Whether it’s fake news, fake likes or fake adverts, Facebook hasn’t been far from the top of the news agenda over the last few months.
On Monday’s Rip Off Britain: Live (BBC1, 9.15am) I addressed the fake Facebook adverts issue which has recently seen money-saving expert Martin Lewis sue the social network for damages after his face appeared in fake adverts for scam financial products.
The fake Facebook adverts I see generally fall into three main categories:
Fake Celebrity Endorsements
Advertisers have long worked with trusted names to grow reach and sales – and there’s nothing wrong with that.
However, as Martin Lewis and others have found, it’s a doddle for rogue advertisers to mock up fake celebrity endorsements, fake news reports – even entire fake websites – in an attempt to ensnare unwitting readers into their sales funnel.
MY ADVICE: Don’t trust an advert just because it features a trusted face, or appears to be a news story from a reputable news site, do your own research first.
Free Trial Offers
Invited to sign up for a free trial of smart pills, skin cream, eye serum or anti-wrinkle rub? Be very, very wary – it’s not often there’s a free lunch on the Internet. Or a free miracle anti-ageing or weight-loss cure.
Buried away in the T&Cs may be clauses which mean – one way or another – you’ll end up forking out a fortune, often as a subscription. And working out how to cancel it or get a refund can prove a real headache.
Good trial offers do exist online, but they’re often for digital services – video and music streaming services, for example.
MY ADVICE: Be suspicious of free trials of physical products on social media from companies you’ve never heard of, and give the terms and conditions every possible scrutiny, keeping a digital copy to refer back to.
This is where the beautifully presented goods you see in the advert bear little resemblance to what you eventually get in the post, and it’s something we’ve covered many times before on Rip Off Britain.
Often the advertisers rely on people giving up hope at this point, not bothering with the inevitable hassle of returning an item. And the firms that walk this tightrope certainly don’t make it easy for those that can be bothered.
MY ADVICE: Always do your own research, away from the social network, before you press ‘buy’; research the company advertising the goods, see where they’re actually based and what other people say about their experiences of buying from them.
More Tips To Spot Fake Ads
- Be suspicious if the advert you click on passes you from one website/company name to another; always make sure you know who you’re dealing with and check each company carefully if you haven’t heard of them before (and watch out for look-alike company names)
- Look at the web address of the page and check it matches the title of the site – don’t trust a news story purporting to be from a well-known news source (BBC News, for example) but with an unfamiliar web address (http://buythisno-w.com/bbc-news-live-debt-free/ for example).
- Look for an address and phone number – and if it’s a free/cheap number then call it to get a feel for their customer service; if not, then go elsewhere
- Beware of pressure tactics: “stock running low”, “offer ends in 19 minutes”, “8 others are also looking at this product” are all there solely to speed you into buying. Make up your own mind, on your own terms and in your own time
- Get rich quick schemes? Bitcoin, binary trading etc? I advise you to steer well clear – schemes like these rarely help anybody get rich except the people selling them
BBC Rip Off Britain: Live airs every day on BBC1 and 9.15am Monday 25th -29th June 2018 – catch up on iPlayer here.
I’ve been filming some items for Channel 4 prime-time consumer programme, Supershoppers. In tonight’s show, I’m investigating broadband and Wi-Fi speeds.
Is the internet speed you pay for the speed you actually get throughout your home? There are lots of reasons why that may not be the case, one of which is how well your broadband router performs.
The majority of us make do with the router provided by our internet service provider when we sign up. While that’s often the easiest way to get up and running, that bundled hardware may not always provide the best internet experience around the house.
So, we’re testing the kit shipped by the some of UK’s top internet service providers – as well as some after-market options – to see which router works the hardest to send Wi-Fi around your home.
In the show we test:
- BT Smart Hub
- Sky Q Hub
- Virgin Media Hub 3.o
- TP-Link TL-W940N
- Linksys WRT1900ACS
Watch Supershoppers on Thursday 14 June 2018 at 8pm or catch up on All 4.
Rip Off Britain is back with a new series on BBC1 this week.
In one of this season’s films, I talk about how internet-connected doorbells are now being used help to catch crooks.
Think of a connected doorbell as a video intercom – similar to those already popular in flats and offices – that connects your front door to your phone. Not only do they provide peace of mind when your doorbell – or perhaps that of an elderly relative – rings, these smart devices can also record video of who is at the door. Needless to say, they have already been used to help identify criminals.
In another item for the show this series, I take Julia Somerville to a Bitcoin cashpoint to explain what cryptocurrency is and how it works – and how some viewers may have lost substantial sums of more traditional cash to so-called Bitcoin scammers.
This year for the show we’ve also been making some quick advice films for Facebook – here’s me talking about why some viewers’ second-hand smartphone have suddenly stopped working days or weeks after they’ve bought them:
Rip Off Britain airs on BBC1 at 9.15am from Monday 13th June 2018, available on catch-up on BBC iPlayer.
London Tech Week is the UK capital’s annual celebration of technology and innovation.
Once again, I’m hosting the online broadcasts for LTW’s flagship event, TechXLR8, live every day from 9am until 6pm.
We’ll be interviewing tech industry movers and shakers from around the world to learn how 5G, AI, blockchain – even space tech – will converge to have a profound impact on business and society in the next two to three years.
I’ll be speaking with Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Matt Hancock; with leaders from Oracle, Microsoft and Nokia, also with the only VC investing solely in space tech, Seraphim Capital.
London Tech Week is also a great platform for start-ups, and we’ll be covering as many as we can, including the Project Kairos start-up pitch-off competition at TechXLR8 on Thursday.
I was back in the BBC Watchdog studio last night for an item on how Nectar card fraud has been leaving some viewers with a decidedly sour taste in their mouths.
Reports of fraudsters targeting the Nectar loyalty scheme aren’t new, but a recent spate of activity has brought it back to the top of the Watchdog mailbag.
Nectar began rewarding shoppers in 2002, and now around 20 million members collect and spend points at a variety of high-street and online retailers. In February this year, Nectar was bought by supermarket chain Sainsbury’s, which now also owns catalogue chain Argos.
In the fraud, Nectar points are redeemed – often in high street stores – to buy goods. The first victims know is when they try to spend their Nectar balance and find instead that their account is empty. So prolific are the fraudsters that, in some cases, victims have even found they‘be been left with a negative balance.
There are some patterns to the fraud:
- Victims are adamant that their physical Nectar card – which is required to redeem points for goods in store – hasn’t been stolen, mislaid or even in the same town as where the points were redeemed
- Argos appears to be a hot-spot for fraudsters redeeming Nectar points
How does Nectar card fraud work?
That is the million Nectar point question. On the surface, this is very straightforward:
- In order for Nectar points to be redeemed in-store, a card bearing the customer’s name must be produced (as per Argos T&Cs)
- Yet, victims report that their cards haven’t been lost stolen at the time of the fraud – some were even in different countries
So, a natural conclusion would be that the fraud involves card cloning, whereby fake copies of victims’ cards are being made by fraudsters which are then used in-store.
Whatever Nectar knows about the fraud, however, it remains tight-lipped. Its typical response is:
We take security extremely seriously at Nectar and have an active programme of monitoring and remediation.
We ask people to treat their Nectar cards like they do their bank cards, in that if they notice suspicious activity or if it goes missing, we ask that they report it, so that we can block their accounts, protect their points and conduct a thorough probe.
We encourage customers to help minimise exposure to suspicious activity by embracing good cyber hygiene such as using complex passwords for online accounts and changing these on a regular basis.
We have rigorous processes and procedures in place to constantly monitor for fraudulent activity and we regularly invest in new technologies to protect our customers’ accounts.
Two things occur to me here:
- Nectar suggests we exercise “good cyber hygiene”. While that’s always sound advice, reading between the lines here it suggests that Nectar is concerned that its online accounts are part of the fraud. This could be how criminals are able to identify Nectar accounts with large balances.
- Nectar also asks members to treat Nectar cards like bank cards. This makes me angry, as Nectar clearly isn’t meeting its side of the bargain: once Nectar implements chip and PIN, multi-factor authentication and more robust fraud detection on its own systems, only then does it have the right to talk about bank-like security.
How to keep your Nectar points safe
Nectar card fraud is a real cause for concern for its members, but Nectar’s security is not – in my opinion – doing a good enough job of preventing it. As we don’t know for sure exactly how it’s happening, it’s difficult to give specific advice, but here’s what I do recommend:
- Regularly login to your Nectar account online to check your balance for any unrecognised transactions; immediately flag up to Nectar if anything doesn’t look right
- Check your Nectar password is different to any you use for your other online accounts; I recommend using a password manager app to generate unique passwords and keep them safe
Watchdog airs on Wednesday nights, BBC One at 8pm and is available on-demand from BBC iPlayer.
This week I’m at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona reporting for Mobile World Live TV.
Mobile World Congress is where the mobile industry meets. Each spring, over 100,000 visitors swarm into Barcelona to get a first look at the technologies that will feature in our pockets, homes, offices, cars and cities in the coming months.
Mobile World Live TV is the official broadcast channel of MWC, playing on over 100 screens around the Fira, live on the web and to tens of thousands of hotel rooms across the city.
Each day I’ll be hunting down the best start-up stories from in and around 4YFN at Mobile World Congress for my very own 60-minute show on the channel.
What is 4YFN?
Connecting start-ups from around the world, 4 Years From Now is where the firms and technologies we expect to see maturing in, let’s say, 4 Years From Now showcase themselves, speak to investors and network with others who can help take them to the next stage.
4YFN is 20,000 visitors, 650 start-ups, 110 hours of keynotes, workshops and panels discussing how technologies such as 5G, AI, Machine Learning, Internet of Things and Blockchain will continue to permeate our lives in the next 4 years from now.
The first episode of the show broadcasts on Tuesday 27th February at 15.00 CET with repeats each evening at 21.00 CET. Watch live – and on-demand after MWC – on Mobile World Live TV site.
In this week’s Metro, I explore feature film motion capture technology and hear how performance capture artistes are being short-changed on acting accolades.
New Zealand-based Weta Digital is one of the world’s leading VFX and performance capture studios. I interviewed Dan Lemmon, visual effects supervisor on Oscar-nominated War for the Planet of the Apes.
I also spoke with Johl Garling, head of studio at Imaginarium Studios, a dedicated motion and performance capture studio co-founded by Andy Serkis in 2011.
In chatting with Dan and Johl, I realised a distinction – that had escaped me for now – between motion capture and performance capture:
‘Motion capture’ has become ‘performance capture’, a deserved nod to how the myriad cameras, sensors and polystyrene balls now combine to record subtlest nuances of an actor’s delivery
Performance capture a fascinating subject. While I couldn’t cover everything in the feature, there is one story I‘m keen to tell that we didn’t have space for in print:
The head-cam is another important part of believable performance capture. ‘Essentially, these are little video cameras attached to the actor’s head pointing at their face,’ explains Dan Lemmon, VFX supervisor at Weta Digital. ‘We add white markers to the face so we can track how each patch of skin moves, then transform those movements into curves and map them onto a digital puppet.’
In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Andy Serkis wore four head-cams to capture the necessary detail to animate Snoke, the Supreme Leader. The challenge in the Planet of the Apes films is that Caesar’s face is so dissimilar to that of Serkis. ‘The nose, muzzle and brow are anatomically completely different,’ says Lemmon. ‘We have to figure out how to make certain facial expressions while respecting the realism of the ape’s anatomy. It requires a carefully trained human eye to make sure it looks right.’
Read more in the Metro e-edition here and take a look at my other visual effects stories in the Metro here
Earlier this month I chaired a panel for the BBC-hosted Children’s Global Media Summit in Manchester.
The summit takes place every 3 years, and I was thrilled to be invited to host the dauntingly titled The Rise of the Machines panel.
We asked: What do artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented and virtual reality mean for the future of content consumption and creation? Not for our generation, but for our children’s.
Needless to say, it was a fascinating session. I’m immensely grateful to panellists Dave Coplin, Agust Ingason, Tawny Schlieski and Adam Howard for bringing it to life for our standing-room-only audience, as well as to producer Mark Owen.
The headline speaker at the event, however, was HRH Prince William, The Duke of Cambridge. Visiting Manchester with soon-to-be mum-of-three Catherine, The Duchess of Cambridge, he shared both his optimism and concerns about the impact of digital technology on children, expressing how little we still understand about the effect that always-on connectivity has on young people’s development.
There were many more important announcements at CGMS, including a great new BBC initiative – Own It – to support and empower young people online.
Visit the CGMS website for more highlights.