There have always been confidence tricksters, scammers, cheats, liars, fraudsters. Whatever you call them, these are the people who trick others out of their money or goods, in return for nothing or something essentially worthless.

The rise of the Internet and more recently social media gives lots of new opportunities for these people to steal from others over long distance.

What is it that makes some people potentially susceptible to such fraud and others to avoid it?

Research at the University of Bath and University of West of England sheds new light on this complex and very important issue.


The Anonymity of Online Influence

The Internet allows for anonymity for the scammer and this can lead to less engagement emotionally with their victims. In other words it’s easier not to care about the financial loss and psychological pain being caused when you don’t see the person.

Social media networks allow the targeting of individuals interests, location, occupation and so on which can make the scam more efficient.  E.g. a scam business proposal aimed at women reputedly by women thus giving a false sense of security to women targeted.

Young people who do not appear to be vulnerable offline can become vulnerable in online settings due to the familiarity of offering more information about themselves and lower inhibition levels  online.

Primary Mechanisms of Online Influence

Influence Technique

Application in Online Scams


Posing as authority figures or institutions, such as Police, Banks or senior personnel.


Creating profiles that portray trusted traits or appear friendly


Suggesting that other people have benefited from responding

Commitment and Consistency

Requesting a small upfront fee e.g. advance fee fraud


Providing a free gift or favour


Instigating a time–limit in responding


The promise of rewards, whether monetary or psychological


Claiming that a failure to respond will lead to a loss of some kind, such as account closure


Self Deception and Trust

The ability to deceive ourselves is in everyone and the repetition of false information can lead to a belief that something  is true when it isn’t .  This applies to beliefs both about ourselves and anything else.

In the process of remembering, false information can be created and then strengthened by repeating remembering.

So, over time memories seem to change.

This may be linked to how some people respond to a scam they would normally ignore when their circumstances make it more relevant e.g. someone in financial difficulties responds to an advance fee scam in the hope of resolving their problems. 

Generally we have a bias in favour of truth i.e.  we tend to believe unless there is reason to disbelieve.

This makes life a little easier as questioning everything we ever see, hear or read  would be very tiring and time-consuming.

However, the perceived anonymity of online situations may lead people to be more trusting than face-to-face situations and this can lead people to believe fraudsters when they should stop and re-evaluate instead. 

 Approach to Risk

 Everyone has a different approach to determining what level of risk they will accept in a given circumstance but personality traits such as low self-control, sensation seeking and impulsivity have all been associated with risky behaviours.

People who are outgoing, confident and extraverted along with those who have low self-esteem and self confidence may be more likely to become online victims.


It is acknowledged that emotion plays an important role in the persuasion process.

Some scams describe a threat then provide a solution to that threat. Some offer rewards and encourage the victim to take a risk to get that reward.   There are many ways the scammer can attempt to induce an emotional response then play on that to get the victim to act as desired.

People who feel socially isolated may be more inclined to take part in risky behaviour online such as chatting openly in chat rooms. 



The research has led to the following equation.

SIND= (TIND) + (StIND) + (CIND) + (InMECH )


Where SIND is susceptibility to influence,

TIND is propensity to trust,

StIND is need for finance

CIND is level of power

InMECH is reciprocity

For further information go to

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

The festive season is a busy time of year for scammers of all kinds, as people plan to buy more stuff and the market for gifts reaches its peak.

Add in Black Friday, Cyber Monday, the Pre-Christmas sales and the Boxing Day sales and you have an explosion of buying that the scammers want a share of.

Fake Online Shops

A lot of fake online stores appear in December, advertising amazing discounts and bargains of all sorts.  Sometimes, these sites will be easily spotted as the quality is poor – spelling mistakes, bad logos, poor text, poor or non-existent  photographs the scammers hope that people will be too rushed to look carefully before buying.

But other scammers put in a lot of effort to basically copy good sales websites and copy their photographs etc.  These are much harder to identify as scams but you should check the domain name and see if it’s an almost duplicate of a famous name e.g.

 Sometimes the scammers watch for items that are in demand but in short supply and then offer those products on the fake websites.  Don’t buy from a site you’ve not used before without checking it is legitimate.


This is where the scammers try to get your confidential information so they can login to your accounts with financial institutions or retailers and spend your money.

At this time of year they most commonly claim there is a fantastic discount available on some fantastic product but only if you act quickly.

If the scammers can get your credit card details – it’s Christmas for them but not for you.

Shop only with reputable retailers, preferably ones you’ve used before.

Use a credit card where possible as they give better protection against fraud.

Fake Delivery Emails

With people increasingly shopping online and especially at Christmas time, many people have lots of packages arriving and it can be easy to accept a message about a delivery confirmation rather than having to check if you are expecting something.

The scammer sends you a delivery confirmation from a well-known courier company and you just have to confirm the date and location for the delivery. That means clicking on a link to confirm your identity.

The scammer wants that identity information to use for their own illegal activities.

If you get such a message, go to the website directly and check – do not click on a link.

Wish List Scams

Some people post wish lists online of items they would like. This may be for their own benefit e.g. on Amazon or may be for a wedding or other event where people buy you items.  However, if not careful then these lists can give away a lot of information about the writer and this can be used by scammers to then send you phishing messages.

The facts they know about you can be used to make the messages appear genuine.

If you do create a wish list online – make sure it’s set to private so only people you trust can see it.

E-voucher Scams

You may be offered free vouchers by text or email or on social media for popular brands.

As with many scams the scammer wants you to click a link that takes you to a fake website that either sells you none existent products or just takes your confidential information for the scammer to use.

There are many real vouchers on social media and email but the scam ones are usually too good to be true e.g.90% off or totally free products with no need to purchase anything else. 

Social Media Scams

Many of us use social media in a hurry – a quick swipe or click with little thought involved and this can be dangerous. Scammers can copy existing offers and just change where the link takes you or download malware that can search for your passwords or financial information or just copy all of your keystrokes and send them to a scammer.

Take your time with social media – do not click on anything suspicious, even if something appears to have been posted by a friend.

Charity Scams

People are even more charitable at Christmas than other times of year and the scammers go into overdrive with charity based scams.

Mostly these consist of emails asking you to click to donate and the click would take you to a fake charity website.

The appeals are usually very emotional and often copy text from genuine charities.

Sometimes, they are more creative and create what appear to be charity campaigns but all of the money goes to the scammer.

Scammers can be very opportunistic. For example when the California wildfires hit in October 2017, scammers created a series of supposed charities to help stricken people. But they took all of the money raised.

Be careful when making a donation if it’s not to a charity you know well.

Holiday E-Card Scams

People send a lot fewer Christmas cards than they used to even a few years ago and e-cards are more and more popular.

They are fun and a lot cheaper than postage and easier to send now that almost everyone is on email.

But, if you get a message saying you have been sent an e-card then how do you know if it’s real or likely to download malware to your computer?

This is difficult but if you know the sender then there’s a much higher chance that it’s safe than if the sender is unknown to you. This is a case where you want to be sure that the anti-virus and anti-malware is up to date on your computer and never click on links unless you know where it will take you.

Stay safe over the Festive season.

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Fake Job Adverts

There are increasing numbers of fake job adverts on the Internet, by email and in newspapers.

If someone you don’t know contacts you and effectively offers you a job then unless you have in demand skills and have been headhunted by an agency, it’s very likely to be a scam.

There are other warning signs that a job advert is a scam, including:-

·         The pay is much higher than you would expect for the work or for your skills.

·         You are effectively told the job is yours without the need for interviews etc.

·         The conditions are too good e.g. part-time for a full time salary, working from home for whatever hours you wish etc.

·         The interview is by Skype – this could be because there are no offices

·         The job requirements are so vague as to let almost anyone qualify

·         Unprofessional emails or letters – poor grammar, spelling mistakes etc.

·         Emails that don’t include company name and contact information or are sent from a personal email account e.g.  a Hotmail or Gmail or Yahoo account etc.

If you do agree to an online interview – make sure to ask lots of questions and don’t give out any confidential information.

Do Your Research

Check the company’s website – do they really have such a vacancy?

Is the site professional and have the information you expect?

For any real company there will be useful information on the Internet. If there is only a record of the company’s existence but no website or anything else – then beware.

Sometimes scammers will use a real company’s name and perhaps misspell it slightly  e.g. If you get an email from then it’s a fake.

Confidential Information

Some scammers ask for your National Insurance number, date of birth, bank account information supposedly so they can set-up your salary payment or they may ask you to create a new bank account and give them the details.  Creating an account and giving the access details to someone else would be asking to be scammed and you would be responsible for whatever they did with the account.

If asked to fill in a credit check form or anything else needing confidential information – don’t. That should only happen once you are in the job and know it is real.

Request for Payment

A request for payment of any kind before starting employment is likely to mean a scam.

You may be asked to pay for training, a uniform, a professional review of your cv etc. These should not happen in a legitimate situation. They may ask you to pay for online training software – not a good idea.

The Most Common Job Search Scams

1.  Fake Emails From an Employer, Recruitment Agency or Recruitment Website

The email may be about any of the job listings on the Internet – Monster, Indeed etc. or just that they found your C.V. and think you are an excellent candidate for the role they have.

If you didn’t apply then how could this be?

Many are taken in by the possibility of a suitable job and reply to the email.

The scammer will ask for personal information about you – National Insurance number, date of birth etc. and maybe even bank details so they can set-up your salary payments. But it’s likely to be just a scam- there is no job.

2. Fake Jobs on Social Media

Social media is attracting lots of scammers as it’s a quick and easy way to get to people.

Many create fake profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn etc. then post fake jobs or enticements to people looking for work. The messages may have links to malicious websites or a Trojan horse APP  for download or want to engage and start a romance scam. There are lots of possibilities.

Do be careful on social media – the person sending you messages may not be who they claim to be.

Twitter in particular but sometimes also other social media services use shortened URLS. This looks like

and you cannot tell where the link would take you if clicked.  That can be dangerous.

3. Fake Jobs Apparently from Legitimate Employers

Scammers will fake emails from large prestigious companies such as Marks and Spencer, Lloyds Bank, Microsoft etc.

If you receive an unexpected email from such an organisation then go to the appropriate website and check that the job exists.

4. Bogus Jobs on Legitimate Job Boards

It does cost to post jobs on legitimate job sites, but sometimes scammers are willing to do this to get the increased level of trust and find new victims.

If you find a fake job then do let the job site know about it as most have policies for quick removal of fraudulent adverts.

Most job sites do a good job of weeding out fake adverts but they cannot spot every one without help from the users.

5.  Fake Job Boards, Fake Employer Websites, and Fake Recruiter Websites

Some scammers go to the trouble of creating fake websites – and usually they copy a well-known one. In this case copies of job boards, prestigious employers etc.

Check the URL is correct and not misspelled.

The fake website will be designed to get confidential information from you.

There will be reasons why they need your national insurance number, bank details etc.

But if course it’s all fake. 

How to Protect Yourself

Until you have verified that the employer and job are legitimate, be very wary about giving any confidential information.

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



Business WomanThere are a lot of people searching through the Internet for jobs and scammers take advantage of this by offering what appear to be jobs but are really scams.  Do not apply for anything at all dodgy.


It has been reported that on average 59 out of 60 advertised work at home jobs are scams.

Here are some examples:-

1.     A Part Time Job Laundering Money

The email is titled “Application for Part-Time Work” and appears to be from a software company.

It explains that they are a new business  in financial analysis software.

They have a problem in taking payments for their software from overseas. And the resolution of the problem is to appoint local agents in each country to accept the payments and send them on to the company.

The local agent gets 10% of each contract for their efforts.

This whole setup is fake of course. Any business that has problems taking payment for their product wouldn’t survive in business.

The process of taking payments and passing them on sounds very easy – it is. The problem is that it’s called money laundering and is distinctly illegal.

2.     Fake Mystery Shopper Jobs

The email is titled “Mystery Shop your local Asda store”.

And claims to be from ASDA but is in fact from or a similar operation.

It offers a mystery shopping jobs – get paid for simply shopping at your local stores and writing short reviews.

But you have to pay to register with them.

There is no job if you’re paying to give them a review.

Mystery shopper is one of those work from home jobs that a huge number of people would love to have. But there are very few such jobs so scammers use the attraction of these jobs to lure people. In this case they just want you to fil in their survey as that’s what they get paid for.  They don’t have any mystery shopper jobs – it’s just a con by a marketing agency.

3.     Work at Home Data Entry Jobs

An email arrived titled ‘Typing Jobs – Highest Paid in LA’

The email talks about how easy it is make Facebook posts and claims people are being paid up to $500 per day for such tasks while working from home.

The email quotes Jenny Lewis of the Home Trust Network as its expert on these work at home jobs.

But Jenny Lewis is just a seller of these kinds of ‘opportunities’ so it’s questionable whether she’s the person to trust.

The email also quotes various US government reports showing how some typists earn huge salaries.

To be realistic, there are some jobs keying in data of some kind – whether it’s to make Facebook posts or keying data into a database or writing tweets or articles etc.

But, by their nature most of these tasks are very dull and repetitive and don’t pay highly because there’s any number of temp agencies happy to provide people to do these tasks quickly and efficiently.

See blog post

4.     Work From Home Scams

There are large numbers of people who work at home as writers, consultants, Marketing, IT, sales, translators etc. but there is also a big demand for part time jobs that can be done at home without needing such specialised skills and knowledge.

These can include work such as article writing, cold calling, proof-reading, Internet research,  customer service, data entry, social media and SEO, dog walking and thousands of other opportunities.

But, the problem is the spam messages that are so abundant offering amazing work at home opportunities.

Figures suggest that 95% of such emails offering work from home are scams.

Often there is little detail on what’s involved and no way to contact the ‘seller’ – just a signup process.

The spam messages usually have the following characteristics:-

·         Little or no description of what the work actually is

·         A video clip of the ‘seller’ describing their wonderful lifestyle of Caribbean islands, fast cars and top hotels etc.

·         Something such as a time limit to get you to act before you have time to think.

·         Local based. i.e. the message is tailored to list the opportunities as being based somewhere close to where you live (this is easy to fake as most websites can now identify your location)

·         Incredible testimonials from people who were in a bad financial situation and now have the jet-set lifestyle thanks to this ‘opportunity’

·         No company name for you to check out – just a brand name. No company address etc.

Check as much as you can before signing up – once they have your card details you’re in their hands.     

Beware fake jobs.

Tree of Social Media icons

People are sociable and the rise of social media and networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and many more are a testimony to how much we want to share and be open with others.

But there is a dark side to this as there are a lot of people who see this as an opportunity to take from others to get what they want.

The Most Common Social Media Scams

1. Profile Page Hacks

If your password can be guessed, then you may find your profile page has been hacked.  The hackers can  install malicious code or they can use your ID for sending out spam messages or contacting your friends with virus laden extras to download.

You need to have strong passwords for all of the sites you have registered with.

Refer to blog post for details on how to set strong passwords

If your profile or your identity are in any way compromised, you should also inform the site operator ad if you have lost money to the scammers or there are threats then tell the police.

2. Phishing

There are huge volumes of emails sent out in the hope of enticing someone to either enter their account details in the email or to click a link that goes to a fake website claiming to be a business you have registered with but instead it just collects your account details as you key them in. Then the scammers have your login and password and can use your account.

This is called phishing and also takes place on social media.

 For any messages you get, you must read them carefully and not click on a link just because you recognise the message sender. If your friends account has been hacked (as above) then the message could well have malicious content. 

3. Shortened URLs

The URL is the internet address for a webpage and often these can be long names so there are shortening services on the Internet to let you send a much shorter URL but it will still work to get you to the original website address.

Twitter uses shortened URLs  to save on filling up your character allocation. But scammers also use these shortened URLs to hide the actual web address they want you to click on.

 So, you have to be careful before clicking on a shortened URL and make sure you have adequate protection on your devices to trap any malicious web pages before you get to them.

4. Malware i.e.  Viruses, Ransomware and More

Facebook and some other social networking sites allow for installation of 3rd party APPS. Most of these are harmless but scammers can create these APPS and attempt to have you download them. They may send you a message that looks to be from a friend or the site owners telling you to download a specific APP.

These can in some cases send your account information etc to the scammers or may monitor your activities and wait for you to use your credit card on the site.

 Do not trust 3rd party APPS unless you are sure they are OK.

5. Games and Quizzes

On Facebook, you are get requests to join in with multi-player games. Some of these are very good games and often free or have charges only when you request specific extras in the game. However, some are scams and the advert you may receive for a famous free game may in fact take you to download a different game that charges your credit card unknowingly.


This can also happen when you are invited to take part in one of the many quizzes that are popular on Facebook.

6. Fake Help Requests

Scammers do sometimes go to a lot of trouble to watch people’s behaviour online and note when someone is on holiday or business overseas. Then they can send desperate messages to the parents or partners of that person claiming to be in trouble, been mugged or needing lifesaving medical care or anything to get an immediate response of sending money. 


If you receive such a desperate message – then do check its validity before sending money.

7.         Activity Information

For many people, being open on social media about their activities, purchases, visits etc. is what it’s all about. But there are people who read that kind of information and piece together details about your life from whatever sources they can find on the Internet.

Then they can use that against you.

e.g.1.  I’m off to India for 2 weeks on Tuesday. Have left the dog at Uncles.

This tells the criminals that your house will be unoccupied for 2 weeks. If they can find your address on the Internet then that could be trouble.

e.g. 2. Just back from last night’s party – was drunk in the gutter and taken in by the Police. See picture taken by friends.


This could be very embarrassing if you’re going job hunting as prospective employers may read your social networking entries.

How to Stay Safe on Social Media

Social Media is incredibly popular and many of us are used to just posting or tweeting anything we like. That’s what social media is for.

BUT, there are unscrupulous people who take advantage of that openness. Scammers.

You should take general precautions – i.e. have appropriate anti-virus and anti-malware on your computer and keep it up to date.

Then it’s a question of taking care that anything you put on social media cannot be used against you or anyone else.  Following these points below can help:-

·         Check the privacy and security settings on your social media accounts and set them appropriately.

·         Set strong passwords (at least 8 characters long and including capitals, numbers and symbols)

·         Be careful with links and files. If you’re not sure about the source, then don’t download or click on the link. Hackers will sometimes post links in comments to try and trick you into clicking them.

·         Be aware that your posts may affect others and they may take offence where you wouldn’t or not want their private information online. So be considerate.

·         Be wary of add-ons. Many games and add-ons are created by third party companies and may not be as safe as you assume.  Be wary of any extra permissions that an APP requires.

·         Be careful who you follow or friend. You may want to have hundreds of friends, but does it really mean anything?

·         Periodically, try a Google search on your name – to see what personal information is available.

·         Never log in from public hotspots. Some social networking sites don’t have a secure login (https), so your user name and password could be copied. Only log in from trusted wireless networks.

·         Remember: If you wouldn’t say it or do it in public, don’t post it online.

·         Think twice before posting pictures you wouldn’t want your parents, partner or employer to see.


Stay safe.

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Tourist PhotographerA recent survey of British tourists, named Barcelona as the world's ‘worst’ city for tourist scams, followed by  Paris and Rome.


Here are some of the most common tourist scams around the world.

Street crime

Common street scammers include those pretending to offer a free product or service, such as a rose for the lady or a music CD or to let you take a photo with them (the scammer is dressed in national costume or historic costume), but then aggressively demanding payment afterwards.

There are instances of taxi drivers who offer drugs to a group of tourists on their way to a party. But once the drugs are accepted, fraudsters dressed as Police appear demanding that a large sum of money be paid to avoid arrest.

Many scams involve some form of distraction, such as a person performing a magic show e.g. the cups and ball illusion or Find the Lady (card trick). The performer’s accomplice pickpockets the tourists while they are focused on the street show.

Last year, Telegraph Travel reported on the growing problem of pickpockets in Paris, where cash-carrying Chinese and Russian tourists at the Louvre were said to have been targeted by increasingly aggressive thieves, many of them children.

The guards at the Louvre Museum in Paris went on strike earlier this year to protest the aggressive  behaviour of street criminals at the museum and a similar strike was threatened in Rome by guards at the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel.

An example from Barcelona is you’re eating tapas at an outdoor restaurant with your iPhone on the table a few inches from your hand, when a woman bumps your left arm and spills a drink on you. She apologizes profusely and walks away. Then you realize your iPhone has gone.

Expensive mobile phones are a big target for street crime so keep the phones out of sight or carry a cheap phone on holiday.  Stealing iPhones or other Apple devices is called “Apple picking”.

After Paris, Rome ranks high as a pickpocket capital. At the Sistine Chapel, the guards say thieves often strike while the tourists are staring up at Michelangelo’s frescoed walls and ceiling, but there are also other danger zones such as the Colosseum and Trevi Fountain.

        London: The British Transport Police admits it directs “a lot of our resources towards combating pickpocketing and theft, including deploying specialist covert officers.”

        Amsterdam: The number of complaints about pickpockets increased by 30 percent last year, according to Amsterdam police.

        Naples: The U.S. State Department cautions against well-organized pickpocket rings. “Purses are either outright grabbed or straps are slashed by a person on foot or on a motor scooter.

        Rio de Janeiro:  The U.S. State Department noted that Rio has been rated “critical” for crime for the past 25 years, adding that statistics “reflect continued critically high and rising levels of crimes in the categories of robbery, rape, fraud, and residential thefts.” The report went on to say that street robberies continue at a high rate even in affluent neighbourhoods, with cell phones and electronic items specifically targeted.

        Lima, Peru: The U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs suggests travellers should be especially careful when visiting tourist areas in Lima such as the Plaza de Armas (Government Square), the Plaza San Martin, Acho Bullring, Pachacamac, and any location in downtown Lima.

        In South Africa, travellers must be wary in Cape Town.  The official visitor’s website here is honest about the city’s crime problems. “While Cape Town’s dark reputation as one of the world’s most dangerous cities is almost entirely a result of the number of murders that happen there each year, the vast majority of these murders happen in areas far removed from the main tourist destinations. Unfortunately, while your life may not be in much danger as a visitor, your possessions most certainly are!”

·         In the United States, classic pickpocketing has decreased, experts say. But purse-snatching and thefts of electronics, such as Apple picking, are rampant. According to University of Texas professor Felson, pickpockets still operate at places where people carry a lot of cash, such as race tracks and in crowds, like at Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Las Vegas is a hotspot as tourists are expected to carry a lot of cash. 

Travel and Transport

Taxi drivers overcharging tourists by deliberately taking longer routes are common across the world, but travellers are warned to beware of some taxi drivers (as well as waiters and shop keepers) in Asia who "accidentally" drop your change on the floor and then hand you similar looking, but less valuable coins or notes.


 In Las Vegas there are known to be "getaway drivers" who remove all of your bags from the car boot for you, minus one small bag, and drive off quickly before you could realise it’s missing.

Shops and Fake Tickets

Beware of till workers in Barcelona who appear to be on their phone while helping you, as they may actually be taking a photograph of your credit card details to be replicated later. Others across Europe will count through your change at a painfully slow pace, hoping you’ll just get frustrated and ask for the change back swiftly without knowing the wrong amount has been given out.


Official-looking men dressed as policemen in Mexico City, Bogota, Bucharest and Bangkok, were commonly found to check tourists’ wallets, claiming they were looking for fake money that had been circulating in the area. The wallets are then returned with money missing. Fake ticket issuers for different venues were most common in Paris and London.

Helpful locals

Sometimes, a helpful local may warn you they’ve just witnessed a pickpocketing incident and that you should check that your wallet and phone aren’t missing but they note where it is for an attempt at stealing it later on.


Innocent-looking children in Paris working for a charity petition will rummage through your bag, with their hands hidden beneath the clipboard while you look over the petition on it, while other children will pretend to be lost and ask for help in writing a letter or postcard home and guilt-trip tourists into giving them money.


Some hotels across Europe were said to work with taxi drivers in order to convince tourists the hotel they have booked is actually in refurbishment. The driver then takes passengers to a different, more overpriced hotel. Other disreputable hotels copy the names of more popular hotels to convince holidaymakers they have arrived at the correct venue when they haven’t.

Thieves pretending to be hotel workers were common across the world. Someone would call your hotel room, pretending to be calling from the front desk, and ask you to confirm your credit card details because of an issue that has come up. These calls will happen in the middle of the night as you are less likely to run downstairs in person to settle the issue.

Some scamming duos in Barcelona and Madrid may even show up at your hotel room, fully dressed in the hotel’s uniform, claiming a room inspection is required. One will talk to you to distract you while the other one attempts to steal your belongings while inspecting the room.


Some scammers will also slide fake takeaway menus under the door of your hotel room, from which you might make an order, giving out your account details and be charged for the meal but never see it arrive.

How to Protect Yourself Against Scams

If you book accommodation is through a tour operator as part of a package holiday, the operator takes responsibility for the booking. By contrast, many villa rental websites are simply advertising services, and you are booking directly with the owners, not via an agent or operator. There is a greater risk of fraud, and disputes may be more difficult to resolve.

·         Generally, don’t carry more money valuables than are essential.

·         Use a hidden wallet if possible.

·         Above all, be aware of your surroundings and the people around you – stay alert to possible theft or fraud.

The survey was carried out by Just the Flight.


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Blood Pressure ReadingClaiming a new product or practice can cure some long standing medical problem provides a rich vein of content for scammers.


It could be some new way to reverse hearing loss or to regrow your missing hair or a new aphrodisiac or never need to wear glasses again or achieve effortless weight loss  … almost anything.

The scammers play on people fears about Alzheimer’s,  or desperation to alleviate pain or desire for youthfulness and so on. This is a cruel way to scam people – offering something they need then stealing their money and providing something worthless or nothing at all.

They are creative sometimes but the story usually has the same basis i.e.

·         Magical remedy found

·         Magical remedy brought back and made available

·         Video evidence

·         Testimonials

·         A warning that the remedy will be gone soon

·         Click on the link to find the truth

e.g. 1 Magic Hair Gel

The email claims that if you cover your head in this magic gel then all of your hair will regrow.

In just 14 days, you’ll reach a peak – your hair potential.

This is just complete rubbish – human hair grows at a rate of 1.25 centimetres per month so in 14 days that would be 0.6 centimetres. Just about visible I would say.

The email also claims the gel will restore the same head of hair you had as a teenager. Pathetic lies.

e.g. 2 Grandpa Dan and Grandma Sylvia Fat 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.

This 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.

Recently we’ve seen similar scam emails proclaiming unknown magical remedies from African tribes, the Amish people, super triathletes, US Lifeguards, ancient civilisations and more. It is all ridiculous.

e.g. 3 Tinnitus Cure

Apparently latest research has now revealed a cure for tinnitus does exist and this has left doctors around the world speechless. More likely they are speechless at this pathetic lie.

e.g. 4 Weight Loss

An email with the title “Simple fruit combo destroys obesity”.

Then there are testimonials about how good the product is and the best one is from Sarah, described as a severely morbidly obese person.

“I’ve taken this for a couple of days and not only I wiping out all of my unwanted fat but also my blood pressure and cholesterol levels are normal since then”.

The instructions say you take the drink only once in the morning and that’s it.

So, two days of drinking fruit juice in the morning has resulted in significant fat loss and has normalised her blood pressure and cholesterol levels which were presumably a serious problem as she was morbidly obese.

What an amazing product!

We received three emails within a few hours about miracle cures for health problems.

These are from different names, different email addresses and about different problems but they are clearly the work of the same scam team. Also, they are well written unlike most scam messages.

Email 1 is “Diabetes Real Root cause exposed Cure Found” from Cynthia

Email 2 is “CNN Health Betty White Explains How She prevents Alzheimers” from Jerry Washington

Email 3 is “How This Weird Bacteria Causes Weight Gain” from Ernest Smith

In summary, there are always people in search of remedies so there will always be fraudsters trying to take advantage of them by offering fake remedies. Don’t believe them.

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

HackerSocial Engineering means to manipulate people into giving you their confidential information – typically a password or PIN number. The average loss per person caught by phishing and similar attacks is reported to be $4,187 and the average loss per company caught out is $42,544.


 In any security regime, people are usually the weakest link.  How many people do you know that have their passwords written down in an office drawer?

Criminals use social engineering tactics because it is usually easier to exploit your natural inclination to trust than it is to discover ways to hack your software.  It is much easier to fool someone into giving you their password than it is for you to try hacking their password (unless the password is an obvious one).

Common Methods for Social Engineering Attacks

1.      Email from someone you know. 

Criminals either hack an email account or spoof it (i.e. send emails that appear to be from someone you know). That email may be

·         an invitation to click a link for a funny cat video or a TV clip or anything but in fact it will download malware onto your computer

·         an attached file such as a movie or photo or document that contains malware and a prompt that you must open it

·         a request for a donation to some worthwhile cause but is a link to a fake website designed to get your financial information

·         a desperate plea for help and an involved story as to why he/she cannot go to the authorities and is out of money and had their credit cards stolen etc. Anything to get you to send them money.

2.     Phishing Emails and Texts.

There are hundreds of millions of these emails sent out each day with the scammers hoping to get responses from trusting people that are willing to give their confidential information.  The messages typically appear to come from a source that you would trust e.g. your bank or a government agency or a utility company.

Examples include:-

·         The Solution to a Problem. The message offers the answer to a medical problem or you need to verify your email account or read Facebook notifications or anything to get you to click that link.

·         The message may be a special offer accessible only for today or until the item is sold out or all given away or a free upgrade for your email account or a free APP and so on.

·         You have won something – a prize draw you didn’t enter or a national lottery or a Premium Bond or a prize giveaway by Facebook etc.

The list of these phishing scams is endless.

3.     Bait. 

The criminals know what attracts people and they setup fake websites, fake downloads of popular movies, music or software or bargain offers on desirable products. They the advertise using social media, emails and website adverts.

The victim thinks they are getting a bargain or something for nothing but are liable to just get malware infecting their computer.    If something looks too good to be true – it almost certainly is.

4.     A Response to a Query

The message is in the format of a reply to a question or query raised by you.

These messages are typically pretending to be from a large well-known company such as Microsoft or Apple or a utility company or the National Lottery etc.

The scammers reasoning is that people are more likely to read and reply to a message if they believe they initiated the contact and that the scammer is offering help to deal with a problem. This is probably true.

If you have never asked the question and don’t use the relevant product or service then you’ll probably just delete the message and assume it was sent in error.

But if you do use the product or service or would like to then you may be taken in

How to Protect Against Social Engineering

The basic answer is to use common sense. If something looks too good to be true then it’s likely to be a scam. If you appear to have won something but didn’t enter the lottery or whatever it was then cannot have won.   Don’t reply to people you don’t know and don’t click on an unknown link even if you think you know the person who appears to have sent it to you. Here are suggestions to help you avoid social engineering attacks.

·         Basic security – all devices and servers should have anti-virus but also anti-malware installed.

·         Use email filters to remove the most obvious malicious emails

·         Keep all devices fully up to date with latest security patches etc.

·         Any requests by email, message or phone call for confidential and/or financial information should be treated as suspect

·         Ensure everyone is trained to be aware of the threats and what to do in the case of doubt

·         Don’t download free music, software, movies etc. Only download when you have checked the validity of the item.  

Stay sharp.

The hacker is watching you

Clear Smart

The website entices people by advertising expensive TVs at discount prices. The discounts aren’t huge – these scammers know not to make it obvious that it’s a con trick. So the discount is enough to interest you but not warn you of illegality.

Clear Smart is not a company - just a trade name. When it comes to payment then the real company CS Online Retail Limited becomes apparent. They may also trade under other names – we don’t know.

The Sell

The TVs for sale are by the big manufacturers e.g. Samsung and are the high spec models i.e. expensive (£1,000+).

You select what you want on the website, then call to place the order.  Everything seems professional and legitimate so far.

They have the items in stock and will dispatch the following day. You place your order and then the problems start. Your card payment is rejected. You try again – still rejected. Try another card – still rejected. They say it must be your bank at fault.  (If you contact your bank at this stage you would find that the card has not been presented for payment – it’s all a setup).

Now what can you do?

Switch to Direct Payment

Clear Smart offer an alternative – pay by bank transfer and they will give you a small discount for the trouble.

The payment goes to an account named CS Online Services.

The danger of paying by bank transfer is that once the money has been sent it is most likely then moved to another account and you have no chance of getting it back should there be a problem.    

Customer Services

There is no TV but now they play the delay game. You get emails saying that the TV has been delayed or damaged in transit or lost or is out of stock – anything to put you off for a while.

Phoning customer services gets the same message, until in time they get fed up with being asked for the TV and make it very clear that you won’t get a TV and you cannot have your money back.

Meanwhile they are still selling these non-existent TVs to more people, using the same tricks.

What Can Be Done to Stop The Scammers?

As with any serious scam, it should be reported to the Police. You need a Police report number if you are going to claim on your insurance. You can also report it to Action Fraud which is part of the Police Service.

The Company - CS Online Retail Limited

This company was created in 2013 and has two directors Charlotte Catherine Hicks of York and Nigel Peter Davis of Weybridge. There was a Stuart Hicks named as Director when the company was incorporated.

Whether these are active people in the scammers business is unknown. Nigel Peter David lists his occupation as accountant.

The company does register annual accounts etc. with companies house and claims to have very little money.


If you know anything about Clear-Smart or CS Online Services (CS Online Retail) then let me know by email.

Click here to listen to The Problem of Fake Online Reviews podcast

Many of us buy products and services online and its always a good idea to look at reviews of the company and their products/services before choosing what to buy. Surveys suggest that more than half of the adults in Britain, around 25 million people, use online reviews such as on  Amazon, eBAY, Tripadvisor, Foursquare and Checkatrade to provide confidence in the product/service/person, avoid bad items and find the best deals.

We rely on those reviews being honest – by people who have actually used the relevant product or service and telling about their experience objectively.

But, some companies cheat – they pay others to create fake reviews  in order to get more business. Sometimes they try to cover up bad reviews by posting lots of fake positive reviews and so on. This distorts the situation and is dishonest. If a company ‘distorts’ online reviews then they are in breach of the Consumer Protection Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

The Competition and Markets Authority says that shoppers who use the internet to research hotels, books, electronics and other purchases are being routinely misled by millions of fake reviews orchestrated by companies to trick potential customers.

It can be difficult to tell the difference between genuine consumer review and fake ones. Consumer expert Kaitlyn Wells ( says you can easily spot illegitimate reviews when they either are too gushy or are too negative, while failing to explain how they came to their conclusions about a product.

Why are these reviews so important?

Experts on the power of customer reviews believe that the presence of good reviews can convert prospects into  sales three times better than without such reviews and increasingly people search for reviews and may ignore sites that don’t have them.

This problem of distortion is not new. Magazine reviews have always been a little suspect as it is well known that the reviewers are given free products and sometimes trips to great places to review the products. So is their opinion completely unaffected?

Also, the bloggers and vloggers who do product reviews face this problem as their opinions can carry a lot of weight but they are commonly offered free products to test.  Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.


Amazon reviews were designed to counter this problems with bias, by getting  the consumers to write about their experiences. It’s a great idea until people start to misuse it.  Amazon says the reviews are good as long as the reviewers are not paid and don’t get any compensation in any form other than free use of the product for the purpose of reviewing.

Amazon has said the their goal is to make reviews as useful as possible for customers and they continue to use a number of mechanisms to detect and remove the small fraction of reviews that violate their guidelines.

Negative Reviews

Some businesses hire online reputation management companies to help them repair damage ‎caused by negative online reviews. These companies use a variety of methods to achieve this aim but anyone using these companies should be aware that creating fake online reviews is illegal so they need to check the methods to be used and not just turn a blind eye.

An investigation by The Times newspaper last year found that hotel owners in the UK were paying up to ‎‎£10,000 to agencies that promised to improve their review rankings.

There are also times when underhand businesses pay for negative reviews of a competitor to be posted on the competitors website. This is clearly very wrong. There are even examples of scammers posting a series of fake negative reviews  against a business then the business is offered a way out of that for a price.

Taking Action to Stop Fake Reviews

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) says that consumers who research hotels, books and other purchases online are being misled by millions of fake reviews orchestrated by businesses to misdirect potential customers.

A CMA investigation into Total SEO & Marketing Ltd, a search engine optimisation and online marketing company, found that between 2014 and 2015 it had written over 800 fake positive reviews for 86 small businesses that were published across 26 different websites which contain customer reviews.

Total SEO has co-operated with the CMA’s consumer law investigation. The company, and its directors, have undertaken to the CMA that they:

·         have ceased the practice of writing fake reviews for their clients; and

·         will take steps to remove the fake reviews already posted online.

In addition to this action, the CMA has written to Total SEO’s clients to warn them that third parties writing fake reviews on their behalf might lead to them breaking the law themselves. The small businesses concerned include car dealers, mechanics, landscape gardeners and other tradespeople.

Government Action

Since June 2015, The UK government Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS)  has been asking the public to provide evidence of instances where online reviews and endorsements may be unlawful. They are expecting further  examples of:-

·         fake reviews being posted onto review sites

·         negative reviews not being published

·         businesses paying for endorsements in blogs and other online articles without this being made clear to consumers

As well as creating new consumer protection rules the Government said it may build new powers to apply civil fines to businesses who do not comply.


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

Click the podcast icon to listen to the podcast of "Is MLM a Scam?" 

My opinion is that MLM is not a scam but clearly there are people who setup scams using MLM.

 Q.           What is Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) ?

You buy the products from your single supplier and sell them to your customers.

BUT you also recruit more ‘MLM marketers’ to sell the product and you get a percentage of the sales they make. Likewise, whoever recruited you gets a percentage of the sales that you make.

The people who just sell, can make money – often working when they choose for as long or short a time as they wish. But it’s the people who recruit a lot of other people who make the big money.


Avon cosmetics are known to most people either directly or through the catalogues pushed through the door.

Avon was setup in the late 1800s in America and the first Avon person was a man. Avon was always about direct selling on the doorstep. Then more recently Avon turned to MLM and encourages its reps to recruit and train their own teams of reps and get commission from their sales.  

Some say this has ruined Avon as people spend their time recruiting rather than selling and that by its nature MLM is fundamentally wrong as when pushed hard it becomes effectively a pyramid selling scheme.

Avon says they avoid the excesses of MLM by limiting commission to only three generations.  i.e. you recruit a team and they each recruit a team and they each recruit a team and you get commission from all of them.

MLM Companies

There are many successful and long lived MLM operations including Herbalife,   Mary Kay,  Young Living Essential Oils,  Origami Owl jewellery,  Stella and Dot, Isagenix,  Nerium International and  Rodan & Fields. 

It’s easy to see the attraction of these schemes – work from home, own your business, work the hours you choose, the more you work the more money you get and so on. And for many people this works out well to provide a supplementary income or even a main income.

But there are also many MLM operations that came crashing down including Vemma nutrition (shut down in 2015 by the FTC) ,  Mona Vie Health Drinks (admitted that only 14% of distributors make any money) ,  Wake Up Now financial management (bankrupt in 2015; admitted only 5% of distributors made money).

Multi-Level Marketing is also known as Network Marketing, Direct Marketing, Matrix Marketing and more titles and they sell everything from vacuum cleaners to candles to computers to properties.

Q             What’s the main difference between MLM and Pyramid Selling?

If the money you make is basically from selling a product or service to a consumer of that product or service then you’re probably in a good business. But if the money you make is basically from how many others you can recruit then it’s a pyramid scheme and you should think about getting out before it collapses.

 The Consumer Awareness Institute analysed data from different network companies and found that the least successful MLM was Amway where 99.99 percent of distributors lost money. The best of these companies was Herbalife. Only 99.42% of their distributors lost money.

That is frighteningly poor.

The Herbalife Story

In February 1980, Mark Hughes began selling the original Herbalife weight management product from the trunk of his car. His stated goal was to change the nutritional habits of the world.

His first product was a protein shake designed to help people manage their weight. From the beginning he ran the company as MLM.

In 1985, the California Attorney General sued the company for making inflated claims about the efficacy of its products. The company settled the suit for $850,000. In 1986, Herbalife became a publicly traded company on the NASDAQ, and in 1996 Herbalife reached US$1 billion in annual sales.

Herbalife reported net sales of US$3.825 billion in 2014, a 21% decrease over 2013, and net income of $308.7 million. It is incorporated in the Cayman Islands, and its corporate headquarters are there.

The company operates internationally and distributes its products in 95 countries, as of July 2015. The MLM compensation structure consists of commissions, royalties and bonuses on sales done by a distributor's downline (the people they have sponsored as new recruits). In 2014, approximately 1.4% of distributors in the USA received over $5,000 in bonuses per year  and 0.25% received over $50,000. These figures do not include income from product sales nor do they include the costs incurred by distributors.

It is very clear that few people who join Herbalife will ever make any money from the company.

 Herbalife came under investigation by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. In July 2016 for being a pyramid scheme.. Herbalife agreed to pay $200 million in a settlement and is subject to a set of restrictions to effectively stop it being a pyramid scheme.

Herbalife do sell health products but their main business is selling the rights to sell Herbalife ie.e. the MLM scheme.

Adverts for Herbalife talk about the products but also about the ‘business opportunity’.

Q. The company has been around for many years and that seems unlikely if it really is a pyramid scheme. Surely it would have collapsed?

All pyramid schemes eventually run out of new ‘distributors’ and collapse but that can take years especially if the scheme expands overseas as Herbalife has done.

You can choose to be in Network Marketing /MLM/Matrix Marketing /whatever new name is used, but at least go into it with your eyes open and the realisation that few people ever make money from it.

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


Fraud Graphic 

1. Ringtone scams                                                   

Ringtone scams tend to be targeted at younger people and were very prevalent when mobile phones first had the ability to change ringtones. Periodically these scams still turn up. The scam attracts victims by offering them a ‘free’ ringtone, but by accepting this  the user is subscribed to a regular service and payment each month that they didn’t know about.

2. Car Insurance 

The caller says you're eligible for cheaper car insurance. The scam is that they get your personal information and card details which can be used for theft from you and/or identity theft.

3. Government Awards 

The caller claims that you have won a government award, just for being a good citizen.  The scam element is that you have to pay a processing fee or something similar to get the award.

4. BT Disconnection Scam

A caller claiming to be from BT tells you that your number is due to be disconnected due to non-payment of the latest bill. Only immediate payment can prevent the disconnection. Sometimes the scammer will tell you to put the phone down and try calling someone. This proves to be impossible as the scammer holds the line open. Then the scammer disconnects and calls back to collect the money.

 5. Missed Call scam

If you are in the habit or automatically calling any number where the person failed to get through to you – don’t! This can be a bad idea and you should think before calling back.  The scammer calls and immediately terminates the call but when you call back it’s on a premium rate line that can charge up to £3 per minute.

6. Technical Support Virus scam

This is a very common scam where the caller claims they are calling from Microsoft or your Internet broadband supplier and tells you that you have a virus on your computer. The caller goes on to take control of your computer, convince you there is a major problem and charge you for removing that non-existent problem.

7. Telephone Lottery Scams

The caller tells you that you’ve won a prize draw or lottery.  This is a form of advance fee scam as the caller then needs a small payment to release the winnings.

8. Payday loans

The caller targets those who have applied for a payday loan and claim to be a debt collector. They demand payment and late fees and some people have been threatened unless they pay up. The scammers sometimes call people who don’t have such loans but the threatening nature of the call can make them pay up anyway.

9. Mobile phone insurance

After purchasing a new mobile phone you may receive a call supposedly from the shop where you bought the phone. They say they forgot to tell you about the free insurance deal. On signing up for this they take your payment details supposedly as verification but in fact just want those details to sell to other scammers. There is no free insurance.

10. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)

 HMRC have recently warned customers about calls from scammers pretending to be the taxman. The caller tells you that you’re due a tax rebate and asks you for your bank details so the money can be paid into your account. There is no money and the scammer obtains your bank details for their own illegal use.

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