Christmas week: Tech roundup #4

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There’s a strange new scam in town involving iTunes gift cards, so you’d better keep reading if you want to know what it is.

According to HMRC around 1,500 people have been hit by the con in 2017, which sees cold-calling fraudsters convincing their victims to buy iTunes vouchers to pay off outstanding tax bills.

After buying the vouchers, the swindlers, who pretend to be from HMRC, demand to know the voucher codes – which they then either sell elsewhere or use to redeem products.

The fraud seems to work because many of the victims don’t know what an iTunes voucher is. Most of those hit by the scam are aged over 65, and have lost an average of £1,150 each.

HMRC director general of customer services, Angela Macdonald, said: ‘We urge people with elderly relatives to warn them about this scam and remind them that they should never trust anyone who phones them out of the blue and asks them to pay a tax bill. If you think you’ve been a victim, you should contact Action Fraud immediately.’

According to Apple, which is working with HMRC to tackle the scam, the charlatans are using the same device to get people to pay bail money, utility bills and debt collection fees.

There are a number of obvious jokes to be made here about Apple working with HMRC, but I’ll leave them to your imagination.

***

A man who tried to privately share his phone number with another man accidentally shared it with the world, which doesn’t sound like much of a story but it is Christmas.

Tech conjurer Elon Musk posted his electric telephone number on the popular communications system Twitter, in a ham-fisted attempt to give it to fellow digital giant John Carmack.

Though he swiftly deleted the message, he wasn’t quick enough and some of his 16.7 million followers got an eyeful of it. Tsk, the price of popularity.

Bored journalists at America’s CNBC network tried ringing but were greeted with the wacky message ‘By the Gods you’ve done it. Somehow, you’ve found your way here to me. I offer you my congratulations and my respect’.

John Carmack was one of the founders of videogame company ID, which was responsible for such classic titles as Doom and Quake, and nowadays heads up virtual reality outfit Oculus.

It is unknown why Musk wanted to talk with Carmack: could be about virtual worlds and geothermal-powered anti-gravity spacecraft; could be recent plot developments in Emmerdale. Who knows what the great and good discuss behind closed doors?

***

If you’re fed up with 4G and are desperate for some 5G action I have some good news: two legal challenges that have been holding up the rollout have been vanquished.

Both EE and Three launched actions over Ofcom’s plans to restrict the amount of the 5G spectrum that a company can own.

EE, which belongs to BT, was upset at Ofcom’s plans to limit portions of the pie to 37%; while Three wanted it dropped to 30%. EE, which currently holds 42% of the UK’s mobile spectrum, believes the regulator’s caps are against consumers’ interests (and, of course, detrimental to its profits, but it hasn’t come out and said that).

Now the challenges are over, Ofcom has said it plans to start auctioning off the 5G spectrum as soon as possible – or maybe not, as Three plans to take its grievances to the Court of Appeal.

Ofcom isn’t impressed by Three’s persistence, saying that ongoing legal entanglements risk spoiling a ‘golden opportunity for the UK to achieve leadership in 5G’.

‘We’re disappointed that Three is seeking permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal,’ the regulator grumbled on. ‘We believe the High Court judgement is clear and Three’s actions may further delay the auction, which is not in the interests of the UK.’

Anyway, here’s to nice, fast 5G in 2018 – and to BT getting its hands on yet more important communications infrastructure.

Christmas week: Tech roundup #4

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