The #MeToo Hashtag

Those of you on social media over the last week can't have failed to spot women (and some men) posting the #MeToo hashtag, and sometimes sharing their stories.

It's in response to the recent Harvey Weinstein sex abuse allegations, where victims of similar abuse have bravely declared that it has happened to them as well.

My Facebook feed has been awash with friends posting #MeToo, and every time I see it I find it heartbreaking.

Of course, it's not right that any woman has to deal with any predatory sexual advances, coercion, or abuse. But it seems especially poignant when you learn that it's happened to people that you know and care about.

I'm impressed by their bravery in coming forward, while at the same time being horrified that it's so widespread – especially when you think that for each person goes public there are probably dozens more that have had the same experiences, but prefer (for whatever reason) to keep it private.

Free Revolut cards in Ireland

I just got an email from Revolut to say that they're offering the next 10,000 to sign up in Ireland a free prepaid Mastercard. 

It's apparently to celebrate Revolut opening an office in Ireland. And instead of the usual €6 fee to order the first card on the account, they are going to wave this fee.

Revolut is great for anyone who travels, or who orders anything from abroad. The mobile app-based prepaid credit card offers much better exchange rates than a traditional banks, credit cards, or foreign currency exchanges.

My wife and I used the card extensively on a holiday to the USA a few months back, and must have saved about a hundred euros in currency transfer fees. I also use the card to buy things in pounds sterling from Amazon.

How much can I save?

At the time of writing, buying something from Amazon costing £50 will cost you:

  • €58.07 if you choose to pay in Euros rather than Pounds at the Amazon checkout
  • €57.38 if you pay with a Bank of Ireland card
  • €55.81 is you pay with a Revolut card

I don't know about you, but I'd rather keep that couple of euros difference! 

Homemade Soup

How often do you look at a restaurant or café menu and see the term "Homemade Soup"?

Or what about "homemade bread", or "homemade desserts"?

Well, I don't know about you, but the thought that always comes into my head when I see something described as "homemade" is: Who's home has it been made in?

And if the food isn't actually being made in someone's home, then is the term "homemade" attaching some kind of deceitful providence to the food? 

Providence is often highly protected when it comes to food. You can't claim your sparkling wine is Champagne if it doesn't come from the Champagne region of France. And Stilton cheese can only be produced within 3 counties in England (bet you didn't know that!).

So why is it OK to say something is homemade, when in fact it's been made in a commercial kitchen?

Personally, I don't really want the food I'm eating to have been produced in someone's home – that is, unless I know the person. Otherwise I don't know if the house is sanitary, or if there are snotty kids and pets around to contaminate the food.

Singing with the Tallis Scholars

I'm very excited about the opportunity to perform with the Tallis Scholars later this week.

I'm one of 30 singers recruited from around Dublin to join the choir in the performance of the 40-part piece Spem in Alium by Thomas Tallis.

I've only sung Spem in Alium once in the past, as part of a scratch performance put together for my 40th birthday. Because, what else would you do for a 40th birthday, but get together all of your singer friends and sing a 40-part anthem? It wasn't the most technically accurate performance in the world (I, for one, was making tons of mistakes), but it was a heck of a lot of fun – and if you fancy watching the video, stay for the amazing rendition of Happy Birthday at the end!

The prospect of singing such a piece with the Tallis Scholars, in contrast, is a pretty intimidating. They are one of the best professional choirs out there, and tour all over the world to sell out audiences. And I've volunteered to sing – one to a part – so there's no hiding at the back!

I'm sure it'll go very well. The rehearsal last week was sounding really good, and I came out of that really excited.

The concert takes place on Thursday, 5th October 2017 at 8.00pm in the National Concert Hall, Dublin. There are some tickets left – although not many – from the NCH website: https://www.nch.ie/Online/The-Tallis-Scholars-05Oct17

Disputing fraudulent transactions with N26 bank

I had the unfortunate experience in the last few days of my N26 card being cloned, and a whole bunch of fraudulent transactions cleared out my balance.

The first I realised that something was wrong was a series of transaction notifications late on Saturday night. And when I checked the N26 app on my phone I saw loads of fraudulent transactions.

This has happened in the past with a credit card of mine, and I've simply called the 24 hour phone number of the credit card provider, and queried the transactions over the phone. But N26 don't have a 24 hour support number, and it seems the process to get this sorted with them is a bit more complicated.

Blocking the card

The first thing I did when I saw the fraudulent transactions was to disable my card in the mobile app. You can do this from the Cards settings. I turned off all the options, and locked the card.

I then used the app to order a new card. My existing card number is compromised, so there's no point trying to use it again. Unfortunately it'll take a few days to get a new card – because I can't avail of the expedited service available to German residents.

I guess I'll also have to use cash until my new card arrives. I've gotten used to paying for pretty-much everything using contactless payments recently, so it's going to be strange going back to coins and notes.

Disputing the transactions

I tried calling the N26 support number on their website as soon as I saw the dodgy transactions, but they don't open 24 hours a day so I got a recorded office-closed message.

The contact page has local phone numbers for each country. The one for Ireland is a VoIP number, and isn't included in the free minutes on my mobile plan.

N26 support advised me that I needed to fill in a Disputed Transactions Form for each of fraudulent transactions, scan the pages, and then email to support@n26.com.

I have 6 fraudulent transactions, so that's six 4-page forms that I need to fill in and send off.

And you need to wait until the transactions are confirmed before submitting the forms. In the app, if you see a blue dot on the icon beside the transaction then it's still pending. It's only when the blue dot disappears that it's confirmed – and this might take 3-4 days to happen.

On the N26 Online Banking portal, you need to check the Statements sections for the current month. Only when they appear on the statement will they be confirmed.

The disputed transaction form also needs to show the date of the transaction on this Statement. I filled in the forms with the date/time from the mobile app – the date/time the fraudster actually made the transaction – and I had all my claims rejected. So I need to re-submit all my forms again!

Then I need to wait for N26 to query the transaction with Mastercard, and hopefully initiate charge-backs to recover the funds, which might take a while. Until then I don't have access to my money.

Resultant problems

While I wait for my new card, I can't spend anything – which is fine, because the fraudsters took all my money. I can't top up my phone, or order anything online, because I don't have a card.

Also there are two direct debits on my account have been rejected as unpaid, because I don't have sufficient funds – and I'm also going to be charged bank fees for those failed direct debits!

So all-in-all I'm not particularly happy about the situation, and it's making me reconsider whether I want to continue using N26 for my banking. I can't help but think that other banks would deal with this a lot better.