Thursday, February 03, 2022

Protecting Yourself from Scammers -2 Those phishy emails, suspicious websites, fake ads,

 


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

 

Who hasn’t yet had the Amazon scam, the email from a parcel service or the one that says your subscription to Netflix is about to expire?

As with unknown callers, I don’t open emails if I’ve had no dealings with that company. Unfortunately, many involve messages from companies such as utilities, Australia Post, Microsoft or some other company with whom I have done business, saying I need to pay a little extra or provide some details in order to receive a payment, a parcel or a refund, which makes it difficult, especially when you just mailed a parcel or paid a bill.Today's haul includes an offer from Bitcoin promising me I can become a millionaire in 3 -4 months and a bill from Telstra with whom I haven't had an account for the last two years.

Sometimes they will invite you to take a survey or offer you something for free. One of the latest and surely among the meanest has to be the offer of rapid antigen tests, which are in short supply in Australia, via a fake web site. Another recent one which I thought was pretty callous, was someone setting up a fake GoFundMe for refugees still in detention – some of whom were incarcerated as children or have been incarcerated for over nine years, their plight having been highlighted after the World’s #1 (Male) Tennis Player (Djokovic) just happened to be put up in the same hotel. There are also various scams involving disaster relief funds and the like. (See new scams of 2022).  As mentioned previously sometimes it isn’t about money, but about stealing your personal information leaving you open to identity fraud (see the next post) or locking up your computer and holding your data to ransom. You need professional help with the last one alas, but here are some basic ways to stop scammers in their tracks.

 

Whether its from a company you know, a government department or a company you don't know, DO NOT CLICK on any links in the body of the email. Log into the official site and contact them directly.Try to establish whether the website is genuine. There are several ways to do this.

 For a start look carefully at the email and see how it compares to the official site. Some scammers are very clever and will just change a single letter very slightly. If it's from a site you don't know, you can also Google the name and see if there any reports about it. Scam -detector's Validator will also give you a very quick check as to the authenticity of a website.  However some legitimate sites may have been compromised and some dodgy ones may not yet have been reported. The Ripoffreport can be helpful too. Always check whether the site has a physical address and a contact number. The video below discusses this in more detail and also has some helpful links.

 

 

If you have any doubt about a company you can usually check via the jurisdiction in which it is registered. 

For IINDIA the Website is- Ministry of Corporate Affairs
 

For Australia-  

-All companies must be registered with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission  

- You can also look up campanies here Organisations and Business Names register

-For sole traders ABN Lookup site

For UK-Companies House
 

For US / Canada – Better Business Bureau

European Companies - check here

CHINA -  For a quick guide on how to see if an Alibaba supplier is legitimate, click here.

For  other verification and more tips on doing business with China, click here. Although this company charges a fee, it could be important if large quantities or large sums of money are involved. More on Alibaba/ China here.

Other countries -If you are dealing with a foreign company Wisestep has tips on how to find out whether it's authentic or for more about how businesses can protect themselves when click here or here.

 

Other useful sites

Trustpilot  Based in Denmark this company now operates in 65 countries. You select a category and then look up a business. It will have verified company details, address, when started and star ratings based on a large number of customer reviews

The Rip Off Report  US based but international, includes court cases and investigations

Fakespot  - simple website which checks for dodgy sellers, dodgy websites and fake reviews. 

 

Caution when Online shopping

Do a website check before you buy. Always use PayPal or another secure payment system or a credit card because then you may have some recourse if the goods don't turn up, are unsatisfactory or you have some other complaint. As far as the products themselves go, there are many review sites. Some of the most popular are listed below. If you do any business online be sure to check your bank and credit card statements afterwards and report any discrepancies to the issuing authority immediately.

 

INDEPENDENT PRODUCT REVIEWS -highly recommended before making a major purchase

 Which? In the UK 

Choice (AU) 

Consumer Reports (USA)

 

CUSTOMER REVIEWS

Amazon has one of the largest databases for products even if you don't buy from them

TripAdvisor is another well-established review site for anything tourism and hospitality related

Yelp US based and originally mainly for eateries but now operates globally and covers almost every kind of business from accountants to dentists, plumbers and nail salons. 

Find many more review sites  here

Facebook can also be helpful when it comes to smaller businesses and local ones (where you can visit the premises and decide for yourself), but don’t believe everything you read.  There are fake reviews and fake products. In 2019 Amazon detected 6 billion suspicious products and now has its own team of FBI and law and enforcement officers to detect them. See this video too


Beware of Fake Ads

Ads will often pop up in your social media feeds. The same rules apply as above. Check on the company and its reviews before you jump in. 


 

Where to complain if you've been scammed

 Scam -detector 

The Rip Off Report

In Australia Scamwatch

Within the USA contact the Federal Trade Authority

In the USA and Canada, the Better Business Bureau  

Scams in European countries can be reported here

France- DGCCRF    The General Directorate for Competition Policy, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (Direction Générale de la Concurrence, de la Consommation et de la Répression des Fraudes, DGCCRF) protects the interests of the consumer in France. [Alas, this is mostly in French].

- CNIL (Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés) is an independent administrative authority which works to protect privacy and personal data. It provides consumer information on rights and obligations.

Scams by Chinese companies can be reported here

Complaints about International Companies can be reported here


Consumers International  is a coalition of 200 consumer organisations around the world advocating for greater consumer protection and safer products. Click on the link to find out who's active near you.


Coming soon: Protecting yourself against Ransomware and Identity Fraud 

Still to come: The Future of Aviation


 


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