Desperate and Gullible

It was interesting yesterday to see the BBC’s piece about the growing prevalence of ‘online rental fraud’ – basically, where a fraudster/criminal advertises a rental property for a great price, and people then pay a deposit for it without ever seeing the property – because it’s a great price in a sought-after area.

You can see where this is going, can’t you?

Yep – the fraudster doesn’t own the property, doesn’t represent the agents, and has no real connection to it at all. They’ve just grabbed photos, submitted the ad, and then people pay the ‘deposit’ into an account named by the fraudster.

Now, while I think it’s pretty scummy, I can’t help but also see it as more of an idiot tax. You’ve got to be pretty desperate – and pretty fucking dim – to put down money without seeing the place you’re renting, particularly without ever meeting an agent/agency/landlord etc.  I know that these people are good at getting people to believe they’re valid, and that there’s this urgency – but really, it’s still taking advantage of people too dumb to look at a deal and think “what’s wrong with this picture?”

Maybe that’s harsh. Maybe not.  For me, it’s hard to feel real sympathy for someone who just leaves themselves open to this sort of shit. Take a look at what one victim says in the article…

[He] said: “I was willing to take the flat without a viewing based on the location, just on the price of it.

[I felt] anger, disgust, I was really disappointed. I was thinking, ‘Wow I’ve spent money I couldn’t afford and what’s happening to me right now? I’m in a nightmare and I can’t wake up’.'”

I think the worst part, probably, is that now it’s been mentioned by BBC and on TV, it’s something that other scammers will look at and thing “Oooh, that’s a good idea”, so it’ll become even more prevalent…


School Internet Tracking

Interesting to see today that there are new proposals to monitor the internet usage of all school pupils, ‘to prevent radicalisation’. (Because yeah, of course that’ll work)

It’s interesting to me, because I’d thought that was in place already – certainly at least twenty years ago, Research Machines did a whole internet-monitoring and dubious-link-blocking system, and I’d kind-of assumed that was the de-facto standard for schools even now. Apparently not.

It was certainly one of the strangest temp/contract jobs I’ve ever had – I worked for RM for three months, and the job description was to spend that time finding dodgy sites, so they could be added to the blacklist, and RM’s firewalls would then block those sites from being seen.   So yes, the job was basically to look for porn. It was a challenge, honest. *cough* (Having looked, RM do still do ‘online safety’ stuff for schools, so I wonder why it’s not the standard. Maybe they’re priced themselves out of the market, or there’s just more companies that do it, and their market-share has shrunk. I dunno)

However, I don’t think it’ll be easy to do anything that will block the access now. There are too many routes – and any vaguely tech-savvy child will be able to go outside the school-enforced network on their own devices etc. Sure, you can lock a school-owned device (computer, iPad etc.) to the school network – but you can’t do the same for their own devices. On those, there’s always public wi-fi, and even ‘just’ the usual 3G/4G connection. And whatever internet access is available at home, and anywhere else.

Also, as with so much of this ‘monitoring’ crap, I’m sure it’ll only be of use once something has happened. There’s nothing that can proactively monitor these things, or flag up significant warnings beforehand. All the monitoring can do is provide a record, to say “This is what they looked at before they did something that brought them to our attention”, in true “locking the stable-door once the horse has bolted” style. As usual.


For Your Safety

You know, I for one am getting really tired of the government phrases “It’s for your safety” and “it’s for your security”, which are getting bandied around more and more.

This week it’s been used about blocking flights to and from Sharm El-Sheikh because of an alleged – but unproven – bomb in the hold of the plane that crashed in the Sinai desert last week. It’s also been used in discussions about monitoring everyone’s internet traffic and holding those records for at least a year, and in revelations about MI5 monitoring every domestic phone-call in the UK for the last ten years.

Governments like people to be scared – and more and more, we seem to be happy to let the government take these measures ‘because it makes us safer’. It doesn’t, it just gives up more information to the government – and all in the name of ‘safety’.

Basically, it’s shit.

[I know, I need to think more about this and write more. But it’s a phrase that bugs me every time it’s used]


HMRC Failings

This week, MPs declared that HMRC is still failing taxpayers in umpteen ways – which is no surprise to anyone who has to deal with them on an even vaguely regular basis.

Now that I’m doing the self-employed thing, I’ve spent more time than I should on the phone to the idiots.

From the article

In 2011-12, HMRC answered 74% of calls from the public, but by the start of 2015, it only answered 50% of them, the MPs said.

Honestly, I’m amazed it’s as high as 50%…


Where There’s A Will

In the news today, there’s a lot going on about the person who’s managed to get her mother’s will overturned, and thus inherit a third of the money from it, despite the mother’s written explanation of why she didn’t want her daughter to get anything.

Personally, I find this kind of thing deeply unpleasant – not least for the greed it shows, and the all-round contempt for final wishes in this case. I think if a will has been made out with certain intent and intentions, that’s what should happen.

As it is, in this case the person is going to use the proceeds (although what’ll be left after legal costs is another question) to purchase their house from the local authority, which appears to have ‘always been what was intended’.

And – again, personally – that’s what drives me crackers, that expectation of (and reliance on) inheriting money, and even making plans for the money that will come when parents die. I’ve known a few people of similar mindsets over the years, and it always leaves me cold, that whole “Well, when they’ve died we’ll be able to [x]” attitude. It’s just unpleasant.

I know parents die – it’s a logical assumption that they will do so.  But counting down the days ’til it happens, effectively looking forward to them dying, that’s just wrong. (Again, and as always, in my opinion)

As and when my folks go, I would hope that their will says “We’ve spent the lot, and anything else can go to the cats home”. I’d be fine with that – and you can be damn sure I wouldn’t be fighting through the courts because it was “unfair”.

 

Grrrr, People. They really do piss me off sometimes.


Self-Inflicted Damage

[Note : As always, I don’t actually give a shit about sport/cricket – I’m more interested in the mindset beneath it in this case]

Over the last couple of days, the news has been full of bloody Kevin Pietersen throwing a strop about not being allowed – yet – back into playing cricket for England.

Apparently a while back it was…

suggest[ed he] could add to his 104 England caps if he joined a county and scored enough runs to merit a recall.

(Quote from the BBC story)

Pietersen did this, and fair play to him.  Earlier this week, he scored a personal best innings, something like 350 not out.  So he’s assumed that on that one showing, he should be allowed back into the England team.

He met Andrew Strauss – the new ‘director of cricket’, apparently – who said there was no chance this summer, and that some people didn’t trust Pietersen.  Which is also fair – Pietersen’s always been an asshat.

But now he’s thrown his toys out the pram about it, and has written about how he feels ‘deceived’ and so on in his column in the Telegraph.

Really, all it seems like is a whining brat. Yes, he’s done what was asked, and had one excellent innings. But that doesn’t make a team player, and doesn’t mean he has to be immediately accepted as part of the England team.

Indeed, if anything is now going to make sure he doesn’t get back in, I’d say it’s his own behaviour in this. (Of course, he won’t see it like that, because he’s perfect and no-one else is. Rah rah rah. Standard asshat behaviour)  I would’ve said he might have a chance if he continues to excel at county level – the same criteria as could be applied to any other up-and-coming player.

But really, how can you trust anyone who throws their toys out like this at any opportunity? When they decide to destroy their own chances and credibility, in a fit that looks more like the act of a stropping toddler kicking their feet and screaming in a supermarket than one of someone wanting to play for – and thus represent – a country’s cricket team?


Getting Sent Home

[Posted delayed, while I’m away]

One of my favourite articles this week has been the BBC’s telling of the man who air-mailed himself home from Australia – and nearly died several times over.

It’s a gob-smacking tale – and beautifully written – that makes you wonder at both the desperation to leave Australia, and the sheer madness of how he did it.

I won’t ruin the tale – it’s a good ‘un.