Sadly one of the most popular parts of modern life is dealing with Internet or technology scams.
These can vary wildly and whilst we don’t intend to cover everyone of them, this guide is a means of giving general advice but also informing you some of the most popular ones that are regularly active and can effect anybody.
What to do if you have been affected by a scam
If you have been affected by an online or Internet scam then we generally advice to report it to the police. If the Internet scam has resulted in you spending or losing money then we recommend speaking to your bank to see if they can recover the funds. You may be lucky and be able to recover your funds, especially if you have paid by credit card.
- Never respond to banking emails or give out personal details that are included in emails that look like they are from your bank. Remember – banks will never ask for your personal information online.
- Do not pay money for online software unless you are aware of what it is or have an existing agreement for the software in question.
- Never allow people to take remote control of your software unless you have an existing relationship with them AND you are aware of what they are requiring it for.
One of the biggest technology scams that continues to entice people is when an individual is called by Microsoft or a company reporting they work on behalf of Microsoft and they inform you that they have discovered that you have a virus on your computer and that they either need to take over your computer or that you need to pay money to clean the virus off your machine.
This will be a completely random call.
As our general advice details – never allow companies such as this to take over your computer or pay them to resolve an issue you didn’t realise you had.
Most people in the UK will have had a spam message reporting to be from their bank asking them to follow a website link to “update your details” with them. This will always be a scam and as our general advice details – never update your banking details online unless it is of your own choosing and you are visiting your bank’s official site. A bank will never ask you to update your details online via email. These emails can look incredibly genuine including logos and real information about the bank but invariably they are all fake.
A popular way of scamming people out of money online is when users click on links on sites or go to sites that are not their “regular” websites and then they are greeted by pop up boxes informing them that their computer is infected with a number of viruses or is not running efficiently. This can all look very genuine but our advice is to never agree to install online software unless you know what it is going to do or that it is an upgrade for software you have bought previously. If you are concerned about viruses or how your computer is running then feel free to use some of the good examples of programs that we have tested and verified here on our downloads page. Be extremely suspicious if you visit a website and it asks you to install a new program or toolbar – invariably this will be a scam of one sort or another or will mean that your computer will run even slower than before or may let in other viruses.
How to spot a fake website (information below courtesy of which.co.uk)
Double check the domain name
A lot of fraudulent websites will use a domain name similar to a brand or product name.
For example website domains like www.ipadoffers.net or www.discountnikeclothes.com should raise alarm bells.
The majority of companies trademark their name and their website will usually match the company name.
With fraudulent websites, they will use recognisable company names but the name of their website probably won’t cite the well-known company mentioned in their web address.
Browse the website
Take a couple of minutes to double-check the site. Maybe visit the homepage or the ‘About us’ pages and read the text there.
Watch out for poor English such as spelling and grammar mistakes or phrases that don’t sound quite right.
It could mean the site isn’t genuine and was put together by someone abroad looking to make a quick profit.
You should also check that the website lists any contact information.
If the website doesn’t have a ‘contact us’ page, this is a strong indicator of a fraudulent site.
Or if the site does have a ‘Contact us’ page but only offers a form to fill out, be wary as this could also be an indication of a dubious website.
Any company offering goods or services should list a place of business as well as a phone number or email address on which to contact them.
If none of this information is available, you should treat the website as highly suspicious.
Check the returns policy
If the company is selling a product online, it should have a shipping and returns policy listed on its website.
If it is a real company, it should tell you how and where to return a faulty item.
Read some online reviews
Look at reviews across a number of sources, such as Trustpilot, Feefo or sitejabber, which aggregate customer reviews.
Don’t look at just one review website – check several to avoid being influenced by potentially fake reviews.
You should also check the company’s social media pages for recent activity and to see what other people are posting on their social channels.
Research carried out by ANEC – a European consumer organisation – found that seven in 10 people say they’re more likely to use a website with a trust-mark label or logo.
But with more than 50 different trust-mark labels and logos in use across Europe and many countries not using them, they are not always a sound way of judging whether a website is trustworthy.
Also, just because a website appears to carry the logo of a reputable trade organisation, it doesn’t necessarily mean the website is genuine.
If you’re in doubt, you could always contact the trust-marked company to check.
When you see very low prices with ridiculous discounts you should be a bit suspicious. If prices seem to good to be true, sadly, they probably are.
Scam websites use low prices to lure bargain-hungry shoppers to quickly sell fake or non-existent items.
Alarm bells should ring if you are asked to pay for something online via a bank transfer.
If you buy something with a credit or debit card that turns out to be fake or non-existent, you do have some rights to get your money back.
But if you pay by bank transfer there’s very little you can do to get your cash back.
Further information and advice can also be found at one of the police website – http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/fraud-az-online-fraud
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