NI Direct Covid Certificate

2021 has also been quite the year. Thankfully we’ve been busier than usual and have so far avoided Covid infection, and the cats are also well, though staying in more due to the cold.

From 13th December you will need to have a Covid Certificate or “passport” in order to enter licensed premises or a slightly different one if you want to travel abroad.

As ever, scammers have seen an opportunity here, and we’ve heard of websites that look very like the official NI Direct site charging for what is a free service with no certificate at the end. As so many personal details and a photograph are needed in the application process this is a data goldmine so it’s no wonder that the thieves are at their work.

The proper, official NI Direct website is here:

https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/services/apply-travel-covid-vaccination-certificate

You’ll need to scroll down quite a way to find the green “Apply for a Covid Certificate” button.

Sadly the process is quite complex, and it is easy to get into difficulty with it. Initially you need an NI Direct account if you don’t already have one, this is the first stage in the application process.

You will need access to your email address and mobile phone (confirmation codes are sent to both when you enter the details into the NI Direct website) as well as photographic ID such as a driving licence, passport or Translink Senior Smart Pass. You will have to supply your full name, date of birth, address and postcode.You will need to create a password as well – don’t forget this as it is important.

We think a passport will need to be a UK one, but have no proof of this.

You will also need a means (we found it much easier to use a laptop with a camera, but that’s just us) to take and upload photographs of your ID and also to take a “selfie” to match the picture on your photographic ID in order to confirm your identity. There appears to be an automatic process to validate identity; this seems to work 50% of the time.

Photographs once uploaded are rejected for no discernible good reason, leading to other forms of ID being required (again these need to be photographed and uploaded). So far with clients we’ve used a credit card statement, rates bill and a mobile phone bill in conjunction with other proofs.

These details are then entered into a manual verification system which can take anything from a few minutes to a day or two to be checked. No progress can be made until this is done.

Every time you access the website or mobile app (we’ll get to that) a confirmation code sent either by SMS or email is needed. If you choose the email option and use the app on your phone, make sure you have access to the associated email account as you can’t access the app to show your certificate and gain entry without entering a one time code every time you sign in to your NI Direct account. (As you can imagine, this quickly becomes tedious.)

We’ve helped quite a few people so far with this process, in all cases it has ranged from “difficult” to “a bureaucratic nightmare” just to create the account.

Once you eventually have your NI Direct account, you can apply for a Travel Certificate, which is needed even if you have no intention of going anywhere.There is no means at present to apply solely for a Domestic Certificate, at least not that we’ve found.

To get this you will need to supply your NHS number (not the number on an older medical card; but shown on hospital appointment letters or prescriptions), and know the dates of both of your Covid vaccinations and where they were given. If you’ve had the booster it isn’t queried.

A travel certificate is then issued. Once this is in place, we’ve found that its best to download the CovidCert NI app on to your phone or tablet (the phone is probably best as you’ll likely have it with you if you’re going out).

The app works on both Android or Apple phones, but certainly isn’t available on older Android models. (We don’t have an iPhone to test.) If it doesn’t show in the Play Store it isn’t available for your phone, and you need to print the Travel Certificate and take it, plus photo ID to wherever you plan to visit as you won’t be able to get a Domestic Certificate as outlined below.

When the app is in place, log in with your NI Direct ID (not forgetting the one time code). You will then have the option to add a Domestic Covid Certificate to the app. Your phone will want to take a selfie of you which it adds beside a QR code on the certificate which lives in the app under the Travel Certificate, and which will need to be scanned on entry to anywhere licensed.

You should now have an NI Direct account the CovidCert NI app on your phone, and both a Travel Certificate (with two QR codes) and a Domestic Certificate (with one QR code and a picture) available to show to anyone who wants to see it for the purpose of letting you in for a drink or a meal.

We’ve had nothing but trouble with the whole procedure, and don’t know how anyone older or with limited phone or computer knowledge (or – heaven forbid – no photographic ID) is meant to navigate this quagmire of a system.

With a lot of trial and error, and a bit of an insight into the NI Civil Service mind we have an idea how to get the thing to work, so if you are stuck or don’t fancy tackling it yourself we’d be happy to come and give you a hand.

How to (hopefully) spot a scam

We’ve been warning about scam telephone calls and emails for a long time.

Sadly they seem to growing in number and sophistication with more and more people being caught out and robbed.

If you have any doubt whatsoever about a telephone call or an email that you receive, hang up the phone or delete the email at once. Give no personal information to anyone you don’t know and don’t open any links in an email.

Here is a bit if a guide to what to look out for.

The more obvious ones – lotteries you’ve never heard of let alone entered, unexpected large amounts of money that need to “rest” in your account, banks or credit card firms you don’t use – ignore and delete.

Your bank or building society, HMRC, the PSNI, any of the energy suppliers, the Post Office, or any other reputable company will not phone you out of the blue / email you / text you to tell you that your money in the bank is at risk, the police are on the way to arrest you for unpaid tax or bills, you owe a fee to have a parcel delivered, your electricity or gas is about to be cut off, or for any of the other reasons scammers will try to frighten you or put you off balance.

If you receive any communication saying any of the above it is a lie, and someone is trying to rob you. Don’t reply to an email or a text, and put the phone down. Don’t enter into any of it. Delete and block if it is an email or text, and if your phone allows it block the telephone number.

One to particularly watch for is a nearly legitimate link in an official looking email. The thieves have become adept at making their emails look real. The days of badly scanned logos and spelling mistakes are mostly gone, but they give themselves away with links for you to click.

If you want to go to Amazon, you click on amazon.co.uk and do your shopping. A scam Amazon Prime email (as an example) will want you to go to amzaon.co.uk or similar – note the spelling mistake – or the likes of amazon-sales.co.uk which is nothing to do with the legitimate site. Any such links are to be avoided at all cost.

Another tactic used by telephone scammers is for them to “understand” that you think that their call (usually from a bank security service) is a theft attempt, and for them to give you the correct number for your banks fraud team. You hang up, but because they don’t the line does not clear.

They will then play a dialling tone sound to you, so that when you think that you are ringing the “bank” you end up speaking to another of the scammers who reassures you that the original call is legitimate, and “transfers” you back to the original caller who then steals your money.

One very sneaky and recent one is an email scam, pretending to be from someone you know, who is in trouble but can’t get to the phone. If you reply, you will be asked for money to aid your “friend”. All you will be doing is giving your money away to a thief. If you get such an email, contact your friend by phone or in person and tell them what is happening.

Please be very, very careful.

Anything that sounds remotely doubtful probably is. Don’t give any personal information unless you are absolutely certain who you are speaking to.

If you have any concerns about a number which has called you and asked for details or claims to be someone that they may not be, ring the police on 101 and make a report.

 

2020 – where to start…

What a year this has been  😕

Thankfully we’re (so far) remained free of Covid, and while it has been far from a busy year we’re still here, still repairing PCs and laptops and giving free, impartial help and advice.

Thanks to everyone who have used our services in 2020.

We quietly “celebrated” 21 years in business in November.

We’re closing on Wednesday 23rd for Christmas and will re open on Monday 4th January with very limited hours initially due to the latest lockdown. There will be more detail about this nearer the time.

We won’t be doing any callouts for the forseeable future, and if you need to come and see us, please get in touch first to make an appointment, please wear a mask, and don’t pass the front counter.

The scammers remain very active. Please be very vigilant over the holidays and if it sounds too good to be true or if you smell a rat, end the conversation and notify the police.

Have as good a Christmas as possible, please stay safe, and all being well we will see each other sometime in 2021.

September Covid update

We’re back to our normal opening hours, and happily are very busy. Thanks to everyone who has used our services over the summer.

Given the recent rise in Covid-19 cases and the restrictions imposed because of it, we will only be doing call outs if they are absolutely necessary, so please don’t be disappointed if we ask you to bring broken or misbehaving equipment to us or if we tell you that we can’t come to see you.

We would also ask that you wait at the front counter on arrival, and use the hand sanitiser provided. We will clean any equipment you leave with us on arrival and prior to collection.

Please remain safe.

Mid June Covid 19 update

With most shops etc now open again we are extending our opening hours a little further, though still trying to stay very safe.

We’re now open from 9.00 – 1.00 Monday to Friday, with the same distancing as before – don’t come past the counter unless asked, and don’t be offended if we clean your computer.

We still aren’t doing call outs, but phone, email and Facebook message help is still freely available.

The scammers also seem to have calmed themselves; we’ve not heard of anything new for a while, but please still be wary of cold calls – it isn’t the bank, the police or your internet provider – and remember to stay safe.

Covid-19 update

That has been an “interesting” nine weeks. Thankfully we are still here, and keeping very safe.

Many thanks to all who have been in touch with messages of support and who have used our service during this difficult time.

We’ve been operating with very restricted opening hours since the lockdown began, and for the time being will continue to do so.

Currently the office is open between 9.00 and 11.00, Monday to Friday to deal with urgent repairs and answer email, phone and Facebook message queries. Advice and support is and always will be freely available.

If we do need to see your computer, please ring ahead to make sure that we are ready for you and so that we can discuss the procedures in place for leaving it with us while maintaining distancing. We clean everything as it comes in and before it leaves.

We still aren’t doing call outs until we can be sure that it is safe to do so.

Finally, please be aware of the many Covid-19 related scams that are doing the rounds. If it sounds too good to be true, it is, whoever you use for internet provision won’t ring you to say that there is a fault,  and your bank will never, ever ring you to ask you to move money from your account.

If you receive such a call, hang up without giving any information, record the number using 1471 if possible, and let the police know what has happened, even if you haven’t fallen for the scam.

Above all, stay safe.

Covid-19

We are – for now – still open, and are taking all precautions to avoid becoming infected and also from infecting others.

We aren’t doing any call outs for the foreseeable future, and if you come to see us please stay on the door side of the counter.

 

Christmas 2020 holidays

Many thanks to all who have used our services throughout 2019 and made it one of our best years ever.

We celebrated twenty years in business in November, and couldn’t have done it without the support of all of our clients. Thank you all.

We are closing tomorrow – Friday 20th – at 12.00, and won’t be back until January 3rd 2020.

We won’t be checking voicemail or mobile messages during this period, and the office will be closed.

Please have a safe and happy holiday.

(Yet another) scam update

Over the past two weeks we’ve seen a slight change in the long running “your broadband / PC / laptop has a fault” series of scams.

Instead of the usual call centre, there is now a recorded message advising of the fault, with option to press 1 to be connected to an operator.

This works to the thieves advantage, as they are now no longer manually ringing telephone numbers where the call recipient hangs up or there is no-one in, instead if the victim does choose to speak to them the job is already half done and there’s a better chance of success.

So far we’ve had a call from BT (we don’t use BT!) to say that our broadband connection is faulty, and more recently one from Amazon stating that there was an issue with our account.

The Amazon one was more worrying as it stated that we had been signed up for Amazon Prime and that a £90.00 charge was about to be imposed. All lies, of course, but designed to make you press 1.

Please spread news of this far and wide .

The sad demise of Internet Explorer

Microsoft introduced Internet Explorer in 1995, and officially replaced it in 2015, with version 11 being the final one.

However, it is still available in Windows 10 if you look hard, although the Edge browser (introduced in Windows 10) would be Microsoft’s preferred alternative.

Many people still use Internet Explorer, but we’ve recently noticed that some basic functions in websites have become difficult or stopped working altogether while using it. We’ve seen difficulty in printing emails, accessing BT webmail, and have heard of issues logging into online forums and Facebook.

We think that if you are still using Internet Explorer that the time has come to change to a more modern browser that won’t give you problems and is less of a security risk. We recommend (and use) Google Chrome, however there are many alternatives such as Mozilla Firefox, Opera and of course Microsoft Edge.

It can be troublesome (although not impossible) to transfer favourites, saved password etc. from one browser to another, so if you feel that you need to change browser but aren’t too sure how to do it please come and see us 🙂