“Hello, this is Mark, I’m calling from the Windows Technical Department. We have identified a problem with your computer…”
Have you ever received a phone call that begins like this? I have, too many times to count. The so-called ‘Microsoft Tech Support Scam’ is almost as old as the internet itself but, like a nasty virus, it refuses to go away. I’ve just filmed an investigation for the new series of BBC Watchdog to highlight the how the scam works and catch the fraudsters red-handed.
Despite being plagued by these calls, I am fortunate; I know that they are almost certainly from scammers intent on stealing my money, personal details or identity. However, thousands of people do fall victim to this fraud every year with many hundreds of thousands of pounds reported stolen in the UK alone.
According to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) the average victim of ‘Computer Software Service Fraud’ will be 59 years old and £210 worse off as a result of the crime, although some report losses of up to £6,000. As with many nuisance calls these criminals work on volume, and for every one hundred calls they make, if only one is successful then it will have been worthwhile.
In the past legal action against the perpetrators has proved difficult (although there have been some successes) but by showing Watchdog viewers what to look out for we hoped to raise awareness and reduce the number of victims.
We decided the best way to do this was to capture the scam in action for the cameras — a first for UK television, we think, and no mean feat given how difficult it is to track down the fraudsters. What happened next was quite intense…
You can watch the full report here.
Watchdog Scams the Tech Support Scammers broadcasts on BBC1 at 7.30pm on Thursday 29th October 2015.
Of all the high-profile hacks and leaks of 2015 the TalkTalk Data Breach in October may prove to be one of the most significant yet, potentially impacting all four million of its UK customers.
While details of the breach are still emerging the leaked data appears to include unencrypted names, addresses, email addresses, bank account/credit card information, customer account numbers and more.
The ‘significant and sustained’ cyberattack, likely using a DDOS (distributed denial of service) attack as a smokescreen for their chosen method of entry and extraction, shows the hallmarks of highly-organised cybercrime.
Sadly, this isn’t the first time that the UK telco’s customers have had their personal details sneaked out of the back door. Data leaks in November 2014 and August 2015 exposed information that has been used to successfully defraud customers of thousands of pounds with phishing and vishing attacks.
- Treat incoming telephone calls purporting to be from a service provider – TalkTalk or otherwise – as potentially toxic. Regardless of any account number or information quoted, or the telephone number called from (Call Line IDs are easy to spoof), in my opinion phishing and vishing fraud is now so common that incoming calls are impossible to trust. A reputable/genuine caller will quite understand any concerns and give you an option to call back on a verified number found on your (for example) bank statement or the firm’s main website (not a link they send). However, make sure you call back from another number (maybe a mobile if you have one – but check call charges) or ensure your landline has been cleared first (wait 5 minutes or call a friend first).
- Check your bank statements, credit card bills and any online payment service accounts (eg Paypal). If there are any transactions you don’t recognise, no matter how small, query them. And then keep checking them – this is good practice anyway.
- Check and change your passwords, particularly if you use the same password as your TalkTalk account across any other accounts? Email, social network, PayPal, auction sites etc?
TalkTalk has a dedicated page to keep those concerned updated with the latest news and advice on the data breach: http://help2.talktalk.co.uk/oct22incident
BBC Rip Off Britain LIVE returns for a second year to The One Show studios in Central London, and once again I will be on-hand to answer more viewers’ consumer technology questions. Last year I spoke about contactless payments and passwords – this year it’s online gaming.
In the first show of the week-long series I’m due to talk about how online gamers are increasingly being targeted by ‘bounty hunters’ eager to hijack their account to gain access to their games, achievements or even their credit card details (bear in mind that the show is live so anything could happen instead…!).
In a plot that quickly begins to sound like a video game in its own right, the fraudsters use a variety of tactics to trick high-value gamers into revealing their login details so that their gaming accounts and virtual identities can be stolen and sold on for real cash.
Earlier in the series Rip Off Britain spoke with two disgruntled gamers whose Sony Playstation accounts had apparently been hijacked, but other gaming platforms can be hot targets too. With over 4,500 games and 125 million gamers, PC gaming platform Steam is one of the largest gaming networks around and, inevitably, it is also a target for scammers.
Despite a well-publicised security flaw identified in July 2015 Steam generally has a sound reputation for security of its users’ data. However, this hasn’t stopped gamers from having their accounts compromised — in fact, the majority of fraud appears to be as a result of phishing and social engineering rather than any hacks of either Steam’s or its users’s systems.Posts like this on gamebanana go into some detail on the social engineering methods that scammers have successfully used to hijack accounts. It describes how scammers have used in-game instant messaging to pose as Steam administrators warning (ironically) that their account has been hacked and needs to be regenerated.
The post may be several years old, but sadly the same tactics are still in use. More recent scams may attempt to install malware onto your PC or into your browser, but they all involve convincing you to click a link or reveal your account information. Here’s another incredibly useful post that shows some scams in action, along with how to spot a Steam scam.
Steam Community: Avoiding Common Scams:
Vigilance, it seems, is the best defence, along with basic awareness of the tactics employed by the scammers.
But if you find yourself a victim of Steam account jacking then help is at hand – in fact, Steam has a special form to help recover stolen and hijacked accounts:
Recovering a Stolen or Hijacked Steam Account:
However, Valve bosses do acknowledge that Steam’s current customer service is far from good enough, with support tickets seemingly going unanswered or ignored, but it is working hard to remedy it.
Valve Explains Why Steam Customer Service Is Still Terrible:
Questions will inevitably be asked whether Valve, the parent company behind Steam, is active enough in trying to prevent this kind of fraud. In response Steam is currently introducing a two-factor authentication mechanism, Steam Guard Mobile Authenticator, which in theory should reduce some fraud.
Rip Off Britain LIVE airs on BBC1 from 9.15 until 10am from Monday 19th to Friday 23rd October 2015.
September is one of the busiest periods in the technology calendar as manufacturers race to announce and release the consumer products they hope will make their Christmas a happy one.
Not only a great time of year to be working in technology but a great time to be reporting on it too. Over the last few weeks I’ve joined the technology desk at International Business Times UK to report on breaking news from Apple, Samsung, Sony and more.
Alongside announcements of new smartphones, tablets and watches I wrote about topics as diverse as Virtual Reality video and fallen enterprise mobile player Blackberry and its attempts to remain relevant.
However, I want to share a couple of video stories here. First up is my bite-sized take on the major announcements at IFA 2015:
New smartphone announcements by Apple are a highlight for many tech-watchers but, frankly, they do go on a bit. I produced an extremely cut-down version of the Apple press conference revealing everything you need to know in roughly three minutes - saving you about an hour and forty minutes of your life.
A new series of Rip Off Britain begins on BBC1 today, Monday 14th September, from 9.15 to 10.00am.
The popular consumer affairs show starring Angela Rippon, Gloria Hunniford and Julia Somerville is now in its seventh series of helping viewers tackle rip offs and scams. I’m delighted to have been involved for the last four as a digital consumer champion across everything from cybersecurity and nuisance calls to mobile roaming and online safety.
For one film this season I took a detailed look at how safe we are when using the Public Wi-Fi hotspots increasingly found in coffee shops, airports and hotels. Even I was staggered at just how much information hackers can see on wireless networks with relatively little equipment or, frankly, expertise. This information can include unencrypted usernames, passwords and other sensitive details that can easily be used to execute identity fraud or phishing attacks.
This ‘digital eavesdropping’ might be the perfect crime, with coffee shop surfers quite unaware of a fraudster syphoning off valuable personal data on an adjacent table. The first they might realise something is amiss is when they get locked out of their social networking accounts or their email inexplicably starts spamming their address book.
During research for the show I uncovered some shocking security holes from well-known online and high-street retailers who really should know better. I also discovered how I wasn’t immune to sharing sensitive and valuable data by accident too.
Rip Off Britain airs every weekday on BBC1 for four weeks from Monday 14th September at 9.15am; see here for episode information and iPlayer links to watch on demand.
Yup, it’s official: dashcams are now a thing.
Famously popular in Russia, these windscreen-mounted cameras have enjoyed an impressive boost here in the UK too, with analysts GfK saying dashcam sales figures have skyrocketed by 918% in the last year alone.
What’s more, with so-called ‘crash for cash‘ and ‘flash for cash’ scams on the increase (not to mention malicious car-keying incidents) UK insurance companies are now beginning to offer substantial discounts to dashcam owners.
Writing a piece in The Metro newspaper last Friday I went hands-on and researched a glovebox full of dashcams from a variety of manufacturers. Eventually I whittled them down to my top three, highlighting a budget, mid-range and feature-packed high-end device.
I’m no sooth-sayer but I do predict dashcams will feature in many Christmas wishlists this year; I also expect to see dashcam features integrated into many new high-end and mid-range cars before too long; and that we will see dashcams being given out for free by insurance companies to entice new customers.
Earlier this week I appeared on BBC Radio 4 consumer affairs show You and Yours to talk about how to keep your smartphone photos and videos safe and secure.
Following a post on the BBC CBeebies Facebook page, a disturbing number of parents reported pictures had been lost through theft, accident or a broken device.
I say ‘pictures’, but often these are precious, irreplaceable family memories.
Here’s a clip from the show:
Estimates suggest we shared one trillion pictures from our phones in 2014. When smartphone photography is so simple that it requires almost no thought, it’s easy to take the snaps we take for granted.
But that becomes a big problem if when phone begins to run out of storage space, or worse if it gets lost or stolen. Fortunately, there are many easy ways to back up your photos and keep them safe.
The simplest backup of all is to store them in ‘the cloud’, what I often describe as a giant USB stick somewhere on the Internet.
Both of the major phone families – iOS found on Apple’s iPhone and Android installed on Samsung, Sony and HTC handsets among others – provide methods to back up your settings and app data along with photos and videos.
Apps such as Dropbox (and now Carousel), Flickr and Microsoft OneDrive provide seamless background image copy; Google Photos offers unlimited free cloud storage for images up to 16 MP and videos up to FullHD 1080p, more than satisfactory for most smartphone users.
With any cloud storage security is paramount (as some celebs found to their embarrassment recently) so ensure you understand any terms, use secure passwords and two factor authentication where available.
If you want to find out more about securing smartphone photos and videos drop me a line or leave a comment below.
Mobile newsgathering has come of age.
Broadcasters and journalists know it, entertainment and social networks know it, unwitting citizen news-breakers and proud parents catching their 5-yo master their bicycle know it too.
Recently I wrote a feature for TechRadar on how mobile journalism will impact media coverage of the UK general election.
In the feature I speak to key mobile newsgathering practitioners from BBC, Sky News and Trinity Mirror to learn the role of mobile in the newsroom. Contributors (to whom I’m incredibly grateful) include Nick Garnett, Marc Settle, Harriet Hadfield and Alison Gow.
This came off the back of participating in MoJoCon 2015 in Dublin, the first international conference of its kind for mobile journalism and smartphone filmmaking.
Mojocon proved to the industry that mobile newsgathering – in all its forms – is now a primetime tool. It’s no longer a case of ‘why would you use a smartphone for video/audio/broadcast?’, it’s simply ‘why the the hell wouldn’t you?’.
Hosted by the Irish public service broadcaster RTÉ and attended by journalists and filmmakers from across the world, MoJoCon was a celebration of smartphone creativity and newsgathering ingenuity. It was the brainchild of mobile journalism pioneer and activist Glen Mulcahy.
I was particularly involved in the professional smartphone filmmaking stream, including hosting a session in the main hall featuring luminaries such as Neill Barham, boss man and Cinegenix, developer of go-to iOS videography app FiLMiC Pro (in my questioning I successfully ‘outed’ an upcoming and long-awaited Android version of the app); Taz Goldstein, author of Hand Held Hollywood (a book I downloaded when I first began filming on my phone); Newsshooter.com editor Dan Chung, and mobile film directors Conrad Mess, Michael Koerbel and Ricky Fosheim. You can watch the full session here.
— David McClelland (@DavidMcClelland) March 29, 2015
Head over to TechRadar to read my feature on mobile journalism and the UK General Election 2015 and keep an eye out on the Mojocon Twitter feed for more details on the next Mojo Conference.