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Government taskforce to tackle sharp rise in scams during pandemic

taskforce

Government taskforce to tackle sharp rise in scams during pandemic

A government taskforce is to meet on Thursday to discuss ways to tackle the sharp rise in scams that has hit the UK since the start of the pandemic.

Groups representing banks, telecoms companies and consumers will meet with the minister for security, Damien Hinds, to discuss measures to tackle online fraud, and increase public awareness.

The meeting comes after the scourge of scam texts and calls was laid bare by UK telecoms regulator research showing almost 45 million people received at least one in the last three months, while mobile network EE had to block 18,000 sim cards used for the fraud over that period.

The relaunch of the government’s Joint Fraud Taskforce is accompanied by new charters committing the sectors used by criminals to actions to protect people’s money.

These include measures to help victims of fraud get support, and a pilot dynamic direct debit system to authenticate applications for new mobile phone contracts.

The home secretary, Priti Patel, said she would “not tolerate criminals lining their pockets at the expense of law-abiding citizens”.

The announcement follows research by Ofcom that found 82% of adults had received a suspicious message during the summer, with most reporting that it had come via a text.

Landline calls continued to be a threat for older people, with 61% of over-75s saying they had received a potential scam call.

Scams have boomed since the start of the pandemic, with fraudsters capitalising on changing consumer habits over the period.

Texts and emails purporting to be from courier firms and messages offering access to Covid vaccines and passports have been among the tricks used by criminals to get hold of personal details.

Recently the trade body for banks, UK Finance, said £754m had been stolen from bank customers during the first half of this year. Readers of the Guardian have reported £1m worth of losses to us over the summer months.

The use of mobile phones in the frauds is underlined by figures from EE which show it has blocked 18,000 sim cards after detecting 42m scam text messages since July.

The firm, which is owned by BT, uses scanning technology to track down and block suspicious looking messages.

BT’s customer care change director, Christopher Howe, told the PA Media news agency that many of the sims that have been barred were on pay-as-you-go deals.

Rocio Concha, the director of policy and advocacy at the consumer group Which?, said Ofcom’s research showed that fraudsters were “relentless in their efforts to trick people into giving away their money and personal information”.

She added: “Businesses and the telecoms industry must do more to protect consumers, by making it harder for fraudsters to exploit systemic weaknesses to reach potential victims and by improving how they use telecommunications to reach their customers.”

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s networks and communications group director, said: “Criminals who defraud people using phone and text scams can cause huge distress and financial harm to their victims, and their tactics are becoming increasingly sophisticated.

“Stay alert to any unsolicited contact. Put the phone down if you have any suspicion that it is a scam call, and don’t click on any links in text messages you’re unsure about.”

Ofcom said suspicious texts could be forwarded to 7726 and would be investigated by mobile phone providers, while scam calls could be reported to Action Fraud or Police Scotland.

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Supreme Court Dismisses Suit Challenging Adeleke’s Candidacy

The Supreme Court has affirmed Ademola Adeleke as the authentic candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the just concluded Osun State Governorship Election.

This has laid to rest the suit filed by Dotun Babayemi, a governorship aspirant of the party who sought the invalidation of Adeleke’s victory.

In a judgement delivered by Justice Amina Augie, the five-member panel held that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the suit after counsel for the appellant, Adebayo Adelodun, withdrew the earlier notice of appeal that was filed within time.

At the resumed hearing, Adelodun, who represented the appellant and Babayemi informed the court that he sought to withdraw the earlier notice of appeal to replace it with the fresh application he filed.

But the panel held that Section 285(11) of the constitution stipulated that an appeal on a pre-election matter must be filed within 14 days from the day of the decision, and that having filed the second appeal out of time, the apex court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter.

Justice Augie, therefore, dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

Babayemi had asked the court to invalidate the primary election that produced the governor-elect, citing non-compliance with a court order.

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400 Staff To Lose Jobs As BBC Goes Digital

The British Broadcasting Corporation BBC world service has on Thursday disclosed that about 400 of its staff will lose their jobs as part of a cost-cutting programme and move to digital platforms,

The BBC said its international services needed to make savings of £28.5 million ($31 million) as part of wider reductions of £500 million.

In July it detailed plans to merge BBC World News television and its domestic UK equivalent into a single channel to launch in April next year.

BBC World Service currently operates in 40 languages around the world with a weekly audience of some 364 million people.

But the corporation said audience habits were changing and more people were accessing news online, which along with a freeze on BBC funding and increased operating costs meant a move to “digital-first” made financial sense.

BBC World Service director Liliane Landor said there was a “compelling case” for expanding digital services, as audiences had more than doubled since 2018.

“The way audiences are accessing news and content is changing and the challenge of reaching and engaging people around the world with quality, trusted journalism is growing,” she added.

 

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Environment

Hurricane Ian: Cities flooded and power cut as storm crosses Florida

Hurricane Ian: Cities flooded and power cut as storm crosses Florida

Hurricane Ian made landfall at around 15:10 local time (19:10 GMT) on Wednesday, smashing into the coast with wind speeds of up to 241km/h (150mph).

Dramatic scenes saw a hospital roof blown off, cars submerged and trees ripped out of the ground.

The category four hurricane was later downgraded to a tropical storm.

However, Floridians were warned that the most dangerous 24 hours lay ahead and the mayor of Tampa urged people to shelter in place through the night into Thursday morning.

“We are going to get the majority of the rain and the higher winds starting about 20:00, and they are going to last throughout the night,” Jane Castor said during a Wednesday evening briefing.

In a message posted on Facebook, the Weather Prediction Center told residents in the Central Florida Peninsula to expect “widespread life-threatening, catastrophic flash and urban flooding” continuing into Friday morning, with potentially up to 76cm (30ins) of rain falling locally.

Residents were ordered to leave their homes, but many have decided to remain and seek shelter indoors.

Mark Pritchett, who lives in the city of Venice, some 95km (60 miles) south of Tampa, described the “terrifying” moment he stepped outside his home as the hurricane made its way across the Gulf of Mexico.

“Rain shooting like needles. My street is a river,” he said in a text message to the Associated Press news agency.

In Lee County – the south-west region where Ian made landfall – police were prevented from responding to reports of looting at a petrol station because of the storm damage.

As a result, a curfew has been declared “until further notice”.

Lee County Manager Roger Desjarlais said that the Fort Myers community had “been – to some extent – decimated”. According to news agency AFP, some neighbourhoods in the city of 80,000 had been left resembling lakes.

State Governor Ron DeSantis described Ian as the “biggest flood event” south-west Florida had ever seen, and announced that 7,000 National Guard troops are ready to lead rescue operations in flood zones.

President Joe Biden will receive a briefing on Thursday from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Ian is now continuing to move north through Florida. Jacksonville International Airport, based in north-east Florida, cancelled all flights scheduled for Thursday.

The storm is forecast to emerge into the Atlantic by Thursday morning.

It is expected to reach Georgia and South Carolina on Friday. Virginia has also joined Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida by declaring a state of emergency.

Cuba’s western coast was hit by Hurricane Ian on Tuesday. Power has now been restored in some areas after the island was plunged into a total blackout. Two people are understood to have been killed in Cuba and more than 20 Cuban migrants are believed to be missing at sea.

Predicted path of Hurricane Ian. Updated 27 September

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