September 2011

Another day, another phone scam - this one from Nerd-i about my 'faulty' PC

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Today I had a second phone call from someone telling me that my computer was faulty. The first time I got this call, a couple of weeks ago, I must have sounded suspicious because they put the phone down on me.

This time I decided to play naive and let them take me through the spiel. The caller told me that he 'knew' that my computer had more than 1000 faults and that it might crash at any time. He rather spoilt his line by then asking if I had a computer, but I ignored that and battled on. He said he would show me the problems.

First he told me to go to Start and click on Run, then enter eventvwr. This launches the Event Viewer and is a perfectly safe thing to do. I was then to click on Applications and notice how many errors there were.

As it happens this did alert me to a problem with my backup service, but I didn't tell him that. Apart from that there were in fact very few errors, but even if there had been more I imagine they would have been perfectly normal events.

Next came the dodgy bit. I was instructed to go to Run again then key in a web address. This is highly dangerous and no-one should do it. I wrote down the web address he gave me (but I will not share it with you) and asked him what would happen if I typed it in. He said it would allow me to access some remote software which would fix the problem.

Aha!! I explained that I would take some advice before going to a strange website because I was afraid of downloading viruses - I didn't tell him that I was more concerned about downloading spyware that might access my personal data. Not surprisingly he assured me that there wouldn't be any viruses.

I still said that I would not go to a strange website so he tried another tactic. This time I was to Run and enter msconfig. Once again, this is perfectly safe and launches the System Configuration Utility. Now I wouldn't advise anyone to make any changes to this utility unless they know what they are doing, but no harm can come from looking at it.

I was told to click on the Services tab and then look at how many applications were logged as 'stopped'. He told me that these were all applications that were needed by the computer and without them the PC would crash.

Total nonsense, of course. Applications which are stopped are just that - applications that have been running and are no longer needed.

At that point I had heard enough, so I asked him the name of his company, which he spelt out for me: Nerd-i. I repeated my story about not going to unknown websites and said goodbye.

Then I started googling. Nerd-i also crops up as Nerd Support Services and The Nerd Support, with plenty of complaints about its methods. Here is one warning from PCPro: Pensioner targeted by fake virus phone scam. It seems that they charge £185 for providing a so-called solution to the non-existent problem, presumably through a simple process of clearing out the error logs.

Unlike other scams I have dealt with there does seem to be a legitimate company called Nerd-i, with a comprehensive website. It is registered at Companies House with an address in London. The Nerd-i website has the appearance of a professional company and offers a range of internet security services.

I was wondering if someone was using their brand illicitly. So I phoned the number given on the website and asked the woman who replied whether she was aware of the techniques being used. At first she agreed that the phone call had come from them. When I explained that I was an IT professional and knew that they were using unfounded scare tactics she said that it 'wasn't her department' and that she would try to trace the person who called me to have words with him. I then told her that I would be reporting them to the police.

Have you received a phone call like mine? Do you know anyone who has fallen for the scam?

Update

I phoned the new Met 101 helpline, and explained what had happened. They tried to put me through to the Intelligence section at Kingston Police Station but the call transfer failed, and the 101 line was then busy.

But before that happened they did advise me to get in touch with Trading Standards. So I called Trading Standards on 08454 04 05 06 which goes straight to Consumer Direct, and told them my story. They thought I should report it to Action Fraud, the Government counter fraud organisation.

I called Action Fraud and after some explanation I was asked to submit a crime report and was given a crime number.

By that time I had noticed that Nerd-i had only been registered at Companies House two months ago, which would explain the change of name.

If you want to report something similar I would suggest you go straight to Action Fraud or call them on 0300 123 2040.

Ed Davey at Party Conference

I have just been listening to Ed Davey give a major platform speech in Birmingham.

He talked about three major new policies that he is implementing as Minister.

First, he made it clear that no more post offices would close. Labour actually closed more POs than Margaret Thatcher, which is shameful for a Labour Government which was supposed to stand up for the disadvantaged.

He then announced that he has plans to make post offices the 'front desk for Government, national and local". This is an excellent plan to breathe life back into Post Offices and once again give them a role at the core of our communities.

And Post Offices Ltd is to become a mutual - that is a company owned by its workers not by its shareholders.

Second, he went on to talk about his scheme to allow parents to divide up parental leave as they see fit. So maternity and paternity leave will be combined into one and the couple will be able to choose who takes what and when.

Finally he spoke about the appointment of a Supermarket Adjudicator, who will stand up for the rights of consumers and farmers againgst the often unfair and price-fixing practices of the big supermarkets.

A great speech, delivered with fervour and conviction.

Communities taking and using power: Kingston's contribution on community politics at Conference

Kingston Liberal Democrats submitted an amendment (amendment 2) to a motion on Community Politics at Conference this week. The motion was put forward by our Party President, Tim Farron MP, and our amendment was passed unanimously.

This is my speech:


When Tim Farron asked Kingston Liberal Democrats to support this motion we were initially very pleased that Community Politics was once again taking its central place in the party’s narrative.

But Kingston did not sign the original motion because - in the time honoured phrase – it did not go far enough.

Before I talk about what is in amendment 2, I want to mention what isn’t in it.

A substantial part of our amendment was deleted by Federal Conference Committee on the grounds that it could be better dealt with by questions at future conferences.

The deleted points were a list of actions that we wanted the Federal Policy Committee, the Federal Conference Committee, the Federal Exec, the Federal Finance and Administration Committee and the Party President to commit to.

There is a real danger that we will all assent to this motion, and go away with a lovely warm feeling about community politics, but that our practices, as a party and as individuals, will not change.

So we give notice that at conferences next year we will be asking questions about the steps taken by party bodies to achieve the aspirations in lines 31 to 49.

To return to amendment 2.

Kingston believes in Community Politics.

We encourage public participation at every level of decision making.

Years ago we devolved everything we could to Neighbourhoods (known elsewhere as Area Committees), including the relevant budgets. Community plans are drawn up by local communities; public assets are managed by communities.

We developed strong relationships with our community partners, long before we learnt to use that term.

As a result of our experience we felt that some of the wording of the motion was not brave enough.

Line 33 of the motion claims that our role as political activists is to “help organise people”.

That is too top-down in tone, hence we suggest that our role should be to “help empower, enable and encourage people in communities to take and use power”

We proposed adding in a new point:

"Conference calls for ... The principle of subsidiarity to be adopted by elected representatives at all levels of government, ensuring that decision-making is devolved to the lowest feasible, democratically accountable level".


Our new point refers to subsidiarity.

The party gives very little guidance on local government.

Yes, we have advice about leadership, about running a group, about working with officers, but the really important stuff – how to build a liberal democracy at local level – is left to us to work out on our own.

This extra point gets us started on the right path.

We then proposed a change to point 3 in the motion:

"Conference calls for ... Politicians at all levels of the party to ensure dialogue with the communities they serve through 'pavement politics' including: residents surveys, street surgeries, public meetings and effective use of social media."

so that it reads:

"Conference calls for ... Politicians at all levels of the party to listen and respond to the communities they serve by engaging with community groups and by seeking out those without advocates, and to ensure dialogue and personal contact through 'pavement politics' including: residents surveys, street surgeries, public meetings and effective use of social media."M/p>


And finally, we deal with point 3 in the motion. This does give the impression that Community Politics is about the specific techniques labelled pavement politics.

To quote from The Theory and Practice of Community Politics:

“Community Politics is not a technique. It is an ideology, a system of ideas for social transformation.”

Communities have lives of their own independent of us.

It is not enough to set up and control a process of dialogue, we should be embedded in our communities, listening to our neighbours where they are, and identifying the voiceless.

Published by Mary Reid, 126 Clayton Road, Hook Chessington KT9 1NJ
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