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Archive for the 'Techie' Category

Att WoWers: Don’t Be Scammed!

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

This morning I received an email that claimed to be from wowaccountadmin@blizzard.com apparently concerning my World of Warcraft, or WoW, account.  Immediately I was circumspect.  The email had no graphics and the English was shoddy.  Still, I worried that some people may fall for it.

If you found this blog post by searching for info on the letter, you're already one step ahead - you checked it out before sending in your account info. 

Always do this!! I cannot stress this enough.  No company that does business online will ever ask for your personal account information via email.  Never.

If you truly believe your account with any company or agency is in jeapordy (this goes for bank accounts and credit card accounts, too), then contact the company/agency directly via email and/or telephone.  Ask them if they sent such an email and speak directly with someone about checking into the problem.

However, never click on the links in these emails.  They may take you to a fake website that looks like the real thing - just enough to fool you.  If you log into your account on this fake website, they have you.  A keylogger has just stolen your user name and password.  Do not call any phone numbers given in the email; this too could be a fake designed to get the information from you.  Instead, open your web browser and type in the address of the company/agency yourself, or Google it.  Never, ever for any reason click on links in a scam email - at the very least, the website that opens can download a worm, virus, or spyware onto your system.

The email may look legit - even with graphics and, sometimes, even citing the actual agency's Terms of Use or Privacy information (copied from the actual website).  However, if the email is asking for personal information, immediately be wary and do some checking.

You see, these scammer scumbags are masters of human engineering.  They use triggers to get you to do something you might not normally do.  You see a message, like this one, appearing to come from Blizzard (the makers of World of Warcraft) telling you that your account is in jeapordy.  They accuse you of trading or selling accounts; your first reaction is to panic.

"I'm not doing that!" you think.  At once, you want to rectify the situation and clear your name.

Then they hit you with the big fear factor - your account will be deleted and/or disabled if you don't act now.  The thought of losing an account - for people that have put literally hours upon hours of work into - is a frightful prospect.  The same if they are threatening to close or freeze a bank or credit card account.

Someone that does not know what to look for or does not know the scammer tricks might easily fall prey to this kind of scam.  It doesn't mean you're witless, so don't feel bad.  These mugus are masters of their craft.  They dupe people every day into giving up personal information, bank accounts, credit card numbers, etc.  The best you can do is to stay aware and learn what to look for.

For those looking for more information on this particular scam, which claims to come from Blizzard concerning a World of Warcraft (WoW) account, and for those of you that would like to know what to look for, here is the email I received:

It has come to our attention that you are trying to sell/trade your personal World of Warcraft account(s).
As you may or may not be aware of, this conflicts with the EULA and Terms of Agreement.
If this proves to be true, your account can and will be disabled. It will be ongoing for further investigation by Blizzard Entertainment's employees.
If you wish to not get your account suspended you should immediately verify your account ownership. If the information is deemed accurate, the investigation will be dropped.
This action is taken because we at Blizzard Entertainment take these sales
quite seriously. We need to confirm you are the original owner of the account.
This is easiest done by confirming your personal information along with concealed information about your account.
You can confirm that you are the original owner of the account by replying to this email with:

Use the following template below to verify your account and information via email.
* First and Surname
* Date of birth
* Address
* Zip code
* Phone number
* Country
* Account e-mail
* Account name
* Account password
* Secret Question and Answer
WoW CD-Key
Show * Please enter the correct information
If you ignore this mail your account can and will be closed permanently. Once we verify your account, we will reply to your e-mail informing you that we have dropped the investigation.
We ask you to NOT change password until the investigation is fully completed.
Blizzard Entertainment Inc
Account Administration Team
P.O. Box 18979, Irvine, CA 92623
Account Administration Team
Blizzard Entertainment

Another thing to look for - shoddy English.  Most of these scammers are overseas and English is not their native tongue.  Sometimes it's easy to catch, others it's not so obvious - but pay attention to subtle details in the grammar and word usage.  This is another tip that the email is from a scammer and is not legit.

Note that they, also, used Blizzard Entertainment's actual contact information.  Again, they will sometimes use actual text and/or images from the real company or agency's website to appear more legitimate.

If you were to respond to this email and give our your account name and password (which Blizzard will never ask for), you have just lost your WoW account.  The scammers will go in, change your password so that you cannot access it again, and then do whatever they want with it (use it for farming or sell it).

At that point, there is little you can do and that is why it is so important to pay attention to every email you receive asking for any kind of information from you.

Always be aware and alert - remember that not everything that comes through your inbox is legit and it's better to be cautious than sorry.  Trying to get your identity or account back after a scammer has stolen it is next to impossible and causes quite a lot of headache and money.  Learn what to look for and always think before hitting Reply.

More Like Writer’s Apathy

Sunday, June 1st, 2008

Every day I wake up and want to write here in my blog, and every day I open up the WP dashboard and stare at a blank "Write Post" block.

It's not that there aren't things to write about. My life has been full and busy lately; just that I don't think anyone would care or I don't feel it worthy of a write somehow (which is odd, because some of it has been landmark stuff). I don't necessarily have "writer's block", it's more like "writer's apathy". I think about writing and then go, "Eh..."

I can't explain it. There's this burning desire inside of me to write - anything on any of my blogs. Yet when I set out to, it's "Eh...", and nothing gets written.

True, a lot of my creative output is going into two projects I'm working on (both Sims-related). I don't want to talk about them before they're done because that always seems to jinx it and then it will never be complete. I have been spending some idle time re-reading my Syls Empire stuff - thinking about doing something with it or even just expanding it. I know some of my websites, mainly skatoolaki.com and Skasimlaki, need some work & updating. I'd like to write some more on Trick Tracts, or even get back into researching and writing on The Brandon Children. I know I'm spreading myself thin in that respect, but it's like there is so much I want to do that I never actually can settle on any one thing to do.

Pretty much every spare second I've had since The Sims 2: Castaway for the Wii came in, I've been doing that - until I put the radio in my inventory and it disappeared. I've been so distraught (because all I've found online says it's a glitch and you must restart the game) that I haven't touched it since Friday.

And...eh. What else? I'm trying to be more diligent in updating my Twitter. I downloaded Google Desktop for my desktop pc and laptop last night and am (so far) pretty much loving it. I also spent some time customizing my iGoogle homepage; honestly trying to get away from Yahoo! as my homepage but I love the news updates. I love iGoogle and the way I can customize it, but I have this thing about getting all of my worldly & local news updates from Yahoo!. Yet, for whatever reason, I'm ready for a change. I've made Yahoo! my homepage on every computer I've used for the past 10+ years - just ready for something new.

[Sidenote: Cute YouTube vid about the ease of customizing iGoogle homepage]

To my sister and any other Magic 8-Ball fans - if you download Google Desktop (which I recommend), you have to get the AnswerBall gadget! It can be found here.

What else, what else? I finally cleaned out my Mozilla Thunderbird email today. I had, seriously, almost 6,000 messages. It had gotten so bad that I just stopped going to it. All of my email accounts (Yahoo!, Gmail, and any that are connected to my domain names) are all forwarded to my Thunderbird (which, btw, totally kicks MS Outlook's ass...make the switch today). Not only are all of these email accounts forwarded to Thunderbird, there is no organization to it; they just all simply end up in my Inbox. I need to sit and figure out a way to organize them - have different email accounts land in different folders or something, I just haven't sat down to do it. If any Thunderbird users have any ideas, please leave them in the comments.

Hey, this random writing thing isn't so bad...maybe I need to do this more often instead of feeling I have to have something to write about (like hot topics, what's in the news, major life events, so on & so forth).

I suppose that's enough rambling for now. There are some other important topics I want to cover - a graduation, a birth, a special birthday, but for now this will do.

Instant Messenger Phishing Scam Alert

Tuesday, March 14th, 2006

So I was chatting with Rose via Yahoo! Messenger a few moments ago when something odd happened. She was Idle for quite awhile - which isn't unusual, we just chat here and there throughout the day - but then this strange message popped up from her:

ok everyone I uploaded a few pics to this geocities site http://www.geocities.com/theserealpictures please go take a quick peek ty 1736

Not even thinking, or reading it all the way through, I clicked. It brought me a Yahoo! Photos sign-on page.

Hold on, I thought to myself, something isn't right. I closed the window and went back and read the message and realized this was NOT from Rose.

At the same time, she sent me a message asking if I'd gotten a "weird" message from her a moment before; that others were telling her they'd gotten the same thing. She said just before it went out, she was knocked off - saying she'd logged in elsewhere.

I started doing some research online and found out this was an instant messaging phishing scam. Please see here for more details: Please Log In - YM Phishing; this is a link to TrendMicro. There's also more info on this scam here: Yahoo! Phishing Attack uses Geocities.

That logon page was the exact one that came up when I clicked on Rose's link. Thankfully I didn't log in, but the same thing had happened to her a few days before - and, not thinking, she had. Which explains how they got into her account to send the phishing scam through her IM list today.

She's changed her Yahoo! account password, and we're fairly sure that's all they were able to get into - as her Yahoo! email is just a spare, spam-catcher account. But if this were to happen to someone like me, who uses their Yahoo! email for just about *everything*, they'd got all kinds of good info on me (including the sign-on and password to my bank).

I (as Rose will later) am writing this to warn you. The more people who are aware of these scams, the less likely they will be to fall prey to them. Visit the sites listed above, learn about the scam and what the fake Yahoo! Photos page looks like (though, remember, it could be a totally different page depending on what the scammers create).

So if you ever run into this sort of IM quirk again, you know what it is and you know what to do. Please, everyone, be safe online - it's dangerous out here.


Sunday, August 7th, 2005

As I sit here, downstairs, sipping wine, listening to my stereo, surfing online with my laptop sans any wires I'm reminded that technology is a beautiful fucking thing.

Check Before Hitting “Send”

Friday, June 10th, 2005

Whenever a circulating virus hoax makes it into our office it inevitably it ends up in my Inbox. People send it to me with a "FYI.." or "thought you should know about this" - thinking they've stumbled upon some new virus we weren't hip to yet or that they're making my job easier.

It's very frustrating to get these emails and see that, previously, they've been forwarded to, sometimes, hundreds of people. It takes me less than a minute to check Snopes or even TrendMicro Hoax Encyclopedia and see that the email is completely bogus.

Out of the over one hundred people that received this last hoax (the Life is Beautiful.pps hoax), which I could see from all of the left-over forwarded addresses, not one had the good sense to check the validity of this claim before sending it out to everyone in their address book.

It is amazing how many emails are sent out this way. Simply because it appears on the computer, no matter how far-fetched it might sound, people send it along. Chain letters, years-old missing children reports, and virus hoaxes are just a few examples.

The problem is that there is potential for danger here; especially with virus hoaxes. The Life is Beautiful.pps hoax is fairly innocuous. It simply states, untruthfully, that opening a particular file can cause a virus to wipe your computer clean.

Some virus hoaxes are much more sinister. There have been hoaxes that, playing on people's fear, tell users to find a certain file in their computer. If the file is found, the hoax may state, they have whatever virus the hoax has dreamed up. They are instructed to delete the file immediately.

You can imagine what happens. The user has unwittingly deleted an important system file that the computer needs to run properly. There was no virus, yet the hoax caused the user to damage their own computer just the same.

Things like this, along with email farming and phishing scams, are good reasons to have sites like TrendMicro & Snopes bookmarked. Check out emails before sending them along. You could be passing on misinformation, or even potentially harmful data.

Here are a list of good resources to check and see if the email you've received is a hoax or scam before sending it on:
Snopes - Urban Legend Reference
TrendMicro Hoax Encyclopedia
CIAC (US Dept. of Energy) Hoaxbusters

Remember - THINK before hitting "Forward"!

Happy Earth Day!

Friday, April 22nd, 2005

Earth DayToday is designated as the day we remember our lovely planet, and make an effort to do something for her. Because, let's face it, without our Mother Earth - we're in some serious trouble.

I try to make every day Earth Day; I recycle, I don't throw my cigarette butts on the ground, and I try to use products that are environmentally friendly.

We've terribly abused our home in the past, and the results are becoming glaringly, sadly and alarmingly obvious. I can never get my mind around those that don't seem to give a toss about our environment or our planet; those that think there is nothing wrong with raping and pillaging the land to give us more. When we destroy our planet, we only hurt ourselves - and more importantly our future generations.

Today is an important day. I urge you to do something good and beautiful for your Mother Earth. Yahoo! has ten simple ideas, Earthday Network and EnviroLink can tell you if there are any Earth Day events in your area, or take a few minutes and learn about the history of Earth Day.

In my little Earth Day post I would like to spread awareness of what has come to be known as "e-waste".

What is e-waste?

In today's fast-paced and increasingly technological world, millions of pieces of technical and electronic equipment are being used, and disposed of, at a rapid rate. This new form of trash is particularly detrimental to our environment; a cell phone lying in a landfill, for example, can emit toxic metals that leak into the air, ground and possibly into any nearby water.

About.com's E-Waste Fact Sheet says:

Electronic waste, commonly known as "e-waste" includes electronic appliances, products, components, and accessories that, for one reason or another, we have deemed obsolete and have thus discarded.

133,000 computers are thrown out every day; that's not counting old cell phones, printers, fax machines, monitors, etc. All of these contain hazardous materials, usually in the form of plastics, lead, mercury, chromium, and cadmium. When these chemicals leak into the soil they will eventually begin to pollute our water.

What people are not yet aware of is that there is an alternative to throwing old electronic equipment in the trash or leaving it to collect dust in the attic. Recycle!

EBay has taken on the problem of e-waste with their new project, Rethink Initiative which encourages people and helps them to recycle, sell or donate their used electronic junk. You will find an extensive list of places you can drop-off used electronics to.

In a similar fashion, Earth 911 lets you search for electronic recycling centers by zip code.

Wondering where else you can recycle your electronic waste?

RecycleWirelessPhones.org or WirlessRecycling.com are both great places to start; donated phones go to charities so you're helping those in need as well as the environment.

The Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation has put together Call2Recycle for the betterment of our environment. You can find locations to drop off used cell phones and rechargeable batteries near you.

Verizon Wireless' HopeLine uses the money made from selling donated phones to fight against domestic violence.

And according to this article, The Body Shop is taking donated cell phones through August 31; some will be distributed to "200 women's shelters where they will be given to women at risk of domestic violence for use in emergencies". Proceeds will also go to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Wireless Foundation. Drop off your phone at any The Body Shop location. You can get more information directly from The Body Shop's page, Donate a Phone, Save a Life.

Stuck with an old, unused pc? Donate it to The National Cristina Foundation, which refurbishes the computers to give to those in need. Their Mission Statement reads:

National Cristina Foundation (NCF) provides computer technology and solutions to give people with disabilities, students at risk and economically disadvantaged persons the opportunity, through training, to lead more independent and productive lives.

PC World also gives a wealth of information and good links on how and where to discard old computers in the article Junk Your Old PC - Safely.

If you would like to know more about the growing problem of e-waste, please visit eWaste Guide, a "knowledge base for the sustainable recycling of eWaste". You can also read the article Drowning in e-waste by Henry Norr.

Have a lovely Earth Day, everyone.

Let’s Talk About Computer Upkeep

Wednesday, April 13th, 2005

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming...

The first mistake that anyone who can work on computers makes is telling people about it.

Rule #1 - The first rule of Fairly Decent Computer Skills is you do not talk about having fairly decent computer skills.

Rule #2 - The second rule of Fairly Decent Computer Skills is you DO NOT talk about having fairly decent computer skills.

But, really, it's true. Then every Tom, Shane and Elsa who owns a computer but hasn't the foggiest idea what to really do with it will be knocking down your door.

It's sort of like winning the lottery; family members and "friends" you did not know existed will be popping up all of a sudden, "Oh, hey. I heard you can work on computers. I'm your second cousin's boyfriend's mailman's sister's boss's dog walker. Do you think you could look at my computer?"

The hours Baret and I spend of our "free time" building, fixing, and cleaning up other people's computers is absolutely ridiculous. There are at least 2-3 computers at any given time sitting in our apartment waiting to be fixed or being worked on.

Sadly, the main thing we are called upon to do is what is known in the biz as "cleanup". I am honestly appalled at the number of people that bring computers to me infested with viruses and so bogged down in spy/adware that they can barely turn on.

These people do not have virus protection, or are not updating it if they do have it, and don't have the slightest clue what spyware removal is or why they should have it.

When the 'net first became a hotbed for picking up spy/adware, and viruses were just beginning to be a real threat I could understand the average user having no knowledge of these things and not realizing they needed to be protecting themselves from them. But excessive spam, daily scams, spyware, adware, malware, viruses, worms, Trojans, and hijackers are prevalent problems that should be well-known to anyone paying half a mind to the online community buzz. There is no excuse for you not to be aware of these things.

When I scold people for this I usually get the response, "I don't know what's going on with computers. I don't care about that stuff; I don't keep up with the latest news", I want to slap them. Perhaps a year or two ago you didn't need to, but in today's world if you have an active internet connection it is completely ignorant not to be staying abreast of the latest online dangers!

There's no excuse for not knowing what a phishing scam is. There's no excuse for being unwitting enough to click on pop-up ads. There's no excuse for "innocently" opening a suspicious email attachment from someone you don't know. There's no excuse for surfing the Internet without virus protection.

So people don't "get" computers. Okay, fine. But why aren't they taking the time to learn about them? If a computer has become a part of your everyday life and not knowing how to take care of it or protect yourself while on it can cause it to break or stop functioning properly, or get your identity stolen, why wouldn't you try and learn?

It's like having a car and not knowing it needs gas to keep running or that the oil needs changing periodically. If you brought that car to a mechanic, he'd laugh at you. "Why don't you try putting some gas in it?" he'd suggest sardonically. Or "Of course it's broken, you never changed the oil. There's no oil in it."

The computer, I tell people, is not a self-cleaning oven. If you put a lot of nasty stuff in it, it's going to get full of crusty, hard-to-remove junk and it isn't going to work like it's supposed to - if at all. If you do not take the time to run basic maintenance on your pc, it will not be functioning for very long. You will have a dead computer, or one moving so slow it might as well be dead. Then you'll have to dump it off on someone like us to "clean it up" for you. Or worse, you'll have to pay someone to clean your computer and if you get a real dimwitted jackass he may reformat your entire hard drive so that you lose all of your important files and data (there are many geniuses out there that think the only solution to "cleaning up" an infected computer is reformatting - this is always a LAST resort; beware of anyone wanting to do this to your computer and get a second or third opinion before losing everything on your pc). That right there should be reason enough to learn how to keep your computer clean and working properly.

Most of you reading this are fairly computer-savvy, and this really isn't for you. But I'm sure you know exactly the type I'm talking about. Likely, if you've made the mistake of letting people know that you are knowledgeable about even the basics of computers, you, too, are getting calls and questions about fixing and cleaning.

For those that aren't in the know, and for those that are and would like something to give to the unknowing, I offer you my write-up of basic computer upkeep. Print it out - pass it on to someone who can use it.

I already know one person who fell for a phishing scam (her entire bank account was cleared out in less than a day) and one person whose identity was stolen. Again, there's no excuse for not being aware of these dangers - if these two people had taken the time to learn about the risks of being online neither of them would have been scammed. I have saved countless computers from a virus-malware-ridden death. Had their users performed simple and basic maintenance, they never would've come to that state.

Be aware and be knowledgeable about your equipment. That's all I ask.

Shanna's Basic Computer Upkeep & Online Safety Information.

(The file is in .pdf format)