HMRC Arrest Warrant Scam

Lots of scammers impersonate HMRC to call or text or email with messages about your needing to make instant payment against the amount you owe HMRC in unpaid taxes.

This new version of the scam involves automated calling systems, cloning of phone numbers and a call centre of criminals.

E.g. You receive an automated call (or maybe its recorded on your answer phone)

The message states that an arrest warrant had been issued under your name and you should press “1” to speak to the case officer or maybe the message directs you to call a specific number.

If you press or call the number you are put through to a call centre of scammers and you will be pressurised to make immediate payment to avoid being arrested.

The payment is likely to be iTunes vouchers. This may seem an odd choice, but once purchased – you just need to tell them the ID number for the vouchers and they can make use of them.

Obviously HMRC do not really accept payment in vouchers so this should warn any potential victims, but some people do pay up without thinking or checking.

The number is usually displayed on a person’s phone as 0300 2003300 – the official number of HMRC. On some phones, when the call comes through “HMRC” appears on their screen as if that is the genuine caller.

However, while the number appears to be a genuine it is in fact from fraudsters looking to trick unsuspecting victims out of their money.

Don’t assume anyone who has contacted you is who they say they are. If an email, phone call or text message asks you to make a payment, log in to an online account or offers you a deal, verify whether it’s real or just a clever scam.

How to Stay Safe Against These Scams

  1. Recognise the signs – Genuine organisations, such as banks and HMRC, will never contact you out of the blue to ask for your PIN, password or bank details
  2. Do not give out private information, reply to text messages, download attachments or click on links in emails you weren’t expecting
  3. Forward suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC to phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk and texts to 60599, or contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to report any suspicious calls or use its online fraud reporting tool

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Google Fined 1.5 Billion Euros by the EU

The European Union has levied a third antitrust fine against Google.

EU antitrust commissioner Margrethe Vestager said that the technology giant had abused its dominant position by forcing customers of its AdSense service to sign contracts stating they would not accept advertising from rival search engines. “The misconduct lasted over 10 years and denied other companies the possibility to compete on the merits and to innovate.”

This brings the total in fines against Google by the EU to 8.2 billion Euros, but it’s also ends the last of the investigations that were in progress.

The third fine is lower than the previous two as Google actively worked with the European Commission to change its AdSense policies after the EU announced its case in 2016.

In 2006, Google started selling its AdSense for Search product. This let companies place a Google search box on their website. When a search is entered Google shows the results but also its adverts.

Google made customers sign contracts banning them from including rival search engines on their sites. In 2009, Google allowed the inclusion of rival search engines as long as Google’s was more prominent. In 2016, around the time the EU announced its case, the company removed these terms altogether.

Possibly, to avoid further anti-trust cases On Android phones, Google used to automatically install its own services (including Google search) but has recently switched to allowing users which services they want.

Today’s fine brings an end to EU’s current trilogy of open probes, the organization is still looking at a number of other areas of Google’s business and could open new cases in future.

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Unwanted Spam Links

This is not about spam emails or scam emails with dodgy links in them.

This is about finding that someone has added spam links into your website without permission.

Hackers can insert spam links into your website – to gain a better ranking on search engines. The more inbound links a site receives, the higher the placement of the target web site in search results. Spam links are typically inserted into the database content in plain text, though they can also be deliberately obscured to make finding them more difficult.

Spam links can be inserted in site files or databases, so determining if your site is infected can often be done by simply reading the pages and looking for  inappropriate links.

The most common spam links are:-

  • Prescription drugs
  • Online gambling
  • Essay writing services
  • Film & TV downloads
  • Fake designer goods
  • Weight loss products
  • Adult content

Finding and Removing Spam Links

This means painstaking review of the code to find the inserted links. The links may be  inserted as typical hypertext links or they may be disguised by JavaScript for example. Determine which links are not relevant to your site and remove them.

For hackers to have inserted these links into your website means there must be vulnerabilities that they exploited. You need to find these vulnerabilities and fix them or the hackers may return.

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The Honey APP

A lot of people collect discount coupons – from newspapers and magazines but increasingly from coupon websites. There are numerous websites promising to give you the latest and best discount coupons off products at your favourite stores and it can take a lot of time searching for the discounts you want.

An entrepreneur tired of that process and created Honey.

It’s not an APP in the usual sense – it’s a browser extension so it adds on to your browser and it watches the stores you visit and the products you buy and finds and applies the relevant discount coupons automatically.

Honey is a free browser extension that automatically finds and applies coupon codes at checkout for over 30,000 shopping sites. It also instantly find better prices on Amazon and offers Honey Gold at many stores for it’s U.S. members.

Once Honey is installed, you will see the Honey icon in the top right corner turn orange on Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Edge when you’re on a shopping site that is supported by Honey.

That seems straightforward but there is also Honey Gold for US users.

The idea is that Honey makes money by getting a commission from merchants and then giving a portion of it back to the users as points which can be redeemed for dollar amounts credited to gift cards for stores such Amazon, Walmart, Target, eBay, Nordstrom, and Sephora.

User reviews say Honey does work and saves them money on shopping online.

It doesn’t work with all stores of course and you may not want a browser extension to be watching your shopping habits even though they emphatically say they do not sell or share customer data in any way.

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