THE REAL-LIFE SIDESHOW BOB?: Fundraising clown criminalised by UK council

 

Manchester – VIJAY SHAH via SWNS digital

A man dressed as a clown who was fundraising for victims of terrorism found himself accosted by council workers who confiscated his donations bucket, SWNS news agency reported this Friday.

Pensioner Tommy Armstrong, from Greenock in Inverclyde, Scotland, had visited the city of Manchester in England to collect spare change for victims of the recent suicide bombing there, when employees of the Manchester city council approached him while he was about to collect donations for a special charity 10-kilometre fun run he was due to take part in. The council staff demanded to see Tommy’s fundraising permit, which he did not have. They then allegedly emptied his bucket and confiscated the donations. Armstrong was said to have been left ‘close to tears’ by the incident. At that time, he was dressed in full clown costume and face make-up.

 

 

Armstrong has raised nearly £200,000 for charity in a fundraising career spanning thirty years and has frequented the streets of Manchester for the past decade. He was renowned in his native city for his habit of dressing in complete clown regalia to entertain shoppers and tourists and gather money for charity. He had even appeared on a daytime TV show ‘This Morning’ with the ITV terrestrial station last year. He told SWNS: My race didn’t start until 3pm, so I went to St Ann’s Square first to see the flowers that have been left there in tribute to the victims.

‘I was wearing my clown’s gear and pushing my usual pram with the bucket on it.’

‘I didn’t ask anyone for money at that stage, but many people had put notes and coins into the bucket.’

‘Two officials came up to me and asked if I had a permit to raise money for the fund.’

‘I told them I had been raising money at Manchester and other big races around the country like the London Marathon for years, and I had never heard anything about a permit.’

‘They took my bucket and counted all the money on a wall. People were walking past wondering what was going on.’

‘It was really embarrassing and made me feel like they thought I was trying to collect money for myself. They were very rude and treated me like a criminal.”

The donations confiscated by Manchester council was believed to be in the region of £44. Tommy Armstrong also told SWNS that he felt the council’s rough treatment of him was unwarranted and that they should offer an apology. He added: They gave me a piece of paper with their names and a phone number for Manchester Council, asked for my name and address and said they would send a receipt, but I still haven’t received a thing.

‘These guys hounded me. I was really angry about it and close to tears. They even took my sign away from me.’

‘I travelled down there at my own expense on an overnight bus to try and help, but their attitude seemed to be that I was dressed as a clown so they would treat me like a clown. I think I should get an apology.”

Manchester City Council said that they had required fundraisers collecting money for victims of the Ariana Grande concert attack to carry officially issued permits after a number of fraudulent fundraising drives were reported to them in the days after the atrocity, in which local man Salman Abedi detonated an improvised shrapnel bomb at the Manchester Arena, killing himself and 22 concertgoers, many of whom were parents and children.

A spokesperson for the council told SWNS: “Difficult though it is to countenance, some unscrupulous individuals do exploit the name of charitable funds for their own personal gain.

‘To protect the public from these bogus collectors, people wishing to collect cash donations at public events need to apply for and carry an official permit.’

‘Members of our team spoke with Mr Armstrong to explain that because he did not have a permit, the money he had collected from the public would be taken and deposited with the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund on his behalf.’

‘There is no suggestion that Mr Armstrong’s motives were anything other than good, and we hope that he will understand that the permit process exists with the important aim of protecting the public from rogue collectors.’

‘The money he raised will help to support those who have been injured or bereaved by the attack.”

SOURCE:

“Charity Clown Treated Like a “Criminal” By Council Workers” – SWNS digital/72Point (9 June 2017) http://www.swnsdigital.com/2017/06/charity-clown-treated-like-a-criminal-by-council-workers/

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Hobo the Clown” – Shawn Tron (12 November 2011) https://www.flickr.com/photos/shawntron/6346752662/

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EXPRESS COURIERS: Warning about alleged card-cloning delivery scam

 gb
London, UNITED KINGDOM
VIJAY SHAH and ALIA HELLZ BACHELL

A Facebook user has put out a warning on the social media site about an alleged card-cloning scam being perpetrated in the London area using the delivery of parcels to people’s addresses as a cover, the Half-Eaten Mind exclusively reports.

The user, Chris Gladman, first shared the warning on the 6th December, 2015 and it is now going viral. In his letter, Gladman reports the experience of a victim of the scam who received a phone call from an individual purporting to be from a delivery company named “Express Couriers”. The scammer asked the victim if they were going to be present at their home to sign for a package in their name and told them that the package would arrive in an hour.

In the incident, which was said to have occurred on the Wednesday preceding Gladman’s letter, a uniformed delivery man arrived at the victim’s house within the hour with a package said to contain flowers and a bottle of wine, which confused the victim as there was no special occasion and they were not expecting any such deliveries.

The victim inquired as to the sender’s identity, but the delivery worker claimed to not know who sent the gifts and that they were only delivering the parcel. The delivery worker did however claim that a card would be sent separately, and the victim also is said to have discovered a consignment invoice along with the gifts. Gladman reports that the card never in fact came.

The delivery worker then went on to tell the victim that the gift would be charged to them at a fee of £3.50 as it had contained alcohol and they needed to confirm that the package was not being delivered to a minor, and to prevent the package from being left on the property where it could be stolen.

The victim offered to pay in cash, but the delivery person insisted that all payments be made by credit or debit card for legal and safety reasons. The victim, satisfied with the explanation, is said to have then got her husband, who was now on the scene, to pay the fee with his card. The delivery worker, who claimed his name was John, then produced a card payment device with a ‘small screen and keypad’. The victim’s husband entered his PIN and collected a receipt of payment for the mysterious parcel. The delivery driver then left the premises after wishing them good day.

A few days later, Gladman said that the couple found that £4,000 in total had been stolen from the husband’s account from several ATMs, and he surmises that the card payment machine was in fact a cloning device that skimmed off the data stored on the victim’s husband’s card, and combined with the entered PIN, was used by the fraudsters to steal money from the couple.

The couple reported the incident to their bank and to the local police, who are said to have confirmed that similar scams by Express Couriers were already known to them.

At the end of the letter, Gladman warns others to be vigilant about receiving strange parcels from delivery companies they have never heard of. He said “Be wary of accepting any “surprise gift or package” which you neither expected nor personally ordered, especially if it involves any kind of payment as a condition of receiving the gift or package. Also, never accept anything if you do not personally know or there is no proper identification of who the sender is.

Above all, the only time you should give out any personal credit/debit card information is when you yourself initiated the purchase or transaction!”

There has been no official statement from the police or other agencies regarding such a scam in the London area, but people are advised as a matter of course to always be aware and careful of unknown visitors to their home.

SOURCES:
Chris Gladman
IMAGE CREDIT:
Getty Images via Zemanta

 

SUBLETTING: Newham tenant jailed for illegally renting out council house

A tenant living in a council-owned property in east London has been sent to jail after he was discovered to have been illegally renting out his home against council rules, the Newham Mag reported this weekend.

Mubato Nzabi, aged 48, was caught out by council housing inspectors in the borough of Newham, and was subsequently convicted at Wood Green Crown Court in north London of illegally subletting a three-bedroom council house in Ordnance Road, Canning Town, in the south of the borough. He allegedly lied to the council’s housing department and the Department of Work and Pensions, a national government body in charge of benefits and employment services, claiming that he was residing in the property himself along with his daughter.

English: Canning Town: Normandy Terrace, E16 C...
English: Canning Town: Normandy Terrace, E16 Community shops at the southern end of Freemasons Road. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In court proceedings, the judge and jury were informed that in fact, Nzabi had been renting out the property to an unnamed family since April 2013, after moving out of the property into another home, and had failed to notify the council of his change in living situation. Nzabi however continued to claim government welfare benefits, namely housing and council tax benefit, under his name for the Canning Town address despite no longer living there. He had originally moved into the property in 1994.

Nzabi’s con was unravelled after Newham Council‘s housing inspectors turned up at his subletted property for an inspection as part of their regular housing checks made to ensure council tenants are actually living in their assigned homes.

The crown court prosecuted Nzabi for falsely claiming benefits, council tax evasion and illegally subletting under the Fraud Act and the Social Security Administration Act. He was sentenced to nine months in prison at the hearing on July 24th, the Newham Recorder reported.

Mayoral advisor for housing, Cllr. Andrew Baikie, told the Recorder: “This successful prosecution shows that we take illegal subletting very seriously and will take tough action against anyone we catch.

“Illegally subletting council properties unfairly deprives someone else of a council house, who may have been waiting on our register for a long time. It is imperative that our housing stock is distributed fairly.”

Meanwhile, Newham Council, concerned about the large number of illegal sublettings of their homes in one of London’s most crowded areas, are running an amnesty for subletting tenants to turn over their properties without risk of prosecution. The amnesty, which runs until the 1st of September, allows subletters to hand over their house keys and give up their properties without being taken to court.

Cllr. Bailie said of the situation: “We take illegal subletting seriously and will take tough action against anyone we catch”. Newham council tenants wishing to avail of the amnesty are urged to call 020 3373 9370.

According to figures produced by insurance firm Direct Line and the Association of Residential Letting Agents, it is estimated that 3.3 million people are living as unofficial tenants in the UK, amounting to one in every ten rental homes. Almost fifty per cent of surveyed residential lettings agencies have found multiple occupants in homes supposedly registered to single persons or families after carrying out inspections of tenancies, according to the ARLA.

SOURCES:
“Jailed for illegally subletting council home” – The Newham Mag [Issue 322], Newham Council (27 August 2015)
“Canning Town council tenant jailed for illegally subletting flat” – Seema Hakim, Newham Recorder/London24 news network/Archant Community Media Ltd (7 August 2015) http://www.newhamrecorder.co.uk/news/crime-court/canning_town_council_tenant_jailed_for_illegally_subletting_flat_1_4185732
“UNAUTHORISED SUBLETTING IS A MAJOR PROBLEM FACING LANDLORDS AND AGENTS” – Association of Residential Letting Agents/National Federation Of Property Professionals (9 October 2014) http://www.arla.co.uk/news/october-2014/unauthorised-subletting-is-a-major-problem-facing-landlords-and-agents.aspx
IMAGE CREDIT:
“File:Canning Town, Normandy Terrace, E16 – geograph.org.uk – 408315.jpg” – Nigel Cox & geograph.org.uk via Wikimedia Commons (20 April 2007) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Canning_Town,_Normandy_Terrace,_E16_-_geograph.org.uk_-_408315.jpg

 

 

TWITTER WEED WHACKERS: Solving the bot crisis with SM Cadman

If you’re a Twitter user like me, you’ll know that the social media network with the cute blue bird is full of great advantages. A cool interface, brevity of messages, lots of photos and now videos to comb through, and the level of interaction with other users is second to none. You can keep updated on things that matter to you, whether your favourite sports teams, celebrities, artists, politicians etc. as well as your family and friends closer to home. And of course block or mute anyone who does your head in.

But nothing is perfect in life. Not even Twitter. Aside from the occasional and mildly annoying drunken tweet or unsolicited direct message (DM) ….not withstanding the recent controversies surrounding racist and sexist trolls abusing people on Twitter…there is also the scourge of bots. Fake accounts with dodgy names and quotes clearly slurped off a website somewhere, gift-wrapped with a stolen display picture (usually some random meme or woman), or that God-forsaken egg that usually is served up as default, sadly not with some sausages or bacon as well.

These bad eggs are the bane of the Twitterati. Although the admin behind the site are very good at obliterating most of the fake followers, new ones take their place with the speed and intensity of mushrooms on the forest floor after a long rainy spell. Talk about putting too many eggs in one basket.

(c) P. Morris/SearchMuse

According to a filing made by Twitter with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in 2014, it is believed that bots and spam bots account for 14% of Twitter’s active user base. That is around 23 million accounts out of the 271 active users on there. Many of these bots are programmed to retweet garbage or clickbait articles. Not all bots are bad, indeed some are fun (such as the Wiener Schnitzel bot that retweets you every time you mention that phrase) but there are concerns that some may be a gateway for hackers or data miners. Other bots are created to boost up follower numbers in that never ending popularity contest of ‘Who has the most followers?’. There are some companies that will for a small fee get fake accounts to follow your every move and tweet, and inflate not only your follower count but also presumably your ego as well. They do a relatively roaring trade despite Twitter rules of usage prohibiting tweeters from enlisting the services of such ‘follower farms’.

No-one, and I mean no-one is safe from the attention of the bots. Not even celebrities or politicians. United States presidential hopeful Hilary Clinton is said to have once had 2 million fake or inactive followers and that only 44% of her followers are real, living, breathing people. She has also been accused of plumping up her 3 million follower figures with fake accounts, according to British newspaper The Daily Mail. Over here in the UK, former Member of Parliament Louise Mensch found herself in a bit of bother after a Twitter statistics and auditing website determined that 97% of her followers are counterfeits. Several other ministers and low-level politicians in her party, the Conservatives, also found their accounts’ popularity called into question amid flying accusations of wholesale fake follower shopping to boost party morale.

Personally I’ve seen more than my fair share of bots and dodgy Tweeters. On both my individual and blog accounts, I often receive up to five add requests from suspicious looking accounts. They are either accounts with Russian names and bios written in the Cyrillic alphabet or English language accounts with really strange names combining different ethnic origins. For example, recently I’ve been befriended by a Yuriko Dille, a Manika Boag, a Eustachius Knowler… other with half Arab or Indian or Japanese names affixed to Anglo-Saxon, Scottish or German surnames. They must shred up phone directories and randomly piece the names together like some sort of hellish Yellow Pages puzzle.

You can usually pick them off because their feeds are full of spammy retweets and their bio is some sort of quote. Other bots have nonsensical handles like @fnerit_elephantfartunicorn which is one of the main things I look out for when evading bots and fake accounts.

Last weekend I was having a Twitter conversation with a fellow blogger and keen writer, SD Cadman (a.k.a Sarika and Luna Elektra). Since we met on WordPress, we often have little chats of 140 characters or less, but this time there was a serious topic on hand. The conversation was inspired by an article I posted on @halfeatenmind about obtaining quality followers rather than just breaking numbers. We then got talking about fake followers, and how Sarika mentioned that they may well be bots sniffing out data for possibly nefarious purposes. We agreed that the worst bots were, in Sarika’s words, those that “act bloody human” or the “nonsense Factoid accounts”. We joked that we needed a weed whacker (a nice sharp blade) to remove these bots from Twitter like those pesky dandelions that never seem to give up sprouting over your smart well-manicured lawn.

Here’s a GIF she sent me to illustrate the frustration with these meddling dregs of AI….

(c) Tumblr via Giphy

 

In a nutshell, what Sarika proposed is that Twitter should have some kind of ‘Weed Whacker Award’ for the person who culls the most bots. That can mean ignoring them when they coming knocking at your account’s door, reporting them to Twitter, but most importantly of all, not adding them, as that gives them legitimacy and access to your followers list. Twitter does often undertake regular purges of fake followers, exterminating them like the filthy rats they are, but new ones keep cropping up. The winner of the bot wipeout can receive a certificate in the post or possibly a badge to go on their header or sidebar et cetera on Twitter. A sort of virtual Neighbourhood Watch against the fraudulent and fake. This would be a bit of fun, but also encourage people to look out for each other and protect against malicious hackers and other cyber-criminals and general online trouble makers.

Inspired by Sarika (SM Cadman), I’d thought I’d come up with a couple of designs for a ‘Weed Whacker Award’ badge if Twitter did such badges. If Dick Costolo, the Twitter CEO, is reading this, you can hire me and Sarika as your ‘creative consultancy team’ or whatever they call them in Silicon Valley. Free lunches and Segways would be a bonus.

 

Weed Whacker Award 1 pizap.com14299598637681

Weed Whacker Award 2 pizap.com14299625569931

Weed Whacker Award 3 pizap.com14299644459731

 

You can find out more about Sarika at her Twitter account @SMCADMAN or visit her blog at http://lunaelektra.com/ . She is a Canadian author, writer and blogger.

 

HEM 3rd anniversary banner pizap.com14293560242241

 

Part of the sourcing and writing of this article was done using my work computer at Informa in Euston. Many thanks to them –  informa.com
ADDITIONAL SOURCES:
“Twitter acknowledges 23 million active users are actually bots” – Judy Mottl, Tech Times/TECHTIMES.com (12 August 2014) http://www.techtimes.com/articles/12840/20140812/twitter-acknowledges-14-percent-users-bots-5-percent-spam-bots.htm
“More than 2 MILLION of Hillary Clinton’s Twitter followers are fake or never tweet – and she’s already under fire for ‘buying’ fake Facebook fans” – David Martosko, Mail Online – News/Associated Newspapers Ltd () http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3038621/More-2-MILLION-Hillary-Clinton-s-Twitter-followers-fake-never-tweet.html
“Does Louise Mensch have 80,000 fake followers on Twitter?” – Alex Hern, New Statesman (24 July 2012) http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/alex-hern/2012/07/does-louise-mensch-have-80000-fake-followers-twitter
Sarika (now L. of teh Internets), Twitter/Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/SMCadman
IMAGE CREDITS:
“HOW YOU LOOK ANIMATED GIF” – Tumblr, Giphy http://giphy.com/gifs/machien-gun-how-you-feel-weed-whacker-zqkRtj9uERDr2?tc=1
piZap http://pizap.com/pizap
“Blank white badge” – PSDgraphics/PSDgraphics.com (16 May 2011) http://www.psdgraphics.com/backgrounds/blank-white-badge/
“Common Malware Types: Cybersecurity 101” – Nate Lord, Veracode/VERACODE (12 October 2012) https://www.veracode.com/blog/2012/10/common-malware-types-cybersecurity-101
“Accueil” – Université d’Orléans http://www.univ-orleans.fr/
“BLANK – Create On-Site – Write-On – Solid Backgrounds, Borders, Parking” – ComplianceSigns.com/ComplianceSigns, Inc. http://www.compliancesigns.com/BLANK-Solid-Border-Parking.shtml
“A Cute Collection Of Despicable Me 2 Minions | Wallpapers, Images & Fan Art” – ZQ, DesignBolts.com/Design Bolts (18 July 2013) http://www.designbolts.com/2013/07/18/a-cute-collection-of-despicable-me-2-minions-wallpapers-images-fan-art/
“Millennium Bug V20.12” – Paul Morris, SEARCHMUSE (28 May 2012) http://www.searchmuse.com/blog/2012/05/28/millennium-bug-v20-12.html
CC Search, Creative Commons http://search.creativecommons.org/
“Dandelion wish (88/365)” – John Liu, Flickr (29 March 2011) https://www.flickr.com/photos/8047705@N02/5572197407/