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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Wait! Don't Click That Link!! (Or Answer That Call!)

Update!! When you're done reading my post, I found a pretty good explanation of how these bots work and why they hit our blogs on Wikipedia. Click HERE to read it. (It's OK... I clicked/read it and nothing bad happened, so I can attest to the fact that this is a safe link. lol)

Just a little warning/update about a new spammer that's been bombarding the blogosphere....

Please, be extremely careful and more importantly, DO NOT click on a referring URL link in your stats called:

top blog stories (dot) com (it will appear as one solid line without spaces in your stats)

I've posted about referring URL links in Blogger stats before, but I wanted to revisit this because there's a new culprit out there and it's looking a bit different. The rule of thumb for those of us who blog is that unless you recognize a link in your referral stats, (like a known blog or Pinterest, etc) you should never click on it, because 99% of the time it's referral spam. And while most of them are basically harmless, clicking on them will draw more "false" traffic hits and in turn, more spam comments to your blog. Well, it's looking like this particular link might not be so harmless.

I'm not sure how long this spammer has been around the blogosphere, but it showed up in my stats for the first time a couple of weeks ago. Overall, there's been an increase in referral spam over the last 6 to 8 months and I'm usually pretty good about spotting it right away, but I'll admit that I was almost fooled by this one. Luckily, something caused the hair on the back of my neck to stand up and stopped me from clicking that mouse.

I was curious, so you know me... I did a little research and according to the google/blogger forums, the link belongs to a really nasty and aggressive porn site, based out of Mumbai India. The word is, that if you click it, not only will it bombard your blog with considerably more of those false hits than the others, but some folks are claiming that it's downloading malware or spy ware onto their hard drives and some are even saying that they've been hacked after clicking the link. Now, these could just be rumors, but I sure don't want to take any chances.

What makes me nervous, is that this new breed of spammers is getting a lot more clever with their method of attack. More and more, they're using language or key words that are familiar to the blogging vernacular. I mean, think about it... With a name like "top blog stories", it wouldn't be hard to imagine seeing it in your stats and wondering if maybe it's some fancy schmancy new website that ranks or showcases blogs of a certain genre and maybe they've mentioned your blog. As bloggers that's one of those things that most of us would be flattered and excited to find out about, right?  Well, that's exactly what these bad guys are hoping for and to be honest, for about a nano-second, the thought actually crossed my mind.

It's not just the blogosphere that's under attack. Just about everyone that I know, has been seeing an increase in unsolicited phone calls, on both land lines and cell phones, from scammers who are masquerading as everything from survey takers to charitable organizations and even computer software companies! And it doesn't seem to matter whether you're on the National Do Not Call list, or not. We've been on it for years and it's worked well from the start, but we've been getting so many calls in recent months, that I went to the DNC website to make sure we were still listed.

We are. But we're still getting calls from these jerks on a daily basis. And 95% of  these calls aren't coming from fund raisers. Why would that make a difference? Well, groups or businesses that make calls for the sole purpose of raising money for charitable organizations, are exempt from the do not call list.

We never answer anything from 800 or blocked numbers, or strange area codes (like 000? what the heck is that?) but they've started using "real" area codes from cities around the U.S. and we've had some that are even using names of legit companies and organizations that they obviously have no legal affiliation with. One person called here recently and the only reason I answered it was because it was from the area code where our daughter lives. This guy actually had the cojones to say he was from Microsoft!

The phone call went something like this...

ringing phone photo: Ringing Phone Telephone-1.gif

Me:  Hello

Mr. "microsoft":  (in a very urgent voice) Hello, my name is (unintelligible name) from Microsoft. I am calling on behalf of your computer and it is very, very sick. Please go to your computer right aw....

Me:  (interrupting) I'm sorry? What? You're calling on behalf of who?

Mr. "microsoft":  Yes, ma'am. I'm calling on behalf of your computer. It is very sick and you must to go to it immediately and log on so...

Me:  Huh? Ha! (laughing out loud now, as I'm realizing how ridiculous this is) Uh... Noooo. My computer is just fine, thank you. G'bye!  Click.

I might have chuckled at the audacity of this guy, but what isn't funny, is what these scammers are trying to accomplish; their "game" is to scare people into believing that some horrible virus has infiltrated and damaged their computer and it must be fixed immediately.

Once they've got the person convinced that they have a dangerous virus and the caller is the only one who can get rid of the problem, they direct them to log on to their computer and then walk them through a few simple steps that will give the scammer remote access to the person's hard drive. Then, under the guise of removing the alleged virus, they instead, install a malware program called a keylogger or keystroke recorder.

These programs give the scammer access to passwords, account and social security numbers and any other personal information that the victim enters into their computer by recording each keystroke as it happens in real time. This allows the scammer and anyone else that they might sell the information to, to rob that person of every penny they have. It all happens so fast that the victim has no idea it's happening... until they've lost everything.

What truly worries me, is that I know some older folks who would have no idea that these aren't legitimate calls, or that they had just become the victim of a blatant thief. A thief who now had access to pretty much everything that they owned.

Technology is a wonderful thing, but it's becoming a double edged sword. I don't have any desire to stop doing what I do every day. I love blogging, so I want to keep that in my life and because I live with a chronic illness that makes it difficult to get out as often as I'd like or need to, I've really come to appreciate the convenience of things like online shopping. I also enjoy interacting with old and new friends through various social media networks.

But I feel like I'm doing these things each day with a little more trepidation every day, because it's getting more difficult to protect our privacy.

It's easy for us to be lulled into a false sense of security too, because we have programs installed on our computers that are designed to detect and thwart a cyber attack, but there's also new technology created every day, designed to bypass this software or to attack us with some newer, nastier cyber bug.

We try to be careful. But as careful as we are, there's always some way that we become vulnerable. Even if you've never paid a bill online, or you've made it a point not to ever put any of your personal information online, our banks, our doctors, our children's schools and basically every retailer we deal with does. Every day. So, how are we supposed protect ourselves from that?

Oh... and warn your elderly family members, friends and neighbors about these jerks. If we can keep one less person from getting their identity stolen (or worse) it's just one more thing that will help us all be better protected.

Be well...
and be careful out there!


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  1. You addressed a myriad of issues. If I understood the first one correctly, the spam is showing up in your STATS and not COMMENTS. Ergo, the spammer is not actually leaving a comment so that you would know that there is spam. Instead, they are just visiting your page from what appears to be a credible site (like the one listed). So, if you monitor your traffic, and visit back via your stats page, you could be fooled into clicking on this site. Did I follow what you were saying?

    I understood the rest of what you posted. I haven't gotten any of those crazy calls, but I tend to hang up if there is ANY lag time in someone saying "hi." If you wait too long to say "hello" when you call my house, expect to be hung up on, because I am just going to assume it is a telemarketer. Ha! I've actually had real friends call back and say, "Why'd you hang up on me?"

    I always say, "You have to be quicker on the draw if you don't want me to hang up on you:)"

    I do agree about passing the word to everyone possible. Elderly people (and naive people) are very likely to be taken in by this scam. Potentially anyone having a bad day could fall prey to this one, I suppose. Forewarned is forearmed!!!

    1. Absolutely! For instance... On my food blog, I get a ton of referral links from Pinterest. When I click those, they take me to the source (the pin itself), so I can get an idea of who's pinning what recipes/posts and when they're pinning them. It helps me to understand what's more popular, etc. and gives me an idea about what people might want to see more of. That's a good link. lol

      I've seen a lot of posts where bloggers have clicked on the bad links, purely out of curiosity (which is understandable) and then get bombarded with more spam. I did the same thing back when I first started blogging, so you know me... I went to the Blogger forums to see what the scoop was.

      Some of the bots now leave these pre-written comments and if you click on the link they include, it will create a track back link to your blog and more referral spam will follow it. I actually found a pretty good explanation on Wikipedia. I'll add it to the post after I finish this.

      In the past, they've basically been a nuisance, but lately they seem to be getting nasty and causing problems for bloggers. It's kinda like damned if you do, damned if you don't. I never used to use it, but I'm definitely leaving comment moderation on for the forseeable future, because who knows what kind of mayhem they'll be up to next?? 8~/

  2. This was an excellent post! Since I don't know where my stats are, it's unlikely I'd click on any links - but now I know if I ever do learn that info, NOT to click on links I don't know! Thank goodness our phone blocks up to 30 phone numbers because those telemarketers.... grrr. I've had to go clean out older ones because I ran out of room once, but it's been quiet lately! I always check phone numbers against the www.800notes.com website, too to see who they are. Sometimes it's legit; mostly it's not.

    1. You have a Wordpress blog, don't you? I'm not too familiar with them, but in Blogger blogs, the stats are located in the dashboard. Yours might be called analytics or something like that. If you do find them, it should give you an idea of who's visiting your blog and how often, etc. I don't make any money off of either of my blogs, so I don't need them for advertisers or anything like that, but I like to check just cuz I'm a nosey bugger. lol

      I usually check on 800notes or one of the others like it when I see a new number pop up on my caller ID. These jerks have found ways to get around the do not call laws so it's becoming useless to try to report them to the FCC or the AG's office. It's getting worse every day. Grrrr!


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