New Bill Being Proposed in California to Combat Burner Phones

Technology and the law are constantly racing, with each one taking steps to catch up with the other. From the arguments Apple and the FBI are having regarding privacy and encryption to something as simple as Segways being illegal in public, technology is creating new gadgets and systems and the law is creating laws to either change or catch up with the issue. An issue that has long plagued law and the courts is burner phones, but a new bill in California could change that.

Burner phones follow a simple concept, you pay for them and the credit you need to use them. Once they are finished with, you can either dispose or top up the phone. Due to the throwaway nature, they are used by people with stuff to hide, with it recently being revealed that the terrorists who attacked Paris used burner phones not encryption to avoid detection.

The new bill, dubbed the “Closing the Pre-Paid Mobile Device Security Gap Act Of 2016″ would require anyone who sells prepaid devices to register and record the identity of those who purchased the phone. The specifics are the customer would be required to provide a credit card, social security number or driving license number, the same requirements people are required to provide for mobile contracts.

Rep. Jackie Speier of California is the one proposing the bill and states that the ” bill would close one of the most significant gaps in our ability to track and prevent acts of terror, drug trafficking, and modern-day slavery”.

Amazon Recalls Fire 7 Inch UK Power Adapters

When purchasing any electronic device, it’s imperative to use official AC adapters which meet the necessary safety standards and ensures your device is protected against surges. It can be really tempting to acquire a third-party charger from eBay due to the enticing price, and you can convince yourself that they are of a similar quality. However, in many circumstances, these chargers do not meet safety standards and have fake markings. As a result, they can be dangerous to both the end-user and the device in question. Usually, the quality of construction is abysmal, and known to become a fire hazard. To be clear, this isn’t every third-party charger from eBay I’ve tested, but it’s accurate for the overwhelming majority.

Every so often, even official chargers can experience problems due to an error in the production line. It’s incredible difficult to keep a close eye on the supply line, and one mistake can lead to catastrophic consequences. Today, Amazon sent an email to customers informing them of a product recall on the official charger for the Fire 7″ tablet, and Fire Kids Edition 7″ model. Here is the e-mail in full courtesy of HotUKDeals:

Thankfully, Amazon has adopted a transparent approach and taken the correct steps to put customer safety first. This is a fairly worrying development, but it’s important to remember that the cases will be rare. Despite this, if you have one of these chargers, please go through Amazon’s procedure to acquire a replacement.  This is happening more frequently and there’s been quite a lot of product recalls in the past 12 months. This ranges from food to consumer electronics. Perhaps, there’s a few teething issues in the production line which explains why some chargers could create an electrical shock! I applaud Amazon for sorting this out quickly and giving two options in case their official charger goes out of stock.

Contactless Payment Use Surged In 2015

Remember the days when you handed over coins and pieces of paper to buy everything from sweets to a new car. These days it’s all done via virtual currencies like bitcoins and small pieces of plastic that we keep in our wallets, or even our phones. You will soon be able to pay for your taxi without even handing over a single coin, so is it any surprise that the UK saw a boom in contactless payments in 2015?

According to UK Cards Associated, the UK conducted over one billion transactions using contactless technologies, with the total amount spent using this method totaling more than the past seven years combined!

With one in 13 payments being made using contactless, and the limit being increased to £30 from £20 per contactless payment it comes as no surprise that this technologies use has boomed since its adoption a few years ago. With contactless transactions totaling over £7.75 billion, you may see more and more people choosing to use this technology with Apple being one of many companies adding it to their phones.

Do you have contactless payment on your card or phone? If so do you prefer using it or are you one for the good old-fashioned cash and coin?

China have ‘Gamified’ Your Life and It’s Frightening

China is one of the weirdest countries on the planet and I swear that they must have a weekly government meeting where they brain storm and there really are no bad answers or suggestions and one of these ideas was to have your life as a citizen ‘gamified’ and that is freakishly scary.

Instead of us explaining everything, we will give you a brief rundown and let the video explain things in more detail. To start with, it’s worth noting that the system is not mandatory now, but will be in 2020.

How will I be ‘gamified’?

The whole system is run partly by Tencent who own RIOT Games and have “interests” within EPIC Games and Activision Blizzard as well as Alibaba.com (China’s equivalent competitor to Amazon) and of course the Chinese government. Instead of monitoring your credit score like we have in the UK and US, where you can check if you’ve paid your bills on time, gone overdrawn and so forth, instead, it will measure other aspects of your life such as how obedient you have been as a Chinese citizen. This will include accessing information about you from social media such as sharing news stories that are favourable to China and therefore increasing your score compared to sharing bad publication pieces that would harm the worth of China as a country. To add to this, Alibaba will share information on your purchases such as if you are buying locally sourced produce and tools that are made in China compared to important goods from other countries which will have a detrimental effect as you’re not helping the Chinese economy.

Sounds bad right? It gets worse…

If you are a model citizen and are following all of the rules and have an amazing score, you’re onto a winner and will be the top of the town, but if you suddenly become friends with an old chum from school who posts news clippings onto social media that hurt the reputation of China, then your score will go down too. Not really fair is it?

It’s dubbed as Sesame credit and is quite scary as it uses the same mantra that we know and love from games but in a bad way. We see the whole republican/liberal/democrat stigma happen day in and day out in America and the UK and I can only assume that this will force people to be even more right wing which will have a negative outcome on the tourist industry to China among other aspects.

For the most part, the average citizen will not think much of this, but as it develops, it will become more mainstream and people will start obsessing over their score and this could lead to a lot of negative things such as violence, crime and the simple act of playing the blame game.

Would you like to live in a real-world video game like this? I know I wouldn’t.

Malware In Hilton Hotels Results in Card Details Being Stolen

How often do you use your card? When you pop down to the shop and breaking that ten-pound note will result in too many coins to carry back? How about when you’re buying things online? Finally, how many have used their cards to book hotels? If you’ve stayed at a Hilton hotel recently and used your card to pay at one of their Point of Sale (POS) terminals, you may want to double check your cards not got anything suspicious on it.

Hilton Hotels has stated they are investigating the possible security breach reported by Brian Krebs, an investigative journalist, who traced a collection of misused cards and found a common source in the till’s that are located in one of the many restaurants and gift shops located in Hilton Hotels  located in the US.

Sadly this is not the end of the story, the security alert that Visa released for this flaw was made in August, with the malware apparently being active between April and July this year. Given the number of hotels, and the ease at which people can pay for things using their cards, the number of potential cards that have been affected by this issue is surely only going to rise as more and more people become aware of it.

As with all cards, credit or debit alike, you should always keep an eye on it and raise any concerns regarding payments that you don’t recall making, or seem to be to companies you’ve never heard of, to your bank/building society.

Thank you the Register for the information.

Image courtesy of ITP.

Samsung Pay Users Best Avoid Rooting Their Phones

First you paid in coins, then you paid in notes, then you swiped your card and put in some numbers, now you don’t even swipe your card to pay with it. So what could be next for paying for everything? With the recent release of Apple Pay, the answer seems to be simple, your mobile phone.

Apple pay uses the same technology as NFC (Near field communication) based cards, this means that you can swipe your phone/card/tag and the card reader will receive the information from it, after just a few seconds of being in contact with each other. This means you can pay very quickly but it has raised some concerns, such as the fact that there is no check on who is using the card. Apple Pay addresses this by asking that when you swipe your phone you simply place your thumb on the fingerprint reader and it checks that you are authorized to use that card.

When money is involved people want to be safe, and during its trail run in South Korea Samsung Pay has given a few users a problem. The people involved all have one thing in common, their phones are rooted, a technique where you modify the operating system the phone uses, this means you can gain access to new features which are blocked by the system normally. Samsung pay doesn’t seem to like this and has been throwing up messaging warning users that they can’t use the app because “the system has been modified”. NFC payment systems, such as Google Wallet, tend not to care about rooting because they never physically handle the information about the payment, they just use tokens to point and share the required information.

Samsung Pay looks to accelerate the pace that Apple Pay has set, with not only the ability to pay in an NFC manner but also featuring another three letter acronym technology, MST (Magnetic Secure Transmission). MST enables you to use your phone to act as if you have swiped your card on a magnetic card reader, such as those found on a lot of payment terminals, this means that you could use Samsung Pay on devices and terminals which don’t support NFC, allowing stores all over to benefit from the latest addition to the payment methods roster.

Thank you Phandroid for the information.

Image courtesy of TheTechy. 

Apple Contemplates Targeting Ads Based On Bank Balance

How much do you earn? I expect you to tell me it’s none of my business, and you would be right, this information should be private to each individual. But Apple might see things differently and are contemplating targeting specific adverts which are based on your bank balance.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) have awarded Apple a data mechanism by the name of the “targeted ad technology patent” This means that Apple is reported to have devised a way to analyse each user’s available credit in order. This is with the aim of pin pointing said users ability to purchase an advertised product. Basically, Apple is not going to target a Lamborghini at a consumer if they can afford a smart car.

What’s interesting about this patent is how far this ability might go if it’s implemented; would Apple install a tracking piece of software with the aim of analysing each user’s bank balance? Or would it be only confined to own branded services for example Apple Pay etc.

Apples CEO Tim Cook recently gave a speech at a dinner hosted by the Electronic Privacy Information Centre (EPIC) which he stated; “companies are gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it. We think that’s wrong. And it’s not the kind of company that Apple wants to be”. So which Apple will it be, the fun-loving and customer friendly brand, or cash for data and spying on consumers financial affairs conglomerate?

You will know if it’s implemented if you attempt to buy a Rolex and Apple advertises you a Timex.

Thank You Gizmodo and the US Patent and Trademark office for providing us with this information

Image Courtesy of E&T

PayPal Fined $25 Million For Credit Program

Who remembers the “bill me later” option for Paypal? Not many I’m willing to bet, it didn’t last too long, and now we know why. It’s going to cost PayPal $25 million in fines after it was found to have signed people up to the scheme under false advertisements and sometimes without their permission or knowledge.

The bill me later option was created as a credit system, that means that when you bought something under it, a credit service would pay for your purchase and then the user would pay them back. However, PayPal is said to have signed up people to the service without their permission or knowledge (some people were using the feature without even knowing they had accounts) and even sometimes forced users to select PayPal credit instead of using the normal credit or debit card billing methods.

PayPal is even accused of incurring late fees and interest charges by mishandling people’s bills and accounts. Under the complaint filed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) some users weren’t aware of the accounts until they received statements stating late fees and interest charges, or in more severe cases calls from debt collection companies.

PayPal is now required to pay out $15m in reimbursements to consumers who were placed into the scheme or made purchases through it. A further $10m fine is to be paid to the CFPB Civil Penalty Fund, a fund set up to help pay out to victims when a company is unable to.

I was unfortunate to find this situation myself, after buying an item on eBay and being forced to select PayPal Credit (a scheme which at the time I didn’t even know existed) and then setting a date of a week later for the date of repayment. I did manage to find the pay early option through on the PayPal account page, after several minutes of searching through settings and records and was able to settle the payment within a matter of minutes. Looks like I was a lucky one.

Did you encounter the “bill me later” option? What is your experience with the option? Were you aware you were using a credit program that could bill you extra for payments missed?

Thank you The Verge and Consumer Finance for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of WikiMedia.

 

Amazon’s New Prime Credit Card Offers 5% Cash Back

Amazon is rolling out a brand new store card that gives holders that are Prime members 5% cash back on eligible Amazon.com purchases. The card is different than the current popular Amazon Rewards Visa from Chase, which does not offer the 5% cash back.

The new Amazon.com store card also gives holders the options of 5% cash back in the form of statement credit or 0% financing on purchases more than $149. The store card does not have an annual fee, is backed by Synchrony Bank and comes with fraud protection for piece of mind.  The holder must have their own Prime membership to be eligible for the cash back, as being an invited guest on a Prime account will not count. This card will be a good choice for those users who use Amazon Prime frequently and pay off cards every month, as it does carry a 25.99% APR.  Signing up for the card and being approved will get you a free $40 gift card to make the deal even better.

The only items that are not eligible are “Amazon Prime memberships, digital newspaper and magazine subscriptions, games and software downloads“, as stated by Amazon.

Source: LifeHacker

Android Trade-in Program Launches Today at Apple Retail Stores

Today Apple is launching a trade-in program for select non-iPhone smartphones at its Apple Retail Store locations. The program will allow credit towards an immediate purchase of a new iPhone model for users who trade in their select Android, Windows Phone, and Blackberry phones.

Apple is aiming to drive more business from people who will trade in their current working devices to get something better. The standard Apple iPhone trade-in program was first started in 2013 and last year opened up to include iPads. Now the program is accepting select Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry devices for in-store credit to users immediately buying an iPhone. The program is so far only available in the US, France, Italy, and the UK.  You can check if your store has the program on its individual store page. The online Apple Reuse and Recycling Program is now open for users to trade in a Windows notebook or desktop for an Apple Store gift card.

Source: 9to5 Mac

California Bans Retailers Fining Customers for Bad Reviews

Remember the “Hotel from hell” that was previously charging people a $500 fee for every bad review left on their Yelp page? Apparently this billing issue was more widespread than originally thought.

The head honcho’s in California decided to move on this worrying action, and thus, they’ve passed a law which prevents online retailers charging fines for negative reviews left about their services.

Thanks to CNet, we learned about the law in full:

“Signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday, AB 2365 outlaws so-called “non-disparagement clauses” from contracts that require customers waive their right to express a negative opinion the service they received. Businesses violating the new law face fines of $2,500 for the first violation and $5,000 for each subsequent violation. An additional fine of $10,000 will be imposed on violations deemed willful, intentional, or reckless.”

In an even more relevant case, this law was said to be brought upon thanks to a Utah couple whom were left with a bad credit rating after being billed $3,500 for leaving a negative review about their retailer, as claimed by the bill’s sponsor – Assemblyman John A. Pérez.

In total, this law seems like a fairly logical progression for freedom of (online) speech and something that should quite possibly be widespread. Have you ever been billed for saying something negative online by a service or product provider? Let us know and we may cover it.

Image courtesy of Flickreviver

Free iPhone 6 and Trade-In by Verizon

Verizon is straight into the new iPhone market, offering up a potential deal to customers wishing to have the latest Apple technology.

On Tuesday, they announced a new deal offering a 16GB iPhone 6 to users – the catch being that you must trade in your old phone and renew your existing contract for another two years. Doing the math we’ve learned that overall this is going to save you around $199, taking into account all costs and comparing them to the original purchase price of the phone.

They’ve obviously got some competition however, with Sprint offering the new phone on their $50 unlimited data plan, alongside T-Mobile putting up a claim that they will match any other companies trade-in deals and provide consumers with $50 credit on-top.

Missed the Apple iPhone 6 releases? Deactivated your Facebook due to the plethora of incoming posts about peoples sudden ‘expert’ opinions, but still want to know the full information? We’ve covered it too, and you can check it out if you wish.

If you’re keen on a trade-in with Verizon, they’ve said that they will accept the iPhone 4, 4s, 5, 5C and 5S – no Nokia 3310’s this time sorry guys.

Image courtesy of TechAdvisor

Bing Rewards App for Windows Phone Launched, 5 Months after iOS and Android

Latest news from Microsoft point to having its Bing Rewards app being released (finally) for Windows Phone, having it come out for its own handset operating system almost 5 months after the release on Android and iOS.

The company’s reward program has been around since 2010, having it be launched as an incentive to increase Microsoft’s share in the search engine market. For who is unaware, the tool is designed to reward users working with Microsoft’s Bing search engine. Credits are earned over time with usage which users can then trade in for some goods Microsoft is offering.

The Windows Phone version of the application features basically the same functions as the iOS and Android counterparts, having the only advantage be in the operating system at hand. While the iOS and Android versions need to be accessed by tapping on the application icon, Windows Phone lets you pin it as a tile on the home screen and allows you to quickly monitor your credit.

In terms of goods offered, Microsoft appears to have gift cards, items on Amazon.com, Starbucks discounts, Xbox goodies, Fandango and others. Users who feel more humanitarian can also opt in to donate their credits to a local school or charity.

Thank you TheNextWeb for providing us with this information
Images courtesy of TheNextWeb