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.

 

 

 

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The "computer underground'' is a label that has been used by the media over the last twenty years or so and is familiar to most people.  It is a culture of hackers, phreaks, pirates, fraudsters and others, but most people just think of the hackers, as portrayed in the media.  

Like any "underground'' communities, it tends to be a loose affiliation of different groups rather than any type of cohesive unit.

Piracy

Video piracy has been around since the early days of video recording and software piracy from the beginning of software.  There are many people who delight in getting early copies of new popular software and games or movies, books etc. - anything in digital form that people pay for. Some of these people do it for fun, to be the first or because they believe that such material should be made available free of charge. There are many others of course who just do this for money and often take what the amateurs have released and make their money from it.

This is fraud, but that is too simple a view. In the early days of PC software, piracy was how a lot of software spread and became popular and some makers realised that and didn’t chase the pirates. But nowadays it is mostly about being first or making money.

HACKERS

The word “hackers” used to mean people who wrote programming code but has come to mean people who access systems without authorisation. “White Hat” meaning people on the side of the law and their methods and “Black Hat” meaning lawbreakers and the methods they use.

Most cop shows on TV e.g. CSI, NCIS, Castle etc  include hackers in their teams to catch the bad guys.

The name ‘phreakers’ is less commonly used and just means hackers who use phone systems rather than computer systems.

Hackers can see what they do as a challenge and want to see which government or big organisations they can hack into, often without any malicious intent. Don’t forget a lot of these people are just teenagers. Of course there are many who do this for money or political reasons and as we know from recent scandals, governments can be the biggest hackers of all. .

Hackers are largely as portrayed on TV, single teenage males who enjoy being part of an illicit community.

 

The authorities do chase and apprehend hackers, especially if damage is done or the hackers gain access to government information.

 

Representation in  the Media

The film “War Games” was the first one to really reach the public consciousness with a hero who hacked his school grades then became indispensable in stopping a runaway department of defence computer intent on firing nuclear weapons.  It’s also a very entertaining film.

Since then, lots of movies and TV programmes have included hackers – of both the good and bad varieties.

More recently, the latest incarnation of the series CSI was CSI:Cyber in 2015 which focused on cyber crimes and used largely ex cyber criminals to catch the new bad guys.  This series highlighted some of the ways that bad guys use cyber skills to cheat people or just get what they want. It also showed how vulnerable a lot of organisations are to cyber attacks and the damage that can be done. It was interesting but was cancelled after 2 series. The lead actor in the show was Patricia Arquette. 

Finally

Hackers and piracy are here to stay with us. The computer underground will likely continue to grow and computers and hacking become ever more important parts of our lives. The number of fraudsters using computer systems, emails etc. to steal from people grows each year as does the effort by the authorities to stop it. It seems that computers systems become ever more complex and that unfortunately leads to more security holes that can be used with malicious intent.

Many in the computer underground are teenagers who just treat their activities as learning experiences, but too many are in it for money and stealing that from others.

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

It can be very simple and quick for people to create websites – good websites and bad websites.

 

 

What can you do if you encounter a bad website? Bad in this case doesn’t mean something you don’t like but a website that is a scam or misleading or steals your personal information or is a copy of someone else’s website, contain dangerous or offensive material etc.

 

Where Can You Report a Bad Website?

 

You can report a bad website to the authorities and to the main search engines such as Google, to anti scam warning websites and to review websites.

 

The internet has made it easier than ever before to complain about poor customer service or warn others of a scam. If other people have encountered problems in the past they will often show in the search results.

 

Report to Search Engines

 

Report the Site to Google Safe Browsing:  Check first to see if the site is already flagged. If not you can submit the site on this page.  https://safebrowsing.google.com/safebrowsing/report_badware/

 

The Google Safe Browsing blacklist is also used for Chromium Browsers, Safari, and Firefox.

 

Google say they receive over ,5000 such reports each week. 

 

https://safebrowsing.google.com/safebrowsing/report_phish/ is for reporting phishing pages to Google

 

To rport a site to Internet Explorer- if you are running IE and are still on the site in question, then click on the Safety icon, which is in your toolbar, go to "SmartScreen Filter" and select "Report unsafe website".

 

PhishTank

 

PhishTank is a collaborative clearing house for data and information about phishing on the Internet.

 

It makes its data available to developers so they can incorporate checks into their software.

 

Reporting a malicious site to Phish Tank means it will be available to a lot of online services.

 

https://www.phishtank.com/

 

Blacklists

 

There are various Internet sites that maintain a list of malicious websites – ‘blacklists’. Some use the information for their own products only and some share the data so others can be warned about the bad sites.

 

Many of these blacklist are ownerd by the anti-virus and anti0malware makers. These include:-

 

  • Malwarebytes
  • Sophos
  • McAfee
  •  Norton
  • BitDefender
  • Kaspersky
  • Web Security Guard

 

 

 

Scam Warning Sites

 

There are numerous sites that warn people about bad websites that are part of a scam operation and you can report any scam sites. These warning sites include:-

 

  • Fightback Ninja
  • Scam Busters
  • Scam Aware
  • Scam Warners
  • Malware Domain List
  •  Badwarebusters

 

These sites can publicise the names of bad websites and thereby warn people away from them.

 

Review Sites

 

There are various review websites that allow you to enter information, reviews, comments on websites and businesses – to help others make informed choices. Here’s a few:-

 

  1. Web of Trust
  2.  Trust Wave
  3. Consumeraffair
  4. Better Business Bureau

 

In conclusion, if you find a ‘bad’ website – do report it so as to warn others. If it seems dangerous or offensive then report to the authorities. Otherwise, you may want to report it to the search engines, the scam warning sites or review sites.

 

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Most scam emails show the name of the sender  but this is simply typed in by the sender so can be anything. I can send out emails and name myself as the King of Norway if I want to.

However, usually the sender’s email address also shows so people would realise I’m not actually the King of Norway.

For example, a scammers message claiming to be from “South Eastern Electricity” but the senders email address doesn’t match e.g. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. @ghpops45.com or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. @gmail.com etc.

These are a give-a-way that the message is fake.

However, clever scammers can ‘spoof’ the sender’s email address and make it appear to be anything they choose.

This is how you get scam messages apparently from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Barclays Bank etc. but they are fakes.

Email Spoofing

This refers to sending an email message from one source, but making it appear to have come  from a different source. This does not mean that your email account was compromised. It means that the sender has fooled the mail client into believing the email originated from a different address.

This is done by inserting information into the email headers. It is possible to send a message that appears to be from anyone and with whatever content the sender wants it to have.

Malicious emails can damage your computer or your ability to work using the computer.

For example, spoofed e-mail may claim to be from someone in a position of authority, asking for sensitive data, such as passwords, credit card numbers, or other personal information — any of which can be used for a variety of criminal purposes.

Protect Yourself Against Email Spoofing

Do not click links in suspicious emails or without checking where the link goes. i.e. hover the cursor over the link to see what it actually is and if different from what it appears on screen – then do not click it. Delete the message.

Do not download documents, programmes or anything else unless you are totally sure that it is safe to do so.

The Technology of Spoofing

A scammer needs an email server running SMTP – this is the free technology that enables sending of emails and it can be run even on just a standard PC.  Many of the SMTP email packages allow you to set the ‘from’ address.

The Technical Answer to Spoofing

There are a variety of technical answers, but the most practical one seems to be Sender Policy Framework.

Sender Policy Framework  is a simple email-validation protocol designed to detect email spoofing by providing a mechanism to allow receiving mail exchangers to check that incoming mail from a domain comes from a host authorised by that domain's administrators i.e. it has come from where it claims to be from.

The list of authorised sending hosts for a domain is published in the Domain Name System (DNS) records for that domain in the form of a specially formatted TXT record. Email spam and phishing often use forged "from" addresses, so publishing and checking SPF records can be considered anti-spam techniques.

If a domain publishes an SPF record, spammers and phishers are less likely to forge e-mails pretending to be from that domain, because the forged e-mails are more likely to be caught in spam filters which check the SPF record.

The difficulty with SPF is that unless email receivers check the SPF records then it is useless.

How can I protect myself from being spoofed?

Learn to read email message headers and check domain names and IP addresses. Nearly all email programs will let you float your mouse over an email address (or link in an email). What you see pop up should be identical to what you are floating over. If it is something different, then it is probably spam or phishing for information.

 

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When you read scammers messages, it sometimes seems that they have their own use of language different from everyone else.

Why do scammers write differently to others?

Part of the answer is that it’s deliberate. Refer to the article -  http://www.fightbackonline.org/index.php/guidance/12-explanations/42-the-psychology-of-online-scams for more details about the psychology of scammers.

The deliberate use of poor grammar, misspellings, missing information etc. can show a message to be a scam and anyone noting this will avoid the scam. Sometimes that’s what the scammers want – just the most gullible people to fall for the trick and the rest to reject it.

The other reason for poor grammar etc. is simply poor education and that English may not be a first language for the scammer.

Some examples

1.      Written supposedly by an accountant but the language may be the way someone thinks an accountant should speak. You can understand the intended meaning but the use of words is very odd. The scam in the email is trying to get me to pretend to be a relative of someone very rich who recently died without leaving any heirs.

I got your profile insearch for the right person that suits this transaction and can be of assistance in this transaction of which if you are interested and serious we will be through in days.

2.      Many scam emails offer a magical answer for a well-known problem such as Alzheimer’s and they claim to be on the “little guy’s side” fighting against the establishment which is trying to hide this answer from the ordinary people.  They typically include statements such as

 

It’s something Big Pharma is scrambling to hide from you.

Click here to reveal the “Alzheimer’s Killer” dish while you can.

A renegade doctor exposes a hushed-up conspiracy.

This video will soon be taken down because of threats from the industry.

I warn you. The big pharmaceutical companies are trying to take down this video

 

3.      There are a lot of 419 scams i.e. promising you great riches and asking for just a small up front fee to pay translation costs or a release fee or something similar.   Quite often they ask you to do something slightly illegal so as to justify the hefty payment you will receive. But to ensure the person isn’t put off by the illegality there is a paragraph something like this example

“There is no risk involved at all in this matter as we are going to adopt a fully legalized method and the attorney will prepare all the necessary documents”.

4.      An email supposedly selling email leads, but the language is “scammer language”. The email is asking about which target industry I am interested in

Please let me your criteria in full details so that I can revert back with count details for your review.

The phrase “I can revert back to you” is very common across a wide range of email scam messages. Perhaps it’s the signature of a specific scam author.

Other Indicators of a Scam

·         Addressing a message to Dear Recipients or Dear Customer can be a warning of a scam. They don’t know who you are as they typically just purchased a list of email addresses.

·         Scammers sometimes include religious language to try to appeal to religious people and try to appear honest. Phrases such as “God bless.” Or “God is with us” or “God will look after us”. I guess scammers think God is on their side.

Beware of odd use of language in a message as it may mean it’s a scam even if it appears to be from someone you know.

 

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We all know that some of the ‘traffic’ on the Internet is fake but some companies in the field of advertising believe that up to 50% of traffic achieved through advertising  could be fake.

In this context ‘fake’ means it’s not a person looking at your website – it’s another  computer.

This is the reason why so many websites these days insist you answer a Capcha query to prove you are a human being and the fake traffic problem seems to be getting worse.

The most common form of this scam is where the scammer sets up a website and puts lots of adverts, then cons an advertising network into paying per click, thus earning revenue.  How does the scammer get the clicks on the adverts? – by using clickbots

Clickbots are programmes able to click on adverts to produce the desired fake traffic. Advertisers do try to identify and exclude such fake traffic but it’s not always easy to do.

Pay Per Click

Pay Per click schemes such as the Google adverts you see whenever you use Google to search work on the basis that  anyone with a website can let Google display ads on their site and each time one is clicked, then Google owes a small amount of money (usually fractions of a penny per click).

Some websites generate millions of dollars by means of these adverts and the same applies to videos on Youtube etc.

Click Frauds

As an advertiser, you invest money in displaying ads on different websites and videos using Google AdWords or other online advertisement companies. You  expect that all the money you spend will go towards showing the ad impressions to humans – real people, and not clickbots.

Click Fraud is the name for this scam. While advertisers think their advertising money is being spent on real humans, a lot of it is wasted on showing ad impressions to searches by click bots.

Your website may get lots of traffic but it could be largely other computers making the clicks and that’s of no value to you.

Clickbait

How do cheaper suppliers get traffic for your site? – there’s lots of ways, but the most common is called clickbait.

You may visit general information and entertainment sites that have ads saying things such as “10 things you didn’t know about Scarlett Johannsen” or “See what happened to these child stars” or ”Why you must never eat this vegetable”. When someone clicks on the ad they don’t get what they expected but are directed to a website where the owner has paid to get more people viewing their site.  Alternatively, they may be directed to a website that does have the relevant content but it is wrapped up such that the user ends up having to view numerous pages (full of adverts) to get to the content. 

Genuine Traffic

There are lots of ways to get genuine traffic i.e. real people actually looking at your website, without resorting to clickbots, dodgy companies or anything similar.

These methods include

 

·         Social Media

·         Natural Search Listings i.e not paid adverts

·         Video clips

·         Article Directories

·         Podcasting your content

·         Contributing to relevant forums

·         Press Releases

·         Joint Ventures with businesses that are in the same field as you but not direct competitors

·         External Links from other websites to yours

·         Blogging

 

However, there are lots of companies offering very cheap traffic. It may or may not be poor quality i.e. mostly people who don’t really want to see your website, but it is cheap.

For example, Yesvisitor.com offers 100,000 visitors for $200. How they get so much traffic so cheaply is unknown.

 

 

There has always been financial fraud dressed up as investment and the most common online schemes now seem to be pyramid schemes, matrix schemes, Ponzi schemes and more. Some people think that many schemes marketed as MLM (multi level marketing) are close to being fraud but for others these are considered to be perfectly good business.

 

In some cases these frauds started as attempts to make money legally then went bad but in most cases they are intentionally fraudulent and it’s a question of time until the schemes end or collapse and most if not investors lose their money.

Q. Why are these schemes still popular?

Offering an easy way to make money will always attract attention and people willing to put aside their doubts and try it. Many of the schemes are wrapped up in complexities that defy understanding (deliberately) so hide their fraudulent nature. And many of the schemes have expert Marketing that draws in even sceptical people.

They all have the same basis – offering people a simple way to make a lot of money but that money essentially comes from other members also seeking money. Hence for every ‘winner’ there have to be ‘losers’

The mechanism of the schemes do vary as does the Marketing spin used to sell them.

Pyramid schemes are illegal as are Ponzi schemes. Matrix schemes and MLM may be legal depending on how they operate.

Pyramid Schemes

These are largely straightforward as they tell you that in order to make money you must recruit more members and they recruit more members and so on. Each time a new person joins you get a commission.

People join in order to make money, but the inherent problem is that the only money in the scheme is from new members also seeking to make money.

So, in time it will collapse as it’s impossible to keep recruiting enough people to make the current members rich.

You join a pyramid scheme and pay your entrance fee (usually there’s a monthly fee as well) and you’re told to recruit more people under the same conditions. You recruit new members and get a cut of the fees they pay and they are told to recruit more members and so on. You get commission payments or maybe 3 or 7 or even 10 levels of new recruits. On paper this can be calculated as a great deal of money you can earn but the scheme just cycles money between members and doesn’t create wealth in any form.

To create a semblance of legality, Pyramid schemes often contain something that the new member is reportedly purchasing (such as ebooks) but these typically have little value. Basically this is a system where one person at the top recruits a lot of people who invest in something and they only see a return by getting more people to invest in it through them. The people at or near the top of the pyramid may make a lot of money and use that to entice more members but it cannot continue and the pyramid crashes to earth.


Matrix Schemes

A matrix scheme is a business model where members pay for a specific  product and the opportunity to be added to a waiting list for a product of greater value than the amount paid.

So, it sounds like a pyramid scheme but with the addition of real products and a more complicated process for actually getting them.

The cosmetics company Avon used to be purely door to door sales and private parties then they dabbled in matrix schemes by letting their reps recruit and train more reps and win prizes. This has tarnished the good name of Avon cosmetics but they have adapted their scheme to remove the worst excesses.  

The operation of matrix schemes varies, though they often operate similar to pyramid schemes. To move upward in the list, a person must wait for new members to join or refer a certain number of people to the list. This is accomplished through purchasing a token product of little value such as ebooks. When a pre-defined number of people have purchased the token product, the person currently at the top of the list receives their reward item, and the next person in the list moves to the top. The rewards for those at the top of the matrix list are usually such as  HD televisions, laptop computers, mobile phones, holidays and even new cars. .

In many cases, the token product alone could not be reasonably sold for the price listed, and as such legal experts claim that, regardless of what is said, the real product being sold is the "reward" in question in those situations.

These are always complicated and while some people win, many will end up with less than when they started.

Ponzi Scheme

A Ponzi scheme is where you believe you are investing in company shares or money markets or similar run by a licensed reputable business and they take your money and report substantial growth over time that makes you want to keep your money in that investment.

However, the company lies about that growth and to cover up their failure to deliver they use investment money from other investors. The difference each period between what they actually have and what they claim to have grows until it becomes unsustainable and the scheme collapses.

Analogy: I want some money to invest in the stock market, confident I can make big profits, so I borrow £100 from a friend named Paul and tell him that next week I will repay him £120.

When next week comes my investments didn’t turn out so good and I don’t have the cash to repay so I borrow £100 from each of two more friends with the same promise of repayment. I use £120 of that new cash to repay Paul so he’s happy and made a profit and I’ve got £80.

When the following week comes I now have to find £240 in repayments so I borrow £100 from each of 3 new friends with the same promise of repayment. And so it goes on. People in the scheme early may make a profit but sooner or later it will collapse and a lot of people lose out.

The only way to keep things going is to keep recruiting new members and use their money to pay off current investors.

Sometimes investment businesses start out with good intentions but turn into Ponzis when they try to cover up losses.

Conclusion

All of these schemes – Pyramid, Matrix and Ponzi promise money for nothing and some people get that but for most investors it turns out to be a scam that they are on the losing end of.

Stay clear of any scheme labelled as Pyramid or Ponzi and do not invest in any scheme without independent financial advice.

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

 

Fraudsters will try to get your ID and personal information so they can defraud you.

You need to be aware of how this is done and how to protect yourself against this.

Identity theft usually starts with your name and then there are blocks of information they seek, including:-

Name

Address

Email Address

Credit Card details

Debit Card details

Online Banking details, Paypal etc.

Online Retailer accounts

Date of Birth

Passport Number

Driving Licence Number

 

-          Full name and address and how long you’ve lived at your current home.

-          Email address, login and passwords, online security questions and answers

-          Credit card / debit card details – number, start date, end date, security code

-          Paypal and retailer accounts logins, password, security answers

-          Date of birth and/or passport number and/or driving licence number

Any of these sets of information allows the criminal to carry out fraud using your name and details.

Whatever the criminal starts with, they may seek further information to make their fraud easier to commit. They may call you claiming to be from the council or the authorities or your bank etc. and use the information they have to convince you of their authenticity and then gain more from you in the guise of confirming your ID etc.

Or they may send you phishing emails – seeking under various guises to get more details from you.

To access your Amazon account, the scammer just needs your login and password.

To access your online banking, they need your login and password and probably an extra piece of information such as date of birth or answers to security questions, depending on which bank you deal with.

To set-up a new bank account in your name they need proof of ID (passport or drivers licence being the most common) plus proof of address, date of birth etc.

You can see that different sets of information make different frauds possible.

Q.           What if a fraudster has your personal information?

A:            First, how did the thief get your personal information?  The fraudster may have purchased information from a data breach of an organisation you deal with or hacked the information from your online activities or sifted through the rubbish in your bin or skimmed your card details when you paid a restaurant bill etc.

If the fraudster skimmed your card details then they will lack the security number on the back but if you physically handed them the card (such as in a restaurant) then they could have that as well and hence be able to make online purchases.

Protect Yourself

Watch out for suspicious emails or phone calls that try to trick you into disclosing personal information, based on already having some information about you.

Banks and other reputable organisations will never contact you to ask for personal information.

Remain cautious.

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Antivirus software detects and disables or removes computer viruses and associated malware (this means anything that can cause problems for you e.g. password copiers). It is very important that everyone installs anti-virus software and keeps it up to date. There are a lot of these packages on the market and below is information to help you choose which is right for your needs.

The term ‘Internet Security’ is also used for these kinds of software packages and they offer a wider range of protection than just from viruses.

 

An independent security-software testing lab based in Germany. AV-Test rigorously tests AV products from a number of leading security companies. They look not only at how well an AV product can detect malware using traditional, that is, employing a database of known malware, but also at how well it can block brand-new, unknown malware. AV-Test also examines how well a security product can clean up after an infection in the event that a piece of malware does get through.

Any of the top packages will do the job and are well worth installing.

 

Below is a comparison of the most popular anti-virus packages and some details for each.

Basically any of them will do the job for you but BitDefender and Kapersky are generally the highest rated.

Comparison Table

(marks are out of 5 in each category)

 

Windows Defender

Avira

BitDefender

Kaspersky

McAfee

Norton

AVG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cost

FREE

FREE

£24.95

£31.99

£20.99

£29.99

Free / £55.99

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ease of Use

4

4

5

5

5

5

5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Effectiveness

4

4

5

5

5

5

5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Features

3

4

5

5

4

4

4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support

3

3

5

5

3

4

5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.      Windows Defender

This is free with Microsoft Windows and does a good job but doesn’t block adware and other undesirable elements.  Is also a cpu hog at times and can be very slow scanning the disk.

2.      Avira

Overall, this is one of the best free anti-virus packages. It has top scores from the tests, has good features and is easy to use

3.      Bitdefender Total Security

Bitdefender has a fine technical reputation. Is simple to use and effective.

4.      Kaspersky Total Security

A three-device, full protection suite for under £50 is good value and when that includes cover on all the major platforms, it should be flexible enough for most. Kaspersky Total Security 2015’s technical strength can’t be faulted, with only Avira Anti Virus Pro matching it in the AV-Test group.

5.      McAfee

Doesn’t have all the features of Kapersky and BitDefender but is good reliable protection.

6.      Symantec Norton Security

This is good value as you can protect all devices with the one licence.

7.      AVG

 

A good product but the constant attempts to get you to upgrade are annoying. 

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First of all, just how much spam email is there?

·         Approximately 14.5 billion spam messages are sent every day. That’s about 45% of all emails.

·         Advertising emails make up about 36% of spam emails

·         Adult related spam emails about 32%

·         Financial spam emails about 27%

·         Surprisingly, only 2.5% of spam is scam messages of which three quarters is phishing messages

Of the 14.5 billion email spam messages per day, a huge amount is blocked by your ISP and only a small part gets through to your account.

 

Q.           Why do people send so much spam email?

The technology of emails for all is relatively new but sending out huge volumes of messages to random people in the hope a few will respond is somewhat older. We’ve all received spam letters in the post for fictitious lotteries or prize draw that no one ever wins, miracle slimming products etc. Spam email is just the modern technology version of these letters. But because it’s so much cheaper and easier to send a million emails than a million letters – most spammers are now on the Internet.

If you were an unscrupulous advertiser or a moron then you might conclude that sending out emails to random people and/or businesses is a good idea. As it’s so cheap – why only send 1,000 messages when you can send 100 million messages for only a few hundred dollars. So what if it’s irrelevant to most recipients. Just send even more.

You’re only interested in the ones who reply therefore the more you send  the more replies you will get.

Now, this isn’t true of course. 

A properly constructed email campaign targeted only at those individuals and/or companies for whom your products or services are relevant will be better and produce greater results. But it takes more time to figure these things out and plan a proper professional campaign, so most lazy people take the simpler option.

And the world is full of spam messages. 

 

Q.           Where Do the Spammers Get Our Email Addresses?

Typically they buy email lists from businesses that specialise in building such lists.

Reputable businesses go to reputable list suppliers and pay more but get quality lists. This means that the list will contain very few email addresses that are defunct, only those email addresses as are relevant for the product/service offered, have recently been verified and only people who have agreed to someone in the past sending them advertising messages.

Less reputable businesses go for the cheap product – lists put together by spammers. These will contain a high proportion of out of date addresses, duplicate addresses, made-up addresses etc. But they are extremely cheap – 20 dollars for a million email addresses.   

Reputable list builders get their addresses by purchasing lists from exhibition organisers, other organisations in the same field, canvassing large companies, official publications and data sources such as the electoral register etc.

Less reputable list builders scan websites, chat rooms, forums etc. harvesting email addresses. They also guess email addresses. E.g. If they know that Bennetts Furnishings factory is www.bennetts.co.uk then they can guess hundreds of email address e.g. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. etc. They don’t care if most of these made-up addresses are invalid – some will work.

 

Q.           How Can We Stop Spam?

The main thing to do is not give out your email address to non reputable sites that may sell it to spammers. Don’t fill in your email address on a webpage unless it’s a reputable site. E.g.Marks and Spencer, Amazon, BBC etc.

Your email provider will have spam blocking and filtering  features available – so turn those features on.

Once your email address is on the spam lists that circulate between the spammers and scammers - it’s not possible to have it removed and your only recourse is to delete the email addres and start with a new one.

Refer to article “How to Stop Spam Emails” for more information at

http://www.fightbackonline.org/index.php/guidance/14-preventive-measures/25-how-do-i-stop-spam-emails

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