Pop-up creator apologises

August 18th, 2014 2 Comments By Ian Wade

The man – and it had to be a man – who invented the pop-up advert has apologised for his behaviour.

Ethan Zuckerman, for it is he, reckoned he did not realise what fresh hell he was about to submit the internet to when he birth the code more than 20 years ago.

popup Pop up creator apologises

Wring on The Atlantic, Zuckerman said: “I’m sorry. Our intentions were good,”

“It was a way to associate an ad with a user’s page without putting it directly on the page, which advertisers worried would imply an association between their brand and the page’s content.”

Where to start with the pop-up advert? It’s seemingly innocent intentions were hijacked by the spammers to bring every internet user misery.

Put it this way, if pop-ups were unannoying, there would be no need for the invention of the pop-up blocker.

Anyway, Zuckerman seems apologetic enough. Nothing that a good jail term wouldn’t straighten out.

house broadband Citizens Advice Bureau reckon broadband companies are being uncoolThe Citizens Advice Bureau reckon more and more broadband customers who resist paying arbitrary cancellation charges, are having their fees handed over to debt collectors.

According to new evidence based on 3,300 internet and broadband issues handled by the CAB, shone light on the shocking behaviour of broadband companies, be it throwing cancellation charges at people or driving customers into terrible contracts.

If customers refuse to pay charges, the cancellation fee is passed to a debt collection agency which, according to Gillian Guy, the CAB chief exec, is “punishment” for wanting to change supplier or end a contract.  Before adding that “People are finding themselves held captive by bad broadband services”.

As a simple request, the CAB are suggesting that broadband providers don’t charge people when they say ‘you are utterly shit, I’m off’.

Especially if the customer is facing dreadful connection speeds and general faults. Even the customer service chapters of the broadband giants were blamed for being generally quite unpleasant and unhelpful.

The worst case included a woman being hit by a cancellation fee even though her service was so bad she was forced to visit an internet café, or perhaps it was the 70yr old man who cancelled his service early and was still charged £200.

A Citizens Advice Bureau spokesman said that “Companies should be responding to their customers”.

He probably went on and described Broadband providers were behaving like slightly shit highwaymen, but our internet cut out before he finished.

Nuisance calls: still a nuisance

July 25th, 2014 4 Comments By Ian Wade

rotary cell phone 300x197 Nuisance calls: still a nuisanceThe Telephone Preference Service is bloody useless, say Ofcom.

The TPS runs a register designed to reduce any unsolicited sales calls. Firms can be fined for ignoring the list.

According to the findings of the research, while the TPS is “highly effective” at stopping calls to consumers registered on TPS by legitimate telemarketing companies,  TPS-registered consumers still receive on average 2.5 nuisance calls per month.

It transpires that only a third of “nuisance” calls are blocked by the service, which allows individuals to opt-out of marketing calls, research has found.

However some rogue companies are flouting the rules, according to regulators. And us lot unwittingly give consent for calls by ticking a box on devious online sales forms.

The research, commissioned by Ofcom and the Information Commissioner’s Office, found that registering with the TPS blocked 35% of all nuisance calls.

If you’re an individual, registration on the TPS is free and takes 28 days to become effective.

It is a legal requirement that all organisations – including charities, voluntary organisations and political parties – do not make such calls to numbers registered on the TPS unless they have the individual’s consent to do so.

There are plans to increase the level of fines levied on firms that make nuisance calls, and these are due in October.

Fines of up to 20% of annual turnover could be handed down to firms using information gathered by unlawful unsolicited calls and texts. That’ll learn ‘em.

Let’s see what the swarthly named Claudio Pollack from Ofcom has to say: “We understand how frustrating it is to still receive some unsolicited sales calls despite being TPS-registered,”

“That is why we welcome tough enforcement action from the ICO against rogue companies who breach the rules.”

Currently, the ICO must demonstrate “significant damage or distress” caused to individuals by nuisance calls or spam texts in order to issue monetary penalties of up to £500,000.

Christ, let’s hope no mobile company has pissed off its users by spamming them willy nilly then. Oh.

vodafone Vodafone WorldTraveller data cap aint all thatVodafone data cap is a load of crap.

It has transpired that the mobile company’s £5 WorldTraveller data cap, which lets you use your regular data allowance when on holiday, doesn’t apply to mobile broadband deals.

So while those with a phone and a pay monthly plan will be able to pay an extra fiver to use their phone as they normally would, you won’t be able to do the same if you’ve got a USB dongle or a wireless MiFi.

Vodafone have admitted that, while you can’t use the MiFis abroad without totalling up a huge bill, you can use WiFi tethering on your phone to connect to other devices.

The £5 a day WorldTraveller deal can be used in the USA, India, Australia, New Zealand, Egypt, Ghana, Qatar and South Africa. It complements Vodafone’s existing EuroTraveller deal, which currently costs £2 a day and is going up to £3 in August.

The Vodafone offer is not unlike Three’s Feel at Home deal, except that Three lets customers use their UK minutes, text and data for no extra cost in some countries.

This new offer also comes ahead of EU talks on abolishing roaming charges altogether. As data roaming in the EU has been capped at 20 cents per MB, and customers will have to weigh up whether Vodafone’s daily offer works out better than just letting your phone roam as usual.

If you’re outside Vodafone’s WorldTraveller and EuroTraveller countries, you won’t be charged any more than £41.29 for data. Once you’ve reached this ceiling limit you’ll be sent a text and you won’t be able to access internet services, unless you opt out and agree to pay more.

Dominos caught selling Aldi potato wedges

July 4th, 2014 9 Comments By Lucy Sweet

wedges 300x243 Dominos caught selling Aldi potato wedges Staff at a branch of Dominos in Linlithgow, West Lothian face a grilling after they were caught buying cheap jumbo bags of potato wedges from Aldi and then trying to pass them off as Domino’s own brand.

The cheapo wedges cost only 59p from Aldi, whereas Dominos wedges are a staggering £3.49 for a tiny box. But staff say they’d run out due to Wimbledon and the World Cup, and they were just trying to keep up with an unprecedented demand for wedge action.

A customer spotted what they were up to when he went in to order a pizza, and said: ‘I had a bit of a chuckle – but it’s really cheeky flogging Aldi products as their own.’

Domino’s bosses explained the problem.

‘With big sporting events in full swing, the Linlithgow store was faced with no wedges. We do not advocate this as a solution. We have spoken to the store to ensure ordering has been adjusted and our customers get Domino’s wedges.’

It’s actually pretty enterprising when you think about it – and it also very much begs the question: ‘is there a scientific correlation between major sporting events and potato wedges?’

eBay and Gumtree are riddled with scams

July 4th, 2014 2 Comments By Mof Gimmers

ebay eBay and Gumtree are riddled with scamsWe all know that eBay and Gumtree are full of scams (including some of the t&cs from the company themselves, eh readers? Eh? EH?), but just how many?

Well, the Citizens Advice have revealed that one in six complaints about products or services advertised on Gumtree, and one in 10 about sales at eBay, are scams or potential scams.

The CA’s analysis looked at 649 problem cases involving Gumtree and 3,711 at eBay.

Problems included scams advertising housing and job scams, as well as motorists buying second-hand cars and then finding out that there was a logbook loan attached.

Other scams include the classic ‘paying for something but getting nothing in return’ on things like phones and, weirdly, pets. Apparently, businesses are being stung as well as people just shopping for themselves. Companies are contacted by other firms offering cheap advertising which transpire to be cons. There’s an increase in scams on fake tickets for the Commonwealth Games, where people are being offered expensive stubs, and getting nothing back.

Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: “Online marketplaces are at risk of becoming a hotbed for scams. These sites are an important service for buyers and sellers, but con artists are profiting from them too. Scammers are swindling people out of hundreds or thousands of pounds by posting false products and services online.”

“Con artists are preying on those still trying to get back on their feet from the recession. Fake jobs and phoney homes are taking people’s deposits that they strived and saved so long for.”

As a result, CA want eBay, Gumtree and others to police their sites better.

If you think you’ve been scammed, then visit citizensadvice.org.uk or call 03454 040506 (03454 040505 for the Welsh speakers among you).

Barclays accused of ‘dark pool’ fraud

June 26th, 2014 No Comments By Lucy Sweet

barclays bank limited 300x300 Barclays accused of ‘dark pool’ fraud Everybody hates Barclays. They’re not at all nice and they charge you 75p a day on an authorised overdraft.

And this time the Attorney General of New York State has weighed in on the bank. Eric Schneiderman and the state of NY have filed a lawsuit against them for giving an unfair advantage to high frequency, ‘predatory’ trading clients in the US – despite telling everyone else that they were trying to protect other customers against such traders.

‘Dark pool’ trading allows investors to trade without influencing the market.

Barclay’s dark pool system was called LX Liquidity Cross, and was supposedly set up to get customers the best possible prices for their shares. Instead, they – whaddya know? – maximised their own profits. Nearly all trading was done through LX, rather than through other exchanges that would have offered a better price.

‘Barclays grew its dark pool by telling investors they were diving into safe waters,’ Schneiderman said. ‘Barclays’ dark pool was full of predators – there at Barclays’ invitation.’

*cue theme from Jaws*

domlogocolor 298x300 Cybercrime watch: Now theyre after your toppingsThose pesky cyber criminals have been at it again.

This time around, notorious bandits Rex Mundi apparently hacked into the servers of Domino’s Pizza in France and Belgium, downloading 600,000 customer records.

These records include names, addresses, phone numbers, emails, passwords, delivery instructions and what sort of base and toppings they prefer too.

The crims are now demanding a ransom of €30,000 (£24,000) to give the data back. If Domino’s don’t pay them by 8pm this evening, then they’ll upload all the info for the public to see.

In a world where Isis can round up and massacre a load of soldiers, hacking Domino’s and threatening them seems to suggest some form of perspective may be required.

Domino’s haven’t yet responded to the hacker’s demands, perhaps believing them to be a load of cheeky idiots having a laugh.

Andre ten Wold, chief exec of Domino’s Pizza, told Dutch newspaper De Standaard that the ransom demand would not be paid, and that a complaint had been filed with a court in Paris.

“There are clear indications that something is broken on our server. The information contained in them is protected,” he said. “Financial data, such as credit cards, has not been stolen.”

Rex Mundi have form, having done similar with US loan company Americash Advance and Belgian hosting firm Alfa Hosting.

Let’s see if Domino’s pay up, or if they catch them crims. Will someone SERVE up a SLICE of justice etc?

Government to take action on fake fags

June 16th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

cigarettes 300x242 Government to take action on fake fagsFags. They’re great.

Well, yes, a bit of perspective is welcome here, but having a snout can be one of life’s greatest treats.

But taxpayers are bummed out on the deal, by losing out on £2 billion in unpaid duty, due to the ongoing illegal trade

Despite efforts to tackle tobacco smuggling, these have been hampered by an almost comedic lack of action by the government and its agencies, a committee of MPs has said.

The number of illicit cigarettes smoked in the UK rose by 49% to a billion in 2012, suggesting a reduction in enforcement action, the MPs said. HM Revenue and Customs said tackling tobacco smuggling was “a priority”, but it has to say such things like that.

The committee of MPs were particularly critical of the failure to fine a single firm for deliberately oversupplying cigarettes to high-risk markets in order for them to be smuggled back to the UK.

A spokesperson for the committee said “While there have been some high-profile successes, over the last three years the numbers of prosecutions and convictions for organised crime cases involving tobacco have fallen. We do not believe that these numbers are decreasing due to the reduction in this type of crime and are deeply concerned that these figures may indicate a reduction in enforcement action.”

The committee went on: “It is astonishing that no UK tobacco manufacturer has ever been fined for oversupply of products to high-risk overseas markets and that only one statutory warning letter has been issued.”

The MPs welcomed efforts by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Border Force to address acknowledged communication failures, but admit that shit has to be stepped up as the penalties are too weak and enforcement too rare. The MPs also suggested that concerns over boosting the black market should not trump public health considerations in the debate over plain packaging.

HMRC still say that tackling tobacco smuggling was a priority. ”Since 2000, we have more than halved the size of the illicit market in cigarettes,” it said statemently. ”Since 2012, we have seized 3.3 billion cigarettes, over 800 tonnes of illicit hand-rolling tobacco and have prosecuted 593 criminals involved in the fraud.”

“We are determined to disrupt the criminal networks at the heart of this trade using every method available.”

The good news is that the local independent trader might have a load of cheap cigs for you, if you ask them nicely.

gmail logo stylized 300x300 Flag as important: MASSIVE Gmail security flaw An Israeli security researcher discovered a huge gaping hole in Gmail’s security which could have revealed the email addresses of every single person using the service. And Google had no idea until he told them.

Oren Hafif says the flaw – which could have left users open to phishing scams and all kinds of internet nasties – uses a sharing feature of Gmail which allows a user to delegate access to their account.

If you tweak the web address, you can reveal the address of a random user. And if you automate that tweak, you can potentially go on forever. Hafif managed to collect 37,000 Gmail addresses in two hours using a piece of legal software called DirBuster.

Hafif, who works for security firm Trustwave said:

‘I could have done this potentially endlessly. I have every reason to believe that every Gmail addess could have been mined.’

But when he reported the flaw, Google took a month to respond, and didn’t even bother to pay him for the tip through their service which rewards hackers for helping to fix bugs.

Eventually Hafif got $500 for his troubles, and Google promptly fixed the flaw. But nobody will ever know whether it was used before that to grab our addresses and send us ‘Please Help Me, I’m On Holiday In Ukraine and I Need You To Send Money’ emails…

Watch out for the paedo letter scam

June 10th, 2014 1 Comment By Lucy Sweet

3letters 300x278 Watch out for the paedo letter scam Usually sinister scams and ransom demands happen online these days, but 11 people in the Thames Valley have been subjected to an almost quaint letter campaign which threatens to expose them as paedophiles if they don’t give them bitcoins.

The letter, which claims to target ‘carefully selected’ victims, reads as follows:

‘If you do not follow these instructions to the letter you and your family will be subjected to a campaign that will include writing to your neighbours informing them of your love for young boys.

We will spread this rumour at your local school which will result in you, your family and your home becoming the target for attacks and vandalism.

Whether the rumours are true or not does not matter in the slightest. You know what people will think once we put the ideas in their heads? No smoke without fire is what they will think.

If you tell anyone else about this letter or its contents, for example the police then we will go ahead with the action and your family will go through hell’

Still awake? Also, PUNCTUATION! Tsk.

Anyway, then it asks the recipients to deposit two Bitcoins in a specific account and warns them they have 72 hours to comply.

Most of the targets have already reported the letters to the police, and Thames Valley police are investigating. They said:

‘This is a clear attempt at blackmail and we need to gather all the information we can to aid our investigation and trace the offenders behind these nasty letters.’

Honestly, what self respecting blackmailer uses letters these days? I mean, at least save yourself the price of a stamp and email it instead.

CarCrash 300x168 SCAMARAMA: Car insurance fraud at an all time high We’ve already heard about the money-spinning scams used by unscrupulous drivers to make fraudulent insurance claims.

From taking bulbs out of tail lights so that people crash into you, to simply railroading pregnant women in cars on purpose: there’s a myriad of choices for the petty criminal about town.

And now the Association of British Insurers (ABI) is saying that detected insurance fraud reached record heights in 2013 an 18% increase on the previous year. £1.3bn was paid out in dodgy claims involving fake car crashes and car insurance scams last year.

Crash for cash scams are rife all around the country, and that causes everyone’s wallets to suffer from whiplash, too. It’s been estimated that fraudsters are costing households £50 extra a year on their insurance premiums.

As well as professional crash for cash scammers, fake car insurance claims rose by 34%, with people claiming they had injuries and later being filmed playing golf and dancing the pasa doble.

But although attempted fraud has gone up, the ABI added that overall the number of successful fraudulent cases has gone down, thanks to better reporting and investigation.

Malcolm Tarling of the ABI said: ‘The number of detected frauds is rising; that’s because we are getting better at detecting staged accidents. We are going to continue to tackle fraud – that’s what our honest customers expect us to do.’

Hmmm. So if actual fraudulent claims are down, why are our premiums still up?

Which! has outed three major brands of sun cream for being ineffective, slapping them with a ‘DON’T BUY’ sticker.

suncream 300x300 Dont get burned by the Great Sun Cream Scam

In a test of 15 popular brands, they found that Hawaiian Tropic, Piz Buin and Malibu don’t offer sufficient protection against UV rays – and that although the label said ‘factor 30’ they were found to have a real SPF level of 25.

Ironically the brands that failed the test were among the priciest – for example Hawaiian Tropic Satin Protection Ultra Radiance costs £13.99, while Piz Buin Ultra Dry Light Touch Sun Fluid is a skin tingling £16.99. Meanwhile Morrison’s Cheapo Cream, SPF 30, passed the test with flying colours and costs just £3.50.

Which! tested the products by applying a small amount of each sun cream to a volunteer’s back, exposed them to a sun lamp, and then lab assistants checked them for redness.

Malibu Protective lotion also failed to meet EU recommended safety standards – by law the UVA factor should be a third of its SPF.

An angry and sunburnt Ricardo Lloyd of Which! put down his pina colada and said:

‘We’ve found three products that failed the strict British Standard tests and we want to see manufacturers doing much more to make sure their sun creams live up to the claims on the packaging.’

It’s a cover up, that’s what it is.

In a world that favours labels and ridiculous designer handbags that look like a jailer’s crotch, the counterfeit goods industry is booming. But not any more. A specialist police unit has shut down over 2,500 websites offering knock off GBH hair straighteners, Fugg boots and Hollista clothing, amongst other bare-faced designer fakery.

fake louis v 300x225 2500 counterfeit goods websites shut down in police swoop

The unit, called Pipcu, (which might sound like an animated penguin, but is short for the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit) was launched last year to crack down on fake goods. These websites have been leaving customers in the lurch, offering bad quality or often not bothering to deliver goods at all.

While most of us may cry, ‘Well what did you EXPECT?’, these websites hoodwink people by coming up under Google shopping searches, and look like the real deal. One customer ordered Ugg boots for her daughter, thinking they were legitimate.

Unfortunately, she then found that not only were the boots fake, but the website owner had used her credit card details to do a spot of shopping himself.

DCI Andy Fyfe of Pipcu (if indeed that is his real name) said that often the sites are a front for organised crime and can also contain viruses.

‘Consumers also need to be aware that by accessing websites like this they are running the risk of their personal details being compromised and being used for other fraudulent scams, as well as exposing their computer to malicious malware.’

So be warned. In future, always buy your ugly designer crap from a reputable online retailer.

‘Virus Shield’ app killed by Google

April 8th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

android logo 300x225 Virus Shield app killed by GoogleHave you got an Android phone with the Virus Shield app? You might have because, for a period, it topped the charts on Google Play. Well, you should delete it because Google have pulled it after it turned out to be a total phoney.

So what was the deal with it? For starters, the app had virtually no function at all, but cost a $3.99 to buy. At over 10,000 downloads, the developer/con-artist raked it in on something that was nigh-on useless for your phone.

If you’re wondering what little function it did have, the icon changed when you tapped it while it pretended to look for viruses.

The Android Police, who rumbled it, said: “This is such a brazen and expensive fake that we felt the need to give it some special attention. It’s somewhat disheartening that an app so obviously fake could rise to the top, especially considering that it’s paid, and possibly hundreds or thousands of people have been defrauded already.”

This comes with the news that Google are finally trying to clean up their apps. They need to start being a bit sharper, clearly. Either way, ‘Virus Shield’ isn’t harming your phone and won’t hammer your battery, but it isn’t doing a thing for your phone, so get shot of it.

If you want to get a refund on the app beyond the normal 15 minute refund window, Android Central have a nifty how-to guide.