A computer scam that can catch you out no matter what security software you have

By | April 1, 2010
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In the Computers newsletter this month:

  • A computer scam that can catch you out no matter what security software you have
  • When you switch on your PC to read today’s news and it’s blocked – by the newspaper
  • A little trick that I don’t use very often – but is really handy when you do want it
  • Do you know anyone who would like to work in the Lake District?


Well, this should be the 1st April issue but I’m going to be driving down to Plymouth to visit Mum and Dad on the first, so you get it a day early!

That also means you don’t get an April Fools, since it’s the wrong day. But I’ll start off telling you about a scam far worse than a harmless April Fool…

Another scam to beware of

You might have already heard of this one but it’s so nasty I wanted to make sure as many people as possible know about it and know not to get caught.

Here’s what happens:

You get a phone call saying it’s from Microsoft and they’ve noticed that your computer isn’t protected and it’s at risk.  They might talk about a new virus that’s out that can damage the actual physical bits of your computer.  It’s sweeping around and will catch anyone not protected – so you’d best pay now by card and they’ll install the protection on your PC over the internet for you.

To try to make you even more likely to say yes they might say that if it does attack your computer, it will cost (say) £200 to put it right again – but the protection is only £70 (or however much they want to say that day).

As you can tell (since I’m writing about it here), this is a scam – it’s not true.  They’ll charge your card for the £70 (or however much) and then sell on your card details.

Microsoft don’t phone people like this – and in fact they wouldn’t even know who to phone, since they don’t normally sell Windows directly to you.

The best thing is just to put the phone down – if you like you can tell the police, though they do already know about it and are trying to catch the people behind it.

It’s worth knowing about in advance as some of these crooks can be very persuasive and sound very convincing.  But once you know in advance it’s a scam, you won’t be taken in.

Quite a few of you have had calls like this one so thanks to everyone who gave me all the details to pass on to everyone!

If you read newspapers online

If you read your newspaper online, you just might have noticed a change.

There’s been talk for a while that newspapers are going to start charging for people using them online.  After all, they say, you pay to buy one in a shop, so why not pay to read it online.

So they’re starting to change to a system where you have to log in.  The Times and Sunday Times are the first to change but I wouldn’t be surprised to see others change as well – in fact The Sun and The News of the World have already announced that they will be charging.

For now, you can set up an account without paying anything – you just need to log in.  But from June you’ll have to pay £1 for one day or £2 for a week to get access to the Times.

I’m not sure how this will work out – there are sites like yahoo.co.uk and bbc.co.uk that will continue to give free news, so I’m not sure many people will sign up unless they’re really keen on the columnists.   And I suspect the people who read it thoroughly still buy a paper copy.

But in some ways I’m glad – with no online newspapers it’ll be one less distraction when I’m trying to write!

A little tip for Internet Explorer

Sometimes when you’re on a webpage, you know that page has the bit of information you’re after but you’re not sure where.  It might be a long webpage, maybe with lots of articles on so you don’t want to read the whole thing – you just want to find the snippet you’re after.

Hold down the ctrl key and tap F – you’ll get a little box appear.  Type one of the words the article will contain into that box and press enter.  It’ll take you to the first place on the page that uses that word.  If that’s not the bit you’re after, just press enter again and it’ll take you to the second time and so on.

It’s not something I use very often but when you do have a long webpage and you want one particular bit, it can save a fair bit of time and frustration.

Know anyone who would like to work in the Lake District?

I’m currently looking for someone to come and work here at the Helpful Book Company – just for 9 months (to start with – after that, who knows) to cover someone’s maternity leave.  They need to keep track of our adverts, analyse our sales and make sure we don’t run out of stock (I hate having people wanting books but no books to send them!)  Oh, and they’d probably best be pretty good with PCs, too.  If you know anyone who might be interested, pass on the word (you can just forward this email) – they can read more here.

That’s all for now!


Tim Wakeling

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