Author Archive

‘share’ spamming on Google+

Can you spam people using Google+?

Yes – using the ‘share’ function.

Just now, I got an item in my stream from one ‘Mac MacPherson’. From looking at this ‘incoming’ item, you can clearly see that Google+ lets people who you don’t know and who don’t know you push things at you. Great.

So I tried it out myself. Here’s how you do it. First, publish your piece of mega-spam to your stream. Make sure it contains plenty of calls to actions and links to your Viagra store or Forex trading platforms (or whatever else you’re pushing at people).

1) When you’ve published your lump of spam, click the ‘share’ link underneath it.

2) Delete any circles

3) Start to type ANY name you like in the circle / name field (G+ will kindly fill it for you with tons of people you don’t know and who don’t know you)

4) When you’ve finished adding names, click the green ‘Share’ button

5) Those people will get a notification in their stream that you want to share something with them. They either have to view your post or they can choose to delete it by clicking the little ‘x’

However, the cute bit is that even if they choose to delete you from their stream, they will still have got a notification email from the Google+ noreply containing the full content of your spamming post.

Unless Google does something about this, I think we can expect G+ to drown in a deluge of spam.

Tin Eye reverse image search engine

Tin Eye is a great tool for finding out who uses your images online…

I went to a school reunion last weekend. One of my old school friends is now a bit of a ‘business guru’ and, inspired by the 30 year interval between seeing people, blogged about change – including a picture of a yellow road sign reading ‘change ahead’.

‘I wonder how many times that sign’s been used?’ I thought to myself – and went to consult Tin Eye, an amazing image reverse search engine. You upload the image you’re interested in (a screen grab of the yellow sign picture in my case), hit a button and in seconds it will find a whole list of instances where that image has been used. Since the file names of all these occurrences are different, this operation can only be by analysis of the bitmap itself – quite some mind-boggling feat.

Tin Eye found 17 instances of this image (but I’m sure there are a lot more out there). In each case, the wording had been changed but Tin Eye found it anyway based on the overall composition of the picture. I decided to add mine to the list but be a bit more… honest about it :-)

Long time no post…

It’s been quite a while since I posted anything on this site but for the last couple of years I’ve been very busy moderating and replying to comments. Most of these have come from people who have been conned by one of the many scams that I’ve looked into on this site.

‘Misleading contract’ business directory scams

A huge number of these people have been victims of ‘business directory’ scams. These trick people into signing a ‘contract’ for roughly €3,000 and then follow up with demands and finally threats from so-called debt collectors (in reality the same people as the scammers). Something like 4% of people snared pay out of fear or desperation. Given the sheer volume of these entrapping forms sent out each year, that’s millions of euro every year just for bullying people over the phone and with a few letters.

The good news is that my posts about these scams are high up in Google meaning that people who have got caught in the trap can find this site and in doing so, read and contribute to the thousands of comments from other people like them. The even better news is that this body of evidence shows that no-one has ever been taken to court by any of these scams. That makes for reassuring reading.

Another neat thing we achieved was to put our warnings about the fake ‘debt collection agencies’ these scams use high up into Google. As soon as someone receives a scary demand from – say ‘ICAA Cyprus Ltd’ on behalf of Expo Guide – they find this site and all the reassuring comments BEFORE they find ICAA’s own (rather 1-dimensional) website.

‘Prize draw promotions’

I can report that – as of the last couple of months – there has been a marked drop-off in ‘prize promotion’ activity. In these thinly-disguised scams, people receive letters telling them they have won a confirmed prize and should contact the company to claim. These promotions are designed to make the ‘lucky winner’ pay to get their prize. On average, the ‘cost’ to claim the prize has been around £15 (extracted through a range of methods such as premium-rate claim lines and insurances). In many, many cases people who paid that money received nothing. Where they did, it was often a throwaway Chinese digital camera with a value of about £2.50.

This scam was designed to appeal to people who are vulnerable and whose judgment is impaired whether through youth, naiivety, mental or other health problems. Finally, in February of 2011, The Office Of Fair Trading (OFT) finally got the UK’s #1 operator of these rip-offs into the High Court last year. Ross-on-Wye based McIntyre & Dodd Marketing Ltd was found to be operating unlawfully and ordered to stop the practice. To our surprise, these people (part of DM Plc) carried on mailing their letters for a couple of months after this ruling – judging by the comments that still regularly arrived in waves to coincide with each new M&D direct mail-out.

The good news is that – for the last couple of months at least – M&D appears to have stopped the mail-outs under the usual sounding names like ‘Community Awards Register’, ‘NB – Botification Bureau’ and ‘Unclaimed Prize Register’ etc etc. The traffic for those titles and for ‘McIntyre & Dodd Marketing Ltd’ has dropped right off – I’m pleased to announce. Let’s hope it won’t start up again under some other guise – although, to be quite honest, I fully expect it to at any moment.

Peter Popoff and his ‘Miracle Debt Cancellation’

This US ‘preacher’ was exposed by James Randi as being a complete and total fake. I was surprised, therefore, to see him sometime in the last year or two on UK TV (on ‘The Gospel Channel’ from Iceland) peddling his wares. A quick Google search for ‘Peter Popoff’ will show you just how much hatred this nasty con man has aroused. Google’s ‘popular searches’ feature tells a clear story: peter popoff prison / peter popoff miracle water / peter popoff fake / peter popoff false prophet.

“Peter Popoff is a mother fucker” says one non-fan on his blog. “Born again but still a religious fraud” says another. “Peter Popoff, back to his old tricks” is yet another. Even RipoffReport has a feature on this toad. Why isn’t he in prison, asks a chunk of the internet population. I’ve no idea – sadly, and there’s no sign of him stopping yet.

TouchLocal

There is still a constant trickle of traffic into this site for the heinous keyphrase “touchlocal sc*m”. Why? Because someone out there isn’t happy with what they’re getting from TouchLocal. Nothing unusual about that but a couple of years ago it bubbled over into a bit of a problem. By publishing unhappy customer comments here, TL were forced to communicate with those customers. A very small number were resolved (better than none) and – under threat from TL – I agreed to take the thread down. Immediately after, TouchLocal tried to play some games to stuff the top of Google search with their own copy for the keyphrase – with the result that they looked like a business with something to hide.

Let’s hope things are improving for TouchLocal’s customers, ordinary non-computer literate business folk just hoping for a little extra business…

PayPal

This one isn’t going away. We’re still getting regular horror-stories from people whose livelihoods are being ruined by PayPal when it freezes their accounts or does strange and, let’s face it, unacceptable-sounding things. My best advice at the time didn’t feel like much help even then – and I suspect that PayPal hasn’t got any more accountable (or regulatable) as it’s got bigger.

Amazon.com/co.uk

I’m pleased to be able to say that the all the traffic to this site for Amazon (and there’s been a lot of it) has shown that, apart from frustration at the company’s unwillingness to highlight its customer service phone number, most people are extremely satisfied with the quality of customer service they DO get when they get through to an agent.

This is exactly the experience I had in the beginning that prompted me to post. Keep up the good work Amazon – and why not make your customer service numbers more accessible? That way you’ll have even more advocates singing your praises worldwide.

..and so

It’s coming time to re-think this site and what I want to do with it.

What I’ve learned is that it is very satisfying to be able to help prevent people from being ripped off and save them from unnecessary worry and stress. In a cruel world that thinks its ok to rip people off because they didn’t see the trap coming, I’m pleased to have made some difference. But it takes a bit of effort and involves a bit of risk, too – so it’s time to consider where we go from here.

iPhone Explorer solves stupid Apple problem

Free utility iPhone Explorer does what Apple should always have done…

It lets you access the data on your own iPhone – just like a proper grown up.

I took an audio recording of a client presentation today. It was critical that I had this audio file in order to play it back to some people who weren’t able to attend and to transcribe the content in text form. The Apple voice memo app has (to my mind) always been sorely lacking in the control department. Once you’ve recorded your audio, there’s no clear ‘click to save this’ option. You find yourself clicking the pause button which takes you to the file storage area.. where you hope your file has been stored.

Today, it appeared to tell me that my 46 minute file had recorded. But to my horror, when I tried to access the file on my iPhone although it said it was there, it ominously wouldn’t play it. Nor would it sync that file to the MacBook (although it synced another from the same session).

A quick Google search revealed a free little utility called ‘iPhone Explorer’.

Fantastic. Not only could I see my iPhone without Apple’s annoying iTunes getting in the way, but – miracles! – I could drag and copy the file that neither the iPhone or iTunes could play to my MacBook desktop. Once there, I was able to open it in Bias Peak, edit away, then levelate it and get it off to my client for reference.

Brilliant. All thanks to iPhone Explorer – and no thanks to Apple’s voice memo app and iTunes.

Vital Beauty: scam or not? You decide…

Is Vital Beauty ‘prize’ promotion a scam?

As always, you the great Googling public will decide. I’ll just give you some space to air your views. Please feel free to leave a comment.

Vital Beauty sells cosmetics but misleads people into thinking they’ve won money as a way of drawing them into it’s marketing trap. It’s been in trouble before with OFT before and – like our other scammy friends McIntyre and Dodd Marketing Ltd – were ordered to stop misleading customers.

But, just like the recent judgment against M&D, this High Court ruling seems to have made little or no difference – judging by the phone call I got from a very concerned Mr C from Romsey. According to him, Vital Beauty has carried right on sending out these ‘prize promotions’ and he’s got a big bag of letters to prove it.  A quick Google search shows the company has been doing this for over 3 years now. Penman and Sommerlad at the Mirror have been reporting on this for a while. This TV news item will tell you pretty much all you need to know about Vital Beauty.

This country is awash with scams aimed at vulnerable people and you can bet, in these tough times, it’s going to get worse. Given the total impotence of the law and bodies like OFT to control them, it really is no surprise.

Is Vital Beauty a scam? I know what I think but as always, I’ll leave it to you decide for yourself. When you’ve made up your mind, don’t forget to share your experience to help prevent other people from wasting their

For more information on ‘prize promotions’ scams visit the ‘thinkJessica’ website.

Flip Ultra HD not charging?

Is your Flip Ultra HD camera not charging?

Cut away the plastic so the 'slope' of the tab isn't covered

I bought one of these. Love the video quality, hate the unreliability of the recharging process.

I’ve only managed to charge it successfully once – which is why it’s currently lined up for return. Mine came with odd ‘dimples’ on the ends of the batteries (like someone had poked them with something) and plastic cut away around the tops of the battery.

A bit of research showed me that a lot of people are having the same problem with this device. The main fix out there says to cut away the plastic sheathing the batteries where it overlaps the top end of the batteries. I tried that but still it wouldn’t charge again – not directly from the MacBook USB, or from a mains USB charger or even a USB extender connected to the MacBook. I.e. nothing.

I registered to return the item, printed out the returns forms and read one more bit of advice: to cut away the plastic around the smaller of the two plastic ‘arrow’ tabs on the battery (the one that points into the body of the camera when the battery is in place). I presume that tab tells the camera that the battery is inserted it.

'Dimpled' battery end like someone hit it with something??

I noticed that the plastic sheathing on my battery came up to, and slightly over the ‘step’ on that tab. Logic told me that, as a result, the tab probably wouldn’t seat fully – and possibly, therefore, not do its job. So I cut that away too.

The result is that – at this moment – the camera IS charging (attached to the MacBook by an extender cable – mainly because it doesn’t sit properly when plugged directly into the MacBook due to the different depths of each gadget). That’s handy because I need it tomorrow.

Note right contact: is it supposed to look like this?

For the moment, this camera is in limbo. If my ‘repair’ has cured it, I might avoid the hassle and keep it – despite the clearly ‘pre-owned’ battery (and the ‘pre-owned’ mark on the lens) because, in reality, all I’d get back would be a camera I’d have to do the same DIY fix on anyway.  Flip – that’s a pity. You need to take ownership of this design flaw and make this ‘fix’ mainstream to avoid getting a poor reputation.

Charging now... but for how long?


LG condenser dryer not heating?

Has your LG condenser dryer stopped heating?? Read this before you spend another £500

** Online reputation boost due to howtomendit.com and the internet generally!! **

Same happened to us this morning. Can’t live without one. Can’t (frankly) be arsed to start thinking about ‘repair man’ (if such a reliable person can even be found any more?). So started immediately thinking about just buying another. Hell, we’ve had this one running continuously for 4 years – it’s not as if it hasn’t seen good service.

But before spending another £500 I went to our friend Google.

And discovered that if your LG condenser dryer stops heating, you might want to take off the back metal panel (after switching off from the mains, of course) – whereapon you’ll find a little red reset switch.

If you press that little red reset switch, the dryer will start heating again. At least mine has.

I’m not sure it’s a permanent fix (there’s something about the filter sensors increasingly coming on – but no idea of how to get to those sensors to clean them…) – but I’ve just done it and it worked for now.

Thank you Internet. :-) I’m suddenly £500 better off than I was about to be. Nice.

Two other things:

1) LG – why don’t you paste a little note on the machine itself saying “If your heater element should stop working…”

2) LG – why don’t you print your little instruction stickers that you DO have on the machine upside down in future? That way I’ll actually be able to read them when I’m on my hands and knees trying to fix the unit (instead of putting the ‘right’ way up at floor level?)

Samsung LE40B550 control panel not working?

Has your Samsung LE40B550 control panel (the bit that receives the remote control signals) suddenly stopped working?

Mine did today. And after an extremely frustrating online search (which provided NO results for that queston hence the title of my post) I learned two remarkable things.

So if you’re here because your Samsung LE40B550 control panel has suddenly stopped working try the following:

1) Point your remote control at your phone’s camera and press the buttons while viewing through your camera’s screen. If it’s working, you’ll see the light flashing (you can’t see this with the naked eye). Neat?

2) Next, move your AppleTV box out from under the corner of the Samsung TV where the control panel unit inside the TV is situated.

Presto! I moved the AppleTV box 8 inches forward and the Samsung remote started working immediately.

I’ll leave the technical explanations to someone else, meantime, if you do happen to be in that same situation then there’s a slim chance this post might help you. :-)

Dixons customer service: finding out the hard way

How good is Dixons’ customer service? If I ever get through to them I’ll let you know

I made the mistake of buying a laptop for my son’s 18th birthday from Dixons.

As I checked out, I was given a delivery slot of 23rd of Dec between 5 and 8pm. As it happened, we weren’t able to be home at that time but there was no note to indicate that a delivery had been attempted.

On Christmas eve, I tried to login to Dixons’ website to track my delivery. When my password didn’t work. I initiated a password reset. Twice. I didn’t receive an email from either. I also found that I had no confirmation of purchase emails either. A friend thinks this has to do with my email hosting provider. Maybe – but I think it may have to do with Dixons not sending them in the first place.

Today, I headed for Dixons’ website to begin the painful process of trying to contact Customer Services. I say painful because according to the reviews I’ve since read, I’m going to be in for a miserable time. I was concerned to find the website down – leaving only that distinctly unprofessional landing page. I checked out @dixonsonline on Twitter but found only a cheery message from Christmas Eve. Talk about missing the point of social media. What’s the point in staying silent when people most need to hear from you?

UPDATE 28th December

I blogged about this problem (no response). Tweeted about it (no reply). I went to Get Satisfaction – a forum that connects people needing customer service with the businesses they’re customers via a highly visible pubic platform – and found a lot of other people very unhappy at Dixons’ service. I also noticed some very good customer service agents at work there, to the company’s credit.

I lifted the email address of one of their agents from someone’s thread and emailed her directly outlining the situation and inviting her to help.

Within a couple of hours I had a response. A very efficient, polite and helpful response too. Hopefully, they’ll sort out my missing laptop tomorrow and deliver it to my son’s address…

I am impressed by the skills of the people representing Dixons on the Get Satisfaction website. I don’t think, however, that many people would find their way there as it’s not clearly linked from Dixons’ website and, when all’s said and done, if Dixons’ are paying cheap and employing rubbish couriers to deliver, then they deserve the reputation it seems they’re getting.

If you’re stuck, I can heartily advise going to Get Satisfaction and talking to the Dixons people on there. They, at least, know how to treat people well – thanks!

The Physicians Register: Scam or not? You decide….

Is the Physicians Register another misleading contract form scam?

As always, you the great Googling global public will decide.

Our aim is just to collect the experiences of ‘customers’ of this directory and let them speak for themselves. Why? to help you decide whether The Physicians Register is a scam or not.

The title ‘Physicians Register’ came to my attention the other day when a lady from a NHS PCT emailed me with some updates for her entry into some unspecified directory of GP surgeries. I emailed her back to first let her know that I don’t actually run such adirectory and second, ask whether or not she was expecting a ‘free’ listing in a directory such as TEMDI.

From her replies I learned that she had mailed back the form (“but I haven’t sent any money”) and was convinced that the reason she had emailed ME with amendments was because MY contact details “pop up on the Physicians Register website”.

As of today, I’ve not been able to find ‘The Physicians Register’ website – although it’s clear that the scam is at least on the radar of the Londonwide Local Medical Committees. Until this practice manager in question emails me back with the actual website she’s talking about, I’ll carry on trying to find out what she’s talking about. I suspect that, in fact, she’s fallen foul TEMDI – the ‘European Medical Directory’.

I also doubt that the people behind these directories (formerly ‘Novachannel AG’ and now ‘UNITED Directorios, Lda’) would put my contact details on their website since I’d do a pretty good job of dissuading any victim contacting me from paying them – lols. I think what’s happened is that this lady has searched ‘TEMDI’ and found my critical posts as no.2 in the search result (and the only entry to use the acronym TEMDI) and clicked on that, gone straight to my contact details.

It almost goes without saying that the most likely victims of this practice are those with the least online skills and the least ability to smell a very big, old hairy rat.

More to follow when we find out if ‘The Physicians Register’ is in fact TEMDI.

So.. if you’ve fallen foul of something called ‘The Physicians Register’ and found yourself on the receiving end of demands for nearly 3,000 euro – please use the comment function (below) to answer the following questions:

• Did you think you were getting a free listing?

• Do YOU think the Physicians Register is a scam?