Rotten phish: Scams travel by text messages, too

smile, you son of a b!!!!
This online phish is predatory, but it’s not that smart. Still …

Another day, another scam.

I’ve been getting text  messages from some outfit called Contact Achieve, and when I called back I picked up some real bad smell.

It smelled like rotten phish.

It’s from some company that calls itself Achieve, and according to the Federal Trade Commission it’s pure scam. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

On Jan. 18 I received a text from Achieve Card. Two texts that day, one at 6:51 pm and another five minutes later. Actually had at least one text before that but I chose to ignore it.

But in that pair of texts I was given a number (601-633-0010) to call. So I did, and caught a recording. Upshot was that they were the Achieve Card help desk, and my prepaid Visa debit card had limited security access due to a security error. Then they gave me  the first few digits of my card number and wanted me to punch it in on the keypad.

Uhh, no thanks. I may have been born in the dark, but it wasn’t last night.

So I wrote the information down and called that recording again to make sure I had it right. Hey, if you’re after a story you want to make sure you have it right.

A couple of red flags right away. The biggest is that I don’t have a prepaid Visa card. I do have a Visa debit card that’s attached to my bank account, but the partial number didn’t match.

I do have a prepaid debit card (which I use for a couple of jobs that pay cash), but it’s an American Express and the numbers still don’t match.

Plus I’ve never heard of that company.

Not only are they crooked, but they’re idiots.

Listen, it’s not unlike some emails I got from some outfit claiming to be PayPal. Except they kept using email addresses that are not attached to my PayPal account. I related the whole sordid tale here, and it’s worth your while to check that one out. It’s a million laughs unless you fell for it.

Let’s bring this thing forward, shall we? Just a few minutes ago (I wrote this a little after 5 pm Jan. 21) I got another text message. This one was also from Achieve, and according to my readout the text message went out at 9:18 p.m. on Jan. 17. So it must have gone into some queue, to be released at the most inopportune time.

Just because I feel like making trouble (who, me?) I tried their callback number. That’s 832-984-9427 in case you’re interested) and got a different recording. From the Federal Trade Commission, no less. Maybe it was and maybe it wasn’t, but the message was quite interesting nonetheless.

According to that recording, that callback number has been disconnected because the FTC divined that it was a scam, and a number of folks got emails and text messages in the so-called company’s trolling efforts.

They can shut it down? How interesting.

The recording went on to explain that it was an attempt at phishing, sending out bogus texts or email to talk you into giving up your valuable  banking information so they can steal your identity. Their advice: Don’t do it.

Well, duh.

In addition I was referred to a website, onguardonline.gov, which is supposed to be an FTC site on dealing with scams. I checked it and it looks pretty legit to me, enough for me to subscribe to the RSS feed.

Just for gits and shiggles I tried that first Achieve number again and got a fast busy signal. So apparently that’s been shut down too.

So scratch one scammer. But they’re like cockroaches. Kill one and a thousand more come to its funeral.

Hey, you know the deal. Don’t give out your bank card numbers online or over the phone unless you initiated the call, and even then crank up your BS detector as high as it will go. I also have some other precautions, which I listed here. Check that out while you’re at the computer reading this. That in itself is worth the price of admission.

Do I expect people to wise up?

No way. A few might if they’ve been burned often enough or if that aforementioned BS detector is fully functional. But hey, y’all be careful out there.

In the meantime, enjoy your computer. Have fun checking out Facebook, Buzzfeed and those cat videos. Feel free to read your news online (including this blog). Buy books from Amzon (including mine, heh-heh) Do your shopping online. Use the Internet to make a living. Use the online tools to run several aspects of your life by remote control (like my own use of online banking). It’s safer than it once was, it’s convenient, it’s a Godsend.

But again, be careful.

# # #

What say you? Have you run across this Achieve outfit? How about that PayPal email scam? Any other stories? Please share in the comments, and don’t spare me any of the gory details.

How will the Feds cut health care costs?

I just had to share this. And no, it’s not funny. Not when you consider I’ve been eligible for AARP for four years and am a year away from various senior citizens’ discounts everywhere.

My mom, who is older than I am (obviously!) sent this along via one of those Fw: emails, which I usually don’t mess with. But here it is.

Thanks, Mom. I think.

* * *

Just saying goodbye…

Description: cid:X.MA1.1325340346@aol.com
To help save the economy, the Government will announce
next
month that the Immigration Department will start
deporting seniors (instead of illegal’s) in order to lower
Social Security and Medicare costs.
Older people are easier to catch and will not
remember how to get back home.
I started to cry when I thought of you.
Then it dawned on me … oh, crap …
I’ll see you on the bus!
###

Gropers needed; apply with government

Still unemployed?

Out of prospects?

Savings about burned through?

Fear not. The TSA is hiring.

Here’s the link, via Low Country Help Wanted in South Carolina. Link may only be good for a short time.

And here’s another look, as seen in the TSA Jobs site. Check out all the goodies, according to TSA:

  • Stability of a Government Job
  • Ensuring National Security
  • Helping People
  • Competitive Pay and Benefits
  • Career Growth Opportunities
  • Diverse Workforce
  • Fast-paced Job

Uhh, they forgot to mention it, but you can handle people in a way that would get you slapped in any other context. So if you’re a real tactile person, apply today.

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Santa’s under surveillance, and you can watch

Sure, there’s a certain creepiness factor with the whole Santa Claus thing (He sees when you’re sleeping/He knows when you’re awake), but the jolly old elf is likewise under surveillance. By the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), no less.

You can watch his movements via the Norad Santa site online, and rest easy with the thought that they should be able to tell the difference between a bunch of reindeer and a warhead that Iran just happened to borrow from somebody. By knowing where he is, you can place the milk and cookies out on the hearth and not worry about them going bad before he gets to them.

As I write this, he stands at T-minus 14h 28m 55s from liftoff, from somewhere around the polar regions — right in NORAD’s wheelhouse.

Besides going to the NORAD Santa site, you can also download Santa-tracking apps for your iPhone or Android.

Now, I don’t expect Santa to drive his reindeer team to visit me. He’ll come thundering over I-26 driving a coal truck from West Virginia and he’ll offload the whole thing into my stocking. At least that’s the rumor.

Anyway, monitor the NORAD site. Watch to see where ol’ Santa Baby is, and start being nice when he’s in viewing range. Or something.

Merry Christmas, y’all!

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Zombie invasion? CDC has some emergency procedures for you

They come out at night …

… in search of brains …

… and the Center For Disease Control wants you to know what to do in the event of a zombie invasion.

Maybe the whole idea came from all those pepperoni pizzas washed down with way too much Mountain Dew, but the CDC put out a blurb outlining preparedness steps when the undead come a-calling.

Seriously. Check it out. Here’s the link.

“The rise of zombies in pop culture has given credence to the idea that a zombie apocalypse could happen.” wrote CDC official Ali Khan. “In such a scenario zombies would take over entire countries, roaming city streets eating anything living that got in their way. The proliferation of this idea has led many people to wonder ‘How do I prepare for a zombie apocalypse?’ “

One of the first things I think of immediately is that the CDC is a governmental function, and they’re screwing off on taxpayer time. But this CDC announcement may actually make more sense than just about any other governmental release. Well, kinda sorta.

“Well, we’re here to answer that question for you, and hopefully share a few tips about preparing for real emergencies too,” Khan continues.

OK. Now we’re cooking. Khan then outlines some preparedness procedures that could serve you well in a pandemic, a hurricane, or zombie invasion.

Craziness aside, what I get from my reading is that it’s hard to sell preparedness to the public. Hurricanes are not sexy enough. Earthquakes don’t have that “it” factor. Even a multi-angled event such as a Katrina (featuring disasters such as a hurricane, massive flooding, societal breakdown and FEMA) and Japan’s recent earthquake/tsunami/nuclear trifecta aren’t enough to sway the populace in the semi-civilized world.

The CDC rationale, it seems, is to come up with something really over the top to garner public attention — such as a zombie takeover. It is unbelievably tempting for me to say something about how the zombies already took over several years ago and were the difference-maker in the 2008 Presidential election, but I’m not gonna say it. I’m not gonna say it.

Later with these pedestrian hurricanies, tsunami, nuclear mutant monsters from Japan, and even space aliens. All of these have been done to death, and in our ADHD culture, you’ve got to hit the public hard, frequently, and from a variety of angles.

I can understand that complacency, somewhat. I grew up in California, the place where visitors and new arrivals get scared because of earthquakes. Well, there are a lot of other scary things about California, but right now I’m just going to key on earthquakes. To a new arrival, any shaking of the ground is enough to trigger a full-blown panic attack. However, it takes a Richter Scale hit of at least six-something to move the longtime resident. Don’t pester me over a little trembling; if dishes fly out of the cupboards, then call me.

As far as construction goes, whole metro areas are built along earthquake fault lines. The Inland Empire, which for decades saw the fastest growth of any area in California, is nestled along the San Andreas and San Jacinto Faults. The San Jac passed underneath the a) the freeway interchange of I-10 and I-215 that had some pretty big skyhooks, b) the men’s department of Fedco, and c) the San Bernardino Valley College campus. Did I worry about getting caught in the mother of all earthquakes during my classes at Valley? Not at all. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

I now live near Charleston, South Carolina, known to outsiders as hurricane country. Every year we go through the same drill here — pick up a hurricane tracking map at the Piggly Wiggly, and make noises about putting together a plan. Which usually never comes off. Here, life goes on. We watch the hurricanes develop in the Atlantic, note that for a moment Charleston is named the primary target, then relax when the hurricane takes its usual dogleg right turn. We do have an evacuation every decade or so, but the last hurricane of any real consequence to hit the Lowcountry was Hugo in 1989. Since then the wreckage was cleared out, the sea islands were built back up, and everything went back to normal.

For the record, I do have a skeletal emergency plan in case the Son Of Hugo blows the roof off my mobile home. I have a backpack loaded with clothing sleeping bag, rope and tarp, plus some prepackaged rations I’m starting to collect. This is really in anticipation of a hike I’m planning, but if something weird happens before then (fire? Flood? The PC Police knocking at my door?) it’s nice to know I’m somewhat prepared.

Standard survival items, straight from the CDC, include:

* Water (1 gallon per person per day)
* Food (stock up on non-perishable items that you eat regularly)
* Medications (this includes prescription and non-prescription meds)
* Tools and Supplies (utility knife, duct tape, battery powered radio, etc.)
* Sanitation and Hygiene (household bleach, soap, towels, etc.)
* Clothing and Bedding (a change of clothes for each family member and blankets)
* Important documents (copies of your driver’s license, passport, and birth certificate to name a few)
* First Aid supplies (although you’re a goner if a zombie bites you, you can use these supplies to treat basic cuts and lacerations that you might get during a tornado or hurricane)

Gee, I think I have room in my backpack for the best defense against zombies: A shotgun. Gotta be prepared for anything.

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Support your local TSA (or not)

Got these courtesy of talk show host Neal Boortz. Check ’em out — they’re a real hoot.

Remember, though: No laughing in the airport pat-down line. No levity whatsoever. (I found this last part out the hard way while boarding from Kona Airport, but that was too long ago to go into.)
###

Air show: Not the same old base

I love air shows, and I was seriously considering going to the one at the Charleston Air Force Base Saturday.

Thought about it, but I believe I’ll pass.

You know it’s not the same old air force base, not with post-9/11 Homeland Security being a fact of life. You can’t just go onto the base without a search.

I got this from the Air Expo website, and this gives me an idea of what to expect:

Prohibited items include:

  • Coolers
  • Backpacks
  • Gym Bags
  • Glass Bottles
  • Alcohol
  • Knives
  • Fire Arms
  • Car alarms must be disabled for the duration of the air show


Again, not the same old base.

Back in my pre-9/11 taxi driving days, I used to cut through the base as a shortcut. Make up a name at the gate, and no one was the wiser. “I’m here to pick up Airman Mingus and Lt. Coltrane,” I used to say, and no one minded.

Now, without military ID you can’t even go on that base.

OK. Fact of life.

Executive decision: I’m going to watch it from the convenience of my front yard. This is the one time I consider myself lucky to live underneath a landing approach pattern.

###

Geography lesson, or Where’s Arizona?

This came from commentator Neal Boortz, and it is proof positive that intelligence and/or a knowledge of geography are not required for elected officials. 

But then, Wisconsin is a long way from Arizona. Almost a different country. Oh, wait

A MEMBER OF THE DUMB-MASSES

Boortz: “OK .. now that I have made my sermon. Watch this video. This is Democrat County Supervisor Peggy West of Milwaukee demonstrating her exceptional knowledge of geography during a meeting. Unbelievable. You people of Milwaukee should be ashamed.”

Too bad the video ends right there, without showing West’s reaction for being so badly shown up. So I offer another snippet of video that may capture the county supervisor’s reaction:

Thank you, Gilda!

###

Airport security: A modest proposal

I’m not sure who originally wrote this, but I like the idea. It was one of those Fw: emails that crosses my transom, sent by my mom.

In all, it sounds like a good workable solution. Later with all these pat-downs at the airport security line and invading your carry-on luggage. This is quick, clean (well, sort of), and cheap in the long run.

Here it is:

Here’s the solution to all the controversy over full-body scanners and racial profiling at the airports:

Have a booth that you can step into that will not x-ray you, but will detonate any explosive device you may have on your body. It would be a win-win for everyone, and there would be none of this crap about racial profiling and this method would eliminate a long and expensive trial. Justice would be quick and swift.

This is so simple that it’s brilliant. I can see it now. You’re in the airport terminal and you hear a muffled explosion. Shortly thereafter an announcement comes over the PA system, “Attention standby passengers. We now have a seat available on flight number 4665 …. Paging maintenance. Shop Vac needed in booth number 4.”

See, it could work. Who’s with me on this?

###

Multitasking while driving? Survey shows how many people do what

Distracted driving? How distracted?

I found this in Consumerist.com, which links to an article in Wired. The upshot is, folks will do just about everything under the sun when they should be driving and paying attention. 

Survey: 15% Of Drivers Getting Their Swerve On While Driving: “



From cell phones to stereos to billboards to those pesky other vehicles on the road, driving a car comes with a whole host of distractions. A new survey attempts to quantify just how many people are being distracted by the various and sundry things vying for drivers’ attention.



The online survey, conducted by cell phone headset makers Jabra, came up with some interesting — if not terribly scientific — results.



Among the more lurid: 15% of respondents admitted to having “performed sex or other sexual acts” while driving, though what exactly “other sexual acts” means is left to the filthy part of your imagination. And, as the folks at Wired.com pointed out, the survey required no proof of respondents’ carnal car exploits.



Meanwhile, 35% of those surveyed said they had changed articles of clothing while in the driver’s seat. One would have to guess that at least some of these people belong to the 15% mentioned above.



On the high end, 72% of respondents admitted to eating or drinking a beverage while behind the wheel.



Though just about everyone has used their cell phone in the car, only 1/3 of those in the survey use a headset of some sort. Also, despite being illegal in more than half the U.S., 28% say they have texted while driving; 12% confessed to reading and sending e-mails.



More frightening, at least to me, are the 5% who admitted to having played video games during a driving session. I just hope they weren’t playing MarioKart.



Says a dude from Jabra’s parent company:

It is truly unbelievable what people are doing while driving… The results of our survey show that so many people are distracted and doing other things while on the road — even though they know the consequences that can occur. We hope that people will soon understand the implications of these bad behaviors and will change their own behavior accordingly.



Of course, part of ‘changing their behavior’ would mean ‘buying more Jabra headsets.’



Which of these risky behaviors do you exhibit? Do you do something dangerous that didn’t make the list?



Surprising Number of People Get It On While Driving [Wired.com]


OK, boys and girls. Heavy confession time, and you can call this my own at-the-wheel bucket list. I have:

– Eaten while driving

– Trimmed my beard while driving.

– Consumed coffee at the wheel. Of course. I consume coffee any time, while doing anything, for any reason.

– Played harmonica while driving. Sometimes I’ve done this on my way to a gig, having a warmup set on some state highway.

– Talked on the phone while driving, both with and without a headset.

– Sent text messages while at the wheel. Once. It terrified me, so I gave up the practice immediately.

– Read newspapers, or more likely maps, while driving.

– Played CDs while driving, including changing out a disk. And, while riding a bicycle, cycled through song lists on an mp3 player.

– Fought drunk passengers while driving; one of the things I don’t miss about my taxi driving days.

– Written while driving. With the clipboard on the console, steering with one hand, and without looking at what I was writing. I used to do that quite often in my newspaper days. Amazingly, I was able to read what I wrote.

– Made obscene gestures at a Presidential candidate while driving. Seriously. It was Walter Mondale in 1984. He was in a motorcade en route from San Bernardino to L.A., and his escorting officers had all freeway drivers pull to the right and stop. I did, I was ticked, and I gave the famous gesture when his limo blazed by at 90 mph. Since I was stopped, I had both hands free and I was able to use both for the double bird. I’m still amazed I wasn’t arrested.

– Driven barefoot. It really is not illegal. I usually do this on long hauls; the better to feel the pedals. You actually get better gas mileage this way.

– Changed clothes while driving. Unfortunately, I always ended up looking like I dressed in the dark.

Did I ever, as the article suggests, “get my swerve on” at the wheel? None of your business. I ain’t sayin’ nothing. I’ll take the Fifth.

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