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News from Stinchcombe Parish Council

Royal Mail Scam Text

Fake Text Messages

Warning over Royal Mail text message scam

People are being warned to watch out for a new text message scam in which criminals pose as Royal Mail in an attempt to steal personal and financial details.

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) said it has received evidence of the scam, which uses a text message to claim a parcel is awaiting delivery but a “settlement” must first be paid.

The message also includes a link which leads to a fraudulent website posing as a Royal Mail page and asks for personal and payment details, which could then be used by scammers for further fraud.

It follows a similar scam taking place over email which was flagged by Royal Mail last month.

Concerns have been raised about an increase in online scams since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic as millions of people began spending more time online and there was a surge in online shopping.

Royal Mail scam text

The fraudulent message asks users to pay a settlement before their parcel can be delivered (CTSI/PA)

The CTSI warned that the rise in online shopping means more people are likely to be waiting for parcels and deliveries, making them more vulnerable to this kind of scam.

Lead officer Katherine Hart said: “This delivery scam is yet another example of fraudsters attempting to make money out of the unsuspecting public. Due to the lockdowns, many millions of people rely on product deliveries, so scammers have focused their efforts on this theme.

“Royal Mail will only ever contact you via text or email if a customs fee is due, not for domestic parcel delivery. If you have any suspicions, contact Royal Mail to verify before you click any links or share details.

“Also, the public must also be aware that these types of scams may come in many forms, and scammers do not only use Royal Mail branding.

“Indeed, in January, I commented on a similar scam that used DPD branding.

“These types of scams come in many forms, not just via text but also in emails and through the phone.”

People are encouraged to report scams to Action Fraud, or for email scams contact the National Cyber Security Centre by emailing report@phishing.gov.uk.

All about the Website

How it works

For those who perhaps have never had the time to explore the website, I thought that I would take a few minutes and explain about the content and how to navigate around it. You might not be aware of various aspects or how it all fits together.

Compliance

First of all, the whole site was re-written recently so that it complies with the WCAG guidelines wherever possible. The “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines” covers a wide range of recommendations for making Web content more accessible. It means that websites can be used by portable devices like phones, they can be listened to and they text can be easily changed to accommodate for blindness and low vision. For the Stinchcombe Website, it meant scrapping over half the site and re-writing the other half. As you can imagine this took hours of work.

1

This icon on the site is used to change the text size, the contrast and the font. You will see this or something similar on many websites that comply with the guidelines.

On Microsoft Edge, the read aloud command is now built in as “Ctrl+Shift+U” on Google Chrome you still have to download the “Speech to Text” extension.

The Site

Posts

The site itself runs on WordPress which runs 40% of the worlds websites. It has two sides, One side is called a “Blog” and is for articles like this one. These are called “Posts”. Every “Post” on our site comes under one of four sections with the headings:

They appear on the website in date order with the newest at the top of each section. At the bottom of each section is a link called “More Posts” which will pull up all posts under that heading.

Pages

The other side of the site are the pages. These are permanent like a book and a filed under structure the chapter headings are seen on the left of the front Page. For instance, “Our Virtual Village” now has twelve pages but only the chapter heading shows on the frontpage.

The Front Page

The Front Page of the site used to be called the Landing Page although this term seems to have changed to mean where a site collects information about you. However if you look at our Front Page you will see current information for the village.

Top Right are the Notices this is the Parish Council Notice Board. I will also post Parish Notices on the board from anyone who sends me one!

Under that are the Next Village Events. Anything coming up in the village. When, Where and How Long. The Parish Council meeting shows a link to the latest minutes and agenda.

Next we have a list of the latest Post.

Then under “Full List of Pages” that we have a full list of every PAGE on the site.

Also on the front page at the very top we have a “Search This Site” box which works extremely well, a map of the surroundings, the local weather, your Parish Council and various other things.

Finally

I hope that this “tour” of the front page has helped you better understand why the site is at it is. Remember it’s not a professional site, it depends on people actively contributing ideas, photos, and especially articles. No matter how small and insignificant a piece everyone has something to say. If you don’t contribute to the village website then it will at some point die.

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Refurbished Laptops

Laptops for Schools

Dursley Rotary Club : Make a difference and give a laptop

Dursley Rotary Club is collecting unwanted computers, laptops or ipads. Following wiping and reprogramming, these can be given to pupils at local schools who are in desperate need of them.  At the moment Cam Everlands Primary School seems to have the greatest need.

Cam Everlands also has the facility themselves to carry out and guarantee the necessary “cleaning” and “refurbishing” of all donated computers.

If you wish to donate one please contact:

  • Russ Holloway 542159
  • Chris Wellings 543110

Many Thanks
Russ

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Hacked Email

The Havoc of being Hacked

The Hook

This morning I received an email proposedly from a friend. It was a very good example of the utter havoc that a friends phone / computer being hacked can cause.

1st email from a the friends email address.

Good Morning,
How are you doing today?
I need a favour from you, i’m unavailable on phone, kindly let me know if you are online.
Await your swift response.

2nd email from an email address which is the same name but now with a new gmail account

I am sorry for bothering you with this mail, i need to get an Amazon gift card for my Niece, Its her birthday but  I can’t do this now because I’m currently out of reach and i have a little issues with my amazon account, can you get it from any store around you or try buying online for me? I’ll reimburse you hopefully next weekend.
Waiting to read back from you

At this point, having now come fully awake, alarm bells rang. They should have been ringing after the 1st email, but I plead lack of coffee. If I had continued to engage with my “friend”, the best outcome might have been that I would send an Amazon gift card £100 and lost the money, the worst might have been that my computer would have been infected as well….

What must have happened

First the hackers must have taken control of my friends computer or the email account. In this case, it was the computer. The most common ways are:

  • Emails containing viruses and malware – This is one of the most popular methods of spreading malware hidden in an attachment in the email. Once the attachment is opened, the malicious software executes and/or downloads onto the computer that receives it.
  • Emails with links to malicious websites – Often referred to as phishing these emails attempt to emulate legitimate emails from well-known organisations that the receiver would tend to trust such as a bank. The html links lead to fake websites which try and trick the user entering sensitive information such as passwords and banking details. Sometimes these websites also attempt to install malware, viruses or spyware on the recipient’s computer.
  • Social networking pages – People tend to let down their guard and be less wary on social networking sites. With this method, a fake profile entices real users into following links to malicious websites or giving up sensitive personal information.
  • A phishing scam that asks you to “confirm” your password. These types of scam emails can be convincing. But you should never respond to any unexpected message that asks you to verify your password, account numbers, addresses, or any other information of this kind.

Once a hacker has control of your computer, they can wander around at will and look at all your files, your stored passwords, your whole life….

What to do when you have been hacked

Isolate Your Computer

In order to cut the connection that the hacker is using to “pull the strings” on your computer, you need to isolate it so it can’t communicate on a network. Isolation will prevent it from being used to attack other computers as well as preventing the hacker from continuing to be able to obtain files and other information. Pull the network cable out of your PC and turn off the Wi-Fi connection. If you have a laptop, there is often a switch to turn the Wi-Fi off. Don’t rely on doing this through software, as the hacker’s malware may tell you something is turned off when it is really still connected.

Inform the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB)

Report a fraud to Action Fraud, by Tel 0300 123 2040 or using the on-line tool. You are then given a police crime reference number and your case will be referred on to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB), which is run by the police service. This have benefits when you might have to change any bank accounts and credit cards. Once you report to your bank and have a crime reference, you are indemnified against further losses. Check the GOV website Avoid and report internet scams and phishing.

Now Calm, Down and Assess the situation

Having done the important bits, just sit down and have a cup of tea. Make a list of things to do and people to talk to. It’s not the end of the world.

  • Your computer will have to be looked at by someone who knows what to do.
  • You might want to change ALL your financial passwords.
  • You need to contact your Internet provider and change ALL your online passwords.
  • You might want to contact all your email contacts that your email account has been hacked.
  • Talk to a friend or someone who can give you advice, help and support. After all, you have just been burgled!

Prevention is MUCH better that the cure

This is a case where prevention is MUCH better than the cure.

  • Every computer needs good and UPTODATE Virus/Malware. Think of it as insurance. You wouldn’t drive without insurance and you wouldn’t not have insurance for your house. So why penny pinch on insurance for your computer? Personally I use Malwarebytes, because I don’t find it too intrusive.
  • Use STRONG passwords (not dogs name) and also a PASSWORD KEEPER. A file called “passwords” is the first thing hackers will look for.
  • Be AWARE. Think of surfing the internet as swimming in the sea off the beach. One has to be aware of what your doing. It can be dangerous. Don’t touch / open / click unless you know who it came from and know what it is.
  • BACKUP everything. If your computer stops today, can you start again on a new PC tomorrow? In these days of “Cloud” computing all your files should be backed up somewhere in the cloud. There are many providers who would do this for you. (Google/Amazon/Microsoft/Dropbox etc)

I hope you find the above of use, and if you have any tips, suggestions or improvements for this article please feel free to use the comments section below.

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Mobile Speed Camera outside the Village Hall

Results of the Survey on Funding Community Projects

Thank You

Many thanks to the 41 households that returned their forms – about a quarter of the households in the parish.

It is notoriously difficult to get a good response rate.  Coinciding with a lockdown certainly doesn’t help!  There are probably many reasons why people decide to opt out – it would be useful to learn more to improve future surveys. 

How much support for traffic calming?

Three-quarters (75.6%)  of responding households are in favour of funding traffic calming by an increase in their council tax.

We asked which street you live on for a good reason.  Highways will assess traffic calming proposals on various criteria, including the community support in the immediate vicinity.

The percentage of households in favour on those streets with more than one or two responses was:

Road% in FavourNo. Responses
The Street92%12 responses
Taits Hill Rd & Taits Hill70%10 responses
Wick Lane57%7 responses
Echo Lane100%4 responses
Responses to the Village Survey

Traffic calming funded by other means is supported by an additional 10% of responding households.  A further 10% say they would possibly support it.  This suggests that very few in the Parish are actively against doing something about speeding.

How much are responding households prepared to pay for traffic calming?

You were asked what increase in your annual council tax you would accept for this purpose.  We requested your council tax band so we could  calculate the corresponding increase in the parish precept.  The zero responses were taken into account as well as the non-zero ones.

The calculated increase in precept came out at just over £3,000.  This figure represents an average of what responding households wanted, taking account their different council tax bands. 

What has the Parish Council decided?

The Parish Council discussed the survey results at our meeting on 20 January.  It was essential to decide on the parish precept for 2021/22  to meet the budget deadline.  We voted unanimously for a increase of £2,000 for traffic calming purposes.  This is well within the amount calculated from the survey responses.

There will be a second instalment in 2022/23 to provide the balance needed for a traffic calming project.  The Speed Watch Group will do its best to minimise the balance by seeking other funding.  We will also get on with the other activities needed to support the project.  This will include resuming speed monitoring as soon as it is permitted.

What form will traffic calming take?

The Speed Watch Group continues to research the options, but a vehicle-activated sign  (VAS)  has emerged as the favourite. 

The main reasons are:

  • significant and sustained speed reductions at moderate cost
  • can take action at more than one location
  • moving the VAS between locations avoids drivers becoming “desensitised”
  • education aspect – makes drivers more aware of their speed
  • choice of suppliers and plenty of operating experience

A detailed table comparing the options is available for anyone who is interested.

Playground Improvements

This aspect of the survey is not related to the Speed Watch Group, but for completeness here are the key findings.

  • 58.5% of responding households are in favour of funding playground improvement via an increase in council tax
  • The calculated increase in precept for this purpose came out at just under £1,500.

The Parish Council decided that rather than increase the precept they would allocate £500 towards the development of proposals.

Other community projects suggested

The following suggestions were received:

  • reinstatement and maintenance of public footpaths (3 households suggested this)
  • contribution towards cost of a village magazine
  • contribution towards the maintenance of the churchyard
  • village pub
  • new noticeboard next to the bench near the bridleway up the Hill
  • electric vehicle charging point

The Annual Parish Meeting in May (date not yet decided) will be an opportunity to discuss these ideas.  With any luck we will be able to meet in person by then.

And finally … privacy issues

All the responses have been put into a spreadsheet, which does not include any names, postal addresses or email addresses.

I have explained why we needed to know your street and council tax band.  This information does not identify an individual property except in a very small number of cases.  In such cases, it will be removed if the spreadsheet needs to be shared.

The unique reference number on each survey form has not been linked to your address.  Its purpose was to ensure that no household submitted more than one response.

Where people submitted their form electronically we unavoidably have email addresses.  The emails are stored in a dedicated, password protected account.  Copies of the forms themselves will be kept temporarily, but the emails will shortly be deleted. Where people have put their response in the email instead of using the form, it will be copied to a new document.  This document will not include their name or email address.

Paper and electronic copies of the completed forms will eventually be destroyed/deleted.  They are being kept for the time being in case the Parish Council wishes to check the accuracy of the spreadsheet. 

Kath Hudson

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EU Settlement Scheme

EU Settlement Scheme

The deadline is approaching

The EU Settlement Scheme opens in a new window is open for applications for all EU, EEA (European Economic Area) and Swiss citizens (including any non-EU family members) who live in the UK, and want to continue to have the right to live, work and study in the UK following Brexit.  The deadline for applying to the EU Settlement Scheme is 30 June 2021, so we are urgently seeking all those who may not yet have applied.

In Gloucestershire, Citizens Advice and Gloucestershire Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (GARAS) are partnering with Gloucestershire County Council to offer free advice and help to any individuals or families applying to the EU Settlement Scheme. 

Free advice

For free advice and help, people can contact Citizens Advice (jennie.watts@gloscab.org.uk / 01452 527202 ext 262) or GARAS (admin@garas.org.uk / 01452 550528).

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Vehicle Activated Sign

Vehicle Activated Signs – VAS

A Little More about Vehicle Activated Signs

Yesterday a resident emailed me with some very sensible questions about Vehicle Activated Signs (VAS).  I have, of course, replied directly to them.  The questions and answers  below may be of interest to some residents.

Would we need a VAS for each speeding hot spot?

No, the type under consideration can be moved from place to place.  Slimbridge have one that they move between twenty locations.   The number of locations in Stinchcombe would probably be less than this.

An advantage of varying the location is that drivers do not become so accustomed to the VAS that they no longer notice it.

How is the VAS powered?

Mains, battery and solar options are available.  Rechargeable batteries might suit us best.  They would need to be changed every 2 weeks.

Who would change the batteries and move the VAS?

Speed Watch Group volunteers working to risk-assessed procedures would carry out these tasks.  Volunteers are also used in Slimbridge.  They advise using 2-3 people because the batteries are quite heavy.  The VAS and accessories can easily be transported in the back of a car.

What data would be logged?

The data logger records the time and speed of every vehicle  that passes the VAS.  It logs the vehicles in both directions, not only the way the sign is facing.  It does a similar job to human speed watch teams, but 24/7 and in all weathers. 

How would the data be used?

The data would be downloaded to a phone or laptop.  They would be processed using software supplied by the VAS manufacturer. 

Vehicle registrations are not recorded so the data would not lead directly to prosecutions.

As with data from human speed watch sessions, they would help the Police prioritise enforcement activities.

What is the point if VAS don’t identify speeders?

There is evidence that VAS speed reminders achieve reductions of between 2 mph and 6 mph in 85 percentile speed on 30 mph roads.  The 85 percentile speed is the speed at or below which 85% of vehicles are travelling. 

That might not sound like a big reduction but …

  • an average speed reduction of 1 mph reduces crash frequency by 5%
  • a pedestrian hit at 30mph has a one in five chance of being killed compared with  a one in three chance at 35mph.

These figures come from the road safety charity, Brake opens in a new window

Is there a risk of the VAS being damaged or stolen?

Yes, there is a risk which we would try to minimise.  Slimbridge lock their VAS to a post.  The price of the post is included in the estimate.  The VAS would also be insured.  My research indicates that this would cost about £100 per year. 

How much operating experience is there locally?

Slimbridge purchased the Morelock MSID Vario opens in a new window and are pleased with it.

There is considerable experience with using this model in Stroud District.  The Stroud District Road Safety Group owned two, which they loaned out to members.  With the Group’s recent demise, they have been sold off to members. 

Other speed feedback products are available!

Kath

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