Which Magazine LogoThe consumer magazine “Which” has been going since time began.

 They have always campaigned for changes to the law to help consumers and to stamp out bad practices and they have special legal powers to make this easier on behalf of all consumers.

Which? is a brand name used by the Consumers' Association - a registered charity, based in the United Kingdom. It exists to promote informed consumer choice in the purchase of goods and services by testing products, highlighting inferior products or services, raising awareness of consumer rights and offering independent advice. The association owns several businesses, including Which? Financial Services Limited (Which? Mortgage Advisers), Which? Legal Limited, and Which? Limited, which publishes the Which? magazine.

The Consumers' Association is the largest consumer organisation in the UK, with over 573,000 subscribers to its magazine.

Super-complaints

The Consumers' Association has the power under The Enterprise Act of 2002 to take action on behalf of consumers, including the ability to bring a super-complaint to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). A super-complaint can be made about any market that is not working properly for consumers. The OFT has 90 days in which to assess the complaint and decide what to do about it. It can reject the complaint in part or as a whole, it can launch a market investigation, take action under competition law or consumer law, or refer the market to the Competition Commission for further investigation.

Which? made its first super complaint about private dentistry in 2001.It later made complaints about care homes, the Northern Ireland banking sector and credit card interest calculation methods. In March 2011 it made a super complaint about unfair debit and credit card payment surcharges made by retailers. 

Online Fraud Super-Complaint

In September 2016 Which? filed a super complaint against banks that routinely refuse to reimburse victims who have been scanned into transferring money into fraudsters’ accounts. Which? said banks should “shoulder more responsibility” for such fraud, much as they already reimburse customers who lose money through scams involving fraudulent account activity, or debit or credit cards.

According to official industry data, cases in the UK reported totalled  1,007,094 in the first half of 2016. Which? said: “Consumers can only protect themselves so far. People cannot be expected to detect complex scams pressuring them to transfer money immediately, or lookalike bills from their solicitor or builder” that are copied from genuine bills but have had the bank account number and sort code changed.”

Which? asked the financial regulator, to ensure banks better protect customers who are tricked into sending money to a fraudster. However, the regulator is not yet convinced that banks should be responsible for money lost to bank transfer scams.

Which? need more people to share their scams experiences with them and help put pressure on the regulator to deliver this change.

 Go to  https://campaigns.which.co.uk/scams-fraud-safeguard/ to add your name to the campaign.

Campaign - PPI Mis-Selling

Payment protection insurance (PPI) was usually sold with products that you need to make repayments on, like a loan, credit card or mortgage.  It was designed to cover repayments in certain circumstances where you couldn’t make them yourself. These include if you were made redundant or couldn’t work due to an accident, illness, disability or death.

As many as 64 million PPI policies have been sold in the UK, mostly between 1990 and 2010.

But Which found that PPI was often mis-sold. More than £27bn has already been paid back to people who complained about the sale of PPI.

Campaign – The Big Change

Which don’t think banks always treat their customers fairly and wants bankers to start putting customers first.

The public deserve better and banks should be publicly held to account for their customer service

Which? need your support to convince the regulators, government and banks to deliver better everyday banking

http://www.which.co.uk/campaigns/better-banks/  to add your name to the campaign.

Campaign - Challenging Whirlpool

Which? want to make Whirlpool do more to prevent faulty dryer fires

Some 750 fires have reportedly been linked to Whirlpool’s faulty tumble dryers. Despite beginning a repair programme, Whirlpool’s fire-risk dryers continue to pose a potential threat to people’s homes. Whirlpool’s seemingly slow, and Which? think inadequate, response has further highlighted problems with the current product safety system. Join them in challenging Whirlpool to sort this mess out quickly.

Go to https://campaigns.which.co.uk/challengingwhirlpool/ and add your name to the campaign.

Campaign - Nuisance Calls and Texts

Which? are working with the Government to take action on nuisance calls and text messages.

Which want to stop you from being bombarded by this menace.

Sign their petition and report your nuisance calls to keep up the pressure 

Go to http://www.which.co.uk/campaigns/nuisance-calls-and-texts/ and add your name to the campaign.

 

If you have any experiences with scammers, spammers or time-wasters do let me know – go to the About page then Contact Us.

 

Fat Prairie Dog

In the past, when almost everyone had to work physically hard to get enough food, obesity was not a major problem.  But nowadays, many of us have sedentary lives, get little exercise and have access to a huge range of foods many of which are calorie dense, meaning you don’t have to eat much to get a lot of calories – chips, pasta, sweets, cake, biscuits etc. And we love this stuff, feeding ourselves on processed foods to save time or money or just because we prefer the mix of salt, fats and sugars the manufacturers often load into the products.

1.     The Problem

Obesity is very much a serious problem in the advanced countries and the weight-loss industry is enormous but not necessarily very effective.

In the USA from 1980 to 2000 obesity rates doubled. In 2001, the U.S. surgeon general announced that obesity had reached “epidemic” proportions. Now, around 37% of adults are classed as obese . In Europe the picture is little better with most countries having more than 20% obese and the UK the worst at 28%.

Diets, supplements etc.  clearly help some people, but the problem of obesity continues and ever more fad diets and methods for weight loss keep appearing and sadly many are complete scams, perpetrated by people simply seeking to take advantage and make money for nothing.

The weight-loss industry is worth more than $100 billion worldwide.

2.     Losing Weight

Two of the most commonly used diet methods are the 5:2 diet and the Mediterranean diet which both have good scientific evidence to support them.

But, in theory, you can lose weight on pretty much any diet - as long as you eat fewer calories than your body  consumes in your daily activity.

Many weight loss programmes are quite ridiculous and have no scientific evidence to back them, but people are taken in by Marketing, celebrity endorsements and quite frankly a lot of lies.

Most diets work by making us eliminate certain foods from our diet. Remove one food (or many foods), eat other foods, and you will lose weight. But stopping eating favourite foods is not easy and is difficult to maintain long-term.

Diet regimes where the weight loss is at a moderate rate and can be sustained for a long run stand far better chance of long term weight loss than any of the quick fix methods.  But you can understand why people choose the quick fix rather than the long term slow approach.

The average on most successful short term diets is about 2 -3 pounds per week.  The more fat you have to lose the quicker the process at least initially. It gets harder to lose the last few pounds than the first few.

Even weight loss of one pound per week over a year gives 52 pounds and that’s a lot of weight loss if you can avoid putting it back on again.

3.     Scams and Ridiculous Methods

There are endless ridiculous diets on the market, including:-

·         The wine and eggs diet

·         The baby food diet

·         The cookie diet (seriously, just cookies)

·         The cigarette diet

·         The tapeworm diet (yuk)

·         The chocolate diet (I’d try that)

·         The magnetic diet

Ettc.

Some examples of scams

e.g. Grandma and Grandpa Rapid Weight Loss

Scammers like to pick unusual groups or places from which suddenly emerges a magical secret that can give rapid weight loss or increased brain capacity or a diabetes cure or banish cellulite or even a  cure for Cancer.

One latest one is about how Grandpa Dan and Grandma Sylvia were flying home when Dan had a heart attack and the plane had to land in Germany where they were taught a unique 2 minute ritual that magically melts away belly fat.

So much so that Dan and Sylvia between them have lost 68 pounds of unwanted weight.

https://fightback.ninja/grandma-and-grandpa-rapid-weight-loss/

Another magic weight loss secret (this one is soup) that lets you lose up to 37 pounds in just 20 days. In reality, you’d have to have your mouth sewn shut to have any hope of achieving that speed of weight loss.

Here’s another one.  Apparently, breakthrough research has discovered a fat burning ingredient in a common fruit and this can lead to 47 lbs weight loss in just 30 days. To get that rate of weight loss  I assume they kidnap you, chuck you in a prison and completely starve you for the 30 days. I can do without that.

4.      The Most Popular Diets of 2017

A diet is simply any fixed plan of eating and drinking designed to  achieve weight loss or maintain a weight or in some cases to gain weight.

1. Atkins diet

The Atkins diet, focuses on controlling the levels of insulin in the body through a low-carbohydrate diet.

People on the Atkins diet avoid carbohydrates but can eat as much protein and fat as they like.

2. The Zone diet

The Zone diet aims for a nutritional balance of 40 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent fats, and 30 percent protein in each meal. The focus is also on controlling insulin levels, which may result in successful weight.

3. Ketogenic diet

The ketogenic diet has been used for decades as a treatment for epilepsy and is also being explored for other uses. It involves reducing carbohydrate intake and upping fat intake. It sounds contrary to common sense, but it claims to let the body burn fat as a fuel, rather than carbohydrates.

4. Vegetarian diet

Many people choose a vegetarian diet for ethical reasons, as well as health.

There are many varieties of vegetarian diet including lacto-vegetarian (includes milk products).

5. Vegan diet

A vegan does not eat anything that is animal-based, including eggs, dairy, and honey. Vegans do not usually adopt veganism just for health reasons, but also for environmental, ethical, and compassionate reasons.

6. Weight Watchers diet

Weight Watchers focuses on losing weight through diet, exercise, and a support network.

Dieters can join either physically and attend regular meetings, or online. In both cases, there is lots of support and education available for the dieter.

There are thousands of other diets available of course.

5.     Scam, Fad or Both?

The FTC has provided a checklist, which is intended for advertisers but can also protect consumers from their own gullibility. Think twice before purchasing a product that promises any of the following:

·         Weight loss of two pounds or more a week for a month or more without dieting or exercise.

·         Substantial weight loss no matter what or how much you eat.

·         Permanent weight loss even after you stop using the product.

·         Blocking the absorption of fat or calories to enable you to lose substantial weight.

·         Safely lets you lose more than three pounds per week for more than four weeks.

·         Substantial weight loss for all users.

·         Substantial weight loss by wearing a product on the body or rubbing it into the skin.

6.     The Future

No doubt there will be a constant stream of ridiculous diets and fads for people to follow - celebrity diets, super-foods, supplements and any number of ‘magic’ ingredients to make dieting easier. Many will not work and some will be dangerous.

The successful dieters are most likely those with a very good reason to stick to a diet and those following the straightforward diets such as 5:2 and the Mediterranean diet and those going to Weight Watchers.

Maybe something that is magical in its effect on our weight will happen one day. But I’m not holding my breath waiting for it.

Do you have an opinion on this matter? Please comment in the box below.

 

 

Ransomware

1.     Ransomware

Ransomware started around 2012 and is where your computer pops up a message saying that your files have been encrypted and you can only get them back if you pay a ransom.

Sometimes these messages are just what is called ‘scareware’ i.e. its an empty threat and if you don’t pay then nothing is lost. But the warning can also be real and you find your files have been encrypted and the chance of getting them unencrypted without paying the ransom is very slim.

Even if you do pay the ransom you may not get your files back.

Ransomware usually gets into your computer when you open an email attachment that contains the malicious code,  disguised as a legitimate file. However, WannaCry can jump from one computer to another without the user doing anything.

 

 

2.   Wannacry

 

The story of how WannaCry was so successful in propagating itself starts with the US government.  The NSA discovered a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows but didn’t warn Microsoft. The company did later find the vulnerability and issued security patches to fix it. But not everyone keeps their Windows computers fully up to date with security patches.

The vulnerability was used in a piece of software called EternalBlue which was published on the Internet by a hacking group called Shadow Brokers. Many believe the software was created by the NSA for their own use.

The WannaCry ransomware attack started in May 2017, The ransomware demands users pay $300 worth of online currency Bitcoins to retrieve their files, but the price goes up if they don’t pay on time. Even paying the ransom does not ensure a decryption key will be made available.

A UK cybersecurity researcher (known by the Twitter handle @malwaretechblog)  with the help of Darien Huss from security firm Proofpoint looked at the ransomware and discovered the name of a website which was being accessed by the ransomware. The website address hadn’t been registered by anyone so he bought the domain name. This was to track the progress of the Ransomware, but turned out to be a kill switch. Once there was a website at the domain name then Wannacry stopped spreading.

Back in March 2017, Microsoft  issued security bulletin MS17-010, which explained the flaw in MS Windows and announced that patches had been released. Two months later when Wannacry hit, some organisations had not installed the security patches and hence their systems were vulnerable to the attack.  The day after the attack started Microsoft issued emergency security patches for Windows 7 and Windows 8. Microsoft also later released patches for unsupported Windows XP  and Windows Server 2003.

 The way that Wannacry encrypted files meant that in some cases a decryption key could be generated. This method was posted on the Internet and  a tool known as WannaKey was developed  which could use this method on Windows XP computers.

WannaCry is estimated to have infected around 200,000 computers across 150 countries. According to Kaspersky Lab, the four most affected countries were Russia, Ukraine, India and Taiwan.

The strange thing about Wannacry is that it does not seem to have been designed to make money.  It turned out later that the way Wannacry demands payment by Bitcoin does not give the fraudsters enough information to create  decryption keys per organisation even if they wanted to.  

Previously common ransomware such as J.Lockey made millions of dollars for its perpetrators. But Wannacry only collected around $140,000. Once victims knew they couldn’t get a decryption key – they stopped paying.  

What was it all about?

3.   The NHS

Wannacry was rapidly spread across Europe and Asia and happened to hit the NHS very hard for a series of reasons including that they had old Windows 95 machines on their network and because their network has a huge number of computers attached to it. 

The attack affected many National Health Service hospitals in England and Scotland, and up to 70,000 devices – including computers, MRI scanners, operating theatre equipment and more were affected in some cases.

 On 12 May, some NHS services had to turn away non-critical emergencies. This was life threatening for some.

4.     Who Created Wannacry?

Linguistic analysis of the ransom notes indicated the authors were likely fluent in Chinese and proficient in English.

Cybersecurity companies Kaspersky Lab and Symantec have both said the code has some similarities with that previously used by the Lazarus Group (believed to have carried out the cyberattack on Sony Pictures in 2014 and a Bangladesh bank heist in 2016—and linked to North Korea). This could also be either simple re-use of code by another group or an attempt to shift blame. North Korea denies being responsible for the cyberattack.

 

5.     The Future of Ransomware

Wannacry seems to be about disruption rather than collecting money.

Plus it has the ability to jump from one computer to another – this makes ransomware much more dangerous than the versions that simply demand a few hundred dollars.

It can be expected that there are people working hard to create a new ransomware with that jumping capability but looking to make a lot of money.

The problems at the NHS showed that such ransomware can endanger life.

Hopefully many people will have been woken up by what happened and realise they have to put in the funds to keep their systems fully up to date with security patches and put more effort into maintaining the confidentiality of their customers and staff as the next generation of ransomware may be designed to capture confidential data as well.

As to the people who just want to cause disruption or deny us access to data – we can probably expect more such attacks and with a variety of reasons behind them.

Keep your online security fully up to date.

Do you have an opinion on this matter? Please comment in the box below.

 

One EuroIf you’ve been scammed, then you need to notify the Police and get a crime number as you will need that when reporting the crime to your insurance company and others.

 Depending what happened, you may have insurance that covers the loss so it’s always worth checking.

If the Police do not prosecute the fraudsters, it can be possible to make a civil prosecution yourself in some circumstances, but you would need to take legal guidance on your case to see if that can be done.

Assuming you have lost money in the scam, then there are different ways to  try to get your money back depending on how the money was paid.

 

1 Credit Cards

If you've paid for goods or services with a credit  card, you may be able to get your money back from the card provider.

Credit cards have the greatest protection, as you can make a claim against your card provider under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act (because it means the credit card company is liable for any breach of contract or misrepresentation by the seller). This only applies to purchases between £100 and £30,000.

2 Debit Cards

If you used a debit card, you may be able to ask your bank to get your money back through the chargeback scheme.

Chargeback is part of Scheme Rules, which participating banks subscribe to.

It applies to all debit card transactions including goods costing less that £100.

There are no guarantees your bank will be able to recover the money through chargeback, but you can try this route.

Chargeback also applies to credit card transactions and is particularly useful where the goods cost less than £100.

3 Unauthorised Card Transactions

If there is a transaction on your card you know nothing about, then you can make a claim from your card supplier as it is an “unauthorised transaction”.

If you hand over your card to have a specific  amount debited from it e.g. to pay a restaurant bill, and then you find more money has been taken without your permission, or a sum has been taken by someone else, you can make a claim for this extra amount. Make sure you report the unauthorised transaction as soon as you become aware of it.

The Payment Services Regulations 2009 and the Banking Conduct of Business rules place obligations on banks and building societies to provide a refund in these circumstances if specific rules are met.

4 Bank transfers

If you've been conned into transferring money into another bank account than you should contact your bank immediately, so they can try to recover the funds.

if somehow the bank has contributed to the fraud or if they've failed to try to recover the funds properly, you might have grounds to complain

If your bank doesn’t  give you a refund, then you can escalate your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service (and do warn the bank)

You should also contact the police to get a crime number as this may be necessary for your claim.

5.         Direct Debit

Contact your bank immediately if there has been an unauthorised direct debit on your account or the amount of a direct debit is higher than you expected.  These are sometimes setup by the fraudster to take small amounts of money regularly in the hope you wont notice.

6 Money Transfer

If you’ve transferred money to a scammer using a money transfer service such as Western Union then it’s almost impossible to get your money back as it’s untraceable.  It’s effectively the same as giving cash.

Money transfer services provide advice on how to avoid fraud and scams, so it’s a good idea to take note of it before using such a service.

7.         Paypal

If the scammer has taken payment for an item through PayPal and then hasn’t sent it to you, you may be covered by PayPal Buyer Protection. But do claim quickly.

In some cases scammers set up a fake PayPal payment form which actually just collects your bank details. In this case, you have no protection under the PayPal Buyer Protection Scheme as you didn’t use the genuine PayPal screen.

 

A scammer may pay through PayPal, take delivery of the order, and then claim that they didn't receive it and make a claim through PayPal Buyer Protection. If you’re caught by this scam you’ll probably want to make a claim under PayPal Seller Protection. PayPal will investigate what happened.

8.         Payment by Mobile Phone

Paym, Pingit and other mobile services  offer means to pay for goods and services using your mobile phone.

If there are any problems in payment then you need to contact the relevant shop, online retailer or whoever took the payment as soon as possible. Plus of course you notify the payment provider (Paym etc.)

If you are defrauded and made the payment by mobile phone then contact the payment provider.

If you have made an electronic payment but to the wrong account then talk to your bank immediately.

Improvements to industry procedures made in January 2016 make the process of attempting to get your money back more straightforward than previously but do act fast.

 Be careful when making any payment and consider whether or not you would be covered in the event of fraud.

If you have any experiences with scammers, spammers or time-wasters do let me know – go to the About page then Contact Us.

 

Euros

There are innumerable financial scams – largely because of the attraction of large sums of money to the victims and for the fraudsters there’s the reality of taking money from people for nothing, largely by using their own greed against them.

Online fraud is a huge industry with countless victims and it’s getting worse.

UK statistics show:-

Financial fraud losses across payment cards, remote banking and cheques totalled £755 million in 2015, an increase of 26 per cent compared to 2014.

Card Fraud is split up as follows:-

·         70% is remote purchases – i.e. where stolen card details are used

·         13% is lost and stolen cards

·         2% is card not received i.e. the card is stolen in transit

·         8% is counterfeit cards

·         7% is card ID theft – the fraudster uses the person’s identity information to get their card details

We all need to be more aware then ever of these scams and how to avoid them.

The five most common online financial frauds in the UK are:-

 1. Cold Callers

The victims may receive telephone calls offering them an investment opportunity with very high returns (20% or 40% or more.). The scammer warns that the offer is only open while on the call so the victim has to make a fast choice or lost the opportunity.  There may be a complicated story to explain why the offer is possible and cannot last.  The scammer will want payment by bank transfer or via a money transfer business such as Western Union. The bank account would be emptied once the payment is received ad payment via money transfer cannot be tracked or reversed.

2. Phishing

These are scams where the scammer pretends to be working for a trusted organisation such as a bank or electric company, local government, BT, Microsoft, and Google etc. Their aim is to get your details so they can access your online accounts, empty your bank account or use identity theft to pretend to be you and take out loans etc.

3. Pensions

Since the government changed the law so that people could take out some or all of their pension pot before retirement, people over 55 have been bombarded by cold callers offering “wonderful” schemes that supposedly give the victim access to their funds and still protect their pension.

Some of these schemes are genuine but carry such heavy charges that they are a very bad deal for the victim and many are just fake – they are simply a way for scammers to get your money.

4. Homebuying Fraud

Buying a home is the largest money transaction most people ever make and this is why scammers love it.

If they can get into your emails or those of your solicitor then they monitor what’s going on and wait for the opportunity to create their own email claiming to be from the solicitors telling you which account to pay into.

It’s their account of course and the money will quickly transferred out and gone. This scam intercepts cash transferred as a home deposit to a solicitor in the lead up to exchange and completion.

5. Free Offers

There are numerous free offers, free trials etc. available for all sorts of products from cosmetics to foods.

To get the free items, you hand over your credit card details or bank details and you may get something free. But the scammers create a direct debit or recurring payment and you may not notice for a some time the money being drained from your account. Once you notice it’s difficult to get through to the company and get the payments stopped.

These are personal frauds but there are the very large scale frauds that happen such as these two examples.:-

The Traffic Monsoon Ponzi Scheme

Pyramid investment scheme worth £160 million was shut down after taking money from 162,000 people

Traffic Monsoon, run by Charles Scoville, claimed to make people money through online advertising ‘AdPacks’ but   Scoville, an American “entrepreneur” has a history of similar schemes that collapse.

https://fightback.ninja/the-traffic-monsoon-ponzi-scheme/

OneCoin Cyber Currency

Emails about OneCoin claim this is the new cyber currency that has made more than 300 millionaires already. It is a claim of money from nowhere and the authorities in multiple countries are investigating the company.

OneCoin says it is a digital currency similar to bitcoin but with key differences such as it uses a centralized hub for exchange, storage and transaction logging. This difference has led some to claim that OneCoin isn’t a cyber currency at all.

It’s just a scam.

https://fightback.ninja/onecoin-cyber-currency/

 

Be wary.

TrackingIf you visit a website that sells say clothes, then the website will almost certainly include some kind of tracking.

 This is so the owners can look at how people shop on their site – which pages are accessed the most, what do people do after marking an item for purchase – do they go straight to the checkout or keep browsing etc.?

They can use this analysis to improve their website and hence make it a better place to shop.

This makes sense and isn’t really intrusive – you pretty much expect the website owners to be interested in how people shop on their site and how to improve it.

Targeted Advertising

It is very common now that you look at items for sale on one website then find those items appear as adverts on other websites you visit.

The basic idea is that advertising can be targeted at people who have already shown an interest in specific products.

This happens a lot with Amazon – you view some items then the next websites you visit show ads for those items whether or not you actually bought them.

 For some people this is an improvement on adverts for completely random items, but for others it’s an intrusion into their privacy as it shows information on your browsing habits appears to be getting passed from company to company.

That isn’t entirely true as what happens is that, for example:-

A.      You visit Amazon and view boat shoes

B.      You then visit company B which has a deal  with Amazon to let Amazon shows its adverts on the website

C.      Amazon knows you have looked at boat shoes and picks adverts for those products to show on the website of company B.

D.      You see ads for the boat shoes you viewed on Amazon, but data has not changed hands.

Closer Targeted Advertising

Companies are trying more closely targeted advertising. For example Facebook recently announced a new feature that lets businesses target families. One member of a family may look at a travel site of Italian villas then the rest of the family see targeted advertising of Italian villas as well.

Again, for some people it’s better to see adverts they may possibly be interested in rather than random ones, but for others this is an invasion of privacy.

How Do They Track My Browsing Activities?

Tracking cookies can collect a lot of information about your device, including Your IP address, screen size, time-zone, plug-ins, and operating system. These items add up to become your “browsing fingerprint”.

These identifiers are not unique per person but less than one in a million will have the same browsing fingerprint.

If a company has trackers in lots of different websites across the internet, they can recognise you by this fingerprint.

They use tracking cookies (and website logs if they own the website) to record your browsing history.

What Profiles Are There On Me?

That depends on which websites you browse, which search engines you use and which if any add-ons you have installed.

In the European Union, companies have to show you the information they have on you if you ask for it, due to European privacy laws which include the statement  “Anyone interacting with an EU company or government agency can, for any reason, request all the data that entity has about oneself, and the company or government agency must comply”. 

These profiles may well contain errors so if you get copies of it then you can ask for changes to be made.

However, you will have to prove who you are and the companies will store that information about you.

Google

Google basically stores everything – every search whether typed in or spoken.

If you go to “Google Adverts settings” then you can see a little of what Google knows about you.

If you go to Google Settings you can delete your browsing history and cookies etc. if you wish. Note that deleting cookies may mean websites that remembered you will not next time.

Google's location history, or timeline page, brings up a Google Map and allows you to select specific dates and times and see where you were. Its accuracy depends on whether you were signed into your Google account and carrying a phone or tablet at the time.

If you want to delete this, then on the timeline page click the settings button in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen and select delete all.

Delete all your online accounts at Deseat.me

If you want to delete profiles that companies hold about you on the Internet, then the Swedish website Deseat.me gives that a go. It uses your Google login to find as many profiles as possible and delete them.

Once you logged in, it brings up your online and social media accounts and allows you to delete yourself from them.

 

This doesn’t cover everything on the Internet about you of course, but it’s a start. And if you use the relevant websites again then they will build a new profile about you.

 

Romantic CoupleThere are countless people looking for love, romance and commitment and scammers think these people are easy marks. Numerous scammers spend their days pretending to be in love with various people and building a relationship to the point where they ask for money and sometimes get it. When the prospective partner stops paying then the scammer moves on to new victims.

 

This is cynical, nasty and immoral.

In 2016, almost 15,000 complaints categorized as romance scams or confidence fraud were reported to IC3  (Internet Crime Complaint Centre) and that’s up on the previous year. The losses associated with those complaints exceeded $230 million

How Do They Con People?

Scammers create fake profiles on dating sites and use other people’s pictures and background. They typically pick someone on the Internet who is very attractive and copy their photo and details.  They then amend the details to make themselves desirable to the sort of victim they seek. The scammer will ask lots of questions of the victim and use the answers to make themselves appear just what the victim was looking for.

Once they have established a relationship then the requests for money start.  

This might be for requests for  aeroplane tickets to travel to visit the victim, medical expenses, education expenses etc. There is usually the promise that the scammer will one day join the victim in the victim's country. The scam usually ends when the victim realizes they are being scammed and stops sending money. This can be a very embarrassing and hurtful experience for the victims. 

Examples of the Stories Commonly Used

1.       The scammer needs the money for urgent medical treatment (or treatment for a parent or sibling).

2.       The scammer says they haven’t been paid in weeks and just needs cash to tide them over till their salary is released.

3.       The scammer needs money to pay for a passport or flight to meet the victim.

4.       The scammer needs to pay off corrupt immigration officials.

5.       The scammer has had money or valuables seized by customs and need to pay tax before it can be released.

6.       The scammer needs money to pay the phone bill or Internet bill in order to stay in communication

 

The Fake Military Personnel Scam

This is a variant on the usual romance scam, where the scammer pretends to be in the armed forces.

Here’s an excerpt of a typical email interaction between a scammer and a woman (complete with spelling mistakes).

hello dear what is a beautiful woman like you doing here, do yoy mean no men with eyes in [city]..you are beautifull, i am not always here you can drop your email or yahoo messanger id so we could chat more...bye

He has excuses why you cannot phone him, skype, Face time or any other way of seeing him Live as that would show up that he’s not an American military man – just a scammer using someone else photos off the Internet.

The website www.scamwarners.com has a lot of information on the scammers who impersonate military personnel, so if you’re unsure of someone claiming to be in the military, then try scamwarners.com

http://fightback.ninja/the-fake-military-personnel-scam/ for more details.

Professional Daters

The professional dater is different from the standard online scammer as s/he will likely meet the victim face-to-face.

The scammer may ask for gifts from the victim or use a set of stories as listed above to get money from the victim.

In some cases, the professional dater even arranges for a visit to his country. Once there. The victim is taken to lots of places and meets various people working with the scammer (taxi drivers, retailers, hoteliers, restaurateurs etc.). The end result is a very expensive holiday for the victim.

The relationship goes nowhere and the victim returns home lighter in pocket but still believing. The requests for money continue until the victim realises it was a scam.

 

http://romancescams.org/    contains a lot of material about romance scams and the scammers. 

The Warning signs of an Online Romance Scam

You meet someone online and after just a few contacts they profess strong feelings for you, and ask to chat with you privately - that may be infatuation or maybe it’s a scammer trying to ensnare you.

·         Their profile on the internet dating website or their Facebook page is not consistent with what they tell you. E.g.  they say they are university educated but their use of language is very basic.

·         After initial communications, they have an elaborate story and ask for money or gifts.

·         Their messages are often poorly written, vague and seem repetitious.

·         If you don’t send money, their messages and calls become more desperate and persistent. If you do send money, they find reasons to keep asking for more.

·         They don’t keep their promises and always have an excuse for why they can't travel to meet you and why they always need more money.

Protect yourself

If you see the warning signs of a scam, then talk with friends or relatives and research online to see if the photos are real (e.g. with Google image search) and check their background.

 

Above all, do not give any money and do not give out confidential information.

 

 

Pillar BoxRoyal Mail say they take the issue of scam mail very seriously and are  coordinating an industry-wide response to tackle fraudulent mail at its source.

They have developed an industry-wide code of practice and invited all mail operators in the UK to sign-up. This code sets out how the industry can actively work together, and with law enforcement agencies, to tackle the scourge of scam mail.

Whistl and UK Mail have confirmed that they will support the code of practice.

The Code of Practice

Companies signing up to the code of practice will voluntarily commit to meeting the following obligations:

1.       Actively work together, and with law enforcement agencies, to tackle the scourge of scam mail

2.       Proactively share intelligence of confirmed scam mailings and suspected scam mailings

3.       Terminate any mailing identified by law enforcement agencies as being used to attempt to scam the recipients

4.       Include anti-scam terms and conditions in contracts

5.       Forge closer ties with law enforcement agencies and the broader communications community to prevent scams through letters, electronic communications, telephone calls and other means

6.       Provide help and support for victims of scams by sharing information received in our enquiries with appropriate partners including the National Trading Standards Scams Team, law enforcement and other agencies.

The Royal Mail are also:-

• Including specific anti-scam mail clauses in all of Royal Mail’s bulk mail contracts. These clauses will enable them to refuse to carry mail that is deemed to be fraudulent

• Engaging at a European level with other postal operators. This is about seeking to attack scam mail on a pan-European basis

• Commissioning dedicated research by Bournemouth University into postal scams. They believe this will be one of the most comprehensive pieces of research into the area. This report will be shared with the rest of the industry and law enforcement agencies.

Legal Obligation

Royal Mail is bound by the Universal Service Obligation and is required by law to deliver all mail entrusted to it. However, they say they are determined to do all they can to prevent scam mail entering the postal system with the help of their customers.

What Can You Do?

If you think you or a family member are receiving scam mail, you can report it to Royal Mail by completing a form online and posting it to Royal Mail. (https://personal.help.royalmail.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/303 and click on ‘completing an online form’).

 The Freepost address is below where you can send the form along with the original envelope and any items of mail you have received that are relevant.

Alternatively, let them know your full name, address and a contact telephone number via the email or telephone options below and they will send you a form to complete together with a prepaid addressed envelope in which to return the form with examples of the scam mail received.

By post:              FREEPOST SCAM MAIL

By Email:            This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

By Telephone:    03456 113 413 (message service only)

As the largest deliverer of spam and scam letters, it was high time the Royal Mail did something to stop the flood of such items, especially to vulnerable people.

 

Let’s hope this permanently blocks  a large chunk of the spam and scam items.

 

 

CoinsMany of the perpetrators of Advance Fee Fraud  are Nigerian and this is generally known as the 419 scam, named  after  section 419 of the Nigerian penal code which addresses fraud schemes

 

Typically, the scams promise a large sum of money – an inheritance, money locked up by government, a donation or something similar. They send out tens of millions of spam emails offering the money and wait for replies from people who believe they will get something for nothing.

However, these people end up paying processing fees or release fees etc. and there is no large sum of money.

You might think that most people know of these scams and no-one would get caught out anymore but that is sadly not true. It is estimated that hundreds of millions of dollars flow into Nigeria each year through these scams.

People in other countries do use these scams as well of course but it is predominantly people in Nigeria.

How a Typical Scam Plays Out

1.       The recipient receives an email or letter or fax from an alleged "official" often in a Nigerian Ministry but can be from any government or official sounding body.  It contains an offer to share a large sum of money (usually in the millions) with the recipient.

2.       He receives numerous documents with official looking stamps, seals and logo testifying to the authenticity of the proposal.

3.       He is asked to provide blank company letterhead forms, banking account information, telephone/fax numbers.

4.       Eventually the recipient must provide up-front or advance fees for various taxes, attorney fees, transaction fees or bribes or something similar.

5.       He is encouraged to travel overseas to receive the money.

6.       There is no large sum of money and the scammers move onto their next victim.

 

The most common forms of these scams are:-

  • ·        Inheritance
  • ·         Contract fraud
  • ·         Purchase of property
  • ·         Currency conversion 
  • ·         Over invoiced contracts
  • ·         Sale of crude oil at below market prices
  • ·         Government schemes

The confidential nature of the transaction and its urgency is emphasized repeatedly to make the recipient believe they are part of something big.

Although these schemes have been around for some time, there has been a big increase recently in such activities.

The Nigerian Government blames the growing problem on mass unemployment, extended family systems, a get rich quick syndrome, and, especially, the greed of foreigners.

Illicit Gains

The scammer wants to make the victim believe that he is being drawn into a very lucrative, albeit questionable, arrangement. He will become the primary supporter of the scheme and willingly give large sums of money when the deal is threatened which is common in these scams as a way of getting further money and involvement by the victim.

The recipient is now effectively a partner in this nefarious scheme. To prolong the scam, an alleged problem will suddenly arise e.g. an official may demand an up-front fee that has to be paid before the money can be released. This may be a licensing fee, local tax, attorney fees or anything similar. Each fee paid is described as the very last required. But, oversights and errors in the deal are discovered by the Nigerians and that means more payments are required and the scheme stretched out over a months.

Dangers

There can be dangers beyond that of losing money.

Victims are often asked to travel to Nigeria or a border country to collect the money.  They may be told that a visa is not be necessary to enter the country. The Nigerian con artists then bribe airport officials to pass the victims through Immigration and Customs. However, it is a serious offence to enter Nigeria without a valid visa and this can be held over the victim to extort more money. Threats of violence may follow if money is not paid.  Once in Nigeria the victim is at the mercy of the scammers and they have various ways to get more money from the victim.

Variants on the Basic Scam

The scammers know their scam is well known and they play on that to create variants.

e.g. The Repayment Scam

Scammers send out their messages claiming to be from the United Nations or Interpol or the FBI or similar and tasked with retuning money and paying compensation to those who have fallen for such scams and those on the scammers lists.

One such variant of the scam claims to be from the Secretary-General of the United Nations. It explains that he has been tasked with cleaning up the corruption in Nigeria and stopping the scammers.  Apparently he is working with the Nigerian Police, special FBI and CIA agents in Nigeria and has managed to apprehend numerous scammers.

Then comes the interesting part – he has been authorised to make payments of $5 million to each person on a scam list and guess what?  My name is on that list. Hence I will receive $5 million.

It instructs me not to make any payments to Nigerian Police or anyone else in Nigeria.

To release the funds I just need to pay a UN clearance fund fee to his office at the UN.

This is a creative way to try to get around the bad press that Nigerian 419 scams are getting.

e.g. The Kind Helper Nigerian 419 Scam

Mrs Marina Luda contacted me. She is a US citizen who is 48 and lives in Silver Springs in Florida.

Her story is that she was robbed by Nigerian 419 scammers.

Mrs Luda says she was scammed out of $85,000 and tried to claim compensation but got nothing so she went to the FBI and they told her to contact Barrister James Leo who would help her.

The Barrister did help her and got her $5.5 million in compensation.

Why the compensation is so much higher than the amount she lost is not explained and of course makes no sense.

She says she contacted me because she saw my name and email address on a compensation list. So I have to stop dealing with whoever has been helping me to claim compensation and instead go to Barrister James Leo who will get me millions of dollars.

This is all lies of course and seems a very strange story to concoct.

Anyone who believes they will get millions of dollars in compensation for having lost a small amount is far too open to being scammed and should think again.

As the Nigerian government suggests, where there are greedy foreigners there are likely to be fraudsters wanting to relieve them of their money.

Do click on the Facebook or Twitter icons on top right to follow Fight Back Ninja.

Step 1. Attempt to Resolve Problem

Before you go to court, you must try and settle a claim before taking court action. If you don't try to settle first, the court may penalise you.

If you've got an issue about faulty goods, you must try to resolve the situation yourself first. For example if your TV's stopped working, contact the shop first in writing. Say you'll giving them a reasonable time to reply (eg a month), and that you'll take court action if they don't reply by then.

You could also try mediation, if the other party agrees - a third party will try to help both parties agree on a solution. There's usually a fee for this.

If you're disabled, you should check the court's facilities online. If you can't get into the court because of your disability, the case may be transferred to a more suitable court.

Step 2. Identify the Defendant

Often, you know exactly who you want to prosecute, but sometimes, especially with scammers it can be difficult to identify the company or person you want to sue. The process cannot start until you know who to specify on the court documents.  Companies House records can sometimes help or determined searching on the Internet or looking for examples where other people have been scammed by the same fraudster and may have identified the culprit.

Step 3. Legal Advice

Legal advice can be a huge help in many cases but this does cost money and that puts a lot of people off. For many, dealing with a solicitor is not their first choice – Citizen’s Advice can in some cases be of great help and there is extensive information available on the Internet. Be careful though as some information on the Internet is merely opinion dressed up as fact.

Step 4 Evidence

You will need solid evidence to support your case. All relevant documentation needs to be collected.  Any emails, records of phone conversations, credit card statements, bank statements, payments etc. are all essential to proving your case.  If you claiming damage rather than just financial loss then you need evidence for that, where possible.

Step 5. The Small Claims Court

The Small Claims court is setup to be as easy as possible and fairly cheap for anyone to sue an individual or businesses that has defrauded them in some way.  It is normally for cases where less than £10,000 is in dispute.

The most common claims are:

•             bad service compensation e.g. by a plumber or hairdresser

•             faulty goods e.g. a television or mobile phone

•             disputes with landlords over damage

Step 6. Make a Claim

You can claim on paper but it’s easier to do so online and the system helps you as go along.

https://www.gov.uk/make-money-claim-online is the official government website.

To use the online service you need to have a Government Gateway login and password. If you don’t have this then get it in advance as it will take days to receive the details in the post. Go to http://www.gateway.gov.uk/

Step 7. What Happens Next?

On receiving the court documents, the defendant can choose to accept that they owe the money and agree to pay it – so there’s no need for a court case.

If the defendant doesn't respond to the court documents, then the claimant can ask for an order to be made against them.  

If the defendant does reply to the court then the court considers the documents and decides which legal track to allocate the case to.

Step 8. The Notice of Allocation and Directions

For a small claims court case, both parties will be sent a form called a 'notice of allocation'.  The form says what you'll have to do to prepare for the hearing (the date and location are set).

You might be told to send copies of documents you'll be using at the hearing to the court in and the other party at least 14 days before the hearing.

Step 9. The Hearing

You chose whether you wish to attend the hearing. If you don’t then the court will deal with the claim in your absence.

Step 10. Judgement

The majority of cases are dealt with quickly and a judgement issued. If that’s on the claimant’s side then the court will order the defendant to pay.  

Statistics

There were 21,860 County Court Judgements against business in England and Wales during the first three months of 2016, a 17 percent fall on the same period the previous year and the lowest first quarter since the financial crisis high of 71,867 judgments in Q1 2009.

The number of such judgements against individuals is far higher.

 

If you have any experiences with scammers, spammers or time-wasters do let me know – go to the About page then Contact Us.

The Dark Web is the part of the World Wide Web (and associated services) that is hidden. You won’t find these sites on Google or other search engines because they have never been registered  and deliberately don’t have links from other sites that Google or the other search engines know about.  The only way to find these sites is to be given the relevant Internet address. i.e. URL. And usually a login and password or encryption required.

Much of this is to cover illicit and/or illegal activity such as fraud, phishing, terrorist activities, hacking etc.

However, there is also a lot of activity on the Dark web that people don’t want to be seen but is not illegal such as whistle-blowers preparing or sharing information, things that are legal in some jurisdictions but not in others, unmonitored communication in countries with totalitarian controls etc. 

The Dark Net is comprised of Tor, I2P and similar networks plus many peer to peer networks .

Dark Net websites are accessible only through networks such as Tor and I2P ("Invisible Internet Project"). Tor browser and Tor-accessible sites are widely used among the Dark Netusers and can be identified by the domain ".onion".

Tor was created by the U.S Navy and focuses on providing anonymous access to the Internet. I2P specialises in allowing anonymous hosting of websites. Using these technologies means that the Identity and location of a Dark Net user cannot be tracked.  

The Dark Net encryption technology routes users' data through a series of  servers each of which encrypt the message thus adding layered encryption and making it virtually impossible to decrypt.  

Due to this complicated system, websites are not able to track geolocation and IP of their users and the users are not able to get this information about the server.

 

Communication between Dark Net users is thus highly encrypted allowing them to talk, blog, and share files confidentially.

Web Based Hidden Services

The biggest uses of the Dark Web according to a 2016 study by researchers at King's College London are:-

Drugs, markets, fraud, Bitcoin, email, whistle-blowers, counterfeiting and online anonymity.

These include the following:-

Botnets

Botnets are networks of controlled computers that can be used to attack a website – causing service interruptions or even crashes.. Botnets are often controlled from the Dark Web and can be rented for use via the Dark Web.

Bitcoin services

These services convert money into Bitcoins or vice versa and are sometimes used as a way of laundering money.

Dark Web Markets

Commercial Dark Web markets such as Silk Road have become famous as the illegal equivalent to Amazon, giving people access to buy and sell drugs, guns, secrets, software viruses and more.   Silk Road was taken down by the authorities in 2016 but has been replaced by numerous smaller markets on the dark web.

Other markets sell malware and software tools, weapons and much more. Research into the quality of products advertised compared to their actual quality shows some products do match but for illegal drugs usually the product is much poorer quality than advertised.

Hackers

Many hackers sell their services there individually or as a part of groups such as  xDedic and hackforum,

Hacking tools of all possible kinds are available for sale on the Dark Markets. People can buy kits for carrying out Phishing attacks on a large scale.

Fraud

There are many fraud based services available as people offer the techniques and software tools necessary for various kinds of fraud.   

Phishing and scams

There are endless scam and phishing Dark Web sites . Many such sites are themselves scams. If you’re defrauded on the Dark Web trying to buy something illegal – you can’t exactly complain to the Police.   

Terrorism

There are at least some real and fraudulent websites claiming to be used by ISIS. In the wake of the November 2015 Paris attacks an actual such site was hacked by an Anonymous affiliated hacker group GhostSec and replaced with an advert for Prozac. The Rawti Shax Islamist group was found to be operating on the dark web at one time.

The Dark Net is a dangerous place. 

How Identities are Stolen

Scammers have lots of ways to get identity information, including rummaging through bins, fake websites, a stolen wallet or purse, social media for people who publish too much information about themselves, letters and calls asking for information etc.

But the most common method is “phishing” emails. This means to send out emails designed to get people to input their confidential information. Usually the scammers pretend to be from the victim’s bank or the local council or HMRC or telecoms company, Marks and Spencer, Tesco or one of hundreds of other respectable organisations.  The scammer may ask you to send a return email with confidential information or more likely includes a link for you to click on and it will lead to a website that looks correct but is fake and its intention is to collect your confidential information which can then be used or sold to other scammers.


How Do You Know If Your Identity Has Been Stolen?

You may notice something strange in your bank or credit cards statements, or receive a phone call from a financial organisation suspicious over something or you may apply for a loan and be refused unexpectedly.

These things may not happen immediately so your identity may have been stolen weeks or even months before you find out.

 

Immediate Steps on Realising Your Identity has been Stolen
The first thing is to tell the Police and get a Police crime number. You will need that for contacting your insurance company, credit card companies etc. 

A.      Change all of the passwords on your computer. Use strong passwords i.e. at least 8 characters long and include capitals and symbols.

B.      Make sure you have good anti-virus software and anti-malware software on all computers.

C.      Run full scans to check if there is any malware on your computers.

 
Follow-Up Actions
Contact any organisations you have financial dealings with i.e.  banks, financial institutions, other creditors,  auction sites, retailers etc.  Keep copies or notes of all contacts (email, letters, phone calls etc,). If necessary then cancel any credit cards and get your accounts changed. 

 

The credit reference agencies can be useful, so contact them to inform them that your identity has been stolen and of your innocence in any dodgy transactions. If they record of any transactions that are in your name but you didn’t do then follow up on these and challenge them with the relevant organisation.


Sometimes, criminals intercept people’s post so if you don’t seem to be getting the usual amount of post then check with the Post Office to see if a redirect order has been put into operation.

 

CIFAS Protective Registration Service can mark your identity with a red flag that warns organisation seeking to issue a credit card or similar in your name that your identity has previously been stolen and extra checks are needed.  This is only for people who have been victims of identity theft.


How to Protect Yourself


Consider: taking the following steps:-

1.       Make a list of all your credit and debit cards, including contact telephone numbers for reporting problems  and keep it in a safe place.

2.       Sign up with a credit reference agency and get your credit report at least once a year, and check every entry looking for anything suspicious. If there is anything suspicious,, report it immediately. Review your bank and credit card statements monthly.

3.       Keep your till receipts and card payment receipts etc. for at least 3 months

4.       Buy a shredder and shred any financial documents and anything with your name and address on.

5.       If someone calls claiming to be from your bank or credit card company, do not give out any personal information on the phone. If important, call the bank or agency  so you can be confident of who you are talking with.   

6.       Do not reply to emails that ask for confidential information and do not click on links in emails or open attached documents unless you are sure they are safe.

7.       Make sure your computer has good anti-virus and anti-malware software installed and regularly run scans.

8.       Don't use the same password for everything. They should be at least 8 characters long and contain capital letters and symbols..

9.       If you're making an online payment or logging in, ensure there is a padlock symbol on the left of the Internet address.

10.    Choose to pay by credit, rather than debit, card as it gives you better protection.

 

 

 

Do click on the Facebook or Twitter icons on top right to follow Fight Back Ninja.