Adventures in Malware Scammerland

Two or three months ago an annoying thing kept happening (it seems to have stopped now, though, not knowing how these things work, I don’t know if they’ve wised up to me, got arrested, or just moved on to something else in general).

scam 3

Anyway, the annoying thing was this: there I’d be, doing something on my computer, when all of a sudden my browser would freeze and a message like the one in the photo would appear. Clicking on other tabs did nothing. Initially, I confess, I was a bit disconcerted — but we have so many firewalls and security thingies here that… hmm… somehow a malware attack just didn’t seem very probable. But whatever I had been doing on the computer before this interruption was fairly boring and I felt like a little entertainment, so I rang the number given — and had a very enjoyable half hour on the phone with one of the scammers who set up this silly fake alert thingy.  I played along with the fiction that I was calling a legit Microsoft help desk, and went from totally thick (pretending to think my browser was Windows 10), through mystified (claiming that none of what he suggested was doing what he said it should do), to nigh-on hysterical (blaming him for breaking my computer). And then… just as he was about to ask me for money… I told him he was incompetent, I’d just take it back to the shop on Monday — and hung up on him. Hehe 🙂

A week or two later, the same (or a similar) thing happened again. That time, whatever I was doing was either more interesting or urgent, so I didn’t feel inclined to have time-wasting chats with naughty scammers. Instead I went for the simple fix:
1. go to Task Manager
2. close down browser
3. reopen new browser session (i.e. don’t click ‘[Your browser] didn’t close down correctly. Reopen closed tabs‘)

And this was the pattern for the next few weeks — one of these scareware doodahs would appear, claiming to be from Microsoft, or Yahoo, or Virgin, or, well, a whole range of reputable-sounding sources, and I’d either get rid of it or, if bored, phone the number. This was the best one:

I rang the ‘support line’ and dutifully followed all their instructions (well, I didn’t, but I pretended I did) and said that I was seeing what they said I should be seeing. This time I managed to get them to the point of telling me that I had a Malware problem and they could send me something or another to fix the problem; did I have my credit card handy?

I said, oh no, it wouldn’t be me paying; it wasn’t my computer. It would be my boss who’d have to deal with that side of things, but he was in a meeting with the Chief Constable until 5 o’clock.

“The Chief—?” said the scammer.
“Constable,” I supplied, helpfully. “We’re at Police Headquarters in Manchester” (we weren’t).
“Oh, we cannot help you, Madam. We deal only with private individuals,” spluttered the scammer and hung up on me before you could say “arrest warrant”. I wonder why?

Don’t even go there

I recently came across an article which listed twenty five questions that, it claimed, would help even the most socially-inept individual come across as charming and an excellent conversationalist. Erm… no. These are not, as the article proclaims, ’25 Good Questions to Ask People’ — or not just that: maybe it was initially ’25 Good Questions to Ask People if You Want Your Head Flushed Down the Toilet’ but they ran out of space?

Anyway, these are the questions… and, in case you were foolhardy enough to think of asking me any of them, my responses thereto.

1. What is your best childhood memory?
~Umm… I try not to think about my childhood. It wasn’t bad; just so long ago it doesn’t seem relevant.

2. If you had a chance for a “do-over” in life, what would you do differently?
~Nothing — I have no regrets; everything — it’d be interesting to see what the result would have been. But it’s a stupid question because it can’t happen.

3. How did the two of you meet?
~Do I know you? How is that any of your business?

4. What do you feel most proud of?
~Ya wot? How does one rank one’s achievements?

5. What is your favorite music?
~I’m not a great music lover. I quite like lots of things, some more than others depending on my mood, but I certainly don’t have a ‘favorite’ [sic].

6. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go and why?
~I wouldn’t. I’d live in Catalonia, but I hate travelling.

7. If you could only keep five possessions, what would they be?
~Hmm… tell you what, I’m just gonna slap you now. Any more stupid questions like this and I’ll think seriously about flushing your head down the toilet, OK?

8. What teacher in school made the most impact on you and why?
~Don’t think any did.

9. What do you want your tombstone to say?
~Couldn’t care less — I won’t be here to know about it.

10. What was one of your most defining moments in life?
~Haven’t had any. Man is the sum of his past commitments (hey, let’s be existentialist here) so no individual moment is of any more importance than any other.

11. Why did you choose that profession?
~Didn’t. Never have. I just drift into things. And I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

12. How do you spend your free time?
~I don’t have ‘free time’. I just have my life.

13. If you won the lottery, what would you do?
~Gawd, how I hate these speculative questions. I have no idea what I’d do as it’s probably not going to happen and I have no wish to dwell on, and depress myself by thinking about, all the fantastic things I’ll never be able to do.

14. Who do you most admire in life?
~ Whom*. And no one. I respect many people; I admire none.

15. What are your top three favorite books and why?
~No, just no. I have read quite literally thousands of books in my lifetime (say an average of 10 a month for the last 45 years) and you think I can narrow it down to three I like more than the rest?

16. What are you most afraid of?
~Spiders. Full stop.

17. What feels like love to you?
~Remember I slapped you for asking me Question #7? And what I said I’d do if you didn’t desist from such crass stupidity? Well, you haven’t desisted, have you? So I’m now going to flush your head down the toilet — repeatedly. When I stop, that’ll be what love feels like.

18. What is your strongest personal quality?
~My ability to flush idiots’ heads down toilets.

19. What was your most embarrassing moment?
~OK… I can answer this one; but only because it’s nowhere near as embarrassed as you must be feeling right now with all that toilet water dribbling down your neck. On the tube in London during the morning rush hour, still half asleep, I notice that the train has already stopped in my station and I’m still sitting down. I leap to my feet — only to discover that the man next to me has his foot on the bottom of my elasticated-waist skirt. Everyone in the compartment got to see my less-sexy-than-I’d-have-liked undies… and the train pulled out so I had to stay in the same train until the next stop.

20. If you were president, what is the first thing you would do?
~Slap you for asking me this question (and then, in quick succession, flush your head down the toilet… again).

21. What age do you feel right now and why?
~I don’t. I have no idea what ‘feeling an age’ is. I just feel like me.

22. If you could witness any event of the past, present, or future, what would it be?
~Do’h… if it’s in the future how the flying F am I supposed to know what it is? If it’s in the past, either I’ve already seen it or it’s been documented enough for actual eyeballing to seem unnecessary.

23. What is a skill you’d like to learn and why?
~None comes to mind — if one did, I’d be learning it, not sitting here answering your stupid questions. There again, a course in advanced head-flushing might not come amiss.

24. What does a perfect day look like to you?
~Oh, FFS. You really enjoy having your head flushed down the toilet, don’t you?

25. How would your friends describe you?
~Sigh. How about you stop pestering me with this nonsense and go ask them?

Bags of confusion

A day or two after (part of) the UK’s new policy to charge customers for plastic carrier bags (apparently in a bid to be more eco-friendly by reducing non-biodegradable waste), I went Asda.

I decided to buy some of their fancy bread rolls, the ones that contain seeds and olives and stuff and are sold loose. Last time I bought these, customers helped themselves and put them into one of the paper bags provided. The system hasn’t changed. The bags have, though. Now they’re plastic…

Double standards much?

STOP PRESS: Some Zargoggogleans are wankers; others aren’t!

I’m not sure if I’ve just noticed it or if it’s a new phenomenon (or even two separate phenomena), but many people on social media platforms seem to have either taken a distinct turn for the racist/sexist OR gone completely the other way and become obsessed with not being even slightly racist/sexist.

So let me explain. In this world there are some truly lovely people and some absolute shits (with most of us falling somewhere between those extremes). This loveliness or shittiness has nothing to do with race, religion, sex, gender, or anything else like that. It may have something to do with the individual’s past life experience, but more probably, it’s just how that person is.

If you’ve only met, say, one being from the planet Zargogoggle, and that being was an absolute wanker, then OK, you might be a bit wary of the next Zargogogglean you meet, but give them a chance — just think how many absolute wankers of your own species you’ve encountered at one time or another! The next Zargogogglean you meet might be the nicest entity you’ve ever encountered.

Having said that, if someone refers to the Zargogoggleans as ‘space aliens’ when the preferred, politically correct term is ‘extra-terrestrial lifeforms’, then think about the intention behind the words and not just the words themselves. Not everyone is up to speed on what is acceptable and what’s frowned upon, and situations can occur for which — even with the best endeavours to remain current — one is unprepared and still using last year’s lexis.

Jumping up and down and having a fit of the screaming heebie-jeebies (apologies to anyone I’ve offended by implying that heebie-jeebies are invariably prone to hysteria) just because someone uses a slightly ‘wrong’ word, and consequently guilt-tripping them into feeling the need to censor their language to conform to a perceived non-offensive agenda, impoverishes both human interaction and the quality of language itself. Ultimately, whatever terminology a person uses will be offensive to someone, somewhere, for some reason. Unless we all take vows of silence and refrain from making any sort of gesture with our hands or bodies, we’re pretty much bound to screw up eventually. Such is life.

Oh, and by the way, if I wanted to insult the Zargogoggleans, I wouldn’t just call them ‘space aliens’, I’d call them ‘googly-eyed slime monsters from Mars’, thus showing my extraopthalmophobia and my ignorance of their provenance (everyone in their right minds knows that Zargogoggle is millions of light years away from Mars, d’oh).

Nominative determinism?

I frequently get friend requests on Facebook from people I don’t know and with whom I share no connexions.

Today’s request comes from a woman called LaTrine. Did her parents hate her or were they just  a bit dim?

Friend: “Aww, she’s so cute. What’s her name?”
Mum: “Well, we were thinking of calling her Serena, but she’s not a very calm baby. She does nothing but pee and poo and then cry because she’s just peed and pooed — all the effin’ time.”
Friend: “Ooh! I know the perfect name for her!”

Dramatis Personae

Sometimes I feel that people’s lives, mine included, should come with a list of Dramatis Personae.

The other day, I was talking to a friend on the phone and she, quite reasonably, kept referring to various people whom I know she’s mentioned before but whose identity and relationships to her and each other completely escaped me. When I was totally confused, I did interrupt and say ‘so who’s Andrew, again?’ and ‘Steph is Ruth’s partner, yeah?’ and the like, but most of the time, I just hoped it either wouldn’t matter or would become clear with time.

I’m now aware that, since I started work (p/t) and found a new (talented, capable, reliable) man to make my prints, I’m kinda going to the other extreme and saying ‘Barney (that’s my boss) says…’ and ‘I’ll have to ask Pete (that’s my lovely new repro man) if…’ which is probably making my interlocutors scream inwardly ‘Stop telling me who Barney/Pete is! I know already!’

Plays have a list of Dramatis Personae; some books have a list of Dramatis Personae; life totally needs a list of Dramatis Personae. Now!