Scammers, spammers and the need for speed

South Wales Evening Post - 17 September 2013

I'VE never actually met one, but I'm sure that there are dozens of generous Nigerian billionaires out there.

I suppose that's why so many of them want to include me in their living wills. Once a week they send me an email asking for my personal bank details so that I can share in their good fortune.

Call me ungrateful, but I've so far turned down their kind offers.

My company work occasionally involves giving clients advice on whether they should underline their individual projects with a website and all the social media trappings that many feel to be an essential part of modern business.

If they think it's an option then I also advise them to set up a separate and protected email account because the day of the internet scam is well and truly with us.

Sadly it's all too easy to get tricked by the professional crooks. Even a seasoned consumer affairs presenter like Angela Rippon can fall foul of a dodgy online offer.

Her problems started after she clicked an innocent looking link on a website. Contacts began to receive emails from her saying that she had been in an accident abroad and urgently needed money to be sent to an 'emergency' account number. She only found out when a friend contacted her directly.

She then discovered that her mailing list had been wiped so she could not warn people that it was a con-trick. Luckily she was able to get her email provider to sort matters out.

I'm inclined to think that our everyday familiarity with phones and tablet technology has helped breed a dangerous kind of contempt. A dodgy proposal that appears on-screen somehow manages to be a little more plausible than one that arrives through the letterbox.

It's worth reading the basic rules produced by email service providers (as shown here) to keep your systems safe.

     How to spot the scammers

  • Be wary of urgent warnings, especially claims your account is about to be suspended. Scammers want you to panic and give your details.
  • Never share your password. Ever!
  • Bad grammar and spelling mistakes are signs of a scammer.
  • Be careful of emails that begin with a phrase like 'Dear Valued Customer' instead of your name.
  • Check the sender's email address. The part after the '@' should be the same as the company's web address.
  • Be wary of emails that appear to have been sent to you by your account.
  • Check links before clicking. If you hover your cursor over a link you will usually see the address where it will take you in the bottom left hand corner of your browser.
  • If you think your account has been hacked, contact your email provider.

Of course, the scammers would probably be less successful were it not for torrent of unwanted and unsolicited email – known as spam – which arrives each day.

Every time I buy a product online I know that it's an exercise in futility to tick the box saying that I most definitely, absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, DON'T want to receive newsletters, information or details of future offers.

At least you can unsubscribe from the deluge of advertising emails but life is a real misery once the telephone cold calling starts up. If I'm not being invited to take part in a so-called customer survey then I'm stuck listening to another silent call.

I'm signed up to the Telephone Preference Service, which is supposed to screen out unwanted calls.

What shook me a little however was reading a Which? survey that claimed that households like mine still receive twice as many telemarketing calls as those who haven't registered.

With this kind of failure rate it's encouraging to see that the Call Protection Registry, based here in Swansea, is achieving far greater success with its patented a Call Blocker device. I'm also impressed to hear that the Association of Chief Police Officers has endorsed their product.

The need for speed 

I've been getting regular emails from a group called Superfast Cymru, which is a combined project by BT and Welsh Government to roll out fibre broadband connectivity in communities throughout Wales.

Working more from home instead of the office with all the advantages of a better work life balance and environmental benefit through less travel is a no-brainer from my perspective. In fact I can't wait. 

My home is currently stuck in the slow lane of the information super-highway.

Download speed on a good day is about 3.8 mbps with a following wind. The upload rate is just plain laughable.

I recently made a short video of the Swansea Celebration event held at Westminster. I gave up trying to put the footage on YouTube from my home computer after 25 minutes of watching the upload meter creep painfully across the screen.

Luckily my business allows me to hot-desk in a number of locations. So I got in the car, travelled to a nearby office and did the upload within three minutes.

As green and rolling as the surrounding hills may be, Birchgrove is hardly one of your typical rural not-spots. Yet the modern estate on which I live has no fibre optic connection and sometimes seems to be connected to the local exchange by a piece of loose string.

I keep writing to BT asking when things will get better (I'd phone but they're not in the book). No-one seems to have an answer.

My next planned move is to write to Ofcom. I'll let you know how I get on. In the meantime I'd really like to hear from anyone else who is struggling to start or maintain a business from home due to slow connection speeds.