TalkTalk customer data stolen in hack

February 27th, 2015 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

TalkTalk 300x225 TalkTalk customer data stolen in hackAnother day, another hack and this time, customers of TalkTalk are being warned after a load of account numbers, names and personal details were stolen from them. Be on the lookout for people trying to scam you, basically.

In an email sent to all TalkTalk customers, the company said that ne’er-do-wells were using the swiped details to try and trick people into handing over their bank details. If you received the email, you’ll find a special phone line to call if you’ve been targeted.

The number is 0800 083 2710.

This scam was discovered after TalkTalk found that there was a very sudden spike in people complaining to them about scam calls at the end of last year. A spokesperson said: ”We have now concluded a thorough investigation working with an external security company, and we have become aware that some limited non-sensitive information may have been illegally accessed in violation of our security procedure.”

It seems that the hack came about via a third-party who also had access to TalkTalk’s network and, as a result, the company will be taking legal action against the aforementioned third-party.

“We are aware of a small, but nonetheless significant, number of customers who have been directly targeted by these criminals and we have been supporting them directly,” said a statement from TalkTalk.

The scam in question involves customers getting called up and, with the stolen details, the scammers are trying to convince you that they’re a legitimate TalkTalk representative who tries to sell them security software. So, if you’re a customer and someone from TalkTalk rings you up and asks for your bank details, tell ‘em where to sling it.

Create energy by jacking off!

February 27th, 2015 3 Comments By Mof Gimmers

Do you… erm… like to feel pleased a lot of the time? Do you spend your downtime by… umm… beating up the wookie? Well, if that sounds like you, there’s a gadget that could help you save the planet while you throw yourself into an onanistic fever.

Those scamps at PornHub have made a video about some wearable technology called the ‘Wankband’, which basically sits on your wrist and, with the movement of your wrist, creates energy.

With this thing, you can ‘love the planet, by loving yourself’.

You work, create the energy and then plug your phone, tablet or whatever, into the wrist band and, hey presto, you’re charging your device with the power of love.

Of course, the product is unisex and apparently, you can sign-up as a beta tester for the thing, which you sign-up for over at the smut vendor’s site. Might be best to not access that if you’re at work, unless you have a great game face and are able to tell your superiors that, yes, you’re accessing a dirty site at work, but you’re doing it to help reduce their electricity bills.

The power is in your hands.

TripAdvisor 300x176 CMA to investigate review sites to see if they are misleading consumersEver used TripAdvisor to check a hotel or restaurant? Checked out your plumber on Checkatrade? Read a blog that reviewed the latest gizmo? All of the above are the subject of a new consultation by the Competition and Markets Authority on how information in online reviews and endorsements is used.

The CMA (which took over the things previously looked at by the Office of Fair Trading) is asking consumers, businesses and other interested parties to come forward with their views. In simple terms, the CMA, which is “committed to looking at evolving online markets”, has realised that “large numbers” of consumers read and rely upon online reviews when making purchasing decisions. These include sites like TripAdvisor and Checkatrade which do so formally, and blogs that have less formal reviews.

Both TripAdvisor and Checkatrade have been accused of having misleading or downright fake reviews, with stories of hotels offering sweeteners to guests who offer good reviews on the site-as well as tales of customers trying to hold hoteliers over a barrel with the threat of a poor review. The CMA is “aware of a number of potential concerns about the trustworthiness or impartiality of information in some reviews and endorsements that is being provided to consumers” and wants to investigate if there is anything it ought to be doing something about. It is also mindful of the effect negative reviews can have on businesses, and that is why those affected by review sites are also being asked to comment.

To be honest, the CMA isn’t sure what exactly it will do if it finds Things To Be Concerned About, but possible action includes: launching a market study covering this sector, or a part of it; initiating consumer enforcement action; advocating legislative change to government; providing guidance to industry or consumers, or both; and /or seeking voluntary action from the industry. Or doing absolutely nothing.

Nisha Arora, CMA Senior Director, Consumer, said:

The information contained in online reviews and endorsements can be a powerful force in the hands of consumers. Informed consumers make better decisions, driving competition on price and quality. Businesses have always known that ‘word of mouth’ is one of the most important factors for potential customers; what online reviews and blogs do is to provide a greatly amplified version of this. However, for this sector to work well it is important that this information is genuine, relevant and trustworthy.”

More detail is available on the call for information page, and the deadline for responses to the call for information is 25 March 2015.

Singalong with Spotify!

February 26th, 2015 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

spotify logo Singalong with Spotify!Are you one of those people who just can’t work out the lyrics to things and forever singing stupid stuff on night’s out, much to the amusement of your friends? Have you been singing “if I gotta love Eda, honey!” to ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida’? Have you been thinking The Beatles were singing about taking a chicken for a ride?

Well, help is at hand as Spotify are adding a new thing into their desktop app in the shape of a button where you can get all the lyrics to your favourite songs!

This is because Spotify have now integrated the Musixmatch service, who reckon that they’re the world’s largest lyrics catalogue.

The feature will be extra handy to those of you who have heard a song on the radio or in a club, and can remember the refrain, but didn’t catch the song title as you’ll be able to search for songs with the lyrics. When you don’t have time or battery to whip Shazam out, this could be priceless. Although, Google’s search engine does exist too.

Nice that Spotify are doing something new with the desktop app, as they’ve been largely focused on getting people to use the mobile app mostly. And now, you’ll never have to sing the wrong words again!

chicken 300x225 Which supermarket is most likely to give you food poisoning from chicken?Did you eat some chicken for your lunch from a supermarket? Well, bad news for your insides as reports say that contamination of our feathered friends is up. Not only that – it might be getting worse, according to shrieking scientists who are worried about you getting food poisoning.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) say that the proportion of fresh roasting chickens you can get in the supermarket that are carrying campylobacter is up 72.9%. The number of those that are considered to be highly contaminated is also up to 18.9%.

They also discovered that 1 in 14 packs are contaminated on the outside.

So, it goes without saying that there’s going to be some sore stomachs this year and there’s all set to be an estimated 280,000 people getting sick because of campylobacter in 2015. So, that all told, the FSA reckon that, in lost work through being ill and the cost NHS treatment, these dirty chickens are costing the country £900 million. Like all illnesses, there’s a chance it could grow stronger and turn into a superbug, thwarting any antibiotics you might take.

The FSA say that Asda is the worst place to buy chicken from and that they came out worst on pretty much every contamination test. The best places, it seems, are Marks & Spencer, the Co-op and Waitrose.

The FSA Director of Policy, Steve Wearne, said that the shops need to up their game in a bid to fix the problem. While they have no power to do anything about this, they can keep publishing these reports and helping customers to make an informed decision and vote with their feet. While M&S pay their farmers extra to keep their chickens free of bugs, it looks like other supermarkets need to start doing the same.

Top tips for a successful travel insurance claim

February 26th, 2015 Comments Off By Thewlis

holiday Top tips for a successful travel insurance claimIt’s still February, it’s still grey and it’s still cold. Why not book a sneaky ski trip, or plan something for sunnier shores to cheer yourself up, always remembering to also book yourself some travel insurance to go with that.

But before you buy, why not take a look at Which!!!’s top five tips for making sure you have the best chance of a successful claim when something goes wrong on your jollies.

Which isn’t pessimistic at all…

1. The best policy isn’t always the cheapest

Which!!! advise you to check you have the cover you actually need. In the same way that cheaper car insurance policies might not offer extras such as courtesy cars or legal protection, make sure the cover you pick does actually cover what you want to do. Sometimes going for specialist winter sports policies, for example, might be cheaper than adding winter sports cover to a cheaper policy.

Also, if you go away frequently, check whether it would work our cheaper in the long run to buy an annual policy rather than a number of shorter trip plans. Finally, travel insurance is included as a perk with some bank accounts- if that cover does the job, you don’t have to pay anything extra at all.

2. Check the terms and conditions

We’ve all heard the tales of obscure terms and conditions that compel you to offer your first born child or something, but terms are really important in travel insurance. Sometimes, certain countries or activities are excluded, so you need to know this before you buy. Which!!! highlight the need for disclosing any pre-existing medical conditions, and not being able to make such a disclosure in an online system is no excuse – you’ll have to give them a call. Non-disclosure of a condition could render the whole policy invalid, even if any claim has nothing to do with that condition.

Getting medical cover as part of your travel insurance after a serious illness like cancer can be difficult, or prohibitively expensive, but if you talk to the insurer, they can often arrange cover that simply excludes that particular condition- which is better than nothing and would still cover you if you broke your leg in an accident or something.

3. Don’t delay, file quickly

Which!!! say that, in the case of a claim, you should file claims as quickly as you can and make sure you send any supporting documents within the given time frames (a month is usual). Keep any receipts relating to your claim, and if you’re claiming for a broken possession, keep the broken item as you might need it as proof.

4. Rejected claims

Which!!! research found that 6% of claims were rejected over the past two years, with the biggest problem areas including holidays being cancelled or cut short, exclusions based on alcohol consumption; lost, damaged or delayed luggage and lost or stolen possessions.

Which advise you to complain in writing – by post or email – to your insurer if you feel your claim has been rejected unfairly. Insurance companies then have up to eight weeks to look into your case. If you speak to anyone on the phone, make sure to keep a note of the date, time and full name of the person you spoke with.

5. Go all the way…

If after eight weeks you feel your provider hasn’t handled your claim fairly, you can refer your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service, which will look into the case for you.

More than half (53%) of travel insurance complaints, which is more than any other type of major insurance, are upheld by the ombudsman, so it’s likely to be worth your while to go further with your claim.

Lenovo attacked by Lizard Squad

February 26th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

Lenovo ThinkPad driver 300x300 Lenovo attacked by Lizard SquadLenovo annoyed everyone when it turned out that they’d put Superfish in a load of their laptops. The company said that it was supposed to enhance the user’s experience, but any fool could’ve told them that this was never going to be the case.

No-one wants a program that offers you shopping tips, as most people already know what they’re shopping for, or indeed, are hit with enough adverts while online, that there’s buyers fatigue while on the computer.

As such, Lenovo have been hit with a cyber-attack and, again, those cute Lizard Squad guys were behind it, turning their attention away from games consoles long enough to cause the laptop vendor some grief.

“One effect of this attack was to redirect traffic from the Lenovo website,” Lenovo said in a statement. “We are also actively investigating other aspects. We are responding and have already restored certain functionality to our public-facing website.”

The company is also “actively reviewing” their network security and will be taking steps “to protect the integrity of our users’ information and experience”. They’re bloody obsessed with ‘user experience’ aren’t they?

If you missed the news, Lenovo are no longer dealing with Superfish software after a huge amount of complaints.

Can you justify the licence fee in 2015?

February 26th, 2015 16 Comments By Mof Gimmers

TV licence Can you justify the licence fee in 2015?The licence fee is a bugbear for many and again, it is coming under attack, this time with the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee saying that, as it stands, the current subscription system isn’t really justifiable.

As you’ll know, it is mandatory for anyone who has a TV to have a TV licence if you’re going watch live broadcasts, and it costs you £145.50 every year. You’ll also know that loads of people don’t pay it on principal, for a whole host of reasons.

The MPs have knocked their heads together and said that the way we pay for the BBC is likely to change in the next 15 years.

“In the short term, there appears to be no realistic alternative to the licence fee, but that model is becoming harder and harder to justify and sustain,” said committee chairman John Whittingdale.

It looks like this notion has come about thanks to the change in attitudes to the way people watch things, with more people utilising subscription services like Netflix and Amazon TV. With catch-up TV services, you don’t really need a TV licence to watch them. That means we could see the BBC having shows behind paywalls.

The report also suggested that it might be an idea to change legislation so that it is no longer a criminal offence if you don’t have a TV licence. ”We recommend that as a minimum the licence fee must be amended to cover catch-up television as soon as possible,” added the report. Maybe the BBC could move toward a HBO model, as seen in the States? Either way, it looks like things are getting shaken up with licence fee.

Morrisons have new boss and weigh-up Ocado deal

February 25th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

morrisons Morrisons have new boss and weigh up Ocado dealMorrison’s have a new boss called David Potts. Sadly for him, the only joke we’ve come up with about that relates to the Kinks’ song ‘David Watts’. He’s starting the job next week.

One of the first things Watts is looking at is Morrison’s £216m deal with Ocado. It looks like the supermarket might be ditching them.

You may or may not know that Morrisons and Ocado struck a deal in 2013, where basically, Ocado delivered groceries for Morrison’s. The deal is 25 years long. However, the whole thing is a bit of a mess. For some reason, orders are taken by Morrison’s, which is then delivered to Ocado warehouses, who then ship it out themselves.

You’d think it’d be easier for the supermarket to just deliver the bloody things themselves. However, that was a deal done by Dalton Philips, the old boss who got ousted last month. Ocado have been saying that this deal is break-free and safe as houses. Recently, Ocado’s finance direction Duncan Tatton-Brown, said that, even if a new regime tried to get out of the deal, they weren’t worried: “It’s not something we would necessarily expect and we’re protected by the contract anyway.”

So things look like they’re about to start changing at the supermarket. They shouldn’t get too cocky though; David Potts and his new chairman – Andrew Higginson – are both formerly of Tesco. And what shape are Tesco in currently? Exactly.

Either way, they’ve got their work cut out for them because Morrison’s revealed that they’d had the worst sales of any of the major supermarkets over Christmas, and total sales have fallen. The company are cutting prices again, but does anyone care?

Pebble raise $7m for smartwatch

February 25th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

Pebble have announced their new smartwatch, which is called Time. This new device was shown off on their Kickstarter page for it, and at the time of writing, has already raised in advance of $7 million (in pounds, that’s ‘shed loads’).

This new watch does look rather smart and comes with a colour screen. Previously, Pebble watches had greyscale screens, which is a bit drab.

pebble time 500x240 Pebble raise $7m for smartwatch

To say people are excited about this is something of an understatement – the company were hoping to generate half a million dollars for Time, however, after a matter of hours, they’d gone way past that.

So what’s the deal with it? Well, the Kickstarter page says that Time is a [sic] “color e-paper smartwatch with up to 7 days of battery and a new timeline interface that highlights what’s important in your day.”

They add: “Time’s new microphone lets you send voice replies to incoming notifications or take short voice notes. We used the latest technology to maintain water resistance so you can swim or surf with Pebble Time (we do not, however, recommend talking underwater).” In addition to that, “Pebble Time is 20% thinner than the original Pebble at just 9.5mm” and you’re able to personalise it as they’ve “included a soft silicone band with each Pebble Time, but all standard 22mm watch bands will fit.”

You’ll be able to access messages and emails and the like (obviously) as well as keep tabs on your physical activity and find out about the weather, as is par for the course with smartwatches. There’s over 6,000 Pebble-specific apps that you can get at too. The phone will run on Android.

If you like the look of the thing, there’s a load of images, gifs and videos on the Kickstarter page. When it hits British shelves, it should cost around £130.

loadsamoney 300x187 People think businesses put profits ahead of consumer needsDo you believe businesses have your best interests as a consumer at heart? If you don’t, you’re not alone, as a new CBI poll has found than more than seven in ten of us believe businesses abuse our trust and sacrifice loyalty for a quick return. ‘Profit’ is, apparently, being used “like a dirty word” by the majority of consumers.

The YouGov poll of more than 2,000 UK adults for the CBI’s trust-in-business campaign found that 72% of respondents believed businesses put profit before the needs of consumers, and 66% said that “businesses put profit before the wellbeing of their workforces”.

But are most of us living in some kind of cloud cuckoo land? Far from being a dirty word, profits are essential to the successful and continued running of a business. Interestingly, 70% of those surveyed also said profits were a “good thing”. It seems businesses are stuck between a rock and a hard place of making profits while also taking excellent care of consumers, even if this would adversely affect profits. But perhaps this is not an impossible dream- some of the most successful UK brands at the moment are those, like John Lewis, who are recognised as ‘consumer-friendly’ brands. However, it seems much of the issue surrounds trust- we don’t mind businesses making profits so long as they do it in the right way (with boycott favourites Starbucks and Amazon clearly not doing things the ‘right’ way), with more than three quarters of survey respondents saying they want businesses to “be more transparent” about how they earn their profits.

Katja Hall, the CBI’s deputy director-general, said: “Despite support for profits as a ‘good thing’, they continue to be demonised widely. We need to recalibrate this debate.”

Which!!! executive director, Richard Lloyd, said, insightfully: “Successful businesses know that by giving people the products and service they want, at a fair price, they’ll have happy customers who are more likely to stay loyal. But firms harm their own reputation and damage trust in their industry when they neglect the basics and fail to put the customer first.”

Emoji get more diverse

February 25th, 2015 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

emoji middle finger 300x300 Emoji get more diverseThere’s been complaints that emoji aren’t exactly inclusive, but that’s all about to change. This, no doubt, will prompt a load of tutting from people who a) Never see what the fuss is about because they’re fine or b) People who swear at the mere mention of emoji.

There’s another set of people who shudder because they didn’t realise that their Samsung phone was making them have a large phone bill for sending texts with emoji in them.

Anyway, 300 more are being added to the iOS 8.3 keyboard and include a whole host of differently coloured faces and whatnot. Good news for those that have been wishing for it and taking absolutely nothing away from those that didn’t.

There’s more too. There will be more options for relationships and gadgets. That means there’s going to be some same-sex emoji available for use and, because this is Apple, they’ve created an iPhone 6 and an Apple Watch icons. There’s going to be a load of new flags added too, which is nice for vexillologists.

“Apple supports and cares deeply about diversity, and is working with The Unicode Consortium to update the standard so that it better represents diversity for all of us,” said an Apple spokesperson.

And here, we have some of the more more diverse emoji, c/o Apple.

Emojis diverse 500x281 Emoji get more diverse

If you’re wondering about the skin tones, they’re apparently based on something called the Fitzpatrick Classification scale, which was founded by dermatologist Thomas Fitzpatrick at Harvard Medical School in 1975. The yellow emoji is supposed to be the standard, just-like-the-old-emoji-and-therefore-aren’t-meant-to-be-human-coloured, just in case you were wondering.

700,000 people on zero-hour contracts for main job

February 25th, 2015 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

zero hour contract 700,000 people on zero hour contracts for main jobIf you have a problem with businesses giving out zero-hour contracts, the latest news on those will grind your gears – almost 700,000 people are on zero-hours contracts in their main job.

According to figures, that’s a rise of more than 100,000 compared to last year, which of course, is going to kick off arguments over the use of these contracts and workers being done over on benefits like holiday pay, knowing how much you’ll actually be working in a month and more.

The Office for National Statistics say the actual figure is 697,000. It seems there’s been a spike in the numbers, not because there’s more companies giving them to employees, but rather, an increased recognition of what these contracts actually are. So, previous statistics would’ve been higher, but people didn’t have the phrase ‘zero hour contract’.

Some of the businesses that are using them are big-guns too, such as Burger King, the Wetherspoon pubs, Sports Direct, McDonald’s and Domino’s. Even Buckingham Palace is offering them to staff, which seems preposterous. Other institutions that are using a lot of zero-hour contracts are colleges and universities and there’s a lot of care-workers being signed-up to these contracts too.

MPs are also utilising zero-hour contracts, which is worth knowing in the build-up to the May election, should they all start complaining about how desperately unfair they are.

The ONS added that roughly a third of people on these, wished they had more working hours.

The Unite union leader, Len McCluskey, spat: “Increasing numbers of workers face a year of working harder and getting poorer thanks to the explosion of insecure working and exploitative zero-hours contracts.”

Nuisance calls and texts to be met with massive fines

February 25th, 2015 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

telesales telephone Nuisance calls and texts to be met with massive finesThose irritating gits who run companies that mither everyone with nuisance calls and texts are looking at some new regulations that will slap them with huge fines. We’re talking penalties of (up to, of course) £500,000.

The current laws don’t do much to discourage these spam merchants, but that’s apparently going to change, as new rules will make it much easier to penalise them.

They come into play from April 6th and they mean that the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) won’t have to prove that unwanted messages are causing a “substantial damage or substantial distress” any more.

In addition to that, the Government are also looking at bringing in new rules which will see that executives on the board of these businesses will also be held responsible for these calls and messages.

“For far too long companies have bombarded people with unwanted marketing calls and texts, and escaped punishment because they did not cause enough harm,” said digital economy minister Ed Vaizey. “This change will make it easier for the Information Commissioner’s Office to take action against offenders and send a clear message to others that harassing consumers with nuisance calls or texts is just not on.”

We all know how slippery these cold-callers are, so it would be wise to avoid holding your breath until we actually see someone getting a massive fine. Still, this is, initially, very good news for everyone.

To stop this bus, shout “Ding Ding”

February 25th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

Travelling on a bus can be a miserable affair at the best of times and, as we know, there’s too many buses that are in a bit of a state when you get on them.

One bus in Yorkshire had a problem with the buttons that you press, which ring the bell to signal to the bus driver that you want to get off at the next stop. Well, Barnsley folk won’t let a little thing like that get in the way of anything. Forget getting maintenance teams out and all that faff – just write a note like this.

Problem solved.

B7QYuugIAAAFPjE 500x375 To stop this bus, shout Ding Ding

As you can see, the sign says “Bells not working. If you want bus to stop, shout ‘Ding Ding’.” It is impossible to read that without doing it in a Yorkshire accent.

Of course, this sign is bad news for those who too shy to shout or, indeed, can’t read. Either way, we like this system of fixing menial problems. More of it please!

[via Twitter]