US Government Banking Commission???

26 02 2008

What is the US Government Banking Commission? No one knows with the sole exception of a persistent scam artist who’s trying his darnest to make a buck.

First of all, we need to understand the concept of “phishing” (pronounced “fishing”) before going anywhere. According to Wikipedia, it’s defined as “an attempt to criminally and fraudulently acquire sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords and credit card details, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. eBay, PayPal and online banks are common targets.” What that means is a phisher is someone who tries to fish around for your personal information through some form of communication be it emails, websites, phone calls, or even personal visits.

Reported on The Consumerist [original source], watch and listen as an “agent” working for a non-existing organization, US Government Banking Commission, tries to acquire the bank account number of a Virginian, Mr Howard Beasley. Unfortunately for the “agent”, Beasley’s all too suspicious of Indian accents and callers asking for personal information and records the call. A short excerpt taken from The Consumerist is listed below for your convenience.

Howard Beasley told the caller he was being recorded, but the man didn’t hang up.

The caller said, “I’m a representative of the United States Banking commission and by mistake we took $481 out of your checking account.”, says Howard Beasley.

Howard Beasley started recording.

Howard: The government cannot take money out of your account. So I know this is nothing but a scam.

For ten minutes, an extremely persistent man tried everything he could think of to get Howard’s account number, the man said to give back the money.

Caller: What’s your bank account number?
Howard: If you got it out, you’ve got the number.
Caller: Please verify me your account number.
Howard: No way.
Caller: Please verify me your account number.
Howard: No way.
Caller: You don’t want the money? You don’t want your money?
Howard: I don’t want to be scammed.
Caller: Sir, you are not a scam. You have no right to talk to me like that.
Howard: I can tell you to take the $480 dollars and shove it up your *** that’s what I can tell you.

The tape continues to roll as the caller spits out Howard’s address and threatens to pay him an unwelcome visit.

Caller: I’m just coming within two days with two FBI agents, OK.
Howard: Well, you come down here with two FBI agents.
Howard: I’ll have them same two FBI agents on you.
Caller: OK, you just wait and watch. I’m coming within two days.
Howard: Well, you bring ’em here. I’ve got a 357. I’ll put your name on it.

In the case of the Banking Commission phishing case, it’s starting to be a more common phenomenon nowadays with the growing number of call centers outsourced/off-shored to far-away places like India and lax privacy laws abroad, our personal data is increasingly put at risk. Those call centers are given 1-800 numbers which are located and registered IN the United States meaning that they can call anyone anytime anywhere in the USA at local call rates and paid by the company those gooks work for.

Now not every internationally located call center agents are crooks but there’s always the case of one rotten apple in a basket. So how do you protect yourself from such people?

  1. Even though you’ve heard this a million times, NEVER give out your personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call to a recognized/trusting location.
  2. Keep the anti-virus software up to date on your computers.
  3. Make your computer stay in shape by running the dynamic duo consisting of Spybot and CCleaner on a weekly basis. They’ll ensure your spyware/adware stuff is kept to a minimum.
  4. Watch out for the “phishing” emails as listed in my posts here, here, and here.
  5. When you get a call…
    1. If it sounds too good to be true or something out of the regular, start recording the conversation and tell the agent that you are doing so.
    2. Always ask for the name, employee ID, call-back phone number, name and address of business, location of call-center, and ticket # associated with every call you get.
    3. Cross verify the address of the business using the internet.
    4. If you have a caller ID on your phone, verify the # they give you to the # listed on it.
    5. Do NOT conduct business over the phone #. Once the call is over, go to the official website of the company in which you deal with and call their customer support line.
    6. Relay them the information handed to you by the agent previously and the rest is up to you.
    7. Usually the best idea is to spend as little time on the phone with them. Also tell them that you are on the DO-NOT-CALL list.
  6. Stay alert. In a lot of cases, the scammer doesn’t usually display the stereotypical mid-eastern Indian accent. Just because he/she has a southern accent doesn’t mean they’re good ol’southern gentlemen/ladies.
  7. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there so stay focused during your interactions with them.
Advertisements




HJ-Split will Split Anything!

25 02 2008

Ever been in a situation where you wanted to copy this large video file (example 700MB) on your computer and move it to another machine but you only have a 512MB jump drive / flash drive / thumb drive?

Well look no further than the HJ-Split. Download it and split your files with ease. You can break the video into 2 files… 500MB and 200MB and transfer them with your 512MB memory stick. Then you rejoin those files with the same software and you have your video in one piece painlessly. Oh and did I mention it’s FREE?!

To SPLIT A FILE INTO TWO OR THREE …

  1. Run HJ-Split
  2. Click on “Split”
  3. Click on “Input File”
  4. Select the file you wish to split up
  5. Choose the size of the file. In the case of the above example, you want to set it to “500” Mbytes. If you put in “300”, you will have 3 files with the first 2 set to 300MB and the last one at 100MB size.
  6. Click “Start”

Open the location of the files. By default, it should create the split files in the same folder as where you had the file you wanted to break. These files will have .001, .002, and so forth as extensions.

Let’s say you transferred the files individually to the desired location (example another computer) and now you want to join them so that the file is reusable or operational…

  1. Click “Join”
  2. Select the first file and that should be the one with the .001 extension at the end.
  3. Hit “Start”

Your file is ready and you can now delete the .001, .002, etc files.





Download Movies and Videos for Free

25 02 2008

When Real Networks released the latest iteration of their once-popular Real Player, they might’ve just struck the right notes for some users. One of them being the Ninja of course because it allows me to download and play flash-based videos whenever I want, lag-free. I’ve known this for a while but didn’t post this up thinking this was public knowledge. Apparently, this isn’t the case according to some people I’ve talked to.

First make sure you have the latest Real Player on your computer. If you’re not sure, you can download and install it from their website.

Launch <insert your favorite online video website like YouTube etc> and when you place your cursor over the video, you will see a tool bar pop-up on the top. The last option should say …

The FLV (Flash Video) file will most likely be stored by default under “My DocumentsMy VideosRealPlayer Downloads“. A reminder that the video has to be flash-based.

Once the download is complete, you can “OPEN” the video and watch it on the brand new Real Player whenever you want regardless of your internet connection cuz it’s stored on your hard drive in a sub-folder located within My Videos. The files will all have the FLV extension but if you don’t have the box unchecked to “Hide Extensions for Known File Types”, all you’ll see are the blue real player icons.

UPDATE 09/07/08: When you go to real.com and download the latest Real Player (Real Player 11 in my case), make sure to check the “agent” option during installation. This enables you to download flash videos from websites using a download agent window. Click on the agent window and you get a list of all the flash videos you could potentially download.





500GB External Drive for $111 @ CC

25 02 2008

Circuit City’s currently selling their Western Digital My Book World Edition 500GB external hard disk drive for $111.96 at on site stores. This deal might be a one-day thing but could also be a “as long as supplies last” kinda stuff as well. The best thing about this deal is that it’s cheaper than even buying a used 500GB external drive on eBay. BTW, don’t buy used hard drives! Not worth the trouble if you must know.

As for usage, do understand that you do not connect the drive directly to your computer with a USB port. You have to hook it to your router using a standard CAT5 (ethernet) cable and access it from your computer that way. I’ve only had good experiences with WD’s products unlike the crap that Maxtor churns out so go out there and get it while the deal’s hot!





A Total Eclipse of the Red Moon

20 02 2008

The news has been buzzing lately about the total lunar eclipse visible from North America other than the standard political fanfare. During the time of a total lunar eclipse, the color of the moon will turn into a dull red reminiscent of our friendly and dead red neighbor, Mars. The reason for this is when the moon gets completely enveloped by the earth’s shadow (umbra), the sunlight passing by are bent and deflected off our atmosphere thereby dimly lighting up the moon. The earth’s atmosphere then bends out the light coming back towards us only allowing us to see the red hue. An important part of all this is that this can only occur at a full moon.

Here’s a picture I took of the moon when it had turned red. The other pictures looked like the moon was going through it’s usual phases.

… and here’s a close-up of the moon. My 5MP point and shoot camera sucks so I had to blow up the image. It all began around 7:45pm central and around 9pm was when it was completely covered and turned red. You notice 2 bodies of light around it. Could be distant stars?

So if you have clear skies, hope you saw the red moon because your next chance will be sometime in December 2010, weather permitting.





RIP (Toshiba) HD-DVD

19 02 2008

Today 02/19/08, Toshiba finally threw in the towel and gave-up their interests in the high definition dvd format war against Sony’s Blu-Ray. Gizmodo covered it up a bit but for the average folks out there, Toshiba and Sony initially developed the high-definition DVD standard but as the two company’s differences grew larger, they decided to split with Toshiba taking the “HD” moniker leaving the more ambiguous term “Blu-Ray” for Sony.

While Toshiba cozied up with big Shao Khan Microsoft and his henchmen in the movie industry, Sony worked hard to ingrain Blu-Ray DVD systems into their next generation gaming platform, the Sony Playstation 3 or PS3. The biggest cosmetic difference between the Blu-Ray and HD-DVD dvds are that the former can hold more than double the capacity of the latter. But to Toshiba’s credit, their disks are cheaper.

So anyway, slowly and steadily, Sony started to garner support as PS3 sales began to drive Blu-Ray player sales and certain notable Hollywood companies switched sides to the benefit of the makers of PrayStation3.

Transformers director Michael Bay made an allegation that Microsoft was simply holding hands with Toshiba to prolong the high-definition DVD war until digital downloads became the acceptable medium for media transfers. Could be saying the truth? It’s true that the add-on HD-DVD player for the Xbox 360 sucks and it can only be used to view HD-DVD movies compared to the PS3’s Blu-Ray player which plays PS3/PS2 games + Blu-Ray movies and doesn’t require you to make an additional purchase for the dvd component. Half-assed work from the big bad MS building credibility to the rumor reported by Michael “awesome” Bay.

So yea, in the end, one must fall. With too many defections from Hollywood studios, it was only a matter of time before Toshiba crumbled saving Sony from an embarrassing Betamax-like failure of the ’80s. To put in the final blow, Sony released an official statement mentioning they were open to the idea of Toshiba joining the Blu-Ray camp. FATALITY!

So what is this High-Definition DVD? Regular DVD videos are formatted for 480p resolutions. On an HDTV, those videos will be stretched to fit and on larger HDTVs, regular DVDs aren’t as impressive. This is where high definition dvds (720p, 1080i, 1080p) come into play as Sony’s Blu-Ray disks let you watch your favorite movies (with huge mark-ups of course) on crystal clear screens. You will require HDMI cables to transmit video/audio from the DVD player to the TV however to get that pristine picture and sound you deserve.





German teenie boppers love “Monsoon”

19 02 2008

So I’d never heard of them before or seen em on TV and the vocals confused me. KC thought it was a chick. Then we saw the video and we were like “oh you’re right it was a chick!” haha. Looks like a goth version of Fergie I said. Found them when I was downloading random samples of songs over the internet and I’d say their hit “Monsoon” or better known in Germany as “Durch den Monsun” (translated ~ Through the Monsoon) is a mix between Nirvana and modern day rock.

So we were wrong. It’s a dude afterall. Bill Kaulitz. Even though he looked like a “she” in this music video and in others. He even sports a french manicure and poses very femininely. Strange. Well that’s his choice I guess. Feel free to find other vids of “Tokio Hotel” over YouTube with half of them revolving around the gay-brother controversy which only seems to make them more popular. Strange.

Tokio Hotel consists of 4 German teenagers – Bill (vocals) and Tom Kaulitz (guitars), Georg Listing (bass), and Gustav Schafer (drums). The band was named after Bill’s love for Tokyo and that’s about it.