Not falling for it

I found the following email, dated today, in a junk folder:

MICROSOFT
Thank You For Making A Payment Online We Have Received
Your Order For The AUTO-RENEWAL Plan
•SERVICES = MICROSOFT LICENSE
•PAYMENT = 299.99

SUMMARY = Your MICROSOFT License Key Is #9892305
•PAYMENT SOURCE = CARD
•PAYMENT DATE = 04 / 25 /2020
•CONFORMATION NUMBER = #9891305

NOTE = If You Believe That You Have Not Make
= This Purchase or It Has Been Auto-renewed
= Automatically . Then Call The Help Desk To CANCEL .

TOLL-FREE = (607) 325 3365

I have several problems with this email. First, the only Microsoft product I have is Windows. Second, the spelling is atrocious “conformation”? Seriously? The word should be “confirmation”, which has a different meaning. The English is horrid, for example “..that you have not make...” and “…it has been auto-renewed automatically.” I was always under the impression that is something is “auto-renewed” it did happen automatically and there would be no reason to spell it out. And finally, that “toll-free” number isn’t. Area code 607 covers south-central New York State, such as Binghamton and Ithaca.

The final thing wrong with this is that while it purports to come from Microsoft, the actual sender’s email is kenneth@ gailew. (I’ve modified the email address to keep me out of trouble with WordPress)  Not exactly Microsoft.

If you get this email, don’t bother to phone the help desk. Just do as I did and consign the message to trash.

Stay safe, stay indoors as much as possible and, given the current situation, just think about hugging an artist, we need love (and social distancing) too.

Cat.

Horrors! A spelling cop!

I received the following as a comment intended for my post “Bring him to justice – progress report”:

Pigment Red 122
obviously like your website however you need to test the spelling on quite a few of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling issues and I find it very bothersome to tell the truth nevertheless I will definitely come back again.

First, this person has apparently never heard of spellcheck. Second, I suspect that his/her main quarrel is that I use English, not American spellings, so the addition of the “u” in words such as “colour” are upsetting him. Too bad. I was educated in Canada so find it natural to use English spellings. (As a matter of trivia, one of the first things our first Prime Minister passed was a law requiring the “u” in words such as “neighbour” and “colour” and I don’t think that’s been repealed.) I will admit that it is well worded, which I’ve found is quite rare in comments of this type.  Finally, does the writer think I don’t know how to proofread?

I will definitely come back again. Please don’t. If your only comments are going to be criticisms of my spelling, which apparently doesn’t mesh with your view of the way things “should” be, go elsewhere.

Since it’s January 1, I wish all my followers and readers a safe and happy 2020. Remember to hug an artist, we need love (and spellcheck) too.

Cat.

Whatever strikes my fancy

I’m a writer and photographer. I’m working on my autobiography. Funny thing, but if people learn this they will often ask “is it finished yet?” Umm, unless you’re using a spirit board to ask that, the answer is obviously “No”. I’ve stopped it at the point I received my new birth certificate with new name and gender, but I’m still here so it could continue.

I write speculative fiction, also called science fiction and mystery and these pieces usually start with asking myself “what if …?”, then answering that question. That “what if …” could be on any topic – as the title indicates “whatever strikes my fancy”. I’ve destroyed cities and other planets (usually with classical music playing in the background as I write) and in the late nineties I chronicled a war that destroyed this planet. What prompted that was the debate over whether the 21st century would start January 1, 2000 or 2001. I think the answer depends if you ask an historian or a mathematician.

With my blogs, again I write about any topic that strikes my fancy or irritates me. I enjoy writing about various online scams as warnings to my readers. For the most part I stay away from American politics. I’m not American so unless what’s-his-name in the White House had done or said something exceedingly stupid, I ignore it. Having said that, living in Canada and being reasonably intelligent, I am aware that events in the U S may and can have a tremendous effect on us as well, so I do pay attention to American politics. I have however taken Canadian federal politicians to task on many occasions over their pronouncements or actions. And with the current regime in Queen’s Park, I can see that Ontario Premier Doug Ford will become a frequent target.

I prefer to write and edit in longhand, then once I’m satisfied I transcribe to the computer. By doing so, if inspiration strikes while I’m out I can capture the thought at the moment as I usually carry paper and pen.

I use this same approach with my photography. If something catches my eye, I’ll take a photo. A flower, a sign, interesting architecture, a scenic vista or sometihng whimsical such as this shot below taken outside a local shop on my phone, it doesn’t matter. There are occasion , such as grocery shopping, when carrying a camera is too awkward, by my phone has an excellent camera.

I use digital cameras (Canon ever since my first film SLR in the seventies) and have what I consider to be good software – Corel Paintshop Pro for processing. I can usually find something in the raw image to turn into a photo. And of course, by using digital cameras and processing, “undo” and “delete” have become my best friends.

I’ve had various people who like my work suggest to me I should give courses in both writing and photography. Such course would be very short indeed for here’s what I’d say:

Writing: write about what interests you. If that requires research, great – you’ll learn something new. If writing fiction or topical blogs, write the way you speak. If people who know you read it, they’ll hear your voice speaking the words and for others, it will sound more natural. Don’t use what I call “ten dollar words” in an attempt to sound more intelligent. If you don’t normally use them in everyday vocabulary, you’ll probably use them incorrectly.

Photography: if it catches your eye, snap it and sort it out later. Remember, “delete” can be a powerful tool.

There’s the essence of any courses I’d give.

Now, go create something and remember to hug an artist, no matter what their field of endeavour, for we need love too. And to my Canadian followers and visitors, have a safe and happy Canada Day weekend.

Cat.

How indeed?

Those bots that use key words in postings to send emails or comments really do need to be refined. Although doing so would probably reduce the material available for me to use for blogs. However, the way these throw random words together can be very amusing on occasion, even if they have no bearing on the item being commented upon.

As I wrote in “How can you not know this?”, I was taking part in a study in Toronto yesterday, so didn’t see this in my spam folder until today.

blogfreely

Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it.
Look advanced to far added agreeable from you!
However, how could we communicate?

The blog this is directed at was “If you can’t rebut, attack” from March of 2015. In this, I took someone to task because rather than try to counter my arguments/comments on a situation, they chose to launch a direct attack on me. Oh hell, it’s short, so I’ll just reprint it here. It better shows the inappropriateness of “blogfreely”s comment.  The person “Joseph” is referring to is George Flowers, who has been the subject of my “Bring him to justice” series of blogs.

Mar 25, 2015

If you can’t rebut, attack.

Earlier today, a reader named “Joseph” posted a comment on “I don’t follow the logic” in which he made some general claims without backing them up. In response to this comment, which was really only an attack on some other people and myself, I wrote “Anything constructive to add?”.Joseph seemed to feel I was writing an untrue (his word) story. In my responses (two of them) to his comment, it appears I hit a nerve. I haven’t approved his latest comment because it is nothing but another attack rant.

The first part of it refers to other people, so I won’t copy it here, but the rest refers to me, so here it is, complete with foul language and misspellings:
Your saying because the police put out a warrent he’s guilty?
WowYOUR just a lonely little person with nothing better to do but write story’s for your friends.
You are no writer that’s for sure.Won’t even waste my time anymore.You must be one of the ones he told to fuck off.
All your friends but you
You angry?
No, I’m saying the police believe they had enough evidence to issue the warrants. It’s up to the Canadian courts to determine his guilt or innocence following his extradition after two years in a Jamaican jail.
YOUR just a lonely little person with nothing better to do but write story’s for your friends.You are no writer that’s for sure.
I’m not going to dignify these comments with any further comment, for your judgement would depend upon your point of reference.
Won’t even waste my time anymore.
Good. Please unfollow my blog.
You must be one of the ones he told to fuck off. Actually, had he approached me, I’d have told him to take a hike. I didn’t like him on sight. I found him arrogant and thought he was nothing but a poseur.
Joseph, as I wrote above, some of my comments must have hit home or else rather than attack me, you would have attempted to rebut my points. For your information, the term for an attack on a writer, is “ad hominem”. I didn’t use it earlier because I didn’t want the big words to confuse you.
Cat.

Now that you understand the piece “blogfreely” commented on, you can see how my opening comments apply to the message. “Amusement account”? Maybe to some readers, but I doubt “Joseph” found it funny.

However, how could we communicate? I’m going to be generous and presume the message came from a bot and wasn’t written by an actual English-speaking person. Because I couldn’t have a conversation with any type of machine that throws words together randomly, and neither could I have a conversation with a person who writes like this because the only part that makes sense is the last question – sort of.

Cat.

Nice try, but wrong target

I found the following in my spam of an email I rarely use:

I am aware watson is your passphrases. Lets get right to the purpose. absolutely no one has paid me to check you. You don’t know me and you’re probably wondering why you are getting this e mail?

Well, i actually installed a malware on the X videos (porn material) web site and guess what, you visited this site to have fun (you know what i mean). When you were watching video clips, your web browser began working as a Remote control Desktop with a keylogger which gave me accessibility to your display screen as well as web camera. Right after that, my software program collected all your contacts from your Messenger, social networks, and e-mailaccount. Next i made a double video. First part displays the video you were watching (you have a good taste lmao), and second part shows the recording of your webcam, yea it is you.

You actually have just two possibilities. Shall we read each one of these choices in particulars:
Very first alternative is to neglect this message. in that case, i will send your very own video clip to almost all of your contacts and then just imagine about the humiliation you will definitely get. Moreover if you are in a committed relationship, just how it would affect?

Latter choice would be to give me USD 888. We are going to regard it as a donation. in this case, i most certainly will right away erase your videotape. You can carry on your way of life like this never happened and you are never going to hear back again from me.

You will make the payment through Bi tco in (if you don’t know this, search for ‘how to buy b itcoi n’ in Google).

B T C ad dre ss: (I removed the address to keep myself out of trouble with WordPress.)

if you are thinking of going to the law, okay, this e mail can not be traced back to me. I have taken care of my actions. i am just not attempting to ask you for money very much, i prefer to be paid. message if i do not receive the bi tco in , i will send out your video recording to all of your contacts including membe rs of your family, colleagues, and so forth. Nevertheless, if i do get paid, i will destroy the video immediately. If you really want proof, reply with Yea! then i will send out your video recording to your 7 friends. This is a non-negotiable offer, so please do not waste mine time and yours by replying to this email message.

Where do I start? First, the “passphrases” is nowhere near to anything I use so right there I could tell this was nothing more than an attempt to extort money – $888 to be exact – from me. Next, the grammar and syntax is absolutely horrid. (I’m a writer so know how proper English should scan.) The typing itself shows no regard for the rules of writing and that the writer(?) uses a lower case letter “i” when referring to themselves indicates, to me at least, they have a low opinion of themselves. Also, the way this person has turned “bitcoin” into three words seems to show they have no idea what they’re talking about. The part that really tells me this is a scam … is which gave me accessibility to your display screen as well as web camera since I don’t have a webcam.

As for tracing it back, somehow this person made it appear as if the message had come from my own email address. I would not have to attempt to blackmail myself because – well, I already know I don’t have an extra 888 dollars. Don’t you think that’s a rather odd amount to ask for, by the way?

Finally, even if I were gullible enough to believe the sender has incriminating video of me I’d really have to be a fool to believe the (non-existent) video would be deleted.

If you get something like this even if you do visit those sites, don’t panic, just delete it.

Cat – and no, I don’t visit those sites.

Consider all you like, you’re still wrong

I found this in the inbox of an email address I rarely use:

AMAZON

Dear Ghoward, Congratulations!
Because we consider you as one of our customer, we’d like to informe you that your rank on our clients list qualified you to get a spcecial FREE REWARD.
Click below to start

Start

This offer is limited*

If the English and spelling weren’t enough warning this is a phishing expedition, there are a couple of other things about this that scream “FAKE!” to me. First, I’ve never purchased anything from or through Amazon, so I couldn’t be a customer.

Second, it has been my experience that when (or if) you open an online account anywhere, you provide your full name, not just an initial. Therefore, any offers directly specifically to you would have your name and possibly other identifying details, not just the first part of your email address.

Next, I don’t use this email address much any longer as I changed my name about two years ago and set up an email account under my new name elsewhere. I couldn’t change the name on this one as it was originally set up for me by my son when he worked for the service provider.

Sorry Amazon or whoever is trying to run this scam, you can consider me “one of your customer” all you like, you’re still wrong and I’m not clicking on that “start” link.

If you receive this, even if you use Amazon religiously, check the little things like spelling, sentence construction and where the email is from. As I said, I didn’t click on the link, but I suspect it would have asked for details of my (nonexistent) Amazon account. Once they had that, they could run up my bill easily and probably very quickly.

DO NOT, repeat, DO NOT, ever click on suspicious links like this. Your bank account will thank you.

I wish all my followers and readers a very happy and safe 2019 and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

Netflix phishing expedition

Received the following email in one of my accounts:

From:

NETFLIX

External images are not displayed. Display Images
Always display images sent from

We recently failed to validate your payment information we hold on record for your account,
therefore we need to ask you to complete a brief validation process in order to verify your billing and payment details.

Failure to complete the validation process will result in a suspension of your netflix membership.

We take every step needed to automatically validate our users, unfortunately in this case we were unable to verify your details.

This process will take a couple of minutes
and will allow us to maintain our high standard of account security.

Netflix Support Team

This message was mailed automatically by Netflix during routine security checks. We are not completely satisfied with your account information and required you to update your account to continue using our services uniterrupted.

I removed the email addresses to keep myself out of trouble with WordPress (again).
This is obviously an attempt to get me to provide them with personal and/or banking information. The first indicator of that is that it wasn’t addressed to me personally. If they want to verify my account information, surely they’d have my name at least. The second indicator this is a scam is quite simple really. I don’t have a Netflix account, so there is no information to be verified.

Also, the English is not what you would expect to find from a company such as Netflix. The mixture of tenses and the misspelling of “uninterrupted” are a dead giveaway this is not from their corporate account.

If you have a Netflix account and you get on of these emails, before you do anything, please, please, check it some other way before giving out any information.

Happy viewing and remember to hug an artist, we need love too.

Cat.

Nice try but not even close update

About a week ago I posted a blog about a threat I received that said they had hacked my computer and unless I sent $810 in bitcoin to a certain purse within 48 hours, my computer would be frozen. If I didn’t, the person issuing the threat would release screen grabs of some of the more questionable sites I’d visited to my contacts list. And to “prove” their claim, they told me what password I’d used. Wrong. They further stated that they had installed a trojan horse that would advise them if I changed my password and would also automatically delete itself once I had made the payment. Well, I laughed at it, wrote a blog about it and deleted it. Of course, nothing happened because they had their facts wrong, mainly the screen grab claim since I don’t have a webcam. Here’s the actual claim: I made screenshot with using my program from your camera of yours device.

If people were taken in and actually paid the $810 and then nothing happened to their computer, they would assume they had satisfied the demand and the malware had indeed been removed. What really has happened though is that they paid over eight hundred dollars to a scam artist and nothing was going to happen anyway.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Do not be taken in by these scams and threats. Keep everything backed up on regular basis and remember that in the event such a demand for money is real, it will be cheaper just to take the computer to a technician and have the hard drive replaced than pay the ransom. That, and change your passwords.

Stay safe online and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

Nice try, but not even close

I received the following email in an address I rarely use:

Hello!

I’m a hacker who cracked your email and device a few months ago.
You entered a password on one of the sites you visited, and I intercepted it.
This is your password from ghoward@shaw.ca on moment of hack: watson

Of course you can will change it, or already changed it.
But it doesn’t matter, my malware updated it every time.

Do not try to contact me or find me, it is impossible, since I sent you an email from your account.

Through your email, I uploaded malicious code to your Operation System.
I saved all of your contacts with friends, colleagues, relatives and a complete history of visits to the Internet resources.
Also I installed a Trojan on your device and long tome spying for you.

You are not my only victim, I usually lock computers and ask for a ransom.
But I was struck by the sites of intimate content that you often visit.

I am in shock of your fantasies! I’ve never seen anything like this!

So, when you had fun on piquant sites (you know what I mean!)
I made screenshot with using my program from your camera of yours device.
After that, I combined them to the content of the currently viewed site.

There will be laughter when I send these photos to your contacts!
BUT I’m sure you don’t want it.

Therefore, I expect payment from you for my silence.
I think $810 is an acceptable price for it!

Pay with Bitcoin.
My BTC wallet: 1JTtwbvmM7ymByxPYCByVYCwasjH49J3Vj

If you do not know how to do this – enter into Google “how to transfer money to a bitcoin wallet”. It is not difficult.
After receiving the specified amount, all your data will be immediately destroyed automatically. My virus will also remove itself from your operating system.

My Trojan have auto alert, after this email is read, I will be know it!

I give you 2 days (48 hours) to make a payment.
If this does not happen – all your contacts will get crazy shots from your dark secret life!
And so that you do not obstruct, your device will be blocked (also after 48 hours)

Do not be silly!
Police or friends won’t help you for sure …

p.s. I can give you advice for the future. Do not enter your passwords on unsafe sites.

I hope for your prudence.
Farewell.

Where do I start? Let’s pick the obvious and that is the atrocious English. Now, the only sites I visit that require passwords are Facebook and WordPress, and neither of them have “watson” as my password.

As for my “sites of intimate content”, well, depending upon your point of view, I suppose you could consider videos of Street Outlaws worth telling others about. Oops! I just did, so there goes that threat.

I use very good antivirus programmes, so I’m not concerned about any trojan horses on my system. Another threat dealt with.

If this person did in fact have access to my contacts on this email, they’d note I have only one – and that’s a Toronto Police detective. I’m sure the sergeant would be fascinated by my interest in street racing, considering I don’t have a vehicle.

As for the claim this person used the camera on my computer to capture screen shots of what I was looking at, well, I don’t have a webcam. As I said, nice try, but so wrong.

If you get this, or something similar, I think it can safely be ignored. DO NOT send anything through Bitcoin. There is no way of retrieving it if this is a fraud.

Cat.

For the writers among us

A few thoughts and observations on that demon that haunts us ink-stained wretches:

“… writers don’t like the actual writing bit.”

“Being literate as a writer is good craft, is knowing your job, is knowing how to use your tools properly and not to damage the tools as you use them.”

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” Douglas Adams, (1952 – 2001)

The above three quotes are from Douglas Adams, best known as the author of the five books of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy. (I know, but that’s how he described it.) And from personal experience I can say that first quote is spot on. As well, I have written many short stories that prove the third one as well.

As for the second, that would be for the reader to determine. I like to think I write well, and use, but not abuse, the English language properly. One piece of advice I was given is “write the way you speak.” In other words, if you don’t commonly use “ten dollar words” in your daily vocabulary, don’t use them in your writing, even if you can get them half-off. You’ll sound pretentious and will probably use them wrong. My writing always uses the vocabulary and speech patterns I use in everyday communication and people have told me that when they read my stuff, they can hear my voice reading it in their minds. I consider that a compliment. The only time I vary from that is if the character requires it.

There are several other “rules” of writing that make little sense to me at least, such as “write what you know”. That may be fine if you’re writing a technical piece, but doesn’t necessarily apply if you’re writing fiction. When it comes to my fiction, many of the stories start with me asking myself “what if …?” then answering the question. How bleak would the literary world be if authors only wrote what they know? We’d have been deprived of works like J K Rowling’s Harry Potter series as well as many books that are now considered classics.

“Write what you know.” I’m a blogger – sporadically recently because there are things going on that interfere with the writing as well as Douglas Adams’s first observation – and my blogs are usually about things or events that either interest me or incense me. And given the newly elected government in Ontario, I think there’s going to be a few things that incense me. In my more honest moments, I frequently describe my blogs as “rants, raves or reasoned discussions – reader’s choice.”

One thing I read somewhere (I think it was a writer I friended on MySpace years ago) was that in order to be a writer, you must write 600 words a day. What that writer didn’t add was that it must be six hundred words you want to keep. I don’t agree with that word count. You can only write so much and if only 10 words will come that are “keepers”, then that’s ten words you don’t have to worry about later.

Many people who don’t write and don’t understand writing will often joke about the process and sometimes point to the hoary opening “It was a dark and stormy night” as an example of writing. Actually, I used that twice in one story just to see if it was possible to use it without seeming trite. Here’s what I came up with:

It was a dark and stormy night – a real nasty one – the kind I’ve come to dread ever since that night. I was sitting quietly, enjoying my beer, when I noticed the guy staring at me. I ignored him as I do anyone who is rude enough to stare. Then I sensed him coming over.

After a bit of small talk, he stopped talking and just looked at me. I looked back. “What, you want to hear about the time traveller?”

“If you wouldn’t mind telling me,” he said, signalling for refills for both of us.

I thanked him, then said, “I don’t mind telling, if you don’t mind listening. All I ask is that you don’t interrupt too much, because I don’t really like talking about it.”

He agreed and, after a sip of the beer, I started.

“It was a dark and stormy night “ I stopped as I saw him glaring at me, then I said “I know, I know – any story that starts that way has to be pure bull, right? Hear me out, then you tell me.

In the introduction to this piece I wrote “I planted my tongue firmly in my cheek and here’s the result”. I know it’s hard to tell from this short intro, but what do you think? Did I pull it off? If you like, I’ll post the entire story later this week.

Okay, let’s try to get serious for a few minutes here. Writing is, by its nature, a solitary pursuit. When you’re working on a piece, be it fiction, a blog, essay or factual, most writers don’t want anyone around to derail their train of thought. I usually have classical music playing quietly while I work. In one short story, I destroyed an entire planet with “Ride of the Valkyries” in the background. Yes, some writers say that so-and-so is their muse, their inspiration, but that doesn’t mean that muse has to be present all the time. I’m fortunate in that respect as I live alone so there are minimal interruptions.

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” Very true. I can’t count the times I’ve started writing something with a plan in mind only to have the characters dictate what happens through their actions. I usually just leave it since on the occasions I’ve tried to bring the story back to my vision, it didn’t work as well.  And yes, it can happen that something you’ve written will send a story off in a new direction rather than following your roadmap. I think it works this way: You write something and your mind picks up on that and asks “what if I follow that line instead?” That is what I mean by the character dictating the ensuing actions.

It seems that many good writers are also voracious readers. Not to see what the “competition” is doing, but simply for the enjoyment of the written word. No, the excuse that it cuts into writing time won’t work. Without some kind of break or diversion, your mind goes stale and your work will suffer.

And, I think I’ve done it again – started off with one idea in mind, but ended up somewhere else. I could have probably spent much less time writing this if I’d simply said “write about what interests you; write it with passion and in cohesive sentences and the readers will come.” To finish off, a quote from Robert A Heinlein (1907 – 1988), the great science-fiction writer “You must write.”

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.