by Lloyd A. de Vries
Vol. 34 - Here Be Monsters
Web links often long outlive their usefulness. For several years, we in The Virtual Stamp Club have been wondering why people were asking about collections they'd inherited in a discussion from 1997 titled "Movie Monsters." After some patient detective work (not mine!), we found that Mike Mills' Glassine Surfer site had that discussion on a links page as a place to ask about inherited collections.
We kept moving the messages out of "Movie Monsters," but now we've re-titled the discussion "Help For Inherited Collections." However, if someone goes to the first few messages in the thread, they'll find not advice for evaluating a collection, but a discussion of Frankenstein and Dracula on stamps!
Likewise, our 1997 U.S. Stamp Schedule still gets hits. While some might be attributed to scholars seeking artifacts from 8 years ago, chances are most of the visitors are clicking on a link that simply promises "the U.S. Stamp Schedule."
Rather than tracking down everyone linking to 1997, we just added links on that page and every other stamp schedule to every other stamp schedule page. Some of those sites that link to us are still on the Internet but long abandoned by their creators, so there's no one to fix them.
"The evil that men do lives after them," wrote William Shakespeare. So apparently do Web links.
Isn't the Internet wonderful? Where else could I learn both about facets of stamp collecting other than my own, and the names of banks and financial institutions of which I've never heard?
Those banks Fifth Third or Third Fifth or Amalgamated Midgets Mutual notify me that someone has accessed the account, and that if I don't click on the link in the message right now the account I don't have will be suspended.
"You have successfully updated your password" or "your e-mail account has been suspended" comes the message from the administrator or "security" or some other unnamed official of your Internet Service Provider.
"I did? I don't remember changing my password. I don't recall doing anything that would have broken the ISP's rules on e-mail."
No, you didn't. Your password is fine (so long as you don't fall for this trick) and your account is chugging along nicely (so long as the phisherman doesn't get your password).
It's called "phishing." The scam's intent is to get you to divulge personal information which will allow the "phisherman" to then really access your accounts.
Some creep's "bot" (short for robot searcher) probably grabbed your name off an Internet Web site, perhaps your stamp club's.
Or maybe someone else fell for the trick and did open the attached file, and the resulting virus, in addition to whatever other damage it did, read the victim's Microsoft Outlook address book and sent the virus on to every address in it, yours included.
It's easy for me to catch these: I am the administrator or webmaster or Poobah of my base e-mail provider, and I know I didn't suspend myself!
But it's not much harder for you to spot these: First, if the message has a .zip file attached, particularly one that includes the word "octet" in it, delete the message, find out where the attachment ended up on your computer, and delete it, too. Don't ever, ever open one of these.
Second, if you think there's a possibility that your account has been suspended or your password was changed perhaps you've just sent a message to 42 close personal friends about next week's stamp show go to the site on your own (by typing in the address manually or using your Favorites list) and log into your e-mail account using your regular password. If you're successful, then your account is fine.
Better yet, get yourself and your computer one of the virus protection programs that updates itself regularly via the Internet. When my home system, protected with McAfee's VirusScan, gets one of these messages, VirusScan changes it to a .txt (text) file and lets me know about the attempted attack.
Is it "Web site," "Website" or "website?" The Associated Press Stylebook says "Web" is a proper name in this case, as is "Internet," and both should be capitalized.
I have to admit I haven't quite decided yet whether I agree or not. "Internet" with a capital "I," yes. "Web site," two words, capital "W?" I'm inconsistent. I use AP's style at work, and when writing for philatelic print publications, but in an e-mail message or a quick post on a message board, all bets are off.
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