Monday, September 3, 2012

Charity’s online donors stumped by “jumbled letter” security device on donation page


People trying to make an online donation to Metro’s largest charity are scratching their heads over the new security system that they can’t understand. The CAPTCHA system of jumbled letters and numbers is designed to weed out spam robots who try to make a donation at the Metro Green Foundation Trust. Instead, the system is making donors confused, angry and fearful.

“I tried to make a $10.00 donation online at the Trust website,” said supporter Dibble Brewer, 67. “It wanted me to type out some jumbled letters on the screen. Even after staring at it for 30 minutes I still couldn’t understand it, so I gave up.”

“I thought I needed an eye test because the jumbled letters they had on the screen read something like ‘up yours pigface’,” recalled donor Mary Turner, 45. “But when I went to the optometrist she said my eyes were fine and suggested that perhaps I had had a stroke.”

The security system, called CAPTCHA, is a challenge-response test used on the Internet to ensure that a response is generated by a real person. A common type of CAPTCHA requires the user to type letters or digits from a distorted image that appears on the screen. Such tests are commonly used to prevent unwanted Internet bots from accessing websites. The term "CAPTCHA" was coined in 2000 by a group of scientists at Carnegie Mellon University and is an acronym standing for "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart".

Ever since the jumbled word system has been put in place, online donations to the Trust have plummeted by more than 3000 percent. Most donors try in vain to enter combination after combination of letters before finally giving up.

“I tried 33 times to enter the right letters,” said Trust annual donor Turner Mary, 75. “Finally I just typed in what was on my mind – ‘up yours pigface’. Amazingly it worked.”

Police say one donor had to be hospitalized after trying to input the jumbled letters again and again over a 24 hour period. Family members found unconscious at her computer but still trying to tap away at the CAPTCHA.

"I think that there is no correct way to enter these letters," said Zumfelt Jones, 69. "I think this system just keeps telling you your wrong time and time again because the Trust is trying to make us go insane. They're devils."

Better Fingers, 57, a long-time donor to the Trust, tried to call the charity to tell them about the problem but couldn’t make the person who answered understand what she was talking about.

“I told them that they had some jumbled letters on their donation page that no one could understand, but they thought I was referring to the text explaining where the money was going,” said Fingers. “I told them it was all jumbled, and they kept telling me that it wasn’t. We went round and round in circles until I got fed up and hung up.”

Actual CAPTCHA for Obesity

Trust CEO Spooley Snidely says she wasn’t aware that changes had been made to their online giving pages.

“I don’t understand websites and things like that. I just leave it to Rob, the IT guy. I’m sure he knows what he’s doing. He’s like 23 or something and I can’t understand one thing he says,” said Snidely.

Rob Zimmer, the Trust’s IT specialist, says the new CAPTCHA system was put in place automatically after their website was upgraded last month and he isn’t paid enough to figure out how to turn it off.