Microsoft* Won't Call You.

Be aware, and don't fall for the current scam calls that are, once again, making the rounds in our area! The basic premise is this: Somebody from "Microsoft*" calls to let you know that your computer is causing problems with the Internet, and that they're interested (bless their hearts) in helping you get it fixed. To put it simply, that never, ever, EVER happens! It's just a big fishing expedition that would, at the very least, cause you to part with about $300. At worst, you could lose your identity and your computer data.

The ploy starts unfolding when the caller asks you to press "CTRL-R" on your keyboard. Then, once the target starts complying with instructions, it's off to the races. The caller uses a few devices to gain the victim's trust, and slowly ups the ante. Want to hear an actual call? Click right here or right here (two different recordings!) and read, then listen.

Here's a good description by the Federal Trade Commission, along with suggestions of what to do if you've been victimized by these relentless scammers: Tech Support Scams. Good luck - stay vigilant, be VERY wary when someone calls you, and NEVER be afraid to "accidentaly" hang up the phone, with no discussion, drama, or apology.

*Microsoft, or HP, or even "The Technical Support Department of Your Computer." No, really!

Yahoo! E-mail: Time for a change...?

We've recently received suspicious e-mails from each of three local friends - and all three were dangerous! The names and addresses were all just fine, but each of the e-mails contained a link. That's it; just a link.

Additionally, we received another e-mail, supposedly from Yahoo itself, advising that our Yahoo account had been successfully accessed in another country. Then yet another arrived suggesting we add a cell phone number to our Yahoo account. In those cases there were links to follow to "help" with the issues. We could almost hear Clint Eastwood sneering, "Do you feel lucky, punk?!?"

The security problems with Yahoo e-mail have been going on for a VERY long time. They've yet to fix the exposure. In our humble opinion, NOW is a good time to think about changing your Yahoo e-mail account to something more secure, such as Google or Outlook - both of which are very good, secure, and feature-filled.

If you'd like a longer explanation of some of the Yahoo security issues, you can get a more technical description from this recent article.

NOT Stranded in London!

We got an e-mail from one of our Dummerston neighbors this morning and were surprised to hear he's stranded in London. Except that he's not.

It turns out that someone was able to take control of his e-mail (Yahoo) account, send out "please help" letters to everyone in his Yahoo address book, and monitor the incoming mail for offers of help from helpful and concerned friends and family. The e-mail looks like this:

Apologies for having to reach out to you like this, I made a trip early this week to London, UK and had my bags stolen from me with my passport and credit cards in it. The embassy is willing to help by letting me fly without my passport, I just have to pay for a ticket and settle Hotel bills. Unfortunately for me, I can't have access to funds without my credit card, I've made contact with my bank but they need more time to come up with a new one. I was thinking of asking you to lend me some quick funds that I can give back as soon as I get in. I really need to be on the next available flight.I can forward you details on how you can get the funds to me. You can reach me via email or May field hotel's desk phone, the numbers are, +447024030610 or +447024030611.
I await your response...

As we were reading the e-mail we were horrified at his predicament, but we then noticed that the e-mail was addressed to "Undisclosed Recipients" - not at all the way our friend would do it. We then Googled one of the phone numbers, and that uncovered the nature of the scam. We resisted the urge to e-mail back to our friend to alert him, as it was clear that the scammers were inviting responses back to his e-mail address. So - we called him and he immediately changed his account password.

Unfortunately, a (truly!) helpful friend or two DID e-mail him a warning, which tipped off the scammers that their victim was becoming aware of the problem. By the time that he got into his account, ALL of his contacts AND e-mail were deleted. The scammers knew that our friend was being warned and, as they apparently do, they "went nuclear" on him.

    Some lessons here?
  1. BACK UP your "online-only" (Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, etc.) contacts and mail. Look for an "Export" option and save to your own computer.
  2. Not positive about an unsolicited e-mail? DON'T. CLICK. THAT. LINK. Really...
  3. Trust your instincts - no need to be paranoid, but be vigilant.
  4. Google Search is your friend. Use it to implement your "Trust, but verify" policy.

Cohabitation in the Twenty-First Century

Black bear, East-West Road
photo courtesy Mary Ellen Copeland
The bears are on the move, and it's time to take down those bird feeders! As fascinating as it is to see these impressive animals strolling through your yard, it's never a good thing to train them that approaching people and homes is the quickest way to a great snack.

Well-stocked bird feeders are nothing more than a buffet invitation to bears, and the consequences are never good. Please - remove ALL outdoor food sources, so that the bears' best dining opportunity is back in the woods. Later in the fall the bird feeders can go back out, but for now, bring 'em in!

More tips are available from our friends at Vermont Fish & Wildlife. For extra credit, take a look at their Living with Black Bears.