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Posts Tagged ‘money’

Today in the Vicarage we had two reminders of how our  tax money gets wasted by the government itself and by individuals in our society on behalf of everyone else.

Firstly the Vicar had his PAYE Coding Notice come through from HM Revenue and Customs. This was corrected from the erroneous one we received two weeks ago, which gave palpitations to approximately 7000 Church of England clergy around the country as it almost halved their tax-free allowancee.

I wonder how much money sending out a replacement letter cost? The guesses on the grapevine cite the closure of the specialist clergy tax team as a reason for the error. Whatever the cause, it caused unnecessary stress and extra government-funded work. Not really good enough HMRC.

The other instance was that of a friend, who had spent the morning with a lady from the Benefits office. The friend had been reported for not declaring income from work. Actually, this was voluntary work she’d been doing, for which she received no remuneration. Once she’d explained to the Benefits Agency lady what remuneration meant, the lady was happy with her explanation (which was accompanied by a letter from the folk she was volunteering for) and left.

It seems that someone with a grudge had reported our friend and wanted to cause her inconvenience, rather than just speak to her and ask or even ask the place where she was volunteering. We’re only talking a couple of hours of volunteering a week here, not something that took all her time.  Or perhaps the person didn’t bear a grudge, but was concerned. It’s still a great pity that they didn’t feel able to ask directly. The cost to the taxpayer of letters, staff time and form-filling  must be sizable. Especially when you multiply this situation around the country. And now our friend thinks that someone is intent on causing her trouble. We have a broken society of broken people taking out their grudges by using government agencies. I don’t know how that can be fixed except by the power of change that is brought by belief and trust in Christ.

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Early in the morning a couple of weeks ago Happy, the Vicar’s Apprentice who is also our lodger and all round good thing, was using the computer. He was logged into his Hotmail account, then logged out to do something else.

When he tried to log back in again his password didn’t seem to work. When he went to the fogotten password option, the details he put in didn’t seem to work in order to get him back into his account.

Later Happy’s mobile phone, which hardly ever rings, started to light up like the M5/M6 junction on a Friday afternoon. It was family and friends telling him that they’d received an email, purporting to be from him and sent from his Hotmail account. The email claimed that Happy was stuck in Nigeria and needing funds to get home.

So Happy telephoned everyone he could remember was on his email contact list. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a copy of his email contacts list. He was also able to get put a plea in to Hotmail to change his password back – he contacted them at their Windows Live ID Validation page with his details.

On Saturday Hotmail restored the account to Happy. Since he was away on a conference, I dealt with things for him. From his inbox, I could see that most people had spotted this for a hoax. However, a few friends, who don’t speak English as a first language, were fooled by the panicked sounding email, and offered to help out.

As I read further, I realised that two of Happy’s friends had actually sent money. One was able to put the £50 she sent down to experience – Happy managed to speak to her. However, the second friend sent far more – all her grant money for living on her foreign exchange in fact.

I immediately emailed all Happy’s contacts and told them not to send any money. The girl who’d sent the most money was able to put a stop to the second money transfer she was making. The way in which the hoaxer had manipulated her kindness was awful to read.

When Happy spoke to her last week she thought she might be able to recover the money, but it’s been a stressful road for her.

Once I’d sent the email, we logged out of the account and were immediately locked out again and had to go through the same application to Windows Live in order to regain access, which didn’t happen until a few days after that. Very frustrating!

There are a couple of things that we learnt from this episode that I’d now advise any user of an on-line etherspace account to do:

  • Make a copy of your contacts list. Then if your account is hijacked and your friends asked to send money to Nigeria, you can open another email account and make them aware that it isn’t you!
  • If you are locked out and regain access, don’t log out again until you’ve changed all the password and access information. When we finally got back into the account a second time we saw that Happy’s birthdate and other details (including alternate email address) had been changed.

Happy has now closed his Hotmail account and working at overcoming his phobia about using email. It felt like a real invasion of his privacy – not just the scam, but also the way in which the hoaxer replied to normal emails (like the one about the hymns for the evening services) purporting to be him. The scammer even signed the emails off with Happy’s normal greetings.

I don’t have a copy of all the correspondence (it didn’t seem to copy from the Hotmail account when I forwarded it) but here’s the original email asking for the money:

Subject: I URGENTLY NEED YOUR HELP…. GET BACK TO ME AS SOON AS YOU READ THIS EMAIL‏
To: “Happy ” <Happy@hotmail.co.uk>
Date: Thursday, 15 April, 2010, 10:06

Hello,
How are you doing?hope all is well, I”m sorry that i didn’t inform you about my traveling to West Africa Nigeria concerning the welfare of the coming, 2010 FIFA World Cup that will be coming up in South Africa so am here in Nigeria now for an Urgent Seminar.I need a favour from you as soon as you receive this e-mail because i misplaced my wallet on my way to the hotel where my money is and other valuable things were kept, i will like you to assist me with a loan urgently. I will be needing the sum of 520 pounds to sort-out my hotel bills and get myself back home.I will appreciate whatever you can afford to help me with, i’ll pay you back as soon as i return. Kindly let me know if you can be of help? so that i can send you the details.
Your reply will be greatly appreciated

:* Happy

One friend of Happy’s said she knew it was a scam because he was claiming to be at a World Cup football event. She said she’d might have believed it if he’d been claiming to be at a world cake icing competition (Happy has a background in catering)!

I decided to post this today (it’s been sitting in my drafts file for a while) because someone I follow on Twitter just had their Hotmail account hijacked but managed to get back in pretty quickly. The Windows Live team took more than the promised 24hrs to get back with access details for Happy’s account because they are very busy just now. It could happen to you soon….

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