A botnet has been discovered which targets shop tills, and it has stolen what’s been described as a ‘titanic volume’ of credit card details. 20,000 cards could have been affected since August.
It’s not the first time a botnet has infiltrated points of sale – last year the Subway virus, created by two Romanian hackers, managed to cream off 146,000 credit card numbers by hacking 200 shops. But it seems like the viruses are becoming more sophisticated than ever before, and there’s been dozens of them popping up all over the place in recent months. With this particular virus, hackers are able to access payment machines in real time and issue commands, leaving customers completely vulnerable.
So what can we, the average consumer, who doesn’t know a botnet from their bottom – do about it? Well, nothing really. It’s down to digital crime units, like the one run by Microsoft, who recently busted three botnets. The latest is a group of computers called ZeroAccess, which highjacked search results and led people to dodgy websites, where it would install malware and then steal your information.
So it’s a matter of taking care on the internet and hoping that the hidden army of Cyber Bergeracs out there can take down these botnets before they get your card. Reassuring, eh?
From now on, I’m paying in CASH.
Hooray. It’s December. That means everything is now officially mince-pie scented and dusted with picturesque snow that never actually arrives. Even Trading Standards (or specifically the National Trading Standards Board (NTSB)) have been hitting the sherry are getting in the Christmas spirit and have produced a “Twelve Scams of Christmas” that you just have to sing along to…
Twelve Vishers Vishing
Vishing has caught a lot of people out recently – consumers have already lost £7million to this scam, according to Financial Fraud Action UK. Scammers call victims pretending to be a bank, building society or similar official and attempt to get personal information. Consumers must remember that their bank or building society will never ask for details over the phone – they already have them
Eleven Alarming Alarmists
The National Scams Hub is warning consumers about a possible burglar alarm scam where consumers receive a cold call from a company offering to install security systems. The security system may be free or available at a nominal cost but the on-going maintenance cost is high and there is a daylight-robbery cancellation fee.
Ten Dodgy (Car) Dealers
Not very festive, but apparently yuletide is also a time to be wary of buying second hand cars, as greasy second hand car salesmen might be clocking the car to make a few extra quid.
Nine Grants Disappearing
It’s like something from your Christmas list- an email from the ‘Commonwealth Secretariat’ and ‘HM Treasury’ telling explaining that you qualify for a free £1,000 grant to be paid directly into your bank account. Unfortunately those who gleefully hand over said bank details will normally see more than the fictional grant disappear…
Eight Council Tax Bands- a- Playing
Getting your property rebanded for Council Tax purposes could save you a pretty penny, always assuming you have a genuine case and you fill in the relevant forms from the Valuation Office Agency (available free). Still, these pesky facts don’t bother claims company fraudsters who are happy to take your money and run- North-West Scambuster investigations discovered that less than 0.1% of claims submitted by companies claiming they can obtain council tax refunds are legitimate. You just pay high, up-front fees to a company that does no work on your behalf.
Seven Computers Crashing
Sometimes the old ones are still good. The National Scams Hub and trading standards are warning of a simple scam where the victim receives a bogus call from a computer company claiming that they had been alerted by the internet provider to a serious virus attack. The scammers tell the victim the only way the problem can be fixed is to buy a special computer programme. You can guess the rest.
Six Alternative Investments
Targeting the ‘more money than sense’ brigade (and we all know a few of those) these cold-callers offer attractive ways in to a range of exciting investments- diamonds, wine, carbon credits (?!)- but at hugely inflated prices, and with magical disappearing companies. Some cat is getting the cream, but it’s not the hapless investor.
Five Doorbells Ring
December is not the warmest time of year to be knocking on doors, but this time it’s not carol singers ringing your bell. Bad weather is used by rogue traders to convince some residents that they need unnecessary and often substandard home improvements at extortionate prices. Or by unscrupulous
energy companies to pressurise the elderly and vulnerable into signing expensive service contracts.
Four Calling Loans
Christmas (and January) are often times when money is tight,and that’s where loan companies sidle in offering relief. The National Scams Hub says many people have received unsolicited text messages or telephone calls from firms offering them an unsecured loan. Those who accepted were charged large, upfront fees for little or no service.
Three Free Trials
Christmas and New Year is also free trial target time. Whether it’s trying out a one-day delivery service, a film streaming service or a weight loss programme, these companies make their money on the guarantee that people will forget to cancel the trial in time, or worse, require notice of cancellation of almost the same period as the trial itself.
Worse, some scammers hide expensive contracts in amongst the fine print and after customers enter their card details to pay for the post and packaging on a freebie, the nasty people use these hidden contracts to regularly take sums of moneys from the victim’s account.
Two Bogus Charities
While no-one wants to curtail the season of goodwill, the NTSB just want to make sure you are actually giving to charity and not to some clever scammer lining his own pockets. Consumers should be wary of vague statements on packaging such as ‘donations for work creation’ or ‘donations to poor children’ and look for registered charity numbers where you can. Also check things like charity collection bags to make sure they are destined for who you think they are- before you fill them
And a dangerous toy under the tree…
The NTSB want to stress that, while a cheap toy or electrical gadget might seem a bargain, sub-standard foreign imports will not adhere to safety guidelines and have the potential to be dangerous for kill unsuspecting gift recipients. And that will not make a merry Christmas.
NTSB chairman Lord Toby Harris, wearing a red suit and white beard, chortled: “Last year, UK adults spent an average of £592 on Christmas. At a time of year when we know consumers will be parting with hard earned money, it is imperative that they be made aware of current scams. The NTSB encourages all consumers to check the legitimacy of chosen traders before buying gifts or committing to contracts.”
Consumer Minister and part-time elf Jo Swinson advised: “The first thing people should do is follow the old adage – if something sounds too good to be true than it usually is. If something is not quite right or they are being pressured into buying goods or services they don’t need, then they should report this to the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 08454 04 05 06. They can ask trading standards to investigate claims and make sure consumers get a fair deal.”
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.
It’s hard to imagine it’s possible to scam a supermarket self service machine without something going embarrassingly wrong. Most people can barely manage to scan a tin of beans before the red light goes on and a grumpy supervisor starts fiddling about and cursing the very ground you walk on.
But Nicholas Long, a 25 year old hockey player with debts up to his eyeballs, managed to trick a Sainsbury’s self service machine to read all his shopping as ‘Loose Onions’ and conned the supermarket out of £450. He used the scam 20 times in 3 months at the same branch of Sainsbury’s in central London.
‘It is a straight forward allegation that he went to Sainsbury’s and was seen scanning various items in at the self-service checkout.’ Said Prosecutor Denise Murrin. ‘All items were being scanned as loose onions, but the store does not sell loose onions. It was an inexpensive way of doing his shopping.’
Angus Mathieson, who was defending Long, said he was in debt after his father’s building firm collapsed, and explained: ‘It was a stupid thing he has done. He was not getting a stupid amount, not substituting champagne or anything like that, but just getting an avocado and claiming it was an onion.’
I can’t help feeling a begrudging admiration for him. He’s beaten the system and turned avocados into onions! He’s like JESUS. However, Long won’t be able to show us how to do his underhand scam- he’ll be doing 180 hours community service instead.
Being at Disneyland, standing in an endless queue of idiots overseen by a guy dressed up as Goofy, is often a disability in itself. But able-bodied cheaters are pretending to be with disabled punters to skip the queues and are spoiling the Disney ‘magic’ for everyone.
At the moment, disabled people get priority through a backdoor system which allows them to join shorter queues for rides. But Disneyland and Walt Disney World say that approach has been ’problematic.’
It’s all down to a popular scam which involves disabled tour guides, who are paid to accompany able bodied people so they can get easier access to the rides. The practice is popular with rich, awful families, with the genuinely disabled guides commanding hundreds of dollars for the low down and dirty service. Nobody has turned up with seven disabled dwarves yet, but if the scam continues, it’s only a matter of time.
So from the 9th October, disabled people will have to carry Disney approved disability cards. The card will work like a restaurant reservation, with a shorter wait time and a return time.
However, I’m not convinced that this scheme is the most jazzy Disney-esque solution to the problem. How about issuing a magically extending Pinocchio nose that starts to grow every time a punter cuts in with a paid-for wheelchair companion?
Criminals impersonate an emergency call from your bank, saying that your credit card details have been stolen– and then while you’re flustered, they ask you for your details and nick all your money. And it’s so convincing that one in four adults who received the calls were duped, according to a study by Financial Fraud Action UK.
As well as pretending to be banks, the shysters have also convinced people their computer needs a security upgrade, and have asked for passwords. They carry out ‘work’ while you’re still on the phone, but they’re actually stealing your personal information.
They’ve thought of everything, too. The credit card scam asks victims to tap in their pin on the phone keypad (for privacy), then they record the keytones. Some gangs then have the balls to send a courier round to your house to pick up your compromised credit card ‘for analysis.’ They even fake the caller ID, by coming up as ‘bank’ or ‘credit union.’
You’ve got to admire their evil persistence, eh? DCI Dave Carter, head of the Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit warned:
‘Always be wary of cold callers who suggest you hang up the phone and call them back. Remember that it takes two people to terminate a call so try and use a different phone line if you are asked to ring back.’
Manuka honey has become the holy grail for alternative health bores in recent years – and apparently has infinite uses, from curing upset stomachs and treating skin infections to grouting the bathroom.
It comes from bees in New Zealand, and can retail at up to £45 a jar. But if you’re the kind of idiot who is happy to spunk almost fifty quid on something you can put on your toast, be careful what you buy. You could just be getting bog standard honey instead of genuine Manuka.
Producers in NZ say that they make around 1700 tons of Manuka honey a year. BUT, in the UK alone, we get through 1800 a year. Globally, it sells 10,000 tons. You don’t have to be Carol Vorderman to see that doesn’t add up.
John Rawcliffe, from the Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association (Yes, there IS such a thing) said: ‘There is potentially huge fraud. There are higher and ever-increasing volumes of honey being labelled as manuka that are not manuka.’
Despite there being no clinical evidence that Manuka honey does anything other than taste nice, someone is making a sweet profit from honey fraud.
The Food Standards Agency has issued a nationwide alert, asking trading standards departments to BEEware of fakes.
Another day, another scam – except this one is particularly evil. Motorists are being warned about a new insurance scam nicknamed ‘Flash for Cash’, where gangs are flashing their lights to let people out of junctions and then crashing into them on purpose.
Criminals usually target expensive cars, but also – because they’re lovely that way – they’re ploughing into the back of vehicles driven by old people and women with children in the back. As Neil Thomas from the Asset Protection Unit explains, they like to pick on people who won’t fight back.
‘Perhaps single females in the car with children in the back, perhaps doing the school run. Where they know there’s going to be no resistance, no real argument at the scene. The children are going to be upset.’
There’s already an established scam, known as ‘crash for cash’ where the scumbags slam their brakes on (often with tail light bulbs removed), causing innocent motorists to crash into the back of them.
However ‘flash for cash’ is trickier and harder to prove, as it’s a case of the innocent motorist’s word against theirs. Gangs are making thousands per accident through false personal injury claims, loss of earnings and repair claims – and it’s costing insurance companies around £392 million a year.
So, forget goodwill, courtesy and all that crap. If some dodgy-looking geezer flashes their lights you to let you out, ignore them.
Thanks for making the world a better place, criminals.
In a triumph for minimum wage Walter White-esque jet sprayers everywhere, some over privileged woman’s Bentley got a valet car wash and ended up looking like this. Oops.
Jessica Sawyer, from Bramhall, Cheshire, was distraught when the £80,000 Bentley GTC her mum bought for her for her 30th birthday was totalled after she put it into the five star ‘Wash and Shine’ in Cheetham Hill, Manchester.
When she discovered that instead of a nice polish it had been driven through the car wash reception area by a thief, she burst into tears. But the car wash deny responsibility, saying that the guy she gave the keys to didn’t even work there. Police have refused to get involved, saying that it is a civil matter.
Obviously, poor Jessica will be sobbing into her 10,000 thread count Egyptian cotton pillows at this terrible situation – and bemoaning her insurance premiums when the £38 grand worth of damage is fixed.
Sorry, but let’s all take a moment to play the WORLD’S SMALLEST VIOLIN. She gave her keys to some random serf, assuming he was there to shine her 80k car. An 80k car bought as a birthday present, while other people are lucky to get a crumpled tenner and kick up the arse. Now she has a rubbish car like the rest of us.
Seems like a happy ending to me.
Turns out that Kwik Fit mechanics are not the ones to trust – in fact, according to a new BBC1 consumer show, they regularly rip off customers by doing unnecessary work to their cars.
The show, called Your Money, Their Tricks, brought 10 cars into various branches of Kwik Fit for their free brake and tyre check, and in 4 out of 10 cases, mechanics tried to convince customers they needed extra work – amounting to £700 in total.
Also, the undercover report revealed that they didn’t even bother carrying out some of the promised checks, as they were probably too busy looking at Page 3 and talking about oily flanges. Some of the tyres actually had NAILS in them, which they failed to spot. Oops.
Kwik Fit, said they had ‘zero tolerance of staff recommending unnecessary work’ and that a senior management team will investigate, but they also disagreed with some of the shows assertions that the suggested work was unnecessary.
One thing’s for sure –a few Kwik Fit employees will be filling their boiler suits with terror when they see the show…
In fact according to the European ATM Security Team (who we hope are a gang of Mission Impossible types in black catsuits hanging around outside The Royal Bank of Scotland with Kalashnikovs) it’s becoming the norm.
Criminals use Bluetooth to get your card details and pin number, then before you know it you no longer exist and you’re running through Waterloo station with a sniper on your tail.
It’s becoming a widespread problem, so make sure you take the same precautions as you might with a cash machine – check for any suspicious devices, and don’t use if you’re in doubt.
The good news is they have yet to crack Chip and Pin devices, which are widely used in the UK and Europe, but be on your guard. Meanwhile, there’s always less subtle methods of snaffling cash from ATMs, like this…
Elengo -who I like to imagine as a dark handsome type in a fedora carrying a guitar case in the desert – doesn’t exist on the UK Electoral roll, but he’s still managed to con people who have been selling festival tickets online.
The scam is as follows: Elengo snaps up your gig tickets using PayPal. Some time later, he/it/them orders a ‘chargeback’ on the payment, which is the facility you can use to get your money back if your goods don’t arrive or are unsatisfactory.
After a BBC Wales documentary exposed the scam, they got a reply from someone claiming to be Elengo, who complained that he received the tickets and it was PayPal’s fault. The plot thickens…
With dozens of victims taking to the Internet to complain about the fraud, PayPal has since closed Elengo’s account. But don’t be surprised if he springs up in another guise. If Stelios Shufflebottom or Regina Felangi contacts you wanting to buy Glastonbury tickets, report it to the eBay police, OK?
Through a combination of dark patterns, lazy form-filling and shysters selling your private data for tuppence, the chances of receiving marketing spam on your mobile are ever-increasing. Not that you need it because your mates are always happy to chip in with recommendations:
Avid Bitterwallet reader Jon received a text message to recommend First Pay Day Loan UK. All good stuff, except it obviously wasn’t sent by a friend of Jon’s, nor could Jon recall requesting any information on loans. The practice is hardly new but then you wonder why nothing ever seems to get done about it. What’s more galling is when you realise how easy the regulatory bodies make it for these businesses to operate.
First Pay Day Loan UK is operated by First Financial (UK) Ltd. Assuming the SMS messages were sent by the company they promoted, then according to DueDil the man in charge is Hamed Shabani. He registered the company only last December. Naturally the registered address is a rented PO Box and the domain name wasn’t registered until last month.
Dig into the website’s source code and you’ll see it’s a basic template available from Marketer Sites, which claims the sole aim of the template is to make massive amounts of affiliate revenue by generating sales leads – if somebody enquires about a pay day loan through the site then the owner stands to make money. But who’s paying for these leads? According to Marketer Sites, a US-based company called T3Leads will pay up to $135 per lead. T3Leads have been held to account for alleged phishing activity in the past few months.
So there’s an alleged mass spammer and an American affiliate company preying on desperate consumers. Who else is involved here? On the First Pay Day Loan UK website, First Financial (UK) Ltd claims to have a Credit License:
And a check of the Consumer Credit Act (CCA) Public Register reveals against all odds, it actually does:
It can’t be so easy to get a credit license, can it? Actually it can – although credit brokerage can be considered ‘high risk’ by the OFT, there isn’t an automatic requirement for companies to submit a competence form when applying.
Few will fall for it but that approval will make a company appear credible to some. Of course plenty of spammers don’t bother getting their activity rubber-stamped, but you’d hope those that try are kicked out by the authorities meant to stop them in the first place.
Ticketmaster has a grass roots wing in the UK called TicketWeb. Sadly for them, they’ve become the victim of a hack, leaving the company investigating how spammers managed to sneak into the mailing list and send out a load of phishing emails to a number of people on the database.
In an email to all TicketWeb’s UK users, the company said:
“We have discovered that our TicketWeb UK direct email marketing system was exposed to unauthorised access. As a result, you may have received up to four emails on Saturday, February the 11th, from an unauthorised party with the subject as ‘Action Required: Update Your PDF Application’ and containing a link to update an Adobe Acrobat PDF application. Please do not click this link, but delete the email”.
The company assured users that they’d taken “immediate action to close the vulnerability” and that credit card data had not been accessed during the attack.
Sadly, users stupid enough to click the link in the email may have entered credit card details when asked. If that’s the case, you might want to contact your card issuer immediately.
This morning’s offer at Gumtree Daily Deals looks like a bit of a cracker – an A3-sized canvas print for only £9.99, reduced from £47. Why, one of those would look fantastic when hung, let’s say, on the wall above a double bed. Helpfully, Gumtree, and offer-provider Grangeprint have included a preview of what it might look like.
Oh yes, that’s a mighty print indeed – and at only a penny less than a tenner, it looks like a spectacular enhancement to any bedroom. But wait – what’s that? There seems to be a disclaimer in the picture. It says ‘this picture is not representative of the deal size’. Hmmm, that’s a shame.
Fortunately for yourselves, using the average double bed width of 54 inches and the A3 width of 16.5 inches, along with some cack-handed Photoshopped redecoration, we’re able to give you more of an indicator of what you’ll actually get.
Slightly less impressive? Um, just a bit. Of course, it isn’t the first time we’ve commented on something like this – hello Groupon!
EDIT: As pointed out in the comments by Mr Crocus, maybe it’s a really tiny bed. So we’ve put a tiny Morecambe and Wise in it. We’re not sure if this helps or proves anything.
It doesn’t, does it?