The Anonymous Widower

Don’t Get A Mask To Rob A Bank – Just Buy The App

This is the title of an article in The Sunday Times.

It talks about an App called Blackshades, that can be bought for three hundred pounds, that enables a thief to seize control of a victim’s computer and steal their passwords.

Hopefully, I’m protected but it’s a frightening concept. My passwords aren’t stored on the computer, but in my Mark 1, 1947-vintage core store, which is the safest place for them.

It also says that infiltrating a smart-phone or tablet can be easier than targetting desktops, saying that many criminals set up malicious hotspots in public places.

For that reason, I only use wi-fi in trusted locations and usually have it switched off on my smart phone. I never use wi-fi that wants my e-mail address as giving it usually ensures, I’ll get marketing e-mails, which I class as spam.

I also check my bank account and credit cards every day or so, so that if I’m robbed, I know it first.

From what I can ascertain, I think that contactless payments are pretty safe, especially in London, where there are billions of transactions because of public transport.

So I use contctless wherever I can locally!

November 13, 2016 Posted by | Computing, Finance | , , , , | Leave a comment

Behind London’s Contactless Ticketing

I have just read this article on London Reconnections, which is entitled Don’t Fear the Beeper: Bus Hopper Tickets and the Future of Oyster.

It is fascinating stuff and a lot consists of an interview with Shashi Verma, TfL’s Director of Technology and Customer Experience.

One thing that surprised me is that Oyster and Contactless have separate back-ends, but the two will be combined in 2018.

So I think we’ll see lots of new features coming in after 2018.

As many of these will improve the customer experience, isn’t Sadiq a lucky Mayor, as he’ll get the credit rather than the geek who had the idea and did the coding.

This is said in the article about the Bus Hopper

This isn’t to say, of course, that the Hopper was an entirely new idea.

“[It] is something we have wanted to do for years and years.” Verma confirms. “But we haven’t wanted to do in the way that some politicians have wanted it to be done.”

So it was there all along.

How many other things will be possible, when the back offices are combined?

Use With Railcards

According to this page on the TfL web site, railcards don’t work with contactless cards.

I would suspect that one feature after 2018, would be that if you create an account for contactless or Oyster and add a railcard to the account, your fares will be adjusted accordingly.

The system could also handle the very popular Two Together Railcard. You’d just register two accounts for each traveller with the same railcard, then if they’re both used within say five minutes for the same journey, the back office applies the discount.

Use With Freedom Pass

Once the back offices are combined, the Freedom Pass could be made to work in two ways.

As now!

Or it is registered in your TfL account along with your contactless card and the back office would charge you an appropriate fare.

So if say I wanted to go to Gatwick Airport or anywhere in the Oystercard area, I just tap in and out with my contactless bank card and the back office charges be the £3, I would be charged if I went to East Croydon using my Freedom Pass and left the station before coming back in using contactless to get a train to the Airport.

If such a method was possible, I would certainly use it, as quite a few of the journeys I do are just outside the Freedom Pass area, but still within the Oystercard area.

It would then mean that I would only have to carry one card in my pocket.

The Outer London Freedom Pass

Say you live in one of the administrative districts that ring London. I’ll use Epping Forest as an example.

Because of your age or circumstances, you are entitled to a bus pass, but you get no free travel on trains or the Underground.

If your local authority decided to have a Freedom Pass scheme for all travel in the district, you would get any train or tube travel between stations in the local authority or to the boundary of the area, free.

In the case of Epping Forest, you’d get the outer reaches of the Central Line.

So if you were travelling from Theydon Bois to Liverpool Street, you’d only get charged for the tube between Woodford or Grange Hill and Liverpool Street.

You would create a contactless/Oyster account on TfL and add your bus pass and/or railcard to the account.

The back office would do the rest and you’d travel all over the Oystercard area using your contactless card.

I think that some local authorities could look at this concept seriously to encourage card holders to shop locally.

Stations Could Allow Freedom Passes Outside Zone 6

I’ll take Greenhithe for Bluewater station as an example.

The clue is in the station name.

Suppose that the Shopping Centre felt it would get a lot more business from Freedom Pass holders if it were to be in Zone 6, would it pay for the cost of tickets for Freedom Pass holders to attract them to their relaxed shopping experience.

It should be noted that there are already stations outside Zone 6, like Watford High Street and Shenfield stations, that allow Freedom Passes provided you use the London Overground or TfL Rail.

Other possibilities include.

  • Gravesend by an extended Crossrail.
  • Gatwick Airport
  • Watford Vicarage Road
  • Windsor

Who knows, which local authorities, events and attractions would find subsidising travel worthwhile.

Imagine for instance Winter-only Off Peak use of a Freedom Pass to say Brighton or Southend.


Travel in London is going to get even more interesting.

I look forward to the day, when I have a single card in my pocket!

October 14, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Inaccurate Marks And Spencer Contactless Payments

I use contactless payments regularly in Marks and Spencer and I’ve never had a payment problem, but some of the transactions end up with very strange locations on my credit card statement.

I’ve found.

  • Cambridge Station, Cambridge
  • Birmingham New Street, Birmingham
  • Reading Station, SSP Reading
  • Euston Scot, Euston Station
  • Piccadilly Station, Manc
  • Heathrow Airport SSP

I know these are all Marks and Spencer despite no indication, as they are for between seven and eight pounds, which is a typical price for a pack of gluten-free sandwiches, a drink and perhaps a biscuit or fruit.

I also know, that in the last month, I’ve bought sandwiches in Marylebone station and I can’t find the transaction.

So did my credit card company reject it, as someone had put some total garbage in the contactless card system in the otlet in the station?

With contactless payments, becoming very much the norm for many customers, they must get this right.

I certainly, haven’t lost out, but I think there’s at least two payments, that seem to have gone missing in cyberspace.

I think the lesson of this tale, is that if you are a small owner-managed store or a large chain, you must set up your contactless system correctly, as it at one level might be an irritance to customers and at a higher one, it might cost you money.

April 15, 2016 Posted by | Finance, Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

A Curious Problem With My Credit Cards

A few months ago, I tried to order some goods from IKEA for my kitchen. They weren’t delivered and my credit card wasn’t debited, so the only harm done was I waited in for a whole day for a non-delivery.

Over the next couple of months, I tried several times to repeat the order, but in no cases was it ever completed. Immediately, When I entered the details of either of my credit cards, the order disappeared.

To solve the problem, I took a bus to IKEA in Tottenham and placed the order personally, paying with my American Express card at the check-out. I also got the direct e-mail address of the Kitchen Department and sent them a couple of e-mails to assure them, that if they didn’t deliver, they’d be deep in the doodah.

The goods were eventually delivered on the day, but the driver’s sat-nav got him lost in the mews at the back of my house.

I put it down to some form of problem with the delivery system, that checks the credit rating of the purchaser. But as Experian have confirmed, my credit rating is good and the only problem, is that I’m not correctly on the Electoral Roll. And that’s not for dint of trying, but for some reason they seem incapable to get it right!

However, today I needed to buy a coach ticket from National Express for the Ipswich-QPR match on Boxing Day.

So I entered my details to buy the ticket and tried to pay by credit czrds. Both were rejected.

I phoned both credit card suppliers and there was no problem with either card.

As a last resort, I phoned National Express direct and bought the ticket traditionally from the Call Centre at the cost of a long phone call and a booking fee.

But it wasn’t without trouble.

Both my credit cards were rejected by the system used by the very patient Colin in the Call Centre, as was my debit card.

Their system knew about me from my previous four failed attempts to buy tickets on-line and I wondered if it was rejecting them because of my address, which was on some sort of blacklist.

I’ve often thought this, as my house was tenanted for several years before I bought it and the tenants did runners leaving piles of debts to several companies.

In the end, Colin and I felt this was all rather silly, so I thought about trying an alternative e-mail address, as this was probably the key used to access my address on their computer.

It worked and I got my ticket.

Intriguingly in both cases, I got my goods or tickets, when I broke the link between debit/credit card address and the address for the card.

In IKEA, this was by putting the AMEX card through a till and with National Express, it was by giving them an e-mail address for which they had no physical address details.

I am drawn to the inevitable conclusion, that software checks my address against County Court Judgements. And I think there could be a lot of them, due to the history of the property!

Surely, if I can’t purchase on-line, because of the debts of previous owners or their tenants, who lived here, before I bought the house, then that is illegal!

The only way to lose them, would be the same way to get rid of bindweed from your garden. Move!

Unless of course, someone reading this knows better?


December 21, 2015 Posted by | Computing, Finance, World | , , | 1 Comment

My Useless John Lewis Credit Card Statement

I recently bought a winter coat in Marks and Spencer. The zip has gone, so I want to find the store, where I bought it, as I use several of the large ones in London regularly. I probably bought it with my John Lewis credit card, so all I need to find is a transaction at over a £100 for Marks and Spencer to get a date and store.

But I can only get the last statement as a spreadsheet, which just gives dates, values and not the store. It’s not even formatted to the sort of level, that a child of six could program.

Quite frankly it’s utter crap!

Unlike with Amex, which gives you everything you need to trace purchases, in an easy-to-read clickable format.

Do John Lewis expect me to keep paper copies of all my purchases?

Paper is so Nineteenth Century!

November 18, 2015 Posted by | Finance, World | , , , | 3 Comments

It’s Only Cash Or Contactless Credit Card For Me!

I had a chat with a solicitor, I met on a train yesterday about credit card fraud. I said that I try to use my contactless card if possible and get mildly annoyed if a company expects me to enter my pin for a purchase of about a tenner.

She agreed and said she had been involved in formulating the legal basis of the payments policy of a large retailer. She made some interesting points.

  • Fraud on contactless cards seems to be lower than predicted. We both added a caveat of Not Yet!
  • Some retailers have reported a strong move from cash to contactless cards.
  • Research has shown, that people keep contactless cards very safe, in a place like a deep pocket, to avoid accidental transactions.

I also said that a policeman had told me, that stolen contactless cards aren’t often used in a contactless manner. She said that thirty quid isn’t worth getting caught for, when there’s a bent shop where you can make thousands.

I said that, I once used my ordinary card in a branch of a well-known franchise to purchase an SD card. The lady, who served me, was a Muslim from her dress and when my card didn’t work in the machine, she told me that she’d used the wrong one. So she asked me to put my card in another. Which I did and the purchase was completed.

Within a few hours my card had been cloned and  some expensive purchases were made. My companion confirmed it was a trick beloved of small shops and garages.

So I had been conned by a simple sleight-of-hand! Did the money end up with Islamic State? Probably not, but you do wonder!

I now only use cash or contactless credit card for my smaller purchases.

I also now rarely use small shops, unless I’ve known them for some time. And I certainly wouldn’t use a credit card without it being contactless.



November 15, 2015 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts On Credit Cards

I have recently been trying to buy something on IKEA using my John Lewis Partnership Card, which is managed by HSBC.

Twice it has gone through IKEA’s site, but then HSBC have deemed the transaction to be fraudulent and have cancelled it. In one case I waited in all day for a non-existent delivery.

My other preferred on-line card is American Express, which seems to have developed a clever way of card checking. They ask if they can look up your location using your connection, as obviously, if that corresponds to the card and delivery addresses, there is a high chance that the transaction is genuine.

But IKEA doesn’t take Amex and as I don’t use my Visa card on-line because of the dreaded Verified-by-Visa waste of time and space, I was a bit stumped on how to order the next phase of my kitchen.

Then this morning, I tried the Visa and guess what? The Verified-by-Visa didn’t kick in. So perhaps, Nationwide and IKEA have come to my conclusion, that it is a hindrance to business against their joint interest.

Let’s hope the delivery gets through this time!

October 19, 2015 Posted by | Finance, World | , , | 1 Comment

Terrible Credit Card Reporting

Because I had a couple of my cards cloned, if I’m at home, I usually check them every morning.

As someone, who made millions by writing good reports for computer users, only one of my cards and banks has a proper reporting system, that you can use however you want.

And that is American Express!

For a start, when you look at recent transactions, they are shown by default on AMEX with the last transaction first. However all my other cards and statements are shown with the most recent last. So as one card is used a lot for small transactions, I have to scroll down to the bottom to check the transactions.

Also on AMEX, you can change the order to what you want, so perhaps if you want to locate a transaction at say Virgin Trains, you can put the descriptions in order and then scroll to V.

Why do Banks and Credit Csrd companies treat us with such contempt?

Some are a total disgrace!

If AMEX can do it, why can’t the others?

Because they don’t care about customers!

So if you’re thinking about changing your bank, make sure you have a run through the reporting of the new bank first.

In my experience most are total crap!


September 5, 2015 Posted by | Computing, Finance | , , | Leave a comment

My Credit/Charge Cards Got Cloned

I use an American Express Charge Card for my travel, for the insurance and also because, if I know I’m picking up rail tickets, I don’t have to think which card I’m using. It is contactless, so I kep it separate from my Freedom Pass to avoid card class and often I don’t take it out with me.

I also have a John Lewis Partnership Card, which I use for everyday purchases and on-line, as it doesn’t use that non-protection system Verified by Visa, which is a pain in the arse.

Over the last two weeks, both have been cloned and used online for substantial purchases. With both cards, the fraud protection systems at the card companies picked up the illegal uses and the cards were stopped , causing me the hassle of having to update various web sites, where the card is stored.

So how did the cards get cloned?

I’m not sure, but both of the card statements often come in the post on the same day. I doubt it’s anything to do with the Royal Mail, although because they are moving buildings in the main sorting office that serves me, there has been a couple of things that have gone astray or turned up late.

Normally, when the statement arrives, I put it by my computer and pay it the next time, that I go on-line. I then shred the statements.

But I’ve been away a lot in the last month or two and I’ve had builders around, which caused the shredder to be out-of-use for a time.

So perhaps I was less than zealous in shredding a statement!

I suspect that as I put the green sacks for recycling outside late on a Wednesday night, someone has been raking them over and removing ones that might be promising

One thing I have done is make the American Express card paperless, so there is nothing incriminating from that going in the rubbish.

Unfortunately, the John Lewis card has no paperless facility and as it is not contactless, I am seriously thinking of giving it the order of the boot. It will certainly be going into temporary retirement.

In fact, I would say don’t get a new credit card unless the following conditions apply.

  1. The card’s call centre and processing is based in the UK.
  2. All statements can be paperless.
  3. Past statements are available on-line in an easily readable form.
  4. Cards are contactless.

I think contactless cards are important. Most contactless payments are in big retailers or in London on transport. Transactions are probably caught on CCTV and there is often no handy piece of paper that could be taken by untrustworthy staff. The twenty pound limit also means that you can’t use them for the sort of purchases criminals like.

I have worked on very secure projects in the past and only access my bank accounts from one computer that never leaves my house.

People ask me if I would use ApplePay or the future AndroidPay. I certainly would, as if say the system was cloned and I lost money, Apple or Google would be finished. Until proven otherwise, I feel that they are more secure than contactless cards.

If you worry about contactless cards, just reflect on the fact, that I have been unable to find any negative comment about their use on London’s transport system, which is one of the largest contactless card-based systems in the world. There are so many out there who hate Boris with an absolute passion, that if anything had happened, it would be repeated ad infinitum.

The weak link in all these systems isn’t the technology, it’s the fact that we do stupid things, like drop our phone or card (Guilty, as charged!) and that criminals end up in retailers and card companies in positions, where they have access to sensitive data.

How can you be sure, that the nice man in the corner hardware store hasn’t taken your card details and sold them on to someone, who has the knowledge to take card numbers, expiry dates and names and addresses to defraud on-line retailers and service providers?

August 19, 2015 Posted by | Finance | , , | 6 Comments

Are The Banks Serious?

When I log in to my bank, I get an advert saying I can get a wonderful rate of two percent, if I lock money away with them for two years.

At present I have a sum of money invested in Zopa and my current return to date this year is just around five percent. Admittedly, I pay tax on that so it’s effectively a rate of three percent. With Zopa’s Safeguarding promises, that money is guaranteed.

So I’m getting an effective rate that is half as good again, as I would with the best banks.

But the big advantage of Zopa has shown itself this month.

I have the last Tax bill to pay concerning the sale of my house in Suffolk and also the bill for the handrails for my staircase, which as they were custom-made weren’t cheap. Couple that with other expenses and I have a lot of bills to pay at the end of this month.

But due to the churn in Zopa, every month, I get access to about six percent of the money I have deposited in the system, as borrowers repay capital, pay interest and end their loans early. So instead of reinvesting this money as I do normally, I have withdrawn most of the money to my Current Account, so I can pay my bills.

I have a feeling that I have actually withdrawn a couple of thousand too much. But no matter, when all the bills are paid it’ll go back into Zopa. All I’ve lost is three percent gross on £2,000 for a month or a fiver.

So why do people put so much faith in the Banks, as they rip us off?

My Current Account at Nationwide is mainly just a means to transfer money to and from other accounts.

What other benefits do I get?

1. At the Angel, there is an inside ATM, that I use when it’s pouring with rain. There are also seats, so if I’m drawing out a larger amount of cash, I can sit down and put everything away properly.

2. I have a Credit Card, which is recommended by many, that if I use abroad, charges me nothing extra for the currency conversion.

3. I have an on-line bank account, that to access from anywhere in the world, only needs to have information stored in the brain, I was born with.

4. I get a basic travel insurance, which covers me for everything but medical expenses. So if easyJet or whoever, were to lose my baggage on the way to wherever I’m covered.

On the other hand, I get the following annoyances.

1. The dreaded Verified by Visa, when I use the debit or credit card on-line.

2. No contactless service on the Credit Card, which means I have to carry another credit card that does, in case I lose my Freedom Pass.

Nationwide should be pleased that I’m not thinking of leaving yet!


June 27, 2015 Posted by | Finance | , , | Leave a comment