Let Us Fix Your Problem: Latest Internet Scam

Apple logoWaking this morning to a splendid 3G signal in the desert from my iPhone’s Hotspot, I finished up my previous night’s review and uploaded it. As I went to publicize the piece I got an “alert” from applemac.us saying that a porn site “pornjizz” was attempting to hack my system. It warned that stopping my browser or restarting my computer would cause valuable information to become more accessible and to stop what I was doing immediately and ring the support number – 1-844-608-4612.

Alarm bells ringing in my mind, I did indeed cease and desist my publicity efforts and rang the number. The first clue that told me something was wrong here was the lack of Apple-ness by the chap who answered the phone. Indian, as in from India or Pakistan, he was polite enough but answered as technical department and not with his name.

I read off the message on the screen and he immediately informed me that they could take care of my problem with little fuss and I did not need to do a thing. Okay, I responded slowly, what happens next, the technician then read me off a url which I needed to type into my search engine, it was: www dot fast support dot com.

The second alarm went off because there was an obvious lack of Apple anywhere in the address provided. The third and final alarm, which by this time sounded like a fire alarm on steroids, was the next thing out of the technician’s mouth.

“We will take control of your computer and fix the problem in minutes.”

*Freeze Frame.*

I thanked the chap for his help and told him that my phone signal was fading and needed to ring him back. He offered to ring me back within the next 10 minutes. I thanked him and when he rang back, explained that I could not use my laptop and my phone at the same time and would ring them later.

Ringing the real Apple support number which is a 1-800 number…always…I got the familiar Apple answer where I was informed how long my wait would be, asked certain questions, sent to the right department and when the technician came on the line she gave me her name. The lovely lady informed me that yes this was a scam where they could charge you for the amount of time they took to “fix” your problem.

I pointed out that they also wanted to take control of my laptop which would have given them access to all my information. She congratulated me on recognizing that it was a scam and for calling them to double check.

Speaking earlier to the fake technician at no time did he ask for my serial number or what Apple product I had. He also zoomed in on the “let us take control of your computer” bit. With nothing but an on-screen alert, which claimed to be from Apple, and a 1-844 number he expected me to let him access my computer.

Not happening mate.

Looking at the site later the thing looks genuine enough but it is not, just as the real Apple folks.

So be advised there is a new scam in town. I assumed it was a Chrome issue but Stephanie at Apple assured me that the message was showing up on Safari as well. So consider yourself warned, if you see a message from applemac.us with the following number attached 1-844-607-4612 disregard the information and do not bother to call the number. Completely ignore the fast support dot com instructions, if you do ring, and do not let anyone you do not know or trust take control of your computer or laptop.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the above urls have been spelled out since I could not get WordPress to stop putting a link to the fraudulent site in my article.

10 June 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

An Open Letter of Gratitude to Apple

Marketing shot of MacBookPro
Dear Apple,

Firstly I have to say that I was a reluctant convert to the MacBookPro. My daughter got one for her studies at University, and the run-up to Uni, College. Her, now aging, MacBookPro stood her in good stead during her time learning about the video game industry and still does quite well considering it is now several years old. She talked me into purchasing a Mac when my old PC bit the big one.

Amazingly enough, the big reason I decided upon the MacBookPro was the iMovie editing capability which, having watched my youngster edit her video reviews on game, looked infinitely easier than anything Microsoft had on offer.

I bought my Pro in 2013. I edited quite a number of videos in the UK, before you went and changed the way iMovie works. Still, I do not do videos that much anymore so that is not a real big issue, plus I’ve gotten used to the changes now so I forgive you for making it that bit more difficult.

So far my MacBookPro has survived being taken to South Africa on a whirlwind fact-finding tour where I had to interview several sources who claimed that Nelson Mandela died in June 2013 and not December as official sources insisted. It made a trip across the ocean to Las Vegas unscathed in 2014 and even managed to escape damage at the many conventions attended at Vegas. From The Amazing Comic Con to the Star Trek Convention, my MacBook resisted all my clumsy handling to stay scratch and dent free.

Later on at the start of 2015, while in the Southwest desert of Arizona, my MacBookPro has managed to keep working after being transported via backpack all over the hardpan floor and the local “one-horse” town. It still performs admirably despite it’s carrier falling down a wash while walking across the desert.

MacBookPro 11.4"
My trusty MacBookPro

It has also survived its owner being knocked off his bicycle by a hit and run driver in Love’s Truck Stop car park. An incident that resulted in my going airborne and landing on my back. The backpack with my trusty MacBookPro clunked heavily on the hard ground and 5 weeks later, when I could finally ride my bike again, I fell off the same bike outside the local Burger King and once again my poor MacBook hit the ground hard.

Despite all these tumbles and falls, the only real damage seems to have been on the case itself. A few scratches and dings that are superficial at best. This “cosmetic” damage has not interfered with the workings of my “laptop” and it still labour effortlessly as my only blogging and vlogging device. On top of being the instrument I used to write nearly 2,000 articles for the newspaper I worked for, it still functions as my main source of news from the outside world via the Internet.

MacBookPro
My Survivor, you have to look close to see those scars…

I mention all this because I’ve never felt the need to write any sort of letter to any company, open or otherwise, about any of their products. My MacBookPro has proven to be the best purchase ever made by this consumer. Sadly, my iPhone 5 has not had quite the same track record, for some odd reason the display screens in my phone go off and I’ve had replacements twice now, but I am not complaining, as your customer service is head and shoulders above the competition.

In closing, let me just say thank you Apple for continuing to make such a workhorse of a laptop. I am writing this open letter of gratitude, admiration and praise about my MacBookPro, the one that I call survivor, and the dependable tool that I plan to use for a long, long time.

A most impressed customer,

Michael Knox-Smith

6 May 2015

Getting My Mojo Back…Sort Of

Trailer for my new channel

Well, it’s been a long time coming, but I’m getting my Mojo back…sort of. For a good while I had a fair presence on the Internet. My blog and two channels on YouTube where I talked about film, one of which was a co-channel with my daughter, who now has a new channel – Critique Quest. On a side note, if you’ve not seen her channel, head on over and subscribe…tell her I sent ya.

My time spent working for the Internet publication that “shall not be named” (Thanks for that little quote Marilyn!) suddenly pared down my contributions for anything other than that particular site. Learning later that the publisher utilized black hat techniques frowned upon by Auntie Google, I was very glad to leave.

Now I’m back on track with having my dulcet tones and balding head back on YouTube. My good friend Jacob Tiranno on Chasing Cinema allowed me the wonderful privilege of being a guest on a number of his podcasts and while one could not feast their eyes on my old-ness, they could hear me. These “appearances” made me yearn for the days when I reviewed favorite films and talked World Cinema.

It has been a while since I left the Vegas area and the publication, but I’ve now sorted out a new channel and will be loading a new video tomorrow and will be attempting to keep this new venue moving. For those who have not seen my announcements via the old channel, here is the link.

If you are not too tired of hearing my opinions and stories on here, please stop by. Kick off your shoes, relax and enjoy yourself. For those who may wonder what I used to sound like in my reviews, check out my old channels, here and here.

Here is the “trailer” to my new channel:

Plus, my “notice” on my old channel (Which explains the different accents):

If you are not “bovvered” by this news, disregard the post and wait. I’ll be doing another one very, very soon.

24 April 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

Life in the Real Desert: Flowers and Recovery

Flowers in the Desert
Whilst recovering from my altercation with a dark blue sedan and the curbside of Love’s Truck Stop, the real desert has been full of life and a profusion of flowers have surrounded me. Just on the property alone a wealth of pink and white flowers are sprinkled along the edges of the hardpan plot.

Blooms are sprouting from cactuses or cacti, along with the more traditional plant type bushes. The mesquite trees, which protect their yellow drooping flowers with thorny guardians, are filled with the sound of bees. These little pollinators are of such a number that their businesslike drone is almost deafening. Amazingly, despite the impressive decibel level that they emit, it is difficult to spy one.

The temperature in the local area has dipped, it initially became cooler around Easter and has not risen too much since. Handy if one is biking to and from town, but a bit chilly at night. Of course, as I am still recuperating from my accident, I’m not doing a lot of biking and most certainly not taking the 12 mile plus round trip to town and back.

Riding around the neighborhood and averaging about three miles per trip, I am pleased to note that in terms of control and exertion, my recovery is going very well. Unfortunately, the right leg still has a knot the size of Texas on the shin and at night, after a day of “limited” activity, both legs are painful enough that sleep becomes impossible despite pain pills.

Regardless of the amount of time spent getting better, and the lack of Internet access, life is limping along. Meeting lovely people who populate neighborhood, even as the general number of residents is in decline as it’s time for the snowbirds to migrate back home, and discovering that people can be kind and thoughtful and generous.

Tyson Wells Visitor Office winding down
Tyson Wells Visitor Office, winding down and soon out?

It has been an interesting time. Returning to the land of my birth has been…different. Moving from Las Vegas to Arizona has been almost foreboding. In terms of losing bits of myself, it has been frustrating and not a little annoying.

One week after arriving I lost my late father-in-law’s sweater. A favorite “in-between” garment that was a comfortable as an old glove. Taking a tumble, my first in the real desert, down a small wash, the thing went awol and I’ve never found it. Despite backtracking on the day it happened and searching the area repeatedly, the sweater has apparently departed to parts unknown and by now has most likely fallen to pieces.

Thus far, in a short three month time period, I’ve lost: A favorite sweater, hat, pocket knife, my prescription glasses, and my “cheap” reading glasses. Twice, not counting being forced off the car park surface by a car which would make it three times, I have fallen over while traversing the hardpan desert floor. Each time personal injuries were increased exponentially.

In terms of loss, television has become another missing component along with proper Internet. As someone who has spent a lot of time and effort increasing their profile on the net as a writer, both personally and professionally, this loss is the most devastating. Due to sporadic web access regular contact with my daughter has also been, temporarily, lost.

Entering the world of the self employed while relocating to a remote area of the Southwest has been an interesting move. Picking a part of the desert where there are no cinemas locally or nearby was not planned for and having no vehicle to attend screenings has been another “setback.” Rather annoyingly, most, if not all, the screenings from one studio rep are all over two hours away via car.

These “setbacks” are a bother but not overly so. Obstacles are made to be overcome. Time spent watching and writing about films and television is now spent writing the book I’ve promised myself for years. There are other books impatiently queuing up for their turn so I am still working. The biggest difference in this change of circumstance is the change in financial status.

Flowers in the desert, taken outside Quartzsite, AZ
Cactus flowers, which make me think of “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” and John Wayne’s character.

This too shall pass and until then I will keep plodding along, writing, doing chores and healing and I will stop and enjoy the real desert flowers, while they last, on my road to recovery.

9 April 2015

Entrepreneurs: The New Con? Writing for the Internet

Robert Redford and fellow conman in film
1973 The Sting

In our computerized world with, almost, instant access to businesses, information and porn at one’s fingertips, the Internet is full of entrepreneurs. While this is nothing new, stories have existed for quite some time about the clever clogs who have made a fortune off the World Wide Web. A lot of these took place when dial-up was the norm and Broadband was still a dream. But are these new businessmen/women now part of the “new con?”

Many are.

It would appear that in some areas, dreams can still be bilked for big money. There is at least one website, the Guardian Liberty Voice, that is still singing a song of sweet success to those who write.

And to those who think that they can write. Back when the online publication was called the Guardian Express prospective writers were enticed to join the “paper’s” bootcamp and learn how to write for the Internet and Google.

Back in those days, the training lasted one week and consisted of learning about how to do images and where to find trending stories and the secrets of Bottlenose. There was meant to be a test at the end of the week’s training but I did not have to take part. My class consisted of me alone and my articles were packing views in at an impressive rate (according to owner/publisher DiMarkco Chandler) so at the end of my “hell day” I was immediately brought on board as a writer and editor for Entertainment.

I did edit as well as write but anything that kept me from hitting my 8 to 10 articles a day output was frowned upon and the duties of editor were taken away, but not the title. As my output soared (on weekends I wrote up to 15 articles a day) I was then made Deputy Managing Editor and Senior Entertainment Editor.

*As I’ve pointed out before, most of these articles were a minimum of 500 words and many were up to 1500. However you slice it, that is a lot of work.*

This promotion was soon followed by the information that I was being made a “late stage co founder.” Something that was made to sound quite profitable, eventually, and rather special. It soon turned out that being able to breath entitled one to earn this special title.

While having worked management positions in retail, I was not qualified in the world of journalism to run any paper’s section. Journalism was a class taken “millennia” ago and although being a manager does help to a degree in helping underlings to make deadlines, it does not immediately qualify anyone to work across the board. Managers should be well versed in the area they are working in.

I’ve written a couple of articles about my time at the GLV and Carol Tice wrote an incredibly well researched piece about the company last year.

This is not meant to be more recounting of an odd experience but a warning that there are other places out there that also take advantage of their writers and staff.

A few years ago, my daughter was approached by a website that specialized in video gaming news. She has her own YouTube channel and she hired on to do videos and write articles for this site. In a matter of days, the publisher had her writing up to 7 articles a day, although she was contracted for 3 to 5. The pay, however, was brilliant.

At first.

As time went on, her output was meant to go up exponentially and she was expected to do a certain amount of videos per week. Starting the job in her break from University she had to stop when the next semester started. After a short time, other writers and video journalists were being either fired or quitting.

The publisher did not take the departed staff’s names and titles down from the site. Thinking that this “established” site was still going strong, when the publisher approached her to do some more work she said yes.

Things were very different in her return to games journalism. The price for the videos had dropped drastically and she was not required to write many articles at all. To make a long story short, the publisher was now writing all the articles himself but putting them under the names of the departed staff.

One of the perks of doing videos and writing gaming news was getting early copies of new games and this became an exercise in futility for my daughter. There was no rhyme or reason in the way games were shared out and it was only after partnering with Sony that the situation cleared up.

In the end, this blogging site lost many of its original staff and left quite a few with lingering sense of betrayal. This video games blogging site was different from GLV in many ways.

There was never any sticking point like a contract, apart from a verbal one, and video walkthroughs and reviews were part of the package expected by its staff. The site, which is still up and running, continues to do its thing and appeal to gamers the world over.

GLV, despite its intent of having a TV channel on the site, never did proper videos and the channel never worked well enough to reach fruition.

Any interviews I did had to be uploaded onto the publisher’s YouTube channel and received a tiny amount of views (less than my own personal YouTube channel uploads). In fact, after the first “big” interview (a hastily put together Q & A with the incredible Marlon Wayans) no camera operator was sent to film these events.

The one thing that both of the sites have in common is that the owner/publisher of each were entrepreneurs. This appears to be the new code name for con men and women. It is not all about selling the unwary the newest thing in bridges, swampland or snake oil, it is about luring the creative into writing or vlogging for sites that have no intention of paying for work being done, despite promises to do so.

I will include one last thing about working for the GLV.

Taxes.

Leaving the company did not solve all my problems, for one thing it now appears that the president (who took care of all the forms needed by the self employed contractors to file their tax claims) has revealed in a confidential email to the publisher that the 1099s are incorrect. Mine, which I have yet to see, she refused to send out as the publisher is attempting to falsify my income by making it much higher than it really was.

As I sit here finishing this last Internet writers scam article, I am now worried to death that I will get a 1099 that is not only falsified, but, one that will leave me liable for taxes I do not really owe or can pay.

Beware the Internet children.  In this cyberspace medium there are creatures who prey on the creative and wannabe creatives. They are not above overworking and underpaying writers and they lie. Do not trust GLV and its expanding offshoots look around, start your own blog, write for experience and do not expect a huge amount of money when you are starting out.

Most importantly, use the very medium that is being used against you to learn if the snake oil on offer is really liquid napalm that is ready to burn you to a crisp.

Postscript: While polishing off this article, I was contacted by The Lyrical Elitist, a fellow blogger and, for a short while, fellow employee at GLV, who thanked me for my article and revealed another that he had just written, concerning a leaked email. One that I’d seen earlier today, that mentions me specifically.

17 February 2015

VHS Viral: End of a Trilogy (Review and Trailer)

VHS Viral: End of a Trilogy (Review and Trailer)

As far as anthology films go, VHS and VHS 2 were pretty original in concept, although the first in the trilogy was the best in terms of thinking outside the box and the end of this particular franchise, VHS Viral feels like it should be the last time this topic is revisited. The first film came out in 2012 and the series came out with a new film in 2013 and 2014, essentially a new film each year. While the concept deals with home video footage, which increasingly becomes oriented towards more Jackass than Punk’d, the underlying theme is that video tapes degrade with repeated viewing.

Bill Cosby: Latest Celebrity Found Guilty by the Internet

Bill Cosby: Latest Celebrity Found Guilty by the Internet

2014 has been a year of celebrity “dirt” being strewn across the Internet and Bill Cosby is the latest to be found guilty by the web. Acting as judge, jury and potential executioner, the death of Cliff Huxtable has taken over the Internet. The 77 year old entertainment icon has had old allegations of sexual abuse, rape and administering drugged drinks to a number of victims resurface recently and the hype it has generated appears to be gaining momentum daily, if not hourly.