From our Minister

From our Minister

It has been quite a week! Not necessarily a nice one. Monday, the bank holiday, was planned to be a day gardening and trying to get on top of the overgrown, moss strewn drive. Instead, it began at 06:00 with a text from my internet provider, BT, informing me my account had been frozen because they had detected suspicious activity. (After a few minutes pondering this I decided it wouldn’t be Kathryn.)

Going online to check my emails etc, everything was locked and the screen had red lines with big lettering telling me what the text had already told me. It was 1130am before I was finally back online and everything appeared to have been resolved. By this time several family & friends from the North West and some from the SE had rung to ask if everything was ok as they had received emails, apparently from me, asking for help. I did get to do some gardening in the afternoon. We received calls throughout the day; we caught up with news from friends we hadn’t spoken to since before lockdown.

Tuesday morning, 6 am, a text from BT saying my account had been frozen because they had discovered suspicious activity on it. I assumed it was a mistake resulting from the previous day. It wasn’t. Going online everything was locked; again!

This time I rang BT and after a few minutes was put through to someone who was able to talk me through the security protocols and re-set the account. It was similar to the previous day but more thorough. Everything is now resolved: I think.

What puzzled and concerned me about this, whoever accessed my account used two additional email accounts to send emails, which I closed over 10 years ago. The messages they sent varied, all implied I needed some kind of financial help, all were appealing to the recipient’s trust and goodwill.

A subsequent development was the discovery that my contacts list for my account was empty. I contacted BT again. The operator checked my account and confirmed everything was in order and was puzzled that my contacts list was missing. Apparently, they have flow charts that they use when someone calls in with a problem. Using the flow chart, the operator guided me through a recovery procedure; it didn’t work. He then explained that recently BT had changed the server they use from Yahoo to something else. In the process, a number of people have complained they have lost the contacts list from their email accounts. It’s not recoverable.

The Contacts list was there before the weekend of the bank holiday. I asked the operator if it was possible that when they changed the server my account was made vulnerable to attack, or my details lost? He was unable to answer. I have written a complaint to BT asking for an explanation, depending on what happens with this I intend to write to the Ombudsman.

This is a different kind of newsletter article, but as it seems everyone in my contacts list had emails from the scammer; I wanted to explain what happened.

The only way these scams work is for people who are trusting and well-meaning wanting to help someone they know, who appears to be in need. The scammers take advantage of good-natured, generous people. I’m sorry if you were affected or concerned about me or Kathryn when you saw the emails and can assure you we are well.

I wrote about these scams once before, but this one is much more personal and disturbing. The internet is a great source for doing good. Sadly, it is also an opportunity for mischief and crime.

Be assured: I will never ask for financial help by email. Be advised, always check when you receive such a request from anyone; even if they are someone you know well. The scammers are very clever and are getting better at what they do. If ever you do fall for such a scam and give money you must inform the credit card company or your bank immediately you discover the scam. Be suspicious; the scammers are the modern-day equivalent of the man knocking on the door asking to read the meter! Be suspicious.

John