Abandon All Fear

What nobody else seems to be saying…

Archive for February, 2008

Kamikaze Cream Egg

Posted by Lex Fear on February 26, 2008

[viewer discretion is advised]

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Posted in Ha-has, Video | Leave a Comment »

Daily Hate Mail

Posted by Lex Fear on February 16, 2008

Diana Appleyard hates Eastern Europeans Diana Appleyard “journalist” for the Daily Hate Mail has been exposed by Recess Monkey.

I am urgently looking for anonymous horror stories of people who have employed Eastern European staff, only for them to steal from them, disappear, or have lied about their resident status. We can pay you £100 for taking part, and I promise it will be anonymous, just a quick phone call. Could you email me asap?

My wife is a white Canadian, whose father was Eastern European, so I shall ask her if her dad ever stole, disappeared or lied about his residential status in Canada. Of course, having his own building company his family would have starved if he had. I know he had plenty of stories of people who stole from him…

Come to think of it I have plenty of stories about British people who have stolen, lied, slacked off and disappeared at work which I have seen first hand in my 12 years of employment, but I guess they don’t sound fanatical enough for headlines and sales to the xenophobic masses.

Posted in Morals & Ethics, Propaganda, Xenophobia | 1 Comment »

Culture War: A Sense of False Security

Posted by Lex Fear on February 16, 2008

What’s the deal with corporate security procedures when dealing with customers these days? Is it just me who finds most of them not only tedious and unnecessary but actually not very secure at all?

Take Zopa for example. If I forget my password then I have to go through a 7 step procedure to offer my email, name, postcode, dob, first school and place of birth. All of these are public information that can be found by doing a bit of digging. This is just to get Zopa to email you the link to the password reset form. So if someone did get hold of all this information and input it into the webform, they would still have to bypass my gmail security to get the password reset email. What does this mean? In reality it’s Google doing the security part, Zopa is simply offering an overly elaborate stalling tactic.

Even then, is your password even safe? Jeff Atwood at Coding Horror demonstrates that simply using "Password1!" as your password is more secure and infinitely harder to crack than something like "saMejus9" which can be cracked in 140 seconds! And yet, some websites don’t even allow you to use special characters such as !&$~% for your password.

So I’ve started taking my own subversive tactics, from things I’ve picked up from various sources to my own twisted paranoia, that I use daily in the culture war that is being waged against us by the government and corporations through passive and predatory systems.

Who Am I Talking To?

Lately, I’ve found banks and untility companies call me up and attempt to use a faux security procedure to verify who I am. This is one of the dumbest layers of security you can imagine because it achieves exactly the opposite, namely:

  1. Anyone can call your number out of the blue and say they are from Bank or Utility X and want to make sure you are who they say you are. Once they have this vital information they can call the real Bank or Utility X and get easy access to your account.
  2. Why call your number to speak to you if they’re not sure it’s you? You don’t walk into a Utility X branch and ask the teller to verify you’re standing in Utility X do you?

My tactic is to absolutely refuse to do this. You’re protecting your own interests here. When they say "I just need to verify it’s Mr Fear I’m talking to…" and then ask for my DOB or some other detail, I ask them if this is Utility X and how can I be sure. If they stay on the line then I’ll simply ask them for the same details: "You tell me my DOB/Postcode etc…" If they refuse to do this then I simply tell them I can’t trust them to be from Utility X and hang up.

The only time I’ll comply is when I’m expecting them to call me. Eg. I rang up and told them to call me back.

Who Are They Selling My Data To?

I recently discovered a neat trick for use with my Googlemail account (I have no idea whether it works with other email accounts). If you have a gmail account dots (.) and anything after a plus (+) in your username are ignored.

alexfear@gmail.com can become:

  • alex.fear@gmail.com
  • a.l.e.x.f.e.a.r@gmail.com
  • alexfear+blog@gmail.com

This is useful when signing up with services online. You can set your email client or googlemail account to filter any email sent to these addresses into different folders. It will then be easy to see which companies are selling your details to spammers.

My Mother Was Glad She Married

As discussed above, details such as your mothers maiden name, first school and so on can easily be found after a little digging, which is why when I’m asked to provide these on signing for a new service, I like to be a little creative (and get a laugh at the same time). That’s why my mothers maiden name could be:

  • Ineverhadamother
  • Imanorphanyouinsensitivedolt
  • Sorrycouldyourepeatthat

In reality you can use creative lines for any kind of password. Try to imagine someone asking you the question over the phone and saying back the line with an inflection making the call-handler do a double take.

If you’re signing up with a human, and they tell you, you can’t use that as your mothers maiden name, lower your tone and reply deadly serious "That is my mothers maiden name."

Cash For No Questions

Yep, paying by cash for services. Sounds like conspiraloonery now, right? Well how about if I told you that when you buy a TV (or anything capable of picking up a TV transmission such as a computer) by credit or debit card, that your data is passed on to Crapita Business Services Ltd, who then file it in their database and cross-reference it to see if you have paid their extortion TV licence fee. This is regardless of whether or not you will use it, or if you are a non-Television owner who bought it for a family member or such.

When you pay by cash for an item like this, they will ask you for your name and address details. Give them a false one instead if you value your privacy, don’t trust these companies to act lawfully or ethically. I could be wrong but the law only states they must pass on your details to Crapita, not that you have to supply the correct details.

Junking the Junkers

Remember the days before spam, when junk mail was all you had to worry about. There’s little fight back against spammers but there is something you can do to waste time and hurt the finances of junk mailers.

A lot of junk mail comes with a prepaid 1st or 2nd class franked envolope. When you get one of these, strip all your junk mail of identifying details and numbers (tear bits off if you need to) then stuff as much of it as possible into the envelope, including the original envolope and whilst ensuring it can still be sealed. Then post it.

I have no idea of the estimated cost of processing return mail for a company, but if you add it to the cost of disposing ofyour envelope and frustration for the person who’s job is to process the replies, you’re getting a small ounce of satisfaction. If everyone did this I can imagine that the cost would start to run pretty high.

I particularly enjoy sending a heavy reply envelope packed with junk, because there’s always the possibility they will be asked to go to the despatch office and pay extra for an overweight letter.

Your Dog Has Expensive Tastes

I haven’t done this but apparently it works for trees too. Apply for credit cards using your pets names’. Run up huge bills and simply don’t pay.

References

If you’re too shy to use some of these tactics but would like to, then there are sometimes other ways of making you talk getting what you need. I can’t promise the usefulness of the links below but they do contain a lot of information and support:

Rip-off Britain is a useful site for consumers with help and guidance in getting your money back and dealing with unscrupulous cowboy companies.

Consumer Action Group offer similar support as Rip-off Britain and is mostly forum based.

Bug Me Not claim to offer registrations for websites that force you to register, they also share discount codes and disposable email addresses.

The Consumerist has a Guide to Fighting back (article linked).

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Posted in Anecdotes | 6 Comments »

Book Meme

Posted by Lex Fear on February 4, 2008

I’ve been tagged by Ken over at C.Orthodoxy so finally a meme has worked it’s way round to Abandon All Fear.

Now, I need to say that I think the word ‘meme’ is just about the daftest word to describe the sharing of intellect and ideas, but I’m going to use it because it must really jar Bishop Dawkins that Christians are using it on their blogs.

Here goes:

  • Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
  • Open the book to page 123.
  • Find the fifth sentence.
  • Post the next three sentences.
  • Tag five people.

Well it just so happens the nearest book is one I got most of the way through but have not yet finished and not picked up for 6 months. It was resting on the paper-shredder (for lack of a better place to rest it), which for a bibliophile must seem rather treasonous.

I am aware by revealing the title of this book it may put across a certain image of the kind of person I am, some may laugh, others may nod sagely and say I need to read it. The truth is I find books like this incredibly fun, interesting and useful. Do not for a moment think that I’m reading this from a position of need, rather think of it as sharpening a sword.

The book is How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie. The fifth sentence on page 123 is:

"For you have struck a direct blow at their intelligence, judgement, pride and self-respect. That will make them want to strike back. But it will never make them want to change their minds."

Five great minds:

Yellow (who has delinked me?!)
Stef
Joshua
Kel
Cecilieaux

There were others, but limited to 5 unfortunately, so I purposefully included some guys I read and link to but haven’t commented for a while.

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Posted in Metablog, Quoteyness, Warring Memes | 2 Comments »