Customers getting pay-outs from missold CPP

April 17th, 2014 6 Comments By Mof Gimmers

creditcards Customers getting pay outs from missold CPPA lot of people got insurance products that offered card protection or identity fraud protection from a business called Card Protection Plan (CPP).

Many obtained it through their banks and credit card issuers. However, the Financial Conduct Authority ruled that a lot of these products were mis-sold and fined CPP £10.5m in 2012.

Well, it seems like CPP are finally getting the cheques out to customers who put a claim in, and some of them are getting paid around £1,000 for their trouble.

If you haven’t put a claim in, you’ve still got until 30th August to get some money back.

You should’ve received a letter from CPP, which you may have thrown away thinking that it was a circular, but no worries.

You can get information about their compensation scheme by visiting cppredressscheme.co.uk or call them on a freephone number at 08000 83 43 93. If you’re outside the UK, then dial +44 1144 520 800. If you have had a form, but think you’ve completed it incorrectly, then call the number and ask for a new one, then complete it in black ink, in block capitals and send it back in the pre-paid envelope.

Separate letters are being sent if you happen to have been mis-sold card and identity protection. Fill out both forms to claim for your compensation.

As ever, with things like this, be wary of scams. If you have any concerns it is always best to ring CPP to make sure. Good luck, and give us a yell if you get some money from them!

6 sony logo w Sony Vaios are setting on fire! Heres what you need to doSony have issued a warning that some of the batteries in their Vaio Fit 11A laptops could set on fire.

If you have one, you’ve been advised to stop using it immediately.

Sony say a non-removable battery pack built by Panasonic is to blame and, in a statement, they said: “The safety of our customers is of the utmost importance, so we are advising those with affected models to switch off the unit and discontinue use.”

“We have provided customers with a simple tool to check the serial number to identify whether it is an affected model.”

The Vaio Fit 11A has only been on sale since February, so it shouldn’t be too big of a problem.

Affected European products are:

SVF11N16CTB SVF11N1L2RP
SVF11N1A4E SVF11N1L2RS
SVF11N1C5E SVF11N1M2ES
SVF11N1L2EB SVF11N1S2EB
SVF11N1L2EP SVF11N1S2ES
SVF11N1L2ES SVF11N1S2RS

You should visit the Sony page regarding this problem by clicking here. There, you can leave your contact details and Sony will get in touch with you to discuss what to do next. Or, if you prefer, call their hotline on 0844 8466 555.

What to do next now that Ovivo has closed down

March 20th, 2014 15 Comments By Mof Gimmers

ovivo What to do next now that Ovivo has closed downAs you will have heard by now, Ovivo has gone under. As the news was rather unexpected, you might well be wondering what you need to do next if you’re one of their customers.

Let us see if we can help you out.

If you paid for any of this service via PayPal, you should be able to raise a claim for this – but do it quickly. Sign in to your account here.

If you paid for anything with your Visa card, then payments for services under £100 should be covered under the Visa Chargeback Scheme. For this, contact your bank and not Visa and they should be able to sort you out.

Got any Direct Debits with them? Get them cancelled immediately. Phone your bank.

You can also complain about Ovivo to the Ombudsman. If you’d rather do it in writing or on the phone, the address is:

Ombudsman Services: Communications
PO Box 730
Warrington
WA4 6WU
Phone: 0330 440 1614
Textphone: 0330 440 1600

Link to Ombudsman details, or if you prefer, here’s a link to Ofcom’s details.

If you have the Ovivo sim and want to transfer your number you will need a Pac code. Use this link.

[with thanks to magicjay1986]

marks and spencer Bitterwallet Guide to spending Christmas with MuslimsThere’s seems to be confusion amongst certain people about this whole Marks & Spencers/Muslim non-story. Some people have erroneously likened this to the time those Christians refused entry to a gay couple in their B&B, when of course, any fool knows that the B&B refused all service to a couple on religious grounds while M&S are not refusing service to anyone at all. One is discriminatory behaviour, the other isn’t (sadly, you can’t say you’ve been discriminated against for simply being served by ‘someone else’). There’s a world of difference between refusal of service and using a different checkout.

Some readers are also saying that people shouldn’t work in places where they might have to do things that go against their beliefs, when of course, they’re aware that this applies to all religions, not just Muslims. If you want to ban religion, that’s another discussion. We’re sure most complainants wouldn’t mind working Christmas day on a normal rate for a non-Christian boss if that was the case.

But this is Britain right? There’s some confusion about Marks & Spencer’s being a standard-bearer for all that’s British. That’d be M&S, founded by Michael Marks, a refugee Jewish man from Belarus. Takes all sorts of people doesn’t it to make things happen, doesn’t it?

Anyway, we felt the need to clear all this up because after the non-boycott and we got the impression some people felt hard done to by Muslims who work in supermarkets. With that, we’ve created a handy flow chart which you can print off and use when you feel like your rights are being impeded by Muslims in major supermarkets.

muslims flowchart Bitterwallet Guide to spending Christmas with Muslims

 

How To… stop spam texts and cold calls

December 19th, 2013 7 Comments By Mof Gimmers

Spam 300x300 How To... stop spam texts and cold callsRecently, there’s been an increase in spam texts and cold calls, thanks to apparent PPI claims and imaginary friends telling you about payday loans.

So, what’s the best way to stop these nuisances? Of course, some of you will be already avoiding these things, but for those who aren’t, here’s a quick guide to having less mither in your life.

Insurance companies are notoriously awful when it comes to selling your details to other companies, so if you’re taking a new policy out, never opt-in to third party marketing. They will probably use double negatives and the like, so be careful.

Also, if you’re making a claim, be sure to tell your insurer you don’t want to be contacted by a CMC or legal firm.

You should also register with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). This will reduce the number of cold calls, but also, once you’re registered with the TPS, any calls you do get can be complained out to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) on 0300 123 3000. The ICO can then fine companies, which is perfect revenge for you. Ofcom can also take action on silent calls, spam calls and the like. Check here for more details.

Most mobiles have a ‘block number’ or ‘spam number’ options in the settings. With Vodafone, O2, Orange and T-Mobile, you can also forward spam texts to 7726. If you’re on Three, forward texts to 37726. Never respond to spam texts either. Even if you text ‘STOP’, all that does is tell the spammer that you’re phone is active and that they can send as many texts as they like to you.

If you’re a BT customer, you can go ex-directory or block any call that would appear as ‘number withheld’ or numbers from overseas (where many nuisance calls come from). More information on BT’s call features here.

How to… eat an apple

December 11th, 2013 8 Comments By Mof Gimmers

Like apples? We’re talking about the fruit, not the gadget-makers. Well, you’ve been eating them all wrong.

Grub-botherers Foodbeast, who have previously told us that we’ve been doing Tic-Tacs all wrong and removing the green bit off a strawberry like idiots and more, are now showing us the error of our ways with apples. Seems trivial, but you’ve been wasting “15 to 30% of every apple”, and in American money, that’s a “waste of $42″ a year.

So what do you need to do? The answer is surprisingly easy and all you have to do is watch this video.

As you can see, you’ve been eating it around the awful, inedible core and binning it. If you just ate it top-to-bottom, the core ostensibly disappears, making more flesh to eat for everyone in these terrible economic times.

Foodbeast said: “Eating it from the sides is wasteful. But if you eat it from the top, the core doesn’t even exist.”

So there you have it. More apple for your buck. Get a bag on the way home and wow your friends and family with your revolutionary new way of eating slightly more fruit.

How to buy a PS4 without pre-order

November 28th, 2013 3 Comments By Mof Gimmers

ps4 300x182 How to buy a PS4 without pre orderIf you’ve suddenly decided that you want a PlayStation 4 and haven’t pre-ordered one, fear not, as we’ve got a handy How To guide on the places you can pick one up before Christmas.

You can still order a PS4 from Amazon.co.uk as part of a bundle, but you’ll have to hurry yourself up as the postal service is about to start slowing up under the festive mentalness.

Loads of shops will have limited numbers of the console too, on a first come first served based.

Asda, Tesco, Argos and GAME have promised to have stock if you’re in a rush, but you can expect queues from gaming lunatics who like to stand in lines to prove how much they care about these matters. It’d be worth finding a store that is close enough to a pub, so you can at least get drunk before you queue or, indeed, have somewhere to sit if you decide against it at the last minute.

Tesco are being cagey, but they’ll be announcing their stores on this page so you can find the nearest one with PS4 stock. Argos, meanwhile, are allowing you to reserve one at this page, but they’re for collection only. Game haven’t gone into details yet, but check here throughout the day.

O2 are giving away PS4s with a new £52 a month contract on the day of release. The O2 deal requires an £89.99 up-front cost and you get some games with it too. You will be lumbered with a Sony Xperia Z1 phone too. Participating O2 stores can be found here.

Asda, meanwhile, have announced which stores will have PS4 stock. They’re open from midnight and limit purchases to 1 per customer. The list is rather long, so click over the jump to see which store near you will have a PS4 for you, should you want to pick one up in person on the day of release. For the rest of Europe, click here.

Read the rest of this entry »

Alpine Electronics: Christmas scamsters?

November 26th, 2013 5 Comments By Mof Gimmers

scam Alpine Electronics: Christmas scamsters?There’s a lot of concern regarding a company called Alpine Electronics. Not to be confused with the Alpine who make car accessories, but rather, a site people have spotted some bargains that appeared to be too good to be true. And, it appears they were indeed not to be believed.

The company, trading via alpineelectronicsltd.co.uk had offers on cheap consoles. After taking numerous orders, the site is now down and it appears that all orders have gone with it.

BW staff contacted the numbers that were on the site before it went down, and there’s no answer. After finding the address of the company, we called the company next door and found that Alpine Electronics had upped sticks and moved on. The person we spoke to admitted that they’d taken numerous calls regarding this matter.

Looking at scamvoid/alpineelectronicsltd, it seems this was a very new company, which makes it difficult to assume that this is anything but a scam.

Over on HUKD, there’s a lot of discussion about the company, with one user noting too many indescrepencies (see here), and lots of comments about emails going unanswered and phone calls which were vague about the company’s history. Many customers have said that they’ve received fake DHL emails about delivery.

Amazon customers have also been talking about Alpine Electronics, with many feeling they’ve been duped. Some customers have already contacted the police about the matter.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE AN ALPINE ELECTRONICS ORDER?

To be safe, it is worth getting in touch with your credit/debit card company or call Action Fraud on 0300 1232040. When contacting Action Fraud, be sure to let them know that the company has vacated their premises, which means they won’t instruct you to send a Breach Of Contract letter to Alpine. Your bank should stand the cost of the transaction, but you’ll need to contact them for more details.

Should your bank prove difficult, remind them that you are in fact protected by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act whenever you make a purchase for goods or services worth between £100 and £30,000 using your credit card. Section 75 states that you and your credit card provider are “jointly and severally liable” for your purchase. That means, if you’re scammed, your card provider must refund you if the retailer won’t.

Most debit card providers offer protection also. A scheme called Chargeback offers protection on purchases made using Visa, Visa Electron, Mastercard and Maestro debit cards. This makes it possible for you to claim a refund if your transaction is unsatisfactory (goods not being delivered, multiple billing, fraud). Claims must be made within 120 days of when your goods should have been delivered and ask your bank to initiate the Chargeback process and a dispute will be opened by your bank.

If Chargeback fails, take your claim to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

How to solve your PS4 problems

November 19th, 2013 4 Comments By Mof Gimmers

ps4 300x196 How to solve your PS4 problems

We reported that there had been problems with the PS4, with customers complaining that it was switching off for no reason.

Sony said that problems were only affecting less than 0.4% of units shipped to date and they said in a statement: ”This is within our expectations for a new product introduction, and the vast majority of PS4 feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.” They added that they are “closely monitoring for additional reports, but we think these are isolated incidents”.

So how do you fix the issues?

First off, check your TV compatibility or your HDMI connection. Some users have noted that, after initial problems, after updating the firmware on their televisions, issues concerning a lack of audio or video have been sorted. Also, it’d be worth checking the HDMI ports on both your television and PS4, as well as checking the cable you have.

If you think it might be the PS4 power supply, you need to switch off your PS4 completely, touch the power button on the front of the PS4 for at least 7 seconds until the system beeps twice, then disconnect the plug from the socket in the wall (you must only do this when the power indicator is turned off or you might corrupt data on your console). After that, try again. You can also try the power adapter from the PS3 if that doesn’t work.

If you think it might be the PS4 hard drive, turn off the PS4 and press the power button for 7 seconds (again, until the system beeps twice) and disconnect the PS4 AC power cord from the electrical outlet. Then, when the system is completely off, detach all the other cables from your console. Then, slide the HDD bay cover in the direction of the arrow to remove it and have a look at the hard drive to make sure it is properly seated in the HDD bay. It is a pretty easy job to fix, but you are advised to check Sony’s guide on that. If you’re brave enough, you can install a new hard drive yourself.

If you think software is the problem, then try booting your PS4 in Safe Mode. Again, you press the button on your console for 7 seconds as above. There’s more on that here. In Safe Mode, you can restart the system, update the system’s software, restore default settings, rebuild the database (which scans the drive and creates a new database of all content) or ‘Initialize PS4′. The latter loses all data and settings and returns your PS4 to the stage of being fresh out of the box. If you’re doing that, read this first.

Sony have written a full guide to fixing your PS4 problems, and you can view it here.

child money 300x224 Earn over £50k and still claim child benefit? Register for Self Assessment now.If you were lucky enough to lose your child benefit entitlement earlier this year, but continued to draw it, the deadline for informing HMRC is looming. By law, you need to tell HMRC that you owe them money (yes, really) no later than six months after the end of the tax year in which the tax liability arose. For the 2012/13 tax year (the child benefit rules changed in January 2013) which ended on 5 April, you need to register for a Self Assessment return by 5 October. That’s next Saturday.

Why do I need to complete a tax return?

The law changed in January and made those where one partner in a couple has income over £60,000 ineligible for child benefit, and those with an income of between £50,000 and £60,000 entitled to a reduced amount. HMRC wrote to those they thought might be affected to tell them they could either stop receiving the benefit, or they could claim the cash, and repay it through a Self Assessment tax return.

While declining the benefit is the simplest option for those earning over £60k, it may be that the non- or lower-earning partner receives the benefit and they continue to want this cash (rather than asking for ‘housekeeping’). Also, there is a cash-flow benefit of taking cash totalling £1700+ of the Government’s money and not giving it back for up to 22 months. Those earning between 50k and 60k would not be advised to decline the benefit, as they should get a proportion, and even for those whose salary is over £60k, allowable deductions like pension contributions might mean they officially earn less, for child benefit abatement purposes.

Of course, high earners will probably already need to complete a tax return as any non-PAYE income (including miniscule bank interest) will need to be declared and higher rate tax paid. But remember, Labour says people earning £50-£60k are not high earners (although someone earning £6k a year may disagree), so they may indeed be needing a tax return for the first time.

You may also need to declare your child benefit if your income rose above £50k for the first time in 2012/13.

What do I have to do?

You need to register for Self Assessment, but helpfully, you can now do it online here, quoting your National Insurance number. If the only reason for needing a tax return is down to child benefit, then the person earning over £50k should register. If both spouses earn over £50k , then the highest earner should register.

What happens if I don’t register for Self Assessment?

Well, immediately, nothing. However, if HMRC can show that you had a liability and you didn’t  tell them in time, you can be penalised for not submitting tax returns and suffer surcharges for not paying back (in tax) the benefit received. The normal deadline for submitting online returns is 31 January following the end of the tax year (so 31 January 2014 for 2012/13), but paper returns normally have to be in by 31 October (2013). However, where a return is not issued by 31 July, you normally get up to three months to submit a paper return. The normal late tax return penalties will apply if you don’t get your tax return in on time.

However, more worrying is the new ‘failure to notify’ penalty regime, under which HMRC can penalise you up to 100% of the tax due just for failing to tell them you were going to owe tax.

kindle 300x168 How to protect your Kindle library from Amazons deleting fingers....Last week, we heard the worrying tale of a Kindle user who had her entire library deleted by Amazon for reasons that they weren’t prepared to share with her. There was a kind of happy ending as her account was later restored, although Amazon were still tight-lipped as to why it all happened.

If you’ve built up a large collection of ebooks from the Kindle Store and are worried that it could all be wiped away in the blink of an eye for any reason that Amazon see fit, you might be keen to learn how you can save those digital books.

Yes, you can strip away the DRM and save the books to a hard drive or somewhere where Amazon can’t remotely wipe them, BUT it’s almost certainly in contravention of Amazon’s Kindle terms and conditions and it might not work for every one of your books.

If you fancy having a fiddle with some DRM and protecting your ebooks, here’s how (this is the Mac version)…

1: Download Calibre (available for OS X, Windows, and Linux). It’s a “free and open source e-book library management application developed by users of e-books for users of e-books.”

2: Download the DeDRM plugin and unzip it. It’s the piece of code that cracks Amazon’s DRM scheme. After you’ve installed Calibre, open its Preferences (under the File menu) and click on ‘Plugins’ and then, ‘Load plugin from file’ before choosing the K4MobileDRM plugin’s zip file—it’s a zipped file inside of the DeDRM zipped file you downloaded. Don’t decompress this second file.

(For Windows users: you might also need to install both Python and the PyCrypto precompiled binary in order to be able to decrypt some e-books. Get Python here, and get the matching version of PyCrypto from here (either 2.7 or 3.3, for 32-bit or 64-bit Windows, whichever is appropriate).

3: Download Kindle for Mac (or the Windows/Linux equivalent), and connect it to your Amazon account. Download all your e-books (they’re in ‘Archived Items’ in the top left of the app. Once done, your ‘Archived Items’ count will change to zero and ‘Downloaded Items’ should show a number greater than zero.

4: Open up ~/Library/Containers/com.amazon.Kindle/Data/Library/Application Support/Kindle/My Kindle Content/. (this requires you to find the Library file found under the “username” directory).

5: Drag the .azw files (each Kindle e-book) into Calibre.

6: Click ‘Convert books’ in the app’s toolbar. When the ‘Bulk Convert’ window pops up, make sure that EPUB is selected in the upper right corner of the screen. Then click the third item on the left-hand side, “Page Setup,” and configure the output profile to whatever device you want to export. Choose Kindle as the input profile.

7: Click ‘OK’ to start the conversion. Click on ‘Jobs’ to check the progress of your conversions. Once they’re done, you should have a bunch of sub-folders, organized by author’s name, complete with cover art and a converted file in EPUB format. You can keep them safely on your hard drive or read them in Apple’s ‘Books’. Or convert them back to MOBI format and put them on your Kindle – you know you’ve got the backups where Amazon can’t delete them for no explainable reason.

[ArsTechnica]

Don’t get knocked up by a bailiff…

February 10th, 2012 9 Comments By Thewlis

hippies 300x241 Dont get knocked up by a bailiff...So you’re in the brown sticky stuff and the bailiffs are knocking on your door. So besides pocketing your smart phone in your (brown) trousers and stashing your gold (in the time honoured stash place), what can you friendly neighbourhood Bitterwallet team do to help you in this sticky situation?

Well, debt advice charity the Money Advice Trust has launched an initiative to encourage consumers to stand up for their rights against bailiffs. After having first found out what they are, of course.

Bailiffs are commonly used to collect council tax arrears or to enforce a court judgment, but they can also used to collect parking fines and penalties, tax debt, or child support arrears. Once a bailiff has gained entry by peaceable means, they can return to take your goods and break in if you don’t let them in.

However, contrary to popular opinion, bailiffs are not vampires and do not need an actual invitation to gain entry by peaceable means- leaving a door or window unlocked is all the access they need, and once they’ve been in once, they can come back to take your stuff.

But even the conscientious door closers among you may instead be faced with bailiffs who try to blag their way into a property. Some of the most common techniques witnessed by National Debtline are:

“Can I come in to use your toilet?”;
“I’m from the local council, can I come in?”;
“We have a warrant, so you have to let us in.”

You can even share your best lines on that Twitter using the imaginative #bailiffblags hash tag. If you have nothing better to do.

Joanna Elson OBE, Chief Executive of the Money Advice Trust, said: “The rules and regulations around bailiffs can be quite complicated and so it is not fair to expect your average person in the street to know all the specifics. However there are some rules of thumb that are very useful to be aware of, and one of those is to not let the bailiffs in your property. This means locking doors and windows, and not falling for some of these blags.”

The rules are complicated, and even the Office of Fair Trading recently came up with some new rules on debt collection, handily summarised for us by Len.

“The most important thing is to get some free advice immediately. Organisations like National Debtline and CCCS can talk you through your rights over the phone, even whilst the bailiff is waiting outside,” added Ms Elson, conveniently.

Of course, you are all probably far too sensible to be faced with a fictitiously-full-bladdered bailiff, but just in case you are, Money Advice Trust’s Top Five Tips are:

>          If the bailiffs have not been into your home before to collect this debt, they have no right to come in. They cannot break in. You can choose not to let them in;
>          By law the police should not force you to allow a bailiff in. Bailiffs will sometimes call the police and ask them to force you to let them in, as many police are unaware of the complex laws and regulations involved;
>          Don’t sign anything. If the bailiff leaves papers for you to sign and return, you do not have to do this. You don’t have to sign agreements posted through your door either;
>          Except in rent arrears cases, bailiffs cannot take goods which are rented or hired or that belong entirely to someone else. This includes goods on hire purchase agreements.

So. It is no longer Christmas and it is not yet New Year. If you find yourself with some spare time on your hands that you’d rather not spend with your relatives, why not let your thoughts turn to your 2010/11 Self Assessment tax return. This is not as strange as it sounds- last year some 845 people filed their online tax return on Christmas Day and a further 2,408 submitted their self-assessment data on 26 December, according to official HMRC figures.

Importantly for this tax return period, any late returns will get an automatic £100 penalty. You probably know this was also the case last year, but last year, if you didn’t actually owe any money, they would reduce the penalty down to nil. No such reductions will apply from now on- if you are a few seconds after the deadline you will have to pay the full amount, with no reduction at all. Ever.

But why would you want to think about it now? After all, the filing deadline isn’t until 31 January 2012 which is practically months away. Well, the crucial point to note is that the paper deadline was actually 31 October 2011, so all returns filed now need be online returns. HMRC’s own online tax return software is relatively simple to use and can cope with most ordinary situations. However, in order to use this online software you need to register for the online service.

The registration process is quite simple, but knowing and loving you, dear readers, as we do, we thought you might need a handy step-by-step guide. Just in case.

 Save yourself £100  the Bitterwallet step by step guide to online registration for Self AssessmentStep by step guide

Find an intermaweb portal and log on to www.hmrc.gov.uk and bask in Moira’s stern look. Click on “Register- new users” in the Do it Online* box, top left (picture 1, for the intellectually challenged)

On the next screen, click on “Register”. Just in case you weren’t sure the first time.

 Save yourself £100  the Bitterwallet step by step guide to online registration for Self AssessmentNext, you need to select what type of user you are. There are only four choices, so we are going to assume you are an individual. Click on it.

You are then asked which service you are looking to register for. Put a tick in the Self-Assessment (SA) box and click next.

The following screen informs you that you will need your UTR, and National Insurance Number or Postcode to continue. Assuming you do not need the latter two explaining, your UTR is a ten digit number, often displayed in two groups of five numbers (12345 67890) that should be shown on Self Assessment correspondence from HMRC and certainly on your blank tax return form, or Notice to complete a tax return letter you should have received last April. If you do not have a UTR, have not completed a tax return before, or you can’t find or remember it, it is better that you realise this now while there is still time to do something about it. There is a UTR help section at the bottom of this article. Cause we’re nice like that.

Anyway, once you click next you will receive a dramatic warning, that we have handily de-sensationalised and added common sense:

You will get a User ID soon. Remember/print off/save the email with your User ID number and wait to get a Government Gateway letter in the post. This should take seven days. The letter will contain an activation pin. You will then need to log back into the system with the User ID you were given and the password you create (in a minute) and enter this PIN number.

Obviously this is a bit of a faff and will probably take a week or so. This is why we are telling you this now.

useridanon 300x200 Save yourself £100  the Bitterwallet step by step guide to online registration for Self AssessmentOn the following screens you need to accept the terms and conditions, enter your full name and a valid email address, and then create a password. You will then get to the User ID page. THIS IS NOT THE END!

Remember that UTR, NI number and/or postcode you were told you would need? This is where you need them. Click next and enter your UTR, NI number and/or postcode. Click submit.

This is the crunch point. If it has worked successfully, you will see a screen informing you that registration has been successful and that your activation PIN is winging its merry way to you. Once you receive this (as above) you will be able to log in and use the HMRC Self Assessment online tax return preparation software. Job’s a good’un.

If you get an error message, you will need to take further action, namely ringing the HMRC Self Assessment helpline. Before you do so, make sure you have been to the toilet, have a cup of tea and a comfy chair. You will be on the phone a long time. It takes 2 minutes 42 seconds of option selecting before you can even get to wait on hold. And you will hold for many, many minutes.

UTR issues

If you can’t remember your UTR number, or you can’t remember if you were sent a tax return to complete, you will also need to ring the HMRC hotline. They will need to send the UTR out to you by post (they will not give these details over the phone). Another reason why we are telling you this now.

If you think you need to complete a tax return but have not done so previously, you will probably need to get a UTR (because you won’t already have one). This is a separate option on the myriad of repetitive menus on the automated HMRC helpline, and once requested, can take up to 28 days to arrive. In the post. This is why we are telling you now.

Note that it is entirely your responsibility to complete a tax return if you need to (ie if you know you have unpaid tax, by being self-employed or making a capital gain for example) even if HMRC are completely oblivious and have not sent you a return to complete. If they have sent you a return, you must complete it even if you do not owe any tax, or you will get the statutory £100 penalty.

Paying your tax

Any outstanding tax due at the end of the year is due on 31 January as well, and the first Payment on Account for next year’s liability, if applicable, is also due on this date. Even if you cannot afford to pay your tax bill straight away, do file your return on time- as mentioned above, there are no longer mitigations of the standard penalty amount. Tax paid up to 28 days late will only be charged late interest, with no additional surcharge until 28 February 2012.

*although the Revenue website enables you to do lots of things online, it does not have a function to allow you to do that.

spam 300x211 Spam SMS from loan companies   what you should (and shouldnt) doEvery couple of months we receive an email like this one from avid Bitterwallet reader Stephen. We keep receiving them because the world is still full of low-life loan companies that will do anything to take your money.

So here’s Stephen’s dilemma, along with some background on about why businesses harass consumers with SMS messages:

I keep getting calls and text messages (5 or more per day) from finance companies about debt, loans etc. I have debt but no missed payments – I’m paying everything on time. Not sure where they got my details from but it started a month or so ago.

“Hi, do you need cash now? No guarantor, 95% approvals in August. Get up to £750 today! www.fastresultuk.co.uk…..”

“Your loan has been approved for up to 15k…. www.mrborrower.co.uk…”

“Get up to 300…. www.txtcash.co.uk/sc …”

“Your loan has been approved for up to 15k …www.ukapprovalsite.co.uk…”

“Gr8 news… call 01613780109…”

All the texts come from different mobile numbers 07…. and include these words at the end of the text “reply STOP…”. I replied STOP to two of the texts but they keep coming even more.

How do I stop them?

The worst thing you can do when receiving these types of text messages, is to reply “STOP”. In fact, that’s exactly what they want you to do.

As we’ve seen in the past, there are people who make their money by selling consumer databases to anybody who’ll pay, regardless of whether they have permission to sell the information. Some of that data may be out of date – a person may have moved house or changed their phone number, so these companies are sometimes texting numbers blindly in the hope of a lead.

By replying “STOP” you’re actually confirming the number is still active. You then become a verified contact and your information becomes more valuable; not only will you be spammed by text even more, but you’ll most likely have your details sold on again because they’re still in use.

A quick check of the four websites mentioned by Stephen reveals two of them are the same company using different names, and all of them have two traits in common – there are no direct contact details other than email forms; and you’ve never heard of any of them. Meanwhile the text that provides a phone number is from a company hated by anyone who has the misfortune to contact them or answer a call from them.

The reason you’ve never seen or heard of these companies before is because they’re doing things on the cheap and sly. Buying marketing lists costs hundreds of pounds and create little awareness. That’s good for them, because people are less likely to complain if they think it’s just them being spammed. Meanwhile, television and press campaigns cost tens of thousands of pounds at the bare minimum, but also puts them on the radar of the authorities.

So what can you do if you’re being bombarded by these texts? You could register your number with TPS (Telephone Preference Service) for free. In theory when your mobile number is registered with TPS, marketeers can’t contact you without your express permission. In practice, that simply doesn’t happen. If you supply your number to a business just once, there’s the chance that number can be sold on and then sold to whoever wants it.

The only cast-iron way to ensure a mobile number doesn’t receive unwanted SMS messages is either a) never enter your mobile number into any sort of online form or printed form, or b) discontinue the number, start afresh and follow the first option to the letter. That’s inconvenient, but it may just be worth it.

We like simple things here at Bitterwallet. But we also like paying as little tax as possible. So we thought we’d combine these two loves of our life in the attached Bitterwallet quick reference guide to all those fiddly tax rates and limits“. And there are no complicated schemes, just useful information on how you can stay within your limits. Tax limits that is. You can drink as many units of alcohol as you like while reading it…

Enjoy.

The Bitterwallet quick reference guide to all those fiddly tax rates and limits.