkTalk.” But some will be and might be persuaded.
Anyway, to sum up, be very wary of any phone calls you get pretending to be from Microsoft, from your Anti-Virus program company, from your broadband provider and so on. It’s almost certainly a scam.
How sanding a door can stop your phone unlocking
As I may have said before, I think Smartphones can be great. One of the advantages is how quickly you can use them if you want to quickly check something on the internet.
No need to sit down at a big PC, plug it in, turn it on and wait for ages… you can just pick it up, wake it up and search the internet.
On some you can wake it up by just pressing a button, but I always recommend having a PIN set up (a number to type in to unlock it) so if someone steals your phone (or you lose), other people can’t access it.
Typing a PIN in can be fiddly, though. So you can use one of the other security methods – thumbprint recognition is one of the most common.
You put your thumb on the sensor and it reads your print, checks it’s you and unlocks the phone without you having to type anything in.
My phone doesn’t have it, but Julie’s does. And (since she must trust me) she has my thumbprint in it as well, so I can unlock it.
The other day I went to unlock it and no luck – it wouldn’t work. So I handed it to her… and she had the same problem.
Not the end of the world – you always have a PIN you can type in as well, so she just did that. But I was curious why it wouldn’t work.
Then I twigged. We’d been out getting some things done. I’d been patching up the render on a wall in the garden and Julie had been sanding the front door ready for painting. When I looked at our thumbs, both of us had pretty scraggly skin on the ends of our thumbs from all the mortar or sandpaper.
A few days later it all worked again as our thumbs got back to normal.
I’m not saying don’t use the thumbprint recognition – it can be really convenient. But make sure you don’t forget the PIN to unlock it, just in case.