Scalar Enterprises Blog
This page contains news about Scalar Enterprises, work we have been doing for our clients, new features and services etc. From time to time I will also include useful information and articles from myself and from various other sources along with comments, tips and thoughts from myself. Hope you find it useful and why not let me know if you have a question.
I had a phone call this morning on my landline from a chap who said he was “Trevor from Hampshire Police” and asking to speak to the MD of the business.
He reassured me I was not in any trouble but he was asking for local businesses support for a brochure campaign to raise drug awareness to young people in the area.
He kept mentioning his name was Trevor (but never a surname) and specifically kept asking if I would support them (presumably wanting me to say yes so he could say I agreed to it).
Having come across similar scams before I was on my guard and asked how much it cost. He then listed off 3 options which were something like this:
○ Full page, £995
○ Half page £595
○ Quarter page £395
I then mentioned that this was beyond my currently available marketing budget, he immediately hung up !
This is an old scam that has been going on for years and which seems to re-surface on a fairly regular basis.
Please be careful you don’t get caught out by them.
Last October (2012), I wrote a post on my blog about cold calling tech-support scams entitled “Fighting back against the scammers“. I have to say that at that time, I had never experienced it personally however, since I moved into my new office, I have had 3 such calls in the last 2 days ! In actual fact I also had one a few weeks before when I just happened to be having an on-site meeting with builders and I just happened to pick up the phone.
All the callers had Indian accents, the first two were female and the last a male. On all the calls I received, the telephone line quality typically was very poor (maybe that is is another good indicator to set the alarm bells ringing for you). I have to say that they do sound quite credible technically and even when challenged they still persist with their “story” and try to convince you.
Having done some further research on the topic recently, the best advice seems to be don’t give them any information, never let them access your PC and just hang up on them. If you are feeling brave, if you can, ask for their name, the name of their company and a phone number and web address. In most cases, asking such questions will most probably result in the caller hanging up on you but if you can get any information like this, you can pass it on to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and internet crime reporting centre. The more information they can get from such occurrences, the more chance there is that they may be able to take some action.
Some useful links to more information about these scams:
- Don’t fall for phony phone tech support (Microsoft)
- Anatomy of a scam: Phone caller warns your PC is infected
Hope this helps.
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Why not give them a call ?
I was working on generating a couple of email signature templates for a client today for him to use with Microsoft Outlook. You can of course configure a simple signature within Outlook using the basic editor but if you want to do anything a bit more sophisticated, e.g. more complex layout, better formatting etc, you really need to do it with an external editor.
All of this is pretty straightforward, the difficulty comes when you want to get it into Outlook. You can’t just copy and past it in, neither is there a way to easily import the file like there used to be in old versions of Outlook so you have to “hack” your way around it.
Basically you have to create a dummy, empty template within Outlook and then locate the file it generates and replace it with your one. It isn’t so complicated as long as you know what to do.
I have done it quite a few times in the past but it is one of those tasks that I don’t do so often and it is “a bit of a pain in the proverbial rear” and I have to work out how to do it each time as I haven’t got around to writing it down.
Well this time I have spent some time documenting it so I can save time next time I need it. I have added it as another of my “How To” guides so that you can do it yourself if wish so take a look at “How to add an HTML signature file to Outlook 2007”
It is written for Outlook 2007 but it should be much the same for other versions.
I expect to see lots of nice email signatures from you now ! (We can also produce them for you if you need help, just give us a shout).
I don’t know about you, but these days, I am quite careful at looking at all the emails I receive to make sure I am not a victim of spam, scam, phishing or viruses etc. There are increasing numbers of “dodgy” looking, and some increasingly quite genuine looking, emails arriving constantly in my in-box each day so one has to be very careful to look at them before clicking on any links for example to make sure that you don’t end up downloading anything nasty onto your PC.
Some are fairly obvious, such as numerous emails from HSBC (or other banks) telling you there are problems with your account when you don’t even bank with them ! But others can be quite convincing and need much closer scrutiny before you click on any links in them.
If the sender is asking you to fill in any of your personal information, bank details or passwords etc then this should start alarm bells ringing !
A few tips
In order to try and identify if the sender is real and to establish how credible their company is, I would suggest you do the following. Ideally do all of them (and more if possible):
- Look at who sent it ? Do you know, or recognise, them or their company ?
- Have you received emails from this sender before ?
- Were you expecting an email from this sender ?
- Is it from a business email account (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org) or a free web mail account (e.g. hotmail, gmail, yahoo) ? If it was sent from a legitimate business account, it is less likely to be spam or malicious but you still need to be careful.
- Hover your screen cursor (the little arrow or hand) with your mouse over any links in an email (but don’t click) and see what they look like (e.g. you can generally see this in the status bar at the bottom of your email tool window). If the web address is the same as the sender’s email (e.g. email from email@example.com and web address is www.abusiness.co.uk) then it is more credible but typically in dodgy email it will look nothing like it (e.g. it might be something like: http://ux.ed120.net/r/OBVC96H/GJBU/CE9T7/39J/T7E/MG/h). Unfortunately, sometimes the details of the link can be hidden so if you can’t see anything when you hover over the link, this is probably also grounds for suspecting something is not quite right.
- Don’t open any attachments you are sent with the email.
- Look at the senders web site address in their email and type it into a new browser tab (or window) – don’t click on any link to it directly in the email as it might take you somewhere different. Take a look at the information on their website and see how credible they look. For example, do they have their office address included, a landline telephone number rather than just a mobile number? Do they include their company registration details and VAT number (if registered)?
- Google the sender and their company and see what you can find. If it is dodgy, someone else may already have published details about it.
- Give the supposed sender / their company a call and see if they actually sent it.
I realise this can be quite a bit of work to do but think about the implications if you do get scammed or your PC, or even worse your entire network, gets infected.
Hope you find this useful and it helps reduce the likelihood of getting caught out.
Recently, I was working on a design where I needed to match the exact font from the logo. I managed to identify the name of the font used in the image and then set to, as I have done many times before, locating a copy of the font that I could download and install on my PC.
I managed to find a copy from a what I believed to be a reputable source and downloaded it and installed it without any problems or issues flagged by my virus or malware filters.
The next thing I noticed when I opened a new tab on my browser was that instead of my usual default page opening, it took me to another with a new default search engine. Luckily I had not installed anything else on my PC around that time so it was quite easy to identify the source of the problem, however, getting rid of it was far from easy!
I tried re-setting the browser defaults but as soon as I opened a new tab again, it reverted to this new rogue page. I then discovered that it did the same in all of the other browsers I had installed on my PC (which is many as it is my main development machine and the one I use for testing browser compatibility).
Further investigation identified that I had been a victim of “browser highjacking”. Wikipedia defines this as follows:
Browser hijacking is the modification of a web browser‘s settings by malware. The term “hijacking” is used as the changes are performed without the user’s permission. Some browser hijacking can be easily reversed, while other instances may be difficult to reverse.
Many of the popular browsers have malware settings included to prevent problems like this and I had them enabled but somehow, in this particular instance, it managed to get through them all.
I investigated further and found some suggested methods for removing this particular malware, none of which unfortunately seemed to work. Eventually, to cut a long story short, I found a number of reports and discussions on various forums which I ended up, by a process of experimentation, combining and along with reconfiguring many browser options and editing different bits of code in numerous browser scripts that had been changed, I eventually managed to fix the problems across all my browsers.
Needless to say, this took quite a bit of time – nearly half a day in the end which is an expense you can’t afford as a small business.
It just goes to show, that no matter how careful you try to be, or what tools you have in place, you can still get caught out. Imagine the impact on a business who has no protection against malware or viruses set up !
Cold calling tech-support scams have been around for quite a while now. Reports indicate that these people, generally based in India, have extorted millions of pounds out of English speaking victims in the UK, Canada, the US and other countries since 2008.
In the scam, the perpetrators call unsuspecting PC owners purporting to be from well known large companies like Microsoft or Dell for example and claiming that they have detected malware on their PC.
They generally put across quite a convincing story and to those not so technically savvy, can quite easily convince them they are genuine. They then go on to dupe you into giving them remote access to your PC telling you that they will fix the problem.
Once they have gained access to your machine, they then basically hold it to ransom, demanding exorbitant amounts of money to remove non existent malware.
The Guardian recently reported that as part of an ongoing global investigation into this type of crime, that US authorities have just frozen the US assets of 17 people and 14 companies that have been accused of taking part in the operations and who allegedly have conned tens of thousands of people with this type of scam. The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has also shut down 80 internet domain names and 130 phone numbers used in the US to carry out the scams.
Unfortunately, most of the perpetrators are located in virtual offices overseas (typically in India) so it is difficult to actually make any arrests and they just relocate and set up again and start all over again so the problem is not going to go away any time soon.
All one can do is be on guard and don’t react to any such random phone calls in panic. Don’t do anything without running your own virus and malware scans on your PC and without talking to your own IT person or someone with a bit more technical knowledge who can advise you. Bottom line is, don’t ever let anyone have access to your PC remotely unless you know exactly who they are. You should already have decent virus checking software installed and running on your PC that will protect you from viruses and there are many separate malware checking packages available too which you can easily run yourself on your PC.
The important thing to remember is that how would any 3rd party know there is a problem with your PC if they don’t have access to it ? Clearly they don’t have access as that is what they are asking you to grant them!
Be aware and safe, not sorry.
Recently, we produced a new website for our client Athena Guardianship & Education. At Scalar Enterprises, we love a challenge and are always keen to provide solutions for our clients needs so as a follow on project, a first for us, was a Chinese version of the site which we have just completed and made live today.
Take a closer look at the Chinese version of the Athena Guardianship & Education site.
Of course, proof reading was a bit difficult, it’s all Chinese to me