With computers and the internet pervading - if not almost ruling - every aspect of daily life, electronic payment for goods and services in the High Street is becoming the norm. As well as the use of credit and debit cards, increasingly we are using phones with apps like Apple Pay and buying a couple of coffees is as simple as tapping the card reader.
However, you are usually asked if you want a receipt. Invariably you hear customers declining and that certainly saves paper. Being of the old school, however, I have always kept a close watch on my personal finances and like to maintain a comprehensive record of everything I have spent and a running total of funds left for the rest of the month. I operate a monthly budgeting spreadsheet for regular payments and direct debits plus how much I should 'put aside' for things like holidays, fuel, insurances, major purchases and so on. With my system I can enter miscellaneous sums of money I have spent and then check them off against monthly credit card bills and bank statements. Some will say that all I need are the monthly statements but I cannot feel that I would be able to recall what each and every minor item of expenditure was for.
I was taught how to budget and manage money at an early age. Mostly I picked this up from my father who kept meticulous records both in his business and his personal life. It just became a habit with me too. Over the years I have come to enjoy a satisfactory end of the month feeling when everything balances. I do wonder whether people would be less likely to run into financial problems if careful money management was taught and practised a little more.
This article was published recently by Matthew Webster who writes a weekly newsletter called 'Ask Webster (A guide to Digital Life)' which is well worth subscribing to at bit.ly/2uUjxrF
This piece relates to the accuracy of opinion polls/petitions and just happens to be Brexit-related. It is not intended to be political in any way and does not relate to my own Brexit persuasions be they 'In', 'Out' or 'Shake it all about'.
The Government's online petition site includes a petition to 'Revoke Article 50 and remain in the EU'. It has over six million signatures, which is impressive, although it turns out that 72,000 of them are fictitious. They were planted by a Digital Marketing firm in Manchester, costing them £22 and a few hours work.
How is this possible? First, one of their technical wizards wrote a little programme that created unique submissions and completed the email conformation procedure. Then, they used a free online service to generate random but genuine postcodes and a random name generator. They spent £12 setting up a new email mailbox and £10 on a month’s access to thousands of what are called 'proxy IP' addresses. This made it appear that the entries were coming from different computers. They left this system to run over the weekend, at the end of which 72,000 fake names were added to the petition.
To show how easy it was they then went public with the stunt and, in so doing, cast doubt on this and any other online polls. Read about it at bit.ly/2UqWbco. If one small firm in Manchester can do this, imagine what a determined organisation with time and resources could do.
Given the simplicity of the deceit, it is hard to believe that they were the only ones trying to skew the results of the poll. Remember to treat all online polling with caution, even if you do agree with the results!