Monthly Archives: July 2012

Naughty Naughty

Hello Australia,

Tl;dr: Some Lolcats have set sail again and looted some swag from Australian shores. Skip this section to grab the loot.

Now, we all know that it is no secret that you are spying on the internet activities of your citizens. But for a change we can present some evidence, which is always nice to have, or so we hear.

Our lizard-like cats have plundered this booty because whoever is responsible for securing the government servers of Queensland, Australia did a bad job. No 0day, obviously, it was a simple authetification bypass via LFI, shame on you.

Anyway, so far can present 27mb of compressed data, but most importantly we want to direct your attention to the file dsdweb-tracking.mdb. This file gives us some insights on how the Australian government was monitoring its citizens activity. Let us explain what you see here:

HitDate|SearchID|PageTitle|PageType|MemberID|FirstName|Surname|Organisation|Email|Classification|Postcode|Region|Browser|IPAddress|HttpReferer

4/11/2001|9:41:32 AM|538|Regional Development|17|2|Jenny|Rogan|Jenny.Rogan@sd.qld.gov.au|5|4000|2|Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 5.01; Windows NT)|172.21.4.199
These lines show what the Australian government is interested in and what they are tracking. The data below was reformatted but you can view the complete database dsdweb-tracking.mdb in the archive (not linking to direct file since it is 200mb).

Tracking Fields:

HitDate – The date the specific Search was initiated
SearchID- The ID of the search
PageTitle- The title of the page that was searched
PageType- They have their own categories of the logging software
MemberID-
Firstname
Surname
Oragnization
Email
Classification- They classify with their own systems
Postal Code
Region
Browswer- What browser they were using
IPAddress – IP address of the user
HttpReferer – Referer-URL (Previous website, where it was linked from)
Organization Listings:

Small Business-1
Medium Business-2
Large Business-3
Local Government-4
State Government-5
Federal Government-6
Primary Education-7
Secondary Education-8
Tertiary Education-9
Student-10
Personal-11
Small Industrial-12
Medium Industrial-13
Large Industrial-14
Typelisting:

TypeID Type
1 Publication
2 Event/Seminar
3 Tender
4 Form
5 Video/Audio
6 Newsroom
15 Special Offer
16 Policies & Procedures
17 Html Doc
19 Template Profile

With thanks to anonymous post well done see them here

Advertisements
Tagged ,

Wow Thank you for waiting!!

Its been a while since we last blogged, we wanted to assure you that we are still here but are currently all engaged in a case which requires every person on our team.

We just wanted to thank you for waiting and to say we will be back very soon!!

Tagged

Making sure you know your rights

We have had a massive response to our article regarding bailiffs and the tactics used by them. Since the last article we have had over 30 emails asking us to clarify guidelines that are in place to ensure fair play .

We will refer ( for best practice ) to the OFT guidelines and list them for ease;

Transparency
The OFT raised a concern that some standard collection letters do not make clear who the letter is from. The DCG states that a failure of those contacting debtors to make clear who they are and why they are making contact would be regarded as a misleading or unfair business practice (DCG paragraph 2.2c). The following are examples of areas where lack of transparency can arise.
i. Use of Trading Styles
The use of different trading styles by an organisation could potentially be misleading if the organisation is not identified. Some debt collection agencies (“DCAs”) use different trading styles to escalate debts through the collection cycle and some also use different trading styles or departments to differentiate between the types of recovery activity which may take place. For example, if a debtor has previously informed the DCA of severe financial hardship, the debt may be referred to a specialist „Financial Hardship‟ unit.
However, whenever a trading style is used, the OFT has made it clear that they see no legitimate purpose in failing to be transparent and therefore if the debt is being escalated or transferred to a different department within the same company and/or to a different company within the same group of companies (an associated company under s.184 CCA74), the collection letter should make this and the reason for that escalation or transfer, clear.
The Association has produced a Best Practice Guidance Note which refers specifically to the use of Trading Styles.

Misleading terms
A lack of transparency can also arise if information is presented in a way which could create a false/misleading impression, including using terms which overstate the nature of the business. For example, using terms in trading names such as ‘enforcement’, ‘legal’, ‘solicitors’ and so on, when there are no appropriately qualified staff. Members are reminded that it is a criminal offence for a company to act in a manner that implies it is ‘qualified or recognised by law to act as a solicitor’ when this is not the case.

Letter Font
In accordance with the spirit of the DCG, Members should take care when choosing font styles and sizes to ensure they are reasonable as the OFT believes they could lead to transparency issues. For example, font size less than 10 point could be difficult to read. Gothic text may also be difficult to read and has connotations associated with legal documents and should therefore be avoided.

Legal action
v-i. Describing the legal process
The OFT has seen a number of standard letters issued by DCAs which contain inaccuracies and omissions in their description of the debt recovery procedure and the legal process and which fail to mention that steps are required before enforcement action can be taken. For example:
 letters which set out the potential enforcement actions following non payment of a County Court Judgment (e.g. bailiffs seizing goods, employers deducting money from wages) without indicating that a further application to the court is required before enforcement action can be taken (i.e. to obtain a warrant of execution, attachment of earnings, charging order etc); or
 letters referring to bankruptcy and charging orders where it is not clear that a staged process is involved.
Sending such letters, would in the OFT‟s view, potentially be an unfair or oppressive business practice in breach of paragraphs 2.2b, 2.4b and/or 2.6g of the DCG
Although the OFT does not expect to see every stage of the process set out in letters of this type, a correct indication of the stages before enforcement action can be taken should be provided to prevent letters from being misleading, potentially exploiting debtors’ lack of knowledge and being perceived by recipients as threatening.
Members are reminded that the granting of judgments and other orders are court decisions and letters should not pre-empt a particular outcome e.g. that a judgment WILL be made.
If a DCA wants to refer to the process that may be followed after a debt is unpaid it is the responsibility of the DCA to understand and correctly state the process.

v-iii Timing of issue of letters referring to legal action
The OFT regards it as an unfair and oppressive business practice if letters threatening legal action are issued to individuals if the DCA is not reasonably certain that the address they have is the debtor‟s address.
As set out in paragraph 2v, DCAs act in good faith on the information provided to them by their client at the time of instruction, and a distinction can be made between „trace and collect‟ and non trace and collect instructions.
However, letters which refer to legal action would, in the OFT’s view, have the potential to be perceived as a threat of legal action and therefore could be an unfair and oppressive business practice:
 against someone who has a legitimate dispute with the original creditor
 when information on the account may be incorrect and the account could not
be pursued through the courts, for example if the debt is statute barred
Therefore, even on non trace and collect instructions where the DCA is relying on the information provided by the creditor as being accurate, the DCA should consider if reference to legal proceedings in a first letter is appropriate.
With regard to disputes, the Association has made it clear to the OFT that, at the time of instruction, Members will be unaware if the debt is disputed, as they have to rely on clients not referring disputed debts or because the debtor may not have raised this with the client prior to the DCA‟s involvement.
The Association also stressed to the OFT that the debtor will have received numerous correspondence and attempts at contact from the client (or in the case of secondary and tertiary debt, a previous agent), prior to a debt being referred to the DCA. These letters would have informed the debtor about potential action which could be taken, including referral to a third party DCA or legal action.

Bankruptcy
As set out above, it is essential that debt collection letters are factual and highlight the potential action which could be taken should there be a failure to pay.
Members are reminded that bankruptcy proceedings can only be initiated on debts over £750. Therefore any threat of bankruptcy proceedings (including statutory demands) in letters where the debt amount is less than £750 would be in breach of the CSA Code of Practice and potentially be an unfair and oppressive business practice under the DCG.
The Association therefore suggests, that when issuing standard debt collection letters on debts below £750, any reference to bankruptcy as a possible course of action, be removed.

Statements and Phrases
The use of certain statements in standard letters gives the OFT cause for concern and they gave the following as an example:
“THIS PROBLEM WILL NOT GO AWAY AND WE INTEND TO RECOVER THE FULL AMOUNT YOU OWE WITHOUT FURTHER DELAY”
In the OFT‟s view, such statements could in some circumstances breach paragraph 2.6g of the DCG.
The Association is keen to work with the OFT on this matter, however, it feels that the use of such statements can also in other circumstances give a clear message to the debtor and highlights the importance of making contact in order to avoid potential legal action.
However, Members are reminded that the wording of letters must not be misleading and should be used appropriately. In the above example, if the Member has the option to discuss a repayment arrangement with the debtor, this should be made clear in the body of the letter so the debtor is fully aware.

xi Sensitive Cases
The issues highlighted within this Guidance are of particular relevance where it transpires that the case is sensitive e.g. the individual has mental health problems, long term or terminal illness or other disabilities which impact on the debtor’s ability to pay. Where a DCA becomes aware of such cases the OFT and the Association would expect measures to be in place to ensure that such cases receive appropriate handling.
The CSA Code of Practice provides details of how Members should deal with sensitive cases. The Association has also produced Guidance on Mental Health and Members may also find the MALG Guidance on the Debt and Mental Health Evidence Form useful.

To view this document please go to the OFT WEBSITE

Tagged , , , , , ,

More Fingers In Pies

Theres nothing like putting a resident at a disadvantage, in fact it seems that it is something medway council see as a MUST!

We often see the ‘big brother state’ controlling much of what we do and more so seeing what we do as one of the leading countries in the world leader board for CCTV in public places. You probably ask yourself who is in this ring of intelligence and why do they need to cohort in the way they do??

Well lets look at an issue thats close to home to start with. Many people over the years have questioned the true role of a magistrates court, many have aired their concerns that magistrates courts are simply ” profit making” organisations, further more the matter is not really helped much by the very fact many magistrates courts are listed on the duport website as ” profit making businesses”. Adding to this we look at how medway council pay a FEE to the magistrates court to hold hearings which apparently are criminal offenses.

One report we hear very often is that residents facing court proceedings believe they are facing a magistrate who is on the side of the local authority, they feel that there cannot be an impartial view. Again and rather worryingly we know that local authorities often apply indirect pressure to magistrates to increase sentencing and the like. We know that medway council ((for instance)) invited representatives to a meeting to discuss the sentencing policy [ can be confirmed by clicking here ] this makes alot of us feel uneasy about a possible prejudicial view from the magistrate at medway magistrates court, but there is more! A more worrying factor. Look at the magistrates here and you will see a very worrying link, what you say? Well a medway Councillor who needless to say is paid by medway council and employed by medway council is also a magistrate! Employed by medway council Cllr craig Mackinlay is also appointed to the ‘Regeneration, Community and culture scrutiny and overview committee, this being an appointment which includes;

This Committee scrutinises services and policies relating to regeneration, community and culture. These include community safety, environmental health, CCTV and ENFORCEMENT the wardens’ service, traffic management and highway schemes, the Rural Strategy, economic development and social regeneration, the management of events, heritage attractions and tourism, the Cultural Strategy, leisure, arts, sports, recreational activities, social inclusion, scrutiny of the work of the Community Safety Partnership and the regeneration of communities and physical regeneration of the area.

Im am sure many will jump on this post with the usual comments in defense of this un desirable relationship which to the average person appears to be a serious clash of interests but its something you simply cannot ignore, would any view that cllr mackinlay hold whilst acting as a magistrate be prejudicial? We will wait to find that on out!

Tagged , , , ,