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The Adventures of Roberts & Watson

I admit it – I harbor some belief in conspiracy theories. Mainly because some of them actually have merit. From the notebooks of Roberts & Watson, here are just a few.

The IRS Phone Scam

For example, do scammers target people they’ve identified and older and less technologically savvy? I would say: most likely. I recently got a persistent call on my cell phone from an unrecognized number. It was based in Arlington, VA (which, as you will see, turns out to be a somewhat clever spoof). I make it a rule not to pick up unidentified calls; if it’s legitimate, the caller will leave a message. In this case, the caller DID leave a message: “This is Adam Smith from the IRS fraud division. The matter at hand is extremely time sensitive and urgent as after audit we found that there was a fraud and misconduct on your tax which you are hiding from the federal government. This needs to be rectified immediately so do return the call as soon as you receive the message.” A number was provided.

I couldn’t help myself —though I will say the Arlington, VA spoofed phone number was a nice touch. However, the grammar, and the fact that the IRS will not contact you by phone but by mail were fairly concrete give-aways— I had to return the call and play along.

When the phone was picked up —on the first ring, and believe me, government agencies don’t pick up on the first ring as a rule — the person on the other end had a distinctive accent. I had a friend do the talking, who said, “Hello, I’m returning a call I received about an audit.” “This is Agent Smith, you have been audited and owe in the amount of $2182. This must be paid immediately.” “Oh, no,” my friend said. “I want to take care of this right away. Can you send someone over? I want to pay in cash. Have them come over right away.” Silence. “Can you do that? Can someone come over for the cash?” Silence. “Is it too far to come from where you are?” Click.

While most of this particular scam was obvious, the Arlington VA could have been alarming.

But always keep in mind, a phone number can be spoofed: “Caller ID spoofing is the practice of causing the telephone network to indicate to the receiver of a call that the originator of the call is a station other than the true originating station. For example, a Caller ID display might display a phone number different from that of the telephone from which the call was placed. Caller ID spoofing is the practice of causing the telephone network to indicate to the receiver of a call that the originator of the call is a station other than the true originating station. For example, a Caller ID display might display a phone number different from that of the telephone from which the call was placed.”  

The Case of  Windows 10 Fall Creators Update

I’m not certain that all users will have encountered the same problem, because not all networks (home or business) will be the same. However, shortly after one of my Windows 10 computers was updated, I began to see oddball “Computers” showing up on my network, which typically displays the 2 or 3 computers on the network, and a wireless printer. When I run Fing (an app that will test your home network), I will also see a couple of cell phones and my Kindle.

Now I was seeing “Austin,” and off and on another name or two. Having a student apartment near my home, I began to worry that someone was riding on my network (sorry to pick on students!) – and since I use it for work, I had to take precautions. First I reset the password to my network. No luck.

Another wrinkle: one of my computers was now not showing the other – though the reverse wasn’t true! I thought perhaps somehow one machine was sharing its drive and the other was not. Again, no luck.

I rebooted the network and the computers; I found that on occasion the computer that could not “see” the rest of the network would momentarily show my missing machine, but more often just display Austin or something else (which, when accessed, only showed a MAC address).

Some searching indicated that the Windows Fall Creators Update was causing havoc with many users’ networks, and the following fix was suggested:

“Please run network reset tool to see if it can resolve the issue:

1. Select the Start  button, then select Settings  > Network & Internet  > Status >

Network reset.

2. On the Network reset screen, select Reset now > Yes to confirm.

3. Wait for your PC to restart and see if that fixes the problem.

If it cannot resolve your issue, please submit this feedback via the built-in Feedback app. And roll back to previous build as a workaround temporarily.”

In my particular case, the fix didn’t seem to do the trick – so I made sure that the Fall Creators Update was installed on all the machines. This doesn’t eliminate the problem, but alleviates it. If I’m careful to shut down all the computers on the network when finishing work for the day, the network will  usually spring to life properly the next day. Not a good fix, but a fix nevertheless.

From what I see online, Microsoft is taking enough of a beating that the next “fix” should address this problem!

The Stop Revenge Porn With a Nude Photo Caper

This one stopped me in my tracks – Facebook wants you to *send a nude photo of yourself to them to prevent revenge porn?* Could this possibly be true?

Apparently so.

First, what’s “revenge porn?” This is when a former boyfriend or girlfriend who has nude or otherwise compromising photos of you (young people,beware – and think twice!) uses them on social media to punish you for crimes of the heart, real or imaginary.

Facebook’s “fix” was for you to send them your nude photo (the one you don’t want spread around), which it would then scan and upload it to an artificial intelligence database – presumably destroying the original. Then, by watching social media, the AI could, upon “seeing” the Embargoed Photo, “zap” it from existence whenever and wherever it appears. The program was being tested in late fall in Australia.

Clever. But a better solution: don’t share nude photos to begin with.

Though, in the Wild West of easily altered imagery, if someone really wants to mess with you, it’s almost impossible to stop.

Nancy Roberts
Writer, voice over artist, information achitect, very curious person.