Tag Archives: internet-banking

#Email bills – Christmas for #scammers?

Here in Australia, Origin Energy [one of the big utilities companies] recently introduced gas and electricity accounts sent via email. Good idea? Not so, and here’s a picture of why:

email bills

The screenshot above is a picture of my new, email electricity bill. Notice all the red? Each one of those circles denotes a link to some address on the internet. Click on that link and you are automatically taken to that address.

So what’s wrong with that, you ask? We all use the internet a million times a day.

What’s wrong is that each link is a potential opening for scammers to steal your information, especially that big, orange ‘Pay now’ button. You see, these days, the really good scammers can reproduce the Origin Energy logo, its fonts, the colours, even the text…PERFECTLY. If you were to receive one of these reproductions, you would need to look very, very carefully to pick the fake from the original. And let’s face it, how many of us scrutinise each email we receive, especially when we are expecting to receive it?

Expectation lowers our defences.

I already expect to receive a mobile phone account [via email], and now I will also expect to receive gas and electricity bills, via email. I may scrutinise the first five, ten, 25 emails but after that? I’ll get complacent.

One day, I’ll be in a hurry and I’ll forget to check all the tell tale signs of a forgery. I’ll click on that big orange ‘Pay now‘ button in the email, and it’ll take me…somewhere. That somewhere will look like the  real deal as well so, still in a hurry, I’ll enter my banking details, pay the ‘bill’ and get on with my life. But one day in the not too distant future I’ll realise my bank account has been hacked. And in that moment of disbelief and horror, I’ll remember the day convenience, and a busy life style, made me follow a link in an email.

And what do you think the big corporations are going to do about the theft of all my money? Will they pull their hair out by the roots and cry ‘mea culpa, mea culpa’? Not on your life. They’ll say that the fault was all mine. They’ll say that they warn customers about ‘scammers’ so it’s a case of ‘buyer beware’.

But the truth is that the big corporations will NOT warn you about this particular type of scam because they do not want to put you off their new, much-cheaper-to-run email billing service. Origin intends to charge $2 for each paper bill from now on. I’m pretty sure the real cost of sending out a paper bill is nowhere near that much, so they won’t be saving $2 for every bill to every customer, but they will be saving something. Multiply ‘something’ by hundreds of thousands of customers and the bottom line starts to look a whole lot better.

So what’s the solution?

The solution is to print the bills off and pay them as you would a paper bill – by going directly to your internet banking and using BPay to pay the bills from there.

As a caveat, I have to say that I can’t guarantee that internet banking is 100% safe. I believe it is, but I can’t guarantee it. However…if the banks mess up with your money, they have to pay you back. If you mess up with your money, that’s it, it’s gone. You might try a class action suit against the corporation in question, perhaps citing negligence, but going through the courts could take years and may still not succeed.

Why not? Because no one held a gun to your head and made you click that ‘Pay now’ button.

This is the reason I keep bleating on about not clicking on links in emails. That little bit of extra convenience is just not worth it. And yes, it could happen to you.

Take care and stay safe,

Meeks

 

 

 


Lemon oil, solar power, burning off, budgets and saving money.

The one thing all the items in my title have in common is… money. Or to be more exact, my growing awareness that my old age is going to be rather grim unless I become a lot more careful with money. Thanks to an inheritance from my late father, I’ve had two stress free years in which to write, but now, as I approach my 60th birthday, I have to start getting serious about money again.

The first thing I decided was that I was going to use my inheritance to pay off my mortgage because I didn’t want that huge monthly expenditure hanging over my head for the rest of my life. I can do it, but getting rid of the mortgage will reduce my rainy day nest egg to something microscopic. Not so good. Hence the need to budget.

Now, if you’re like me, you probably just pay your bills and shove them into a draw somewhere without ever really keeping track of how much you’re spending every month. Yes, I know that some of you are very organized and keep track of your bills but… the rest of us need something a little easier. If you use internet banking to pay your bills then there is an easier way. Every internet banking application has a ‘Payment history’ function and a ‘Payee list’. They’re not there just for show! You can use the two functions to get a quick idea of your previous year’s expenditures. Basically, I just went through my payee list, looking up all my regular payments. I typed them into a spreadsheet and in a very short space of time I had a pretty good idea of my average monthly spend.

The good thing about having this kind of information in black and white is that you can no longer fool yourself about those ‘little’ indulgences. For me those little indulgences included monthly subscriptions to two mmo’s, neither of which I’m currently playing. [I’m now playing GW2 which is free-to-play]. It hurt to cancel those subscriptions, but in doing so I saved myself close to $500 per year.

I won’t bore you with details of all the areas where I’ve cut back, but I’d like to mention two other ways of saving money – lemon oil and effective use of solar power. No, the two don’t go together! Lemon oil is a great way of cutting multiple, commercial, cleaning products off your shopping list and out of your life. My tips on solar are for those who have solar panels and want to make the most of them.

I’ll start with lemon oil. You can buy a bottle of lemon oil for the price of two commercial cleaners but it will last through the life of about five commercial cleaners, plus you’ll have the satisfaction of having a house that smells wonderful and isn’t suffocating you with potentially dangerous chemicals.

To use the lemon oil for cleaning, just get a clean, empty spray bottle and pour about 1/2 an inch of lemon oil into the bottom. Add a few drops of biodegradable dishwashing detergent and some water. The amount of water you add depends on the type of cleaning you need to do. I’m a very messy cook so my cooktop is always covered in dried on food splashes. To clean the cooktop, I use a fairly concentrated solution made with only a few tablespoons of water. For benchtops and other less greasy areas you can dilute the lemon oil with a cup or more of water.

Until today, I’d only used my homemade lemon oil cleaner on benchtops, but on a whim I sprayed my grubby cooktop with lemon oil just to see what would happen. I left it to soak for about 5 minutes and then went back, expecting to have to do some serious scrubbing. Imagine my delight when the gunge came off with a simple swipe of the sponge! It was like watching one of those commercials where Wonder Product wipes away dirt and grime as if by magic. Well, it is magic, the magic of tv, because I’ve tried a couple of those Wonder Products and they never work as advertised. My lemon oil did though. 😀 The gunge truly did come off like a dream!

Now to solar. I’ve had solar panels for about a year now, and although they have helped to reduce my electricity bills, those bills are still higher than they could be. I was scratching my head about this when I was hit by the obvious – the amount you get from feeding electricity into the electricity grid is less than what you pay when you draw electricity from the grid. I told you it was obvious. But how to take advantage of that knowledge? Again, the answer is simple. If your washing machine and dishwasher have a scheduling function then set both to run during the day, while the sun is shining on your lovely solar panels. Or try and do as much as you can during the weekends when you’re home.

Another little thing I discovered once my mind was focused on cost savings, was that you do NOT have to allow your dishwasher to use the ‘dry’ function. Quite simply, the dishes are nice and hot when the wash/rinse cycle finishes. They will air dry, inside the dishwasher, without the need to apply extra, expensive heat. It’s like washing dishes by hand in hot water and then letting them air-dry in the draining rack.

The final thing I want to talk about today is burning off. In the past I have ordered a skip just before fire season and filled it to the brim with dead branches as well as broken appliances etc. This year I’ve been getting out there every still day and burning small piles of leaves and branches to prepare for fire season. It’s time consuming and I end up smelling like a smoked ham but I’m happy in the knowledge that a) my property will be less fire prone and b) I can save the cost of a skip.

None of the things I’ve mentioned save you that much, individually, but add them up and you’ll be surprised by how much you can save. 😀

If you have money saving tips, please tell me about them in comments. I’m sure other bloggers would love to read them as well!

cheers

Meeks

 

 


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