Thursday, 25 March 2010

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice

I got an email and phone calls from Bizz Awards, saying that we have won this award. Please advise if they are genuine.

No, they are NOT genuine. As you’ll see from our blog (here, here and here) we investigated these people in October and November last year. Many companies received emails announcing that they had won this award. The award itself is free but the only way you can receive it is to attend their gala awards celebration. Last year this was supposed to be in Houston, Texas (which the hotel they mentioned knew nothing about). To attend you obviously have to pay your airfares, your accommodation costs, your food and drink AND you have to pay the Bizz Awards US$ 3,500. That’s about P20,000. The total cost per person to attend from Botswana would be around P60,000 or more.

The Bizz Awards is a scam. Visit our blog and you’ll see that they lie, they offer these joke awards to companies that don’t even exist and they attempted to bribe us into stopping speaking about them.

If you get an email from the Bizz Awards you should do one of two things. Either delete it immediately or send them a hugely insulting email saying that you know they’re crooks.

Prokard update

A few weeks ago we criticised the way Prokard, a hotel discount scheme, gathers new customers. They phone you with offers of hotel discounts and then ask for your credit card details, so they can check “if you’re eligible for gold membership”. A little later you see that they’ve charged you over P1,000 without your consent. This week we got an email from someone calling himself “Dennis” from Cape Town. He said:
"I read the report on the "Prokard Scam". If you have not investigated the benefits of the card, then how can you make a comment as you do? I was a member for three years, and found that the card gave me absolutely excellent value for money."
Well we have investigated the "benefits" of the card and there aren’t any. If you see our blog entry on 12th February you'll see that I DID actually research Prokard. I could find significantly better accommodation at a significantly lower price than the Prokard card could offer me. Also, and this is a critical thing about Prokard, it offers mainly discounts. You have to spend money before you get any supposed benefit.

The facts speak for themselves.

Facebook warning

Like many people I received an email that appeared to be from “Your Facebook team” that said:
“Because of the measures taken to provide safety to our clients, your password has been changed. You can find your new password in attached document. Thanks, The Facebook Team.”
In fact this isn’t from Facebook at all. Attached to the email was a zipped file that if you open it (please don’t do this!!!) opens a program called “Facebook_details_443.exe”. This is only going to affect people with computers that run Microsoft Windows but unfortunately that’s most of us. If you run this program it will open your PC to what’s called a Trojan. This is a program that will hide itself on your computer and can allow a hacker to take control of it. It will then either distribute spam or other viruses or it will cause severe damage to the data you have stored on your PC. It could even install a keylogger program on your computer which will record any sensitive information you enter when you’re accessing your bank account online, log into your email or access your companies business systems.

Please just delete the email immediately and then remove it from your Recycle Bin to get rid of it forever.

Email warning

You’ll have seen in last week’s Voice a front-page story about a Member of Parliament whose email account was hacked by someone who then sent an email to everyone in his address book. The email claimed that he was stranded in the UK, and begged all the friends to send him money to help him out.

Luckily some of these friends called him and he was able to confirm that this was all a pack of lies designed to scam the friends into sending money. Almost certainly the money would have been sent to someone using Western Union and would never have been seen again.

One question I ask myself repeatedly is do Western Union have any idea how much their payment mechanism is used by criminals? I can’t remember a scam that didn’t involve Western Union. You’d think by now they could do something about it, don’t you?

Obviously I don’t know how this MP’s email account was hacked but I suspect it was either using a keylogger program like I mentioned above, or he might just have used a password that was easy to guess. We’ve all done it, we’ve all used our partner’s name or the name of one of our kids or our birthplace as a password but these days you have to be a LOT more careful. One tip that’s often given for choosing passwords is not to use a real word so a hacker can’t use a dictionary to check all possible passwords. My recommendation is slightly different. Choose a simple word that you CAN remember like “telephone” but then change it slightly so it’s no longer a real word. Make it “tele7hone” or “telep%one” instead. All you have to remember is the easy word and the one change you’ve made. Then change it every few months. It’s an irritating bother but it might save you a lot of trouble in the end.

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