Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Scams: Tis the Season

It's the holiday season, and the scams are all hard at work.

This morning I had two scams and one legit email all side-by-side in my inbox so I figured the cyber-gods are telling me I should stop jumping up and down on Facebook and write something useful. I later received a third scam.

So I am looking at:

 - an amateur scam
 - a better scam
 - a scary credit card scam
 - a completely legit update email

It used to be you could not rely on the From line of an email. These days you can more often, but now they insert clever typo domains.

In all cases, what you want to do is:

 - Check the From line
 - Hover over the link that's in the email to check where it want to send you.

Amateur Scam

The From line is completely unrecognizable, and could very well be from France, but we really don't care.

The email looked like:

"We hereby announce" is pretty hilarious in an of itself, but what you need to do is HOVER (don't click) your mouse over the Click to Verify link and see where it wants to take you.

That link says: 

What's important here is that it's a site you don't recognize and have no interest in. It usually is someone else's site that has been broken into and a cyber-intruder has place malware on it.

At this point, you should just delete the email.

A Slightly Better Scam

This one is better because it has names you might recognize but the technique for dealing with it are the same.

The From line says: 

Note the spelling:
That's not legit

The actual email I received is:

Again, hover over the "Login with Amazon" link.

It says: 

Poor has been broken into and has nothing to do with Amazon.

Again, just delete the email.

A Scary Credit Card Scam

This scam is just like all the others, but when it comes to your credit card, as soon as you spot it, it's best to just delete it and then go to your bank's website directly.

The thing that makes this so obvious is the scary "we regret to inform you tone" that your bank never uses. The other thing is the implied threat of it. You won't be able to do your usual banking unless you do X. Which mostly means click here and enter in your login and password. Thank you very much.

You bank will never do this. If they want your attention, they call or send paper letters. Even if you've gone paperless, this is not what they do. If you're not sure of something call them or log into their website yourself.

A Legit Email

Here is a legit email from It has a link that is ok.

If you hover over Track My Order you see:
May look funny, but it really does end with and belongs to them.

The important thing is to read the domain name all the way up to the "/"

Sometimes they will try to fool you with something like:

If you're not sure about an email, then don't click on anything, but go to the vendor's website directly. This is always the safest approach.

Surf safely.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Technology on Wheels Sort-of (AKA My Effing Prius)

[This is stolen from my writing blog. I can't resist putting it here since it fits better here anyway.]

I'm an IT professional and I love putting advanced tech into my fictional world.
But the frustration with technology transfers easily from world to world.

I may make my living from tech, but that doesn't mean that life with my Toyota Prius is smooth at all. We actually have a very rocky relationship. It's a family car, so I don't drive it all the time which makes me always a step behind the smart-ass thing. It's devilishly skilled at getting under my skin without even trying.

I was making an evening run to Walgreens to pick up medicine for my dog. While not in a huge hurry, I was definitely on a mission. I pull into the lot and park without issue. I don't know if you have had experience with Priuses or other cars like it, but you can lock it by pressing a spot on the door handle IF you have done all the [to borrow from the sexist named game of Mother-May-I] tasks that make it happy. So out of the car I go, close the door, press the magic spot on the door handle and I get a BEEEP. The You've-Done-Something-Wrong beep. Oh, I forgot to turn off the car so I open the door and press the Off button, close the door, and BEEEP. "What?" Open the door and the console says something on the order of "You forgot your key dummy."

With the Prius you don't insert a key it just has to be in the car... somewhere... I dig the key out of my purse that was on the seat. Ok. Good to go. Close the door and BEEEP. Argh! I am now trying not to just yell "I Hate This Car." and kick it repeatedly.

I open the door again and the dashboard says "You forgot to turn the car off idiot." (I had inadvertently turned it back on again during this dance.) Telling said car just what I think of it, I smash the off button, semi-slam the door. lock it, and try not to storm into the store.

Not a Prius fan, but it's pure inspiration for a writer.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Making Looking for a Job More Fun

I spent a year unemployed looking for work.
While my computer skill set is broad and highly sought after, getting the best jobs is often competitive and the most skilled jobs for a while were mainly inside the San Francisco city limits and I didn't want to have to make that daily commute. I finally did give up on not going into SF and interviewed there as well. While I eventually found something closer to home, at the end I was casting a wide net.

I was lucky because I did have the resources to cover my expenses once my six month unemployment ran out though I did have to do more explaining about the gap in my employment. Fortunately, I could completely tell the truth. I was tired of being laid off (three times), and I burned months looking for a government (not federal) job. Then I could easily segue into all the topics I'd learned during the time. Given that learning is a huge part of my profession, they heard me.

With all that said, looking for a job turned out to be a very positive experience for me. It was stressful and frustrating at times, but a lot of good things happened. Completely irrelevant to my topic, it gave me time to spend with the last few months of my very senior dog's life which was an unexpected gift. However that wasn't under my control. What was under my control was my attitude about looking for work, and to make myself see the positive aspects.

1. I got to talk to and meet a lot of people.
This is something I actually very much enjoy. The interviewers were almost always interesting to talk to and wanted to explain what the job would be like and what the company was like. In some respects, they have to sell the job to you. They want to make it sound appealing and for the most part they succeed. Job descriptions seem to be designed to sound intimidating. The interviews are the reverse of that. Even when they're asking hard questions they are not there to put you down or to frighten you. They are looking for that elusive "fit."

2 I got to go to a lot of work places.
If you get through the phone interview process, you will likely be invited for an on-site interview where you spend 2-5 hours at the job site talking to a lot of people. In two situations I had to make a presentation of something I had worked on. Sometimes I'd be talking to a roomful of people, but for the most part I would be talking to 1-2 people for 30 minutes to an hour and then the people would switch. They were always good about offering me water or coffee though I always bring my own in a Nalgene bottle that wouldn't leak if it got knocked over.

3. I got a lot of practice interviewing and got very good at it.
You will get sick of talking about yourself and repeating the same stories over and over, but they've never heard the stories before. There are a limited number of questions they can ask you, sure they will come up with a new one every so often, but practice the ones you know they will ask. Examples are: "What was a project where you have the a lot of impact on the outcome?" "If you had it to do over again what would you have done differently?" "What was a project that didn't work out so well?" "What would you have changed about that?" "Describe a bad situation and what did you do to resolve it?"

4. I had the time to learn even more.
I now have a considerable collection of online classes, and I put completed classes at the end of my resume. When I started putting the courses on my resume, I thought no one would pay attention to it. How wrong I was. Continuing education is such an important part of my profession that a very common question was: "How do you keep up with current issues in your field?" A question would come up: "Have you worked with X?", and I would answer: "I've worked with Y, but I've studied X in detail." And then I would give enough detail to let them know that I was familiar with X.

5. Have canned examples of your work style that you can adapt to most questions.
Sometimes in my field, I'm asked to stand up in front of a white board and design something. It's usually not that arcane, but they want to see how you approach designing something. Have a couple of examples in your head that you can tailor to the situation. For me, one would be a diagram which usually looks like connected boxes and a different one being a set of instructions like computer code.

The most important thing is to look at your job search as a series of mini adventures. It helps keep it looking like less of a chore and a little more fun. Admittedly it's not fun, but it doesn't have to be torture.