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Fake News: Bitcoin Scams and Cryptocurrency Get-Rich-Quick Schemes

Earlier this year on BBC Rip Off Britain I reported on how Martin ‘Money Saving Expert’ Lewis had found himself the unwitting face of adverts for bitcoin and cryptocurrency get-rich-quick schemes.

Understandably angry, Martin embarked upon a public campaign – and legal proceedings against Facebook – to make it clear that he in no way endorses any of these schemes.

Then, last week, I began receiving messages asking about a bitcoin scheme that I was apparently supporting. A quick web search and scan of social media revealed that it was my turn to be the face of dodgy cryptocurrency money-making schemes:

This advert is fake - I do not endorse any cryptocurrency trading platforms

This advert is fake – I do not endorse any cryptocurrency trading platforms

To be absolutely clear: these adverts are fake. In no way do I endorse any bitcoin or cryptocurrency money-making schemes. And as for me making ‘millions of pounds every month’? I’m still working on it.

The photos are genuine, though not the captions. The irony is that the scammers now using my face in those fake ads had the cheek to come to my website to steal the images.

There’s also an entire website now dedicated to my endorsement of the so-called trading platform. It goes so far as to provide a fabricated transcript of a conversation between me and Susanna in which I explain how the scheme works.

When I perform a web search on some phrases on the site, I find it’s identical to another site on the web in which Martin Lewis is the proponent.

It’s desperately frustrating that my face may now be helping to rip people off, and that there’s little I can do to stop it from happening.

However, what I can do is to help spread the word that these adverts should not be taken at face value. Also, steer well clear of any get-rich-quick schemes like these – whoever appears to be endorsing it. And be very cautious of any screenshot of a new story – they’re very easy to fake.

Recently, I shared some tips on how to spot fake adverts.

BBC Rip Off Britain: Live

Fakebook: How to Spot Fake Facebook Adverts – BBC Rip Off Britain: Live

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.

Rip Off Britain - Fake Facebook Adverts

Don’t trust an advert just because it features a trusted face (Image: BBC)

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.

Click to read on

Channel 4 Supershoppers

Wi-Fi Router Workout with Channel 4 Supershoppers

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.

Supershoppers Wi-Fi Router Testing

(Images: Channel 4/Firecrest Films)

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.

BBC One - Rip Off Britain Logo

BBC Rip Off Britain Season 10

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.

Filming in Manchester for series 10 of BBC Rip Off Britain 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.

BBC Watchdog Nectar Card Fraud

BBC Watchdog: Nectar Card Fraud

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.

BBC Watchdog Nectar Card Fraud

(Image: BBC)

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:
Click to read on

BBC Rip Off Britain: Keyless Car Crime

The new series of Rip Off Britain – series nine! – began on BBC1 this month and once I am on-hand as its resident technology expert.

Earlier this week, I spoke with Angela about how high-tech car criminals are able to hack their way past current keyless security systems. I also shared a few tips that may help concerned viewers prevent their cars being stolen. Here’s a quick taster:

Car crime has largely moved on from the coat hanger and hot-wire days of old, with crime rates decreasing by 80 percent since 1993 according to the Office for National Statistics. However, a new wave of tech-savvy car criminals is now making easy work of making off with many makes of car.

I’ve been following the high-tech car crime trend closely, trying to understand the ways in which criminals are able to bypass or subvert car keyless security systems – whether through signal amplification, wireless jamming or keyless code capture. Criminals often steal to order, targeting high-value vehicles that are driven to so-called ‘chop-shops’ and sold on for parts.

Next week I travel to Glasgow for BBC Rip Off Britain Live. I find the live shows particularly enjoyable because we are able to be responsive to news stories as they break. As such, I can’t say yet exactly which stories I’ll be covering, but I believe we’ll be discussing how the Internet of Things has made our homes vulnerable to hackers.

BBC Rip Off Britain airs on BBC1, weekdays 9.15-10.00. Watch here on BBC iPlayer.

The One Show - Toddlers and Tablets

Healthy Habits with Smartphones and Tablets – The One Show

This week I appeared on BBC1’s The One Show sharing advice on how parents can help their children to develop healthy habits when using smartphones and tablets.

One Show - Toddlers and TabletsFor the film, we visited a high street phone store and let a dozen under-elevens loose to observe how they used the selection of phones and tablets on display.

I’m a dad, and like most parents, I feel as if I’m making it up as I go along – which, of course, I am. How I introduce my children to technology is no exception.

Understanding a little about how children develop, what their needs are at different ages, and how easily influenced they are by adults around them, can all help make sure that children – and their parents – have a happy relationship with gadgets.

Technology offers amazing opportunities but, for me, the old adage that ‘too much of a good thing is a bad thing’ stands as true with smartphones and tablets as it does with anything else.

The One Show is on BBC1 at 7pm most evenings, viewers in the UK with a television licence can watch here.

Tech vs Trolls: The Economics of Online Abuse

In today’s Metro, I ask how the tech firms are tackling online abuse.

Despite the efforts of social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, many of the internet’s most popular destinations remain troubled by trolls.

When the trolls are in town, popular social platforms become unpleasant, unsocial places, not a carefree online destination to catch up with family and friends.

Some of those accused may claim they are exercising free-speech, but that doesn’t wash if the intent is to cause alarm or distress. Hurling abuse at somebody isn’t free speech, it’s hurling abuse at somebody.

So, isn’t it high time that tech firms stepped up their game to tackle the online abuse that runs riot on their platforms?

That’s what I examine in How tech is tackling trolls: how artificial intelligence, machine learning and image recognition are being deployed to disarm the trolls who terrorise the web.

However, there’s another angle to this that I’d like briefly to expand upon here: social networks need to tackle online abuse not only for their users’ sakes but for their investors’.

You see, for online social platforms driven by advertising – which is most of them – it is impossible to ignore the economics of trolling.

Economics of Trolling

Social networks are based on the principle that we humans are social creatures who like to express ourselves. The more we share, the more the networks know about us, and the more able they are to sell targeted advertising (ads that are, in theory, more relevant to us) on behalf of their partners.

Overall, it’s a happy relationship, and the numbers speak for themselves: almost 2 billion of us log in to Facebook every month to share status updates, likes and photos, from which it made almost $10 billion in 2016.

However, fear of unsocial behaviour on social platforms makes us more reluctant to express ourselves online; the less we share, the less they know and the less we visit, so the more it hurts the online platform’s ad revenues. The likes of Facebook and Twitter make nothing if we’re too afraid to use them.

Facebook and Twitter make nothing if we’re too afraid to use them

Twitter: We Suck

There are other ways in which the economics of online abuse can hurt too. Last year, Disney dropped its plans to buy Twitter over concerns that widespread trolling and bullying on the platform might, according to Bloombergsoil the company’s wholesome family image.

Months before, Twitter boss Dick Costolo wrote, “We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls,” adding “It’s no secret, and the rest of the world talks about it every day.”

It does: just ask Leslie Jones, Katie Price, Zelda Williams, Katie Price, and countless others who have made the news after leaping from the toxic platform, having unwittingly stirred the trolls’ nest.

Sound Investment

So, clamping down on unsocial behaviour is an obvious investment for businesses that rely on us being socially generous.

As I explore in the Metro feature, technology can go some way to weeding out abuse, but the trouble with automated tools is where the boundaries blur between abuse and robust argument. Even human moderators struggle with this and, for a while yet in my opinion, it’s likely AIs will too.

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