Monthly Archives: October 2011

HMRC hackers steal tax rebates

I worked on this investigation into a number of mysterious thefts from online HMRC accounts for The Sunday Times.

One hacker told us that he was able to access the HMRC systems and obtain log in details for accountants’ online profiles. HMRC have a centre in northern Ireland devoted to combatting online fraud cases like these.

Full text is available on the Sunday Times website here, or after the fold.

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Square-bashing and Scrabble scandals

I continue to write the regular ‘Briefing’ slot in the Sunday Times’ comment section most weeks.

This week I wrote about the scandal hitting the Scrabble world, after one grandmaster accused another of cheating and demanded he was strip-searched.

I quickly learnt that many Scrabble champions speak English as a second language – or indeed, speak no English at all – instead using their superior understanding of probability to calculate the most likely and best scoring letter combinations, before committing them to memory.

Fancy trying it? Start with memorising the two letter words:

AA  AB  AD  AE  AG  AH  AI  AL  AM  AN  AR  AS  AT  AW  AX  AY  BA  BE  BI  BO  
BY  DE  DO  ED  EF  EH  EL  EM  EN  ER  ES  ET  EX  FA  GO  HA  HE  HI  HM  HO  
ID  IF  IN  IS  IT  JO  KA  LA  LI  LO  MA  ME  MI  MM  MO  MU  MY  NA  NE  NO  
NU  OD  OE  OF  OH  OM  ON  OP  OR  OS  OW  OX  OY  PA  PE  PI  RE  SH  SI  SO  
TA  TI  TO  UH  UM  UN  UP  US  UT  WE  WO  XI  XU  YA  YE  YO

Then the three letter words, then longer words using the most common letter strings.

And remember, you don’t need to know what they mean as long as they are in the Scrabble dictionary

Full text is on the Sunday Times website here, or after the fold

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Hundreds of police stations to close

I hit the phones, alongside another Sunday Times reporter, to survey the cuts to frontline services in police forces across the country.

We found that across 30 of the 43 constabularies in England and Wales, 350 of 931 public counters at stations — 38% of the total — are to be closed in the next six months.

Full text can be found on the Sunday Times website here, or after the fold.

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