Something phishy?

phishingYesterday I received an email from Lloyds Bank, telling me that my account will be frozen and my funds put on hold, unless I sort out my password, that has been entered incorrectly 5 times. The email asked me to download a file that would allow me to confirm my details and so release my funds. The strange thing is that I don’t even bank with Lloyds, and I’m sure that if I did, their email address wouldn’t be ‘Lloyds-Bank@mac.com’.

Luckily I’d been researching for this post about phishing scams so I was aware that this is exactly the sort of email to be wary of. Anyone with an email address is liable to receive these ‘spam’ or ‘phishing’ emails, that try to plant a virus in your computer and in one way or another, take your personal data to commit identity theft. There are all sorts of different scams that try to do this, so here are some tips for what to look out for and how to avoid accidentally having your personal security breached.

  1. Be careful of emails that come from unrecognised senders, emails that ask you to confirm personal information or that aren’t personalised. Don’t let alarming messages panic you into downloading something that could be a virus.
  1. banksNever click on a link or an attachment in an email from someone you’re unsure of. An email may look as though it is from your bank or credit card company, but in reality banks will phone you or send a letter if they think there is a problem with your account. If you want to check that everything is fine with your bank account or credit card, either log in to your account on their website directly or give them a ring. They will appreciate hearing about these scams too.
  1. secure-web-site-lock-iconNever send your personal data such as bank account passwords or other financial information in an email. If you need to communicate this sort of stuff, only do it on a website that you know is secure – look for a lock icon in the browser status bar, or check that the URL (website address) starts with “https:” where ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’. Generally banking websites don’t ask you for your whole password, just selected characters from it.
  1. Don’t be fooled by “Your chance to win” scams. Lots of phishing emails now entice you to click on links that promise ‘a free iPad’ or ‘a luxury holiday for two’ – these could embed a virus into your computer that allows the scammer to follow your keystrokes to access your innermost secrets. The only winner from these emails is the crook.
  1. Make sure you’ve set up some security on your computer. There are many ways to set up firewalls, spam filters and anti-virus software – some of which are free with your computer software, others you need to pay for. But the £10 – £60 you’ll spend is well worth it when you consider what a phishing scam could cost you in both cash and hassle.

I’ll be having a look at computer security in this blog soon, so look out for that if you want more information. Or just give us a call to discuss what you need.

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Don’t fall into the In App trap

bike raceKeeping the kids occupied in a restaurant or on a train journey is a lot easier now that most of us have smartphones or iPads. But increasingly there is the risk that they’ll enter a new world, upgrade their character or even buy a better weapon – any of which could land you with an unexpectedly large bill at the end of the month.

So why is this and what can you do about it?

photo copyIt’s all about in-app purchases. These are optional extras inside a game (or any app) that may include extra levels, extra items to increase a function within gameplay or you can simply pay to remove intrusive adverts that appear within the app.

Do I have to buy the ‘in-app purchases’?

No.  An in-app purchase may offer the ability to speed something up but if you’re patient, you don’t need to pay for these items.  If you don’t mind adverts popping up when you complete a level or earn the weapon you need to fight that villain – the game will continue to be free.

As a result of some recent controversy involving both Apple and Google and the ease of accidentally racking up huge bills, there are now simple ways to switch off or restrict the ability to make in-app purchases – here’s how:

photoOn the iPhone:

Open SETTINGS, go to GENERAL

Go to RESTRICTIONS

Tap ENABLE RESTRICTIONS

You’ll be asked to enter your PASSCODE ( or set one up if you haven’t already)

Now you’ll be able to turn the IN APP Purchases option to   OFF as shown.

Set PINOn Android devices:

Go to the Google PLAY STORE app

Enter the MENU

Open SETTINGS

Under USER CONTROLS select SET OR CHANGE PIN.

Enter your PIN or set one if necessary

Choose USE PIN FOR PURCHASES

That’s it!

WIth thanks to this week’s guest blogger Nick Hutson, Tipster since September 2013.

 

 

How good is the Google dongle?

images-2We often hear the phrase ‘streaming content’ – but what does it actually mean? If you catch your favourite programme via the BBC iPlayer or if you watch a YouTube video on your phone – you’re streaming content. In other words, watching something via the Internet.

But if you’re fed up with watching The Great British Bake Off via the BBC iPlayer app on your tablet or phone and want to watch it on a larger screen there are various options. Before Christmas we looked at Apple TV, Roku and Now TV boxes , and last week Google entered this market with their much-anticipated ‘Chromecast’, so we thought we’d have a look and see how it compares.

The Chromecast is a ‘dongle’ (looks like a USB stick), not a box like the others, so it tucks neatly behind your TV and it’s small enough to pop into your pocket if you’re travelling.

images-4To set up the Chromecast, just connect it to a HDMI port on your TV. It also needs a power source, which you can either get using a USB connection on the TV or use a regular power socket.

Next you need to connect to your local wi-fi network, and then you’re ready to start streaming (or ‘casting’). Chromecast doesn’t have it’s own remote, instead you can download an app (for free) to your phone or tablet, or even use the Chrome browser on your laptop.

The Chromecast is pretty good value at £30 – Roku are about to launch their ‘streaming stick’ for £50 – but the selection of content that you can stream is quite limited at the moment. It gives you access to BBC iPlayer, Netflix and YouTube, plus lots of other channels you’re unlikely to watch (unless you’re especially keen on Korean movies).

You can use Chromecast to view your own content, like videos you took on your phone, but you’ll need to install another app to your mobile device so it’s a bit fiddly. If you’re an Android user you can stream films from your Google Play account, in the same way that you can watch iTunes films through Apple TV or Sky Movies through a Roku box.

imagesSo what’s the verdict on Chromecast? If you’re an Android user with lots in your Google Play library, it’s pretty good, with great picture quality. It can’t do all the things that the competitors can – yet – but being a Google product, new apps will inevitably change that before too long. If you’re an Apple devotee, then go for Apple TV because it’ll talk nicely to all your other devices. If you really just want BBC iPlayer, Netflix and 4oD, Roku looks like the best bet – wait till April 21st for their new stick.

If you’re still wondering about the best way to smarten up your TV, get in touch and we’ll be happy to chat through the options.

This week’s blog has been written by our newest Tipster, Graeme Young.