I am no stranger to credit card fraud: in the past I have had my card cloned and had the details stolen from a hack on a retailer. But I thought a card I had never used would be safe from the threat of crime. I was wrong.
Even if you lock your credit card in a safe the moment it arrives, you can still fall victim to charges made by criminals. But how can criminals steal your card details if you’ve never even used them?
At 10pm on a quiet Thursday night in January, I got a text from my bank, Halifax, saying my credit card had been used at Domino’s Pizza for an order costing £30.67.
After 30 minutes on hold on an extremely busy Halifax line the customer service rep asked why I had called. “Fraud,” I said. “Domino’s?” he replied. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one paying for someone else’s takeaway.
In fact, the UK appears to have been in the grip of a takeway fraud boom. Recently a colleague’s card details were used to order £300 worth of takeways in the Andover area all over a single weekend.
This week, thousands of First Direct customers found their cards had been used to order chicken dinners in Nando’s. Mention to friends or family that your card was used by fraudsters to buy takeaways, and you will soon learn that you not alone.
In my case, Halifax froze my card to prevent further charges, and the next morning the card was cancelled and the charges marked to be refunded. Three days later a replacement card arrived on the doormat. Having activated it, I stashed it safely in a drawer. The next day I checked my statement to make sure the pizzas had been refunded – only to find to my horror seven fresh fraudulent charges totalling £465 – all on my new card. These weren’t at Domino’s but an unfamiliar sportswear company in the Midlands.
Given I had only activated the card 16 hours prior, hadn’t used it, entered the new number into Apple Pay or any other service, it hadn’t left the house and no one else had access to it, how on earth had someone already spent money on it?
I am not the only person to have found myself asking this question recently – this week, the Guardian Money reader Phoebe Maddrell got in touch to say that her debit card details had been used for fraudulent transactions even though she had never used it – either online or in person.
In my case, Halifax’s fraud investigations team said I had fallen victim to what is called a “guess attack”, where an organised criminal gang work out the card number and the expiry date. They didn’t need to have stolen the card number in a hack or physical theft, and were able to use it as soon as it was activated.
Looking at a bank card’s 16-digit card number and four-digit expiry date, you might be forgiven for thinking that the combination would be too complex to simply guess. Unfortunately, it is very much not the case.
“The first thing to realise is that you are not guessing the full 16 numbers at random,” says Jake Moore, a global cybersecurity adviser at Eset. “The first six digits of a credit card number signify the card network and the issuing bank, while the final digit is the Luhn algorithm checksum.”
That means they only have to guess seven numbers, while that final Luhn digit helps verify whether the rest of the card number is valid. The checksum was originally designed to help spot manual input errors, such as mistyped numbers or transposed sequences, but it can also be used by criminals to verify a number could be real.
“There are websites out there that have Luhn verifiers which help find these numbers in little or no time at all, making the chances of locating a card in use relatively high,” Moore says.
Once a criminal gang has a potentially valid credit card number it can then try it out to see if it is in use. The card verification value (CVV) – the three digits usually printed on the back of the card in or next to the signature strip – helps prevent this kind of attack by adding further burden on the criminals.
“There are, however, many websites – often located outside the UK – that will accept card payments without any need for a three-digit CVV number or any other proof of identity,” Moore says.
Banks and card companies have sophisticated technologies in place to spot and prevent these sorts of attacks from happening in real time using certain characteristics of each transaction. Reports after the fact help refine the systems so they can stop more like it.
Criminals typically target websites that handle large volumes of low-value transactions, which makes it more difficult to spot fraud from the hundreds of thousands of genuine purchases.
Once an attack is identified additional checks are implemented to block it and prevent further similar frauds but some will pass through at first.
In my case, Domino’s did request the CVV of the first card but that, too, was guessed, allowing two of the transactions through before further transactions were flagged by Halifax’s systems. Takeways appear to be targeted as they regularly process low-value purchases where the card is not present. Criminals use a card’s details to make a series of rapid purchases until the card is stopped.
A Halifax spokesperson says: “Through our multilayered fraud detection systems, we never stop fighting to prevent fraud, blocking the vast majority that is attempted. Unfortunately, highly sophisticated criminal gangs also never stop trying to break our defences and some fraud does get through.”
This case has certainly made me reconsider the number of bank cards I hold and why. With every account opened, another card arrives that could result in me being a victim of fraud even if I never use it. Credit card fraud cost the UK £574.2m in 2020, according to data from UK Finance, including £376.5m of e-commerce fraud. While banks refunded 98% of customers and prevented an additional £983m of fraud in the year, there is always a risk it could happen to you.
What can you do to protect yourself?
Protecting yourself against a guess attack is difficult but there are things you can do to prevent the damage they cause.
Never approve a transaction you weren’t expecting. Measures to comply with the new strong customer authentication regulations are being phased in before the March 2022 deadline. These will typically require customers to verify some transactions via a one-time passcode sent by SMS or banking app prompt for about one in four online transactions.
Most card issuers allow you to freeze or temporarily deactivate all or parts of the card’s functions. These include blocking transactions outside the UK, online or over the phone, in person or contactless payments. Freezes do not stop recurring transactions, direct debits or transactions where the retailers do not ask the bank for verification, such as public transport.
Report fraud to your bank immediately you spot it. Moore says: “I always advise people to check their bank statements regularly, even daily, to spot any discrepancies. If card details are stolen and slip through the net a small number of times, these cards become very valuable indeed and can be used multiple times, even for years on end, without raising suspicions.”
‘I am concerned that something strange is going on’
Phoebe Maddrell from Herefordshire was one of thousands of First Direct’s customers hit by fraudulent spending at the fast food chain Nando’s.
She received a message on the morning of 17 February querying a £42 payment from the debit card linked to her account. She saw it when she woke up, and responded to say she hadn’t made the payment.
“I then logged into my internet banking and saw that there were multiple transactions via Apple that I didn’t recognise,” she says.
“I started the account last June for saving. I’ve never taken the card out of the house; it’s never been used at a retailer.”
Maddrell contacted the bank straight away and was told that the Nando’s transaction had been blocked, and that the card would be cancelled and the Apple payments not charged to her account. However, later that day the Apple payments went through.
“I really am concerned that something strange is going on,” she says. “There is no way that the fraudsters could have obtained the card details from anywhere. Unless somehow these were breached when the card was sent to me in the post.”
Maddrell’s bank would not shed any light on how the fraud had occurred, saying it could not do so for security reasons, but said there had not been a data breach.
It says Maddrell will be repaid in full and will not need to speak to the fraud team.
A First Direct spokesperson said: “We are aware of some low-value unauthorised retail transactions appearing on a small number of our customers’ cards.
“We want to reassure impacted customers that they will not be left out of pocket and apologise for any inconvenience caused.
“We take our customers’ security very seriously and will be reaching out to affected customers in the coming days.
“We would advise customers to regularly check their statements and get in touch if they notice any suspicious activity.”
Maddrell has complained to the Information Commissioner’s Office about her case, and to the financial ombudsman about First Direct’s unwillingness to explain how the fraud happened, and because she was unable to reach the fraud team at first and told there was a four-week wait for a callback. Hilary Osborne
“The Creator”: A Glimpse Into A Future Defined By Artificial Intelligence (AI) Warfare
By Cindy Porter
In “The Creator” visionary director Gareth Edwards thrusts us into the heart of a dystopian future, where the battle lines are drawn between artificial intelligence and the free Western world.
Set against the backdrop of a post-rebellion Los Angeles, the film grapples with pressing questions about the role of AI in our society.
A Glimpse into a Future Defined by Artificial Intelligence (AI) Warfare
While the narrative treads familiar ground, it is timely, given the rising prominence of artificial intelligence in our daily lives.
A Fusion of Genres
Edwards embarks on an ambitious endeavor, blending elements of science fiction classics with contemporary themes.
The result is a cinematic stew reminiscent of James Cameron’s “Aliens” tinged with shades of “Blade Runner” a dash of “Children of Men,” and a sprinkle of “Akira” This concoction, while intriguing, occasionally veers toward familiarity rather than forging its own distinct identity.
Edwards’ Cinematic Journey
The British filmmaker, known for his foray into doomsday scenarios with the BBC docudrama “End Day” in 2005, has traversed a path from indie gem “Monsters” (2010) to the expansive Star Wars universe with “Rogue One” (2016).
“The Creator” marks another bold step in his repertoire. The film introduces compelling concepts like the posthumous donation of personality traits, punctuated by impactful visuals, and raises pertinent ethical dilemmas. It stands as a commendable endeavor, even if it occasionally falters in execution.
In his pursuit of depth, Edwards at times stumbles into the realm of convolution, leaving the audience grappling with intricacies rather than immersing in the narrative.
While adept at crafting visual spectacles and orchestrating soundscapes, the film occasionally falters in the art of storytelling.
In an era where classic storytelling is seemingly on the wane, some may argue that this approach is emblematic of the times.
AI: Savior or Peril?
“The Creator” leaves us with a question that resonates long after the credits roll: Will artificial intelligence be humanity’s salvation or its undoing? The film’s take on machine ethics leans toward simplicity, attributing AI emotions to programmed responses.
This portrayal encapsulates the film’s stance on the subject – a theme as enigmatic as the AI it grapples with.
Director: Gareth Edwards. Starring: John David Washington, Gemma Chan, Madeleine Yuna Boyles, Ken Watanabe. Genre: Science fiction. Release Year: 2023. Duration: 133 minutes. Premiere Date: September 29.
– A breakout hit, “Monsters” showcases Edwards’ talent for blending intimate human drama with towering sci-fi spectacles. Set in a world recovering from an alien invasion, it’s a poignant tale of love amidst chaos.
2. “Rogue One” (2016)
– Edwards helms this epic Star Wars installment, seamlessly integrating new characters with the beloved original trilogy. It’s a testament to his ability to navigate complex narratives on a grand scale.
3. “End Day” (2005)
– This BBC docudrama marked Edwards’ entry into the world of speculative storytelling. Presenting five doomsday scenarios, it set the stage for his later exploration of dystopian futures.
4. “The Creator” (2023)
– Edwards’ latest venture, “The Creator,” immerses audiences in a future fraught with AI warfare. While not without its challenges, it boldly tackles pertinent questions about the role of artificial intelligence in our lives.
5. Potential Future Project
– As Edwards continues to push the boundaries of speculative cinema, audiences eagerly anticipate his next cinematic endeavor, poised to be another thought-provoking addition to his illustrious filmography.
“The Creator” stands as a testament to Gareth Edwards’ unyielding vision and his penchant for exploring the frontiers of speculative cinema.
While it doesn’t shy away from the complexities of AI, it occasionally falters in navigating its intricate narrative.
As we peer into this cinematic crystal ball, we’re left with a stark question: Will artificial intelligence be our beacon of hope, or will it cast a shadow over humanity’s future? Only time will unveil the answer.
We Can’t Thank You Enough For Your Support!
— By Cindy Porter
— For more information & news submissions: info@VoiceOfEU.com
Energize Your Property Value: The Surge In Demand For Home EV Charging Points
By Raza H. Qadri (ALI)
In a rapidly evolving real estate landscape, home electric vehicle (EV) charging points have emerged as a coveted feature. Here, we will explore the surge in demand for these charging stations and their potential to transform property value desirability.
Surge in Demand:
Estate agents are witnessing an unprecedented uptick in requests for properties equipped with EV charging points. Rightmove reports a staggering 592% increase in listings mentioning EV chargers since 2019. This summer, Jackson-Stops even incorporated EV charging points into their top-ten must-have property features for the first time.
Adding Value To Property:
Integrating electric vehicle (EV) charging points into residential properties has become a key factor in boosting their market value. According to insights from the National Association of Property Buyers, homes equipped with EV charging facilities can see an uptick in value ranging from £3,000 to £5,000. This trend aligns with the increasing demand for sustainable features in real estate. Rightmove’s Greener Homes report highlights a remarkable 40% surge in listings mentioning EV chargers in comparison to the previous year. Such statistics underscore the significance of these installations as a sought-after feature among buyers.
Beyond the potential increase in property value, homeowners can reap substantial benefits from dedicated EV charging points. These specialized units offer significantly faster charging speeds compared to standard three-pin plugs. With an output of 32 amps/7kw, a dedicated charger can provide up to 28 miles per hour of charging, a substantial improvement over the 9 miles offered by a standard plug.
Moreover, safety considerations play a pivotal role. Standard domestic sockets may not be designed for prolonged high-output usage, potentially leading to overheating and related wiring issues.
Therefore, the integration of a dedicated EV charging point not only adds tangible value to a property but also ensures a safer and more efficient charging experience for homeowners and their electric vehicles.
Benefits Beyond Convenience:
Dedicated charge points offer benefits beyond convenience. According to James McKemey from Pod Point, these units deliver significantly faster charging speeds compared to standard three-pin plugs. Safety considerations also come into play, as standard domestic sockets may not be built for prolonged high-output usage.
Charging an EV at home proves more cost-effective than relying on public charging stations. Smart charging capabilities enable homeowners to take advantage of lower rates, typically offered during off-peak hours, such as at night.
Charger prices vary, ranging from approximately £300 to over £1,000, with installation costs potentially adding another £400 to £600.
Solar integration presents a game-changing opportunity for homeowners seeking both environmental sustainability and financial benefits. The global solar energy capacity reached an astounding 793 gigawatts (GW), illuminating the rapid adoption of this renewable energy source.
For homeowners, integrating solar panels with an electric vehicle (EV) charging point can lead to substantial savings. On average, a standard solar panel system costs around £6,000 to £7,000 per kWp (kilowatt peak), with the typical installation size being 4kWp. This equates to an initial investment of approximately £24,000 to £28,000.
However, the return on investment is impressive. Solar panels can generate roughly 3,200 kWh (kilowatt-hours) per year for a 4kWp system in the UK. With the average cost of electricity sitting at 16.1p per kWh, homeowners can save approximately £515 annually on energy bills.
Moreover, the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) schemeallows homeowners to earn money by exporting excess electricity back to the grid. As of September 2021, the SEG offers rates ranging from 1.79p to 5.24p per kWh. Over the course of 20 years, a solar panel system can generate savings of over £10,000, demonstrating the substantial financial benefits of solar integration. This trend is expected to surge further as advancements in solar technology continue to drive down installation costs and boost energy production.
Regulations and Grants:
Regulations surrounding EV charging point installations vary, particularly for listed buildings, which require planning permission for wall-mounted units. However, for flat owners, renters, and landlords with off-street parking, there’s an opportunity to benefit from government grants.
These grants provide a substantial subsidy, offering £350 or covering 75% of the total installation cost, whichever is lower. This incentive has spurred a surge in installations, with a notable uptick in applications over the past year.
In fact, according to recent data, the number of approved grant applications for EV charging points has risen by an impressive 68% compared to the previous year. This demonstrates a growing recognition of the value and importance of these installations in both residential and rental properties.
Renting Out Your Charging Point:
Renting out your EV charging point also presents a compelling opportunity for homeowners to capitalize on the growing demand for electric vehicle infrastructure.
According to recent market trends, the number of registered electric vehicles worldwide surpassed 14 million in 2023, marking a significant milestone. With projections indicating an annual growth rate of 29% – 34% for the global electric vehicle market, the need for accessible charging solutions is set to skyrocket. In the UK alone, the number of electric vehicles on the road has tripled over the last three years, reaching over 857,000 at the end of 2023.
This surge in EV ownership underscores the potential market for homeowners looking to rent out their charging points. Platforms like JustPark and Co Charger facilitate this process by connecting drivers in need of charging with available charging stations.
By participating in this shared economy, homeowners not only contribute to the expansion of EV infrastructure but also stand to generate a supplementary income stream. This symbiotic relationship between EV owners and charging point hosts aligns with the broader shift towards sustainable transportation solutions.
Finally, we can conclude that the surge in demand for properties with EV charging points signals a shifting paradigm in real estate. With added convenience, cost-efficiency, and potential for monetization, these installations are poised to become a cornerstone of future property value and desirability.
We Can’t Thank You Enough For Your Support!
— By Raza H. Qadri | Science, Technology & Business Contributor “THE VOICE OF EU”
— For more information & news submissions: info@VoiceOfEU.com
Business Transformation Expert Talks About Mass Layoffs
By Clint Bailey – ‘The Voice of EU’
By Clint Bailey – ‘The Voice of EU’
Raza H. Qadri (Ali), a Business Transformation expert and the Founder of Vibertron Technologies, a BizTech company, possesses extensive experience in the tech industry. Throughout his career, he has provided consulting services to both large corporations and SMEs undergoing significant restructuring initiatives.
In a recent interview with Voice of EU, Qadri highlighted the detrimental impact of mass layoffs on mid-career tech professionals and the businesses that implement such measures. He expressed his concern regarding the prevailing trend of widespread workforce reductions, suggesting that it represents a logical misstep.
“Considering the reputation of the tech industry for innovation, I had anticipated greater progress in recent developments. However, it appears that tech companies are regressing, particularly in their dismantling of established departments and structures that were intended to drive future growth.”
[Mass redundancies are] an outdated and traditional practice that most companies turn to as a first resort to create liquidity
Qadri says that most of the employees impacted by layoffs have “approximately 10-11 years of experience” and so are “not really junior staff that are easily replaced,” noting there would be “a loss of skills and knowledge in these companies.”
Additionally, he expresses concern regarding the potential loss of diversity at the technical and software engineering layer. Executives are increasingly focused on building and developing technology utilizing AI systems, which are known to possess biases due to limited training data.
Throughout his extensive experience working across various industries and regions, Qadri has observed that more than 70% of digital transformation initiatives either fall short or fail to achieve their intended outcomes. He emphasizes that one critical component, often overlooked, that can make or break digital transformation is the “people element.”
Emulating Technology & The Copycat Phenomenon
“In my view, the companies seem to be copying each other’s operations strategies” says Qadri. According to Qadri, these companies view the situation as an opportunity to streamline their workforce by letting go of the additional employees they had hired during the pandemic-induced surge. Many believed that the future would be dominated by virtual meetings and peripheral manufacturers would continue to experience significant profits.
However, in contrast to the significant revenue growth experienced by many companies during the global lockdowns, a notable trend has emerged. Numerous organizations have initiated large-scale job cuts.
According to data compiled by Layoffs.fyi, 693 technology businesses have already laid off 197,945 employees this year, with the year not even reaching its midpoint. This figure surpasses the 164,591 individuals laid off by 1,056 companies throughout the entirety of 2022.
Qadri quoted Henry Ford’s aphorism – “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason so few engage in it” – saying that mass redundancies were “an outdated and traditional practice that most companies turn to as a first resort to create liquidity.”
Shareholders, Profitability & Financial Performance Driving the Bottom Line
Qadri said: “The impact of layoffs on profitability may not be immediately evident, as increased expenses and significant severance packages (usually spanning 3-6 months) need to be accounted for in the short term. However, the dismantling of established departments and structures by tech companies is perceived as a regressive step. This approach reflects short-term thinking, lacking a focus on sustainable strategies for the digital future.”
Business Transformation Exec. Raza Qadri Talks About Mass Layoffs.
Qadri, who recently introduced a new remote work tech transformation algorithm MCiHT™ (Multi-Channel Integrated Hybrid Technologies) for Vibertron Consulting Solutions, notes that while companies are laying off people, they are investing billions in AI, IoT, and automation, citing the billions Microsoft has put into OpenAI so far.
In recent months, Microsoft announced its intention to reduce its workforce by 10,000 employees, which constitutes approximately 4% of the company’s total staff. This decision was prompted by Satya Nadella’s remarks highlighting the necessity for productivity enhancements. Microsoft is not the only company taking such measures; other prominent organizations like Salesforce, Amazon, Google, Meta, and several others are also trimming their workforce to align with the excess hiring made during the growth spurred by the COVID-19 lockdowns.
On the company’s most recent earnings call last month, Nadella noted: “During the pandemic, it was all about new workloads and scaling workloads. But pre-pandemic, there was a balance between optimizations and new workloads. So what we’re seeing now is the new workloads start in addition to highly intense optimization drive that we have.”
CFO Amy Hood then quickly responded to this, stating the company had “been through almost a year where that pivot that Satya talked about, from [here] we’re starting tons of new workloads, and we’ll call that the pandemic time, to this transition post, and we’re coming to really the anniversary of that starting. And so to talk to your point, we’re continuing to set optimization. But at some point, workloads just can’t be optimized much further.”
Not singling Microsoft out specifically, but speaking to the point of moves made by tech companies in a ‘maturity phase’. Qadri said, “Layoffs significantly impact this key performance indicator (KPI), despite the fact that these companies may possess substantial reserves. Such measures serve as a swift means to align with investor expectations and share prices, enabling them to quickly optimize their size and structure.”
Is It A Sustainable Approach?
During our conversation, we inquired with Qadri about the notable and unprecedented cuts that occurred at Twitter following Elon Musk’s involvement with the company.
He said: “I find it difficult to believe that only 30 percent of the organization was responsible for managing the entire structure. Even if that were the case, it would require considerable time to evaluate the existing structure, realign roles and responsibilities, and implement transformative measures to enhance efficiency.
The sudden loss of a significant portion of the workforce within a few weeks raises concerns, and I anticipate witnessing a restructuring of the top leadership with the arrival of the new CEO. Considering the online statements made by individuals like him, I am apprehensive about the values and direction that tech leaders of this nature promote.”
“Conversely, individuals whose skills are no longer retained by the tech industry now have opportunities to pursue financial independence and may choose not to revert to traditional roles within companies. Some are exploring avenues as independent contractors, leveraging their technical expertise to manage multiple full-time jobs enabled by remote work.”
Ultimately, the tech industry is “not really in a dire situation financially,” he says. While it “might have some loss of revenue [it is] not in the red yet. Layoffs should be last resort in truly bad financial situations, rather than first resort in slightly uncertain conditions.”
According to Qadri, one of the proposed solutions is for companies to resist the urge to follow the crowd and instead prioritize addressing the people element. By gaining support from investors and other stakeholders, companies can shift their focus towards long-term objectives rather than short-term gains. This entails establishing a robust ecosystem of internal and external stakeholders.
Photo credits: Vibertron.
Clint Bailey — Senior Business & Technology News Editor at ‘The Voice of EU’ & Co-Editor of EU-20 magazine.