How to avoid online scams

Scammers online are rife these days, with Australian victims perceived to be rather soft targets.

Gone are the days where we might be duped by Nigerian Princes or very poorly written emails from, apparently, Margot Robbie (yes, I got one of these once). Instead, scammers often rely on your goodwill or perhaps a moment of vulnerability to trick you into thinking you need their help to avoid “unnecessary and unwanted charges”, and before you know it they are accessing your computer and perhaps your bank accounts.

So how do you spot these from the real deal?

Read on for some tips on how to avoid being scammed.

How is this service contacting me?

With the abundance of choice of streaming services or similar, comes a vast choice of ways for scammers to grab your attention.

popular streaming servicesWhether it’s a big bank, Netflix, Disney+, Amazon, the ATO, Telstra, or something else, scammers will throw any well known service out there, casting the net as wide as possible, and see what lands. This sort of scamming can be described as phishing, as the scammers are trying to land any fish. That’s you, you’re the fish. Don’t be the fish.

The way this works is you receive an email, text message or phone call out of the blue that appears to come from a bank, or a service you might use (eg. Netflix) that either tells you that your credit card details are out of date and need updating, or that you have just been successfully charged and if you no longer want to be charged, click THIS button!

These emails are often alarmist in nature (YOUR SERVICE IS ABOUT TO BE CANCELLED!), often require you to do something quickly (ACT NOW!), and/or trying to trick you into thinking you have been charged something when you haven’t (THANK YOU FOR THE PAYMENT OF $70 IF THIS IS IN ERROR CLICK HERE OR CALL THIS NUMBER!), for the purpose of you making a rash decision and calling the number, or clicking the bright shiny button.

Clicking the button within these emails might do one of several things:

  • Take you to a fake, sometimes well branded (sometimes not), website for you to enter card details
  • Convince you to make a phone call to the number provided to talk about your “refund”, and thereby hand over card or banking details
  • Perhaps ultimately convince you to download some sort of remote access software to “help” you with the refund
  • Something else that is just as dangerous

All of this spells major trouble, and the downloading of remote access software (eg. AnyDesk, AnyPlace Control, Ultra Viewer) fills me with the most dread.

Some personal experiences

how to avoid scammers onlineIn the last month I have had no less than 3 customers contact me due to activities based on the above. All of them had a similar story to tell, they were all a little embarrassed about what had happened, were a little vulnerable at the time due to a hectic life or less than ideal personal circumstances, and had unwittingly allowed access to their machine and in some cases, bank accounts.

One person hadn’t lost anything and realised what was going on, and quickly shut it down.

Another lost a few hundred dollars, but was apparently getting it back from the bank after discussing the situation with them. In this instance, it was bills that appeared to come from Google that the victim had paid, and having an online business was quite used to receiving such bills.

Another had someone in their accounts and setting up payments to a third party before they realised what was going on. Last I heard, they were trying to talk to the bank about getting over $9,000 back …

Another common scam is to say that you have been charged a relatively small amount of money. For the sake of an example, let’s say $50.00 and now you are looking for a refund because you never signed up for this service to begin with, so how dare they take your $50 to begin with, right? Helpful Company (the scammer) says they have refunded you, but OH NO they have made a mistake and refunded you $500.00. Now if you can just be kind enough to refund that money back to the account number they’ll provide (“you might not see the $500 in your account yet, because you know it clears overnight”), because if you don’t they’ll get fired and then who will feed their 5 children … you get the idea but in this way they are trying to prey on your goodwill and sense of doing the right thing. Now just download this Remote Access software and Helpful Company will walk you through it!

Things to look out for

Poorly spelled email subjects, or content. Dead giveaway, though less and less common. However, legit company emails are good at getting the spelling perfect. Also look for impersonal emails (Dear Customer, versus your real name).

Do you even use the service? I got an email recently that I admit looked great. Content was solid, good use of logos and other imagery. Only a slight typo in the subject which I didn’t actually notice on the first read. If I actually had a Paramount+ account, I might have even believed that I was about to be cut off!

Buttons, links, click-throughs that go somewhere completely different to the expectation. A lot of email viewers these days will show you where the email has come from (return email address) or where the link is going to, when you hover on it. Try this, and see what it says. The email that I received recently telling me that my Disney+ account currently has “suspension your account” I doubt should really be using imagery or links from “lumiere-a.akamaihd.net”. That all of the footer information was in Spanish is quite the red flag also.

ANY text message or SMS that wants you to click a link. This is popular with bank and tax/ATO scams. If in doubt, don’t believe them, and contact your bank or service via another means (look up the phone number in a separate Google search). The real service providers don’t want to lose your business, and won’t simply cut you off. Just TRY and genuinely disconnect from Foxtel to see how difficult it is!

No service wants to be paid via Apple iTunes cards (a still popular ATO scam).

Nobody is going to buy your car sight unseen via a friend/agent that only wants to pay via PayPal and pick it up to deliver to Far North QLD or the NT.

If you have been told that an amount from a service you don’t use has been successfully charged, check your bank accounts to verify it is true. And don’t click the button.

The last word

It only takes a couple of bites, a small number of people to take the hook, for the scammers to make a good amount of money. This is a large part of why such scams continue to be seen.

By being ever vigilant and perhaps even a little suspicious of any email asking you to click a link or button to avoid cancellation of a service (or to commence a refund process) you can help keep yourself and your money safe.

Please don’t ever, EVER, allow someone you don’t know and trust to install any sort of remote access software on your computer.

And don’t click the shiny button.

Unable to purchase Robux via App Store for my child’s Roblox

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As the father of a child under the age of 13, I am often tasked with giving permission for her to purchase / install apps on her iPad, including purchases of Robux for her rather popular Roblox app. Sometimes though the permissions don’t seem to work, and I either don’t get the notification at all, or trying to act on it doesn’t work as expected. Here’s how we fixed it.

Despite her best intentions, such as saving her pocket money and literally giving me the money to pay for her desired Robux purchases, something screwy seems to go wrong with the whole Parental Controls thing when it comes to the Apple app store.

She would request the Robux purchase. The app would tell her she needs to ask permission. She’d do that. I’d get the notification. I’d try to open the notification (which for some weird reason has started opening in Apple Messages). I’d click View in Store. I’d get a message on screen, “Cannot Connect to App Store”.

What we tried

Restarting both iPads; shutting them down and cold booting them up again (not just a restart).

Making sure both iPads had the most up to date versions of iOS.

Making sure she had the most up to date version of the app. To be fair, these first two or three things have normally fixed things for us in the past. Not this time.

Googling a lot.

In some desperation, even going to Bing.

Yelling a lot.

How we fixed it

Need to give the credit to my 11 year old here.

Her idea was to install Roblox on my iPad, and then log into it using her account. We then made the purchase of Robux and because it went via my natural Apple App Store, no permission was required (which is good because my parents would have said no).

Back onto her iPad, and restarted Roblox, logged in, and voila! Robux purchase was there!

I could then remove Roblox from my iPad. This kind of work around / fix might work for other apps too, so long as you have another Apple device that can be used to install the app on. If this has helped you, please let me know in the comments!

Mouse scroll wheel not working in File Explorer in Windows 10 resolved

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Found a rather annoying issue after upgrading to Windows 10 on my PC in my work office: Basically I found the mouse scroll wheel not working in File Explorer (the Windows 10 replacement to Windows Explorer) using a Microsoft Basic Optical Mouse. Worked fine in other applications, browsers, etc. Frustrating much!

The mouse is connected to a Lenevo desktop machine that is now a few years old. I’ve now finally gotten around to fixing the problem. Here’s how.

Read more Mouse scroll wheel not working in File Explorer in Windows 10 resolved

Windows 10 and a new VPN connection – unable to open Networking properties on IPv4 solved

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Another mystery solved since upgrading to Windows 10, and needing to add in a new VPN connection. Normally when you add in a VPN connection and connect to it, your system wants to use the default gateway of the VPN connection for IPv4 connections (eg. browsing the web).

Because I tend to have a number of VPN connections, and I’d rather be using my own bandwidth than whatever the VPN is providing, I turn the “Use default gateway on remote network” off. But for some reason under Windows 10, I’m unable to get to the properties of the IPv4 connection under the Networking tab. But now I have a work around!

Read more Windows 10 and a new VPN connection – unable to open Networking properties on IPv4 solved

Dreamweaver CS6 not working in Windows 10 solved

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Several of my machines have now been upgraded to Windows 10 and I think on each one of them I have had some sort of issue to resolve.

My “main” PC ended up having more serious hardware issues, in that my primary hard drive died and was replaced with a fresh install of Windows 8.1. As soon as I got the machine back home I immediately upgraded it to Windows 10.

After that, one of the first things I did was install the Adobe Master Suite CS6 that I had running previously on Windows 8.1. At first glance everything seemed to be running fine, until I tried to start Dreamweaver.

It would show the splash screen for a second or two, get to the point of loading Business Catalyst extension (which I don’t even have), and then disappear.

Grrr, my Dreamweaver CS6 not working in Windows 10

Reading through several forum sites I did try a few things. Several sites mentioned deleting the WinFileCache<>.dat file from the C:\Users\’current user’\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Dreamweaver CS6\en_US\Configuration folder. Sounded like reasonable advice, except that file didn’t exist.

This location also showed a CrashLogs folder, and indeed crash files were being created … but were completely empty. No help there.

I tried renaming the Configuration folder and letting Dreamweaver recreate it. No dice.

I tried logging in to Windows under a different account, still no go.

I tried changing things around in Compatibility Mode, nup.

I checked in Extensions Manager and confirmed I had no DW extensions running or installed.

I tried removing everything I could using the Adobe Creative Cloud Cleaner Tool, and reinstalling while running the setup.exe as Administrator. No joy.

I was seriously considering rolling back to Windows 8 or even Windows 7, as I knew the suite was working fine under both of those environments.

Solution found

Eventually I found the answer, on this Adobe forum and it was basically the same solution as to when I was having trouble sending emails from Outlook, and that is to open up command prompt in Administrator mode (Windows Key + X, Command Prompt (Admin)) and run the following:
sfc /scannow

windows10-outlook-sending-email

After running this, I rebooted, tried Dreamweaver, joy!

Note (3rd Feb 2016): As one commenter pointed out, similar symptoms could be seen but with a considerable different resolution, and was basically to do with the Dreamweaver Workspace in use, and further information on it can be found here.

I hope this helps someone who is finding themselves in a similar situation.

Settings screen closing immediately after opening on Windows 10 resolved

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Across 3 different PCs I upgraded to Windows 10 recently I had 3 different issues. The biggest issue on the laptop that was upgraded was having the new Settings screen close immediately after opening. It would flash up for a moment, then close.

It would affect other similar screens (that kind of look the same, with that new UI) and was particularly annoying me as I wanted to set up Default Apps, connect to VPN, and do some other things that I could only access via the Settings page. Rebooting made no difference. But finally I found a fix!

Read more Settings screen closing immediately after opening on Windows 10 resolved

Cannot send email using Outlook on Windows 10 resolved

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I took the somewhat gentle leap from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 across two PCs and a laptop, and the one major issue I faced with one PC only was that I could no longer send any emails that had Outlook 2010 installed. It would give me an error code 0x800CCC13, followed by ‘Task ’email address alias@domain.com- Sending’ Cannot connect to the network. Verify your network connection or modem.’

Replying to an email was fine. Any new email however would just get stuck in the Outgoing folder. The laptop, also with Outlook 2010, was fine.

Read more Cannot send email using Outlook on Windows 10 resolved

Why a JPG will not display (IE8)

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A rookie mistake no doubt, but whilst troubleshooting another issue a client had found on one of my sites when viewed on Internet Explorer 8, I noticed something else odd. Some images weren’t displaying.

Nothing too sinister about these images, they are JPEGs (.jpg), they are small, other images in the same format worked fine.

So why is it that a JPG will not display in IE8?

Having a look around the web I saw other people having a similar issue, and a lot of the help provided suggested checking IE settings (making sure images were set to display) and things along those lines. But I knew this wasn’t my problem, considering other images worked perfectly fine.

It wasn’t until this morning when I decided to compare two images (one working, one not) that I finally discovered the issue; the image mode.

Read more Why a JPG will not display (IE8)

Dreamweaver AppCrash Fix

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How this started

So my issue started with some bizarre hardware errors that just suddenly appeared on my workplace PC having just returned from the Christmas / New Year break. For the record, a Windows 7 64bit machine, 4GB RAM, running Adobe CS5 Master Collection.

Ultimately I needed to perform a System Restore, as I thought maybe that some automatically applied updates had caused the error (my computer was on whilst I was away, and our work policy is to have some Windows updates applied automatically. I was pretty keen to get back up and running at this point). Whilst the System Restore seemed to fix most of my issues, I decided to run a Malware scan through the machine also, which detected and subsequently removed one trojan, the name of which I cannot recall.

Read more Dreamweaver AppCrash Fix