Fishing, shmishing…whatever…don’t get had!

Wednesday began as it usually does.  With dustbins and shopping lists.  The former is The Husband’s job and the latter is a kind of joint effort that starts with meal planning (yes, I know I’ve promised…it’s on another list…) and culminates with his famous spreadsheets.  He “translates” the paper scribbles, notes prices and, well, generally does what he’s done for the last nearly 20 years.  Shopping over the weekends is hell.  When the practice began, he didn’t have a regular day job.  Truth be told, he has a lot more focus and discipline than I.  He’s a lot less distracted by potentially interesting things might not be on the list.

Anyhow, not long after he’d sat down to perform the ritual, his phone pinged.  It was the bank:

Suspected unauthorised transaction ZAR 13k on your account. Phone xxx number.

The number looked legit: just like a Johannesburg number, and where the bank’s head office is.  The Husband called

To say that tech and the Internet of things frustrates The Husband is an understatement.  He views them as a mostly (un)necessary evil.  His phone is not smart.  Although after this experience, it will have to smarten up.  A lot.

They get you in a tizz

What followed got both of us in a tizz.  He’d gone into the garden to make the call. Because we live in what amounts to a Faraday cage so mobile phone reception is dodgy.  He came back into the office, phone stuck to his ear, white as a sheet:

Nigerian hackers – they’re active now!

Don’t log in!  We’ll help you!

He went to his computer, following instructions to open his browser to the Google search page.  There was an urgency because the implication was that he/we should be catching the culprits red-handed. Of course, under that pressure one does what one is asked.

At this point, I’m helping because of the level of The Husband’s discombobulation.  There is a little voice at the back of my head that’s a bit unsure, but the threat of someone clearing out what little money neither of us – mostly in overdraft – has, is nothing short of terrifying.  On speaker, with a heavy Indian accent, hard to understand, Mister F shrilly issues panicky commands.

At one point, I muttered to the Husband,

Are you sure it’s the bank?

His response,

He answered, XY Bank Fraud Division

Among the commands to follow was downloading an app Ultarviewer.  Believing one’s talking to the bank’s FRAUD division

Letting them in

Now I’ve done some homework, some of Mister F’s evident excitement was because it’s a small app.  It’s a quick download.  I was taking too long, he was probably beginning to think he might be uncovered.

It was installed and yes, I let him in. That, too, took a while because his diction and connection were indistinct.  And, he did not understand me.

Another warning.  Had I paid attention through all the noise  – literal and figurative.  There was a great deal of evident background noise at the other end of the line.

Then, Google open, and interestingly not in the browser The Husband usually uses, but Microsoft Edge:

You see that?  That’s your IP address.  It’s public.  That’s how hackers get in.

Now, let’s log you in.

The Husband does.  To the bank.  Nothing’s amiss.  The Husband’s relief that “everything in order”, is palpable.  Mr F sees that there’s virtually nothing in the account.

Done with The Husband, he changes tack.  A victim not worth the effort.

Your wife, she also banks using this network, right?

Wrong.  Sort of.  Never from that PC, anyway, and using a different browser.  I say so.

But it’s the same internet connection.  Log in. We need to secure the account.

I try.  It doesn’t work.  Even with the correct details.  He doesn’t believe me.

More commands

I know I’ve not made a mistake, but now I’m in in such a state, I tell him

Stop shouting at me! You’re making me make mistakes!  Tell me exactly what you’re doing and why.

Then he, wait for it:  tells me where in my phone app to find all my login details.


We’re in.  Next he says

On your phone, open the Playstore.

I draw the line.


The “bank” screen is open.  My profile is there for all and sundry to see.  Like The Husband’s it has very few zeroes and a couple of minus signs, to boot.

The call drops.

The Husband tries to call back.  Twice.  We want to be sure that the accounts have been secured.  Each time the call drops.

Another cup of coffee

Having “seen” that nothing was amiss, we both kind of calm down and have that second cup of coffee.

Listening to that little voice

As I was staring into that coffee, that little voice began to boom.

Love, I think we should both change our passwords.

Notwithstanding the stress of having to dream up new usernames and passwords – and remember them – we both did.

The Husband also resolved to go into the bank when he was in town and to report it.  From the branch, they had him talk to the real fraud department.

Turns out, we’re not alone.  This is the flavour of the month and they’ve had a slew of similar, if not the same incidents, over the last few days;  with the same modus operandi, using the same apparently “legit” numbers.

Hindsight – what we should have seen

The first sign was the text message.  On closer inspection, it was definitely not the bank’s standard format.  In number, structure or convention. Given the threat of a breach on one’s account, one looks past that.

Lesson one.

Mr F’s accent and manner: our bank uses local agents with local accents.

Lessons, two, three, four…

Our bank’s “usual” call centre agents –

  • do not just speak clearly, they are calm and polite and more to the point, patient to a fault
  • work hard at calming the customer down and resolving the problem
  • never ask the customer to download an app to look around one’s computer – and profile.  They don’t need to.
  • always ask one to log in to one’s profile without asking one to share details
  • access one’s profile from the bank system without having access to one’s PC.  If need be, they can see what one’s doing.  Usually, it is not their business.

We learned, the hard way, about smishing.

Lessons learned.  Be warned.  Be alert.

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post script
If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:

  • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I am adding them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
  • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.

I blog to the Hive blockchain using a number of decentralised applications.

  • From WordPress, I use the Exxp WordPress plugin. If this rocks your socks, click here or on on the image below to sign up.

  • Join Hive using this link and then join us in the Silver Bloggers’ community by clicking on the logo.
Original artwork: @artywink
  • lastly, graphics are created using partly my own photographs and Canva.


Hayley’s going to Change the World – with our help

On Monday, my helper came to work and told me that her niece had won a scholarship to go to a conference in New York.  She went on to say that, as is often the case, the scholarship wouldn’t cover everything, and that the family would be holding fundraising events in the village.  Starting at the end of this month.

Please help set up a Facebook event and help to advertise it?

Well, of course, I would, I am and shall.  I didn’t let it end there (why would I?) and asked a few more questions.  I discovered that for Hayley to take up this fantastic opportunity, she needs at least another ZAR 30,000 (about US$15,000).  As she subsequently said to me:  that’s almost a year’s tuition.

Just for a conference.

Actually, though, it’s much, much more than that.

Who is Hayley?

Hayley was born and grew up in this village:  McGregor.  There are about 7,000 inhabitants in the broader village and valley.  It’s in the heart of the Winelands and surrounded by farms.  Until pretty recently, the majority of the more middle class inhabitants were of retirement age and older. The village has two primary schools but no high school  To get to high school, children take the bus 20km to the next town.  Economic activity – other than agriculture (grapes, wine and fruit) is limited which means that jobs – mostly domestic work – and real opportunities are equally limited.  Unless one has the where-withall to work online.  Or commute to Robertson, Worcester, Stellenbosch or Cape Town.

Then there’s what Covid has done to the economy, unemployment and poverty rates.  Driving the first down and the last two up.  Especially in the village where tourism is the other major economic activity.

Hayley comes from a family of phenomenal women – I know because some of them work, or have worked, with me.  I don’t know much detail, but I do know – again from her aunt – how proud the family are, of her having gone to Stellenbosh University and graduating with a Bachelor of Arts. Now – in this time of Covid – she is writing her final honours examinations in International Relations.  Hayley is on a trajectory to start her Masters degree in 2021;  she will focus on gender studies and female empowerment.

South Africa and the world need young women like her.

That’s only part of what makes this a big deal.

What is Change the World?

Change the World is an initiative run by Italian NGO, Associazione Diplomatici which has consultative status with the Economic and Social
Council of the United Nations.  The Association’s goal:

… to develop and encourage the participation and the education in active citizenship and to facilitate the understanding of the complex dynamics that run the world. AD offers young students a model of inclusive confrontation based on the respect for every diversity: religious, race and political orientation, training them to transversal competences for the world’s global work.  Source

Each year, more than 3,000 young people make their way to the United Nations in New York for an experience that models the work of the world body.  For three days they roleplay and debate current geopolitical issues and “do” international relations. In the building where UN Ambassadors conduct their daily business.

This is a big deal

Not only would this be the first (of many, I hope) international trips for Hayley, it will be her first trip to the US and The Big Apple.  I’ve banged on, before, about how I lurved Manhattan, but this is not about me.  Nor is it really about NYC and Manhattan.  It’s about the experience, growth opportunity and most importantly, the networks that Hayley will establish.  These networks could well play a seminal role in her future and her chosen career.

Help Hayley to Change the World

If you’d also like to help Hayley to not just go to the UN, but to change the world –

Please contribute to her crowdfunding campaign here.

Please share that link and/or this blog with anyone who will support Hayley in her mission to Change the World.

Let’s help Hayley to Change the World

Until next time, thank you, and be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post Script

I am doing my best to post every day for November as part of @traciyork’s twice yearly #HiveBloPoMo challenge. This is my third attempt. All my posts are to the the Hive blockchain, but not all from WordPress.  Details about the challenge (on the blockchain) are here and on WordPress, here.

Looking for that gift for someone who has everything? Shop with Pearli in my evolving Redbubble shop

And then there’s more:

  • If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:
    • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I plan to add them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
    • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts because of this.
  • If you’re interested in a soft entry into the world of crypto currency and monetising WordPress blog, use the fantastic plugin to post directly to the Hive blockchain. Click on the image below to sign up –

Image: @traciyork

  • I also share my occasional instagram posts to the crypto blockchain using the new, and really nifty phone app, Dapplr. On your phone, click the icon below, and give it a go.

In yet another aspect of my life –

English writing, research and online tutoring services
writing – emails and reports, academic and white papers
formal grammar, spelling and punctuation
more information here