Unfortunately there are lots of sharks swimming in the computer pool these days. Some of them want your money and they do it by telephoning computer users and trying to scare them into parting with their cash.

You may receive and email which offers you 'support' for your Windows problems - and may even suggest that you already have some problems with viruses or whatever.

Or the 'phone rings and a voice tells you that they believe your computer has an error or a virus. They may even say that they are ringing from Microsoft - or at least throw in something about being 'Microsoft Certified'. That's all rot - Microsoft just don't do that, nor do proper Microsoft Certified engineers.

Their spiel may go on to tell you to look in the Error Log of Windows and see the errors shown there. Then they offer to take over your system remotely and correct those errors, remove the viruses and maybe install some so-called antivirus program you have never heard of. All for the bargain price of £80 (or more...)!

BUT this is a pack of lies from start to finish. NO - they cannot tell if your computer has a virus; EVERY Windows computer has errors in its log files; and the program they install if you fall for their fancy talk will more than likely snaffle all your passwords and bank details (and don't forget you have already given them your credit card number, name and security number off the back). What more do they need in order to rob you?

So if these folk ring just politely put the 'phone down...and if they email - don't reply

STOP PRESS - and now they are using 'Skype'

So if an automated voice comes from your computer and tells you that you have a virus just close down Skype. Then go back into Skype and set the 'Privacy' option to 'Only allow people in my Contact list to contact me' (Tools>Options>Privacy).

Fed up of being sent 'urgent warnings' about viruses and other scams which you are asked to 'send on to all your friends'? Well 99% of these are simply hoaxes.

So how can you tell which are genuine and which not?

Here's a little list of sites to go to where you can enter significant words or phrases from the email and check them against a database of hoaxes.

If you don't want to do the research then there are some simple questions which will weed out most of the hoaxes:

If those things are true then it is pretty sure to be a hoax

1. Don't believe what they say! 2. Don't pass it on! 3. Look out - there are 'Rogues' about

For quite some time now 'rogue antivrus' programs have been popping up on Windows screens. Sometimes the whole screen is devoted to an enormous warning in red that your computer is infected and, apparently beavering away in a smaller window, is a virus checker 'revealing' that you have umpteen viruses.

This is yet another 'con'. The only virus your computer probably has is this thing itself. But it wants your money and it is trying to scare you into paying up for a so-called antivirus program which is nothing of the sort. That's why these things are also called 'scareware'. Here is Microsoft's advice about it:

Unfortunately if you click on the program window to close it down all that happens is that it installs itself and the next thing you know it appears every time you start the computer and you can't get rid of it.

SO the first rule is DO NOT attempt to close one of these pop-up windows by the normal method of clicking on the white cross in the red box top right. If there is an icon for it on the Taskbar right-click on that and choose 'Close Window'. But some are clever and don't show an icon. You may be able to close it using the 'Ctrl+W' key combination. If not then click on the Start button and log off from your account. That will close all windows and then you can log on again.

AND if you do get infected so that the thing bugs you every time you start up then get some help from someone who knows what they are doing and how to get round the defences these things put up.

4. “Phone me back” scam

The ‘phone rings and someone who says he is from the Police tells you that your credit card/debit card has been used fraudulently and he needs to check your account details. But he realises that you need to be sure he is genuine..... So he tells you to ring him back on a number he gives you (it may even be 999!) and you put the ‘phone down and ring that number. But the scammer at the other end has not put his ‘phone down - he has just gone silent. So he can hear you trying to dial and immediately he answers and asks for your account details, card number, verification code or PIN.

This works because when you are called and the caller does not hang up you remain connected to their line for a short while even if you put your ‘phone down. Of course you will not get a dialling tone when you pick it up again - but it is easy to miss that fact and just press the numbers and think you are dialling out.

Similar scams are being tried by folk pretending to be from your bank or other companies you might have financial dealings with.

So the basic rule is: if someone rings wanting financial information don’t be persuaded to ring them back immediately - whoever they say they are. Tell them you will ring back later - and then check the number they gave you using some other source.

5. I Know Where You Live!

If you have GPS tracking enabled on a smartphone then you can be located and any photos you take will probably be tagged with the location where they were taken unless you turn off that facility. Take a look at this news report:

Even an iPod (which does not have GPS) ‘knows’ where someone is when they are using WiFi because Apple use the ‘Skyhook’ information database of WiFi signals – and that seems to be accurate to about 50 yards or less when there are lots of local WiFi signals:

Everybody should know about this if they use a smartphone with GPS enabled. BUT the more important thing in many ways is to follow the golden rule:


That includes anything you write on Facebook or Twitter as well as any pictures you upload to publicly-available locations or just send to others who may share them without your knowledge. Facebook privacy settings can be a minefield (there are over 170 of them I believe). For safety’s sake you might want to set sharing to ‘Friends only’ but be aware that even then some of your information can end up in places you might not want it to go simply because your ‘Friends’ have not got their privacy set as tight as you.

‘ComputerActive’ magazine has a good guide to Facebook privacy settings here.

The Internet is an open system – as public as a notice board in the street
(but ‘the street’ is now the whole world...)


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