Category: Guidance

The Battle Against Illegal Medicine Websites

There are countless Internet sites selling drugs and medicines, without prescription, that should only be available with a Doctor’s guidance and prescription.

The reasons people buy medicines from Internet sites can be just about saving money but can also be about anonymity, fear of approaching a doctor, ignorance of the dangers involved and so on.

There is a government campaign called #fakemeds with a website at https://fakemeds.campaign.gov.uk/

You can use this website to check if a website you are thinking of buying from is registered to sell medicines and you can report suspected fake medicines and suppliers.

The potentially dangerous products seized by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) had not tested for safety and have been found in some cases stored in dirty, rat-infested warehouses and garden sheds. In 2016, MHRA seized more than 4.6 million fake medical products and closed thousands of websites selling medicines illegally.

The three key messages are

  1. More than half of all medicines bought online are fake
  2. Side effects can include heart attacks, strokes and death.
  3. Buying from dodgy websites also increases the risk of being ripped off through credit card fraud or having your identity stolen.

The #fakemeds campaign is run by MHRA and a recent study in co-operation with Slimming World shows:-

  • One in three slimmers have tried slimming pills purchased online.
  • Three quarters of slimmers (77%) were enticed by promises of rapid weight loss, more than half were attracted to being able to order discreetly (57%) and more than four in ten (44%) ordered online because they didn’t want to speak to a GP or pharmacist.
  • Nearly two-in-three (63%) suffered unpleasant side effects after taking slimming pills bought online. These side effects included diarrhoea, bleeding, blurred vision and heart problems. Worryingly, four out of five (81%) didn’t report these side effects to anyone.
  • Four out of 10 respondents said they had used the slimming pills knowing there were health risks, with more than six out of ten (62%) doing so because they were ‘desperate to lose weight’.

Be careful buying medicine online and if you should get a prescription for the product then do speak to your doctor and do not risk your health on cheap dodgy products.

More than 5,000 websites illegally selling prescription drugs were shut down in 2016.

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The Value of Directory Submission Services

Online business directories used to be a good way to find items of interest on the Internet. But since the search engines became highly efficient, online directories have not been needed for general searching.  Search engines are the starting point for most users of the World Wide Web and directories are out of favour.

There are online services that will submit your website listing to hundreds or even thousands of online directories and they make it sound as if it’s the best way to get your website noticed.  But search engines pay little attention to directories and few people use them and directories don’t feature much in recommended search engine optimisation for your website, so the value is questionable.

Free and Paid Listings

While most online directories all offer a free listing option, they will try to upsell you to a paid option – this is generally a range packages available for a monthly fee. For example $25 might get you a listing with a logo and a website link, whereas $50 might guarantee you an entry in the top half of their search results page.

A free, basic listing can be useful just for the sake of another return link to your website, but it’s difficult to justify paying for an entry unless it’s a niche directory that is still much used by people searching in that niche.  This true for some trade directories that list for example architects or plumbers.

If your entry in a business directory is to your profile on the directory then this is unlikely to help your position in the main search engines as only the secondary link is to your website.

A paid listing will give you more visibility on the directory but probably be no better for the main search engines.

Maybe you know good reasons why business directory listings are worth paying for?

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Stay Safe on Western Union

Western Union is a money transfer system. It is very much favoured by online fraudsters as once you have made a payment in Western Union the money is untraceable and no way can you get it back.

Western Union recognise this problem but there’s little they can do as the whole process is designed to allow for easy money transfer as if paying cash. Untraceable.

Western Union do publish guidance on how to avoid scams and stay safe.

They publish a list of Money Transfer Never-Evers as they call them.

These are:-

  • Never send money to people you haven’t met in person.
  • Never send money to pay for taxes or fees on lottery or prize winnings.
  • Never use a test question as an additional security measure to protect your transaction.
  • Never provide your banking information to people or businesses you don’t know.
  • Never send money in advance to obtain a loan or credit card.
  • Never send money for an emergency situation without verifying that it’s a real emergency.
  • Never send funds from a cheque in your account until it officially clears—which can take weeks.
  • Never send a money transfer to an individual for online purchases.

If you follow those rules then you will be a lot safer using money transactions with Western Union.

There are countless other money transfer businesses of course including TransferWise, Currencies Direct, OFX and Moneygram.

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Maintain Online Privacy

One of the wonderful things about the Internet is the capacity to share information quickly and with a lot of people.

Conversely, one of the big problems with the Internet is people with malicious internet obtaining your confidential information.  Everyone from the ‘Big Brother’ of Facebook, Google and others watching everything we do to scammers trying to steal from us.

Here are some actions you can consider to protect your online security

  1. Have up to date anti-virus and anti-malware on all of your computer devices
  2. Don’t give out information that you don’t want scammers to have, unless you are sure of the person or website you are giving it to.
  3. Be careful – if something looks too good to be true then it’s likely to be a scam
  4. Never click on a link or open an attachment unless you are sure it is safe
  5. Avoid public WI-FI if you intend to access online banking or anything else that needs to be secure.

Website Browsing

There are a number of things you can do to make your website browsing more private and safer.

  • Use the privacy/incognito mode
  • Block web activity trackers
  • Block your ads
  • Use encrypted messengers
  • Get a VPN
  • Avoid non-https:// websites for input of confidential information
  • Clear your cookies regularly
  • Use secure/encrypted email providers

The  guide at https://thebestvpn.com/online-privacy-guide/ contains a lot more information on what you can do to maintain your online privacy.

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Are Online Directories Still Useful

In the early days of the World Wide Web, a lot of people were setting up websites, but for people trying to use the web – the problem was how to find what they were looking for.  The idea of online directories made sense as online versions of paper directories, which had been useful for a long time.

Online directories appeared by the hundred and served their purpose until the search engines became effective enough to replace them as the best way to find websites, topics, phrases, names etc. on the Internet.

Online directories can still serve a purpose as part of an online marketing strategy. For example, they are handy for businesses that do not have a website. This at least gives the business name, address and contact details findable on the Internet.

The Big Two Directories

There are two online directories that are still highly regarded  by the search engines.  These are the Open Directory Project (DMOZ) and the Yahoo directory.  Publishing in either of these is difficult as a free entry may not be reviewed for months and even then there is no guarantee of inclusion.  There is the option to pay for a review but again that does not guarantee inclusion in the directory.

Niche Directories

Having an entry in a niche directory can be useful and can get traffic to your website.  These directories target a  specific to an industry or an interest etc.  If your website falls into such a specific  niche, then consider an entry.

This can have a positive effect on your website ranking if the directory is well respected.  Trade Association directories are the main niche directories.

Free or Paid Listings?

Most directories offer free listings with the option to pay to get a better listing such as with more photos, more prominence in searches etc.

But, it is difficult to justify spending a lot of money on an enhanced listing when the money could be spent on direct online advertising instead with Google, Bing, Facebook and others.

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Beware Dynamic Pricing

If you go shopping at your local shops, then you expect the prices of goods will stay basically the same. Inflation means there will be upward movement and sometimes special offers, but usually there are consistent prices.

Buying petrol is a difficult game as the price is set each day and petrol stations near each other will often change their prices to compete but there is usually at least a tiny difference in price for each petrol station you pass. You can fill your tank expecting the price to go up but it might go down instead.

Airlines have operated demand pricing for some time – the price fluctuates depending on the level of demand so passengers on the same flight may well have  paid a wide range of prices for the same seats from the early bird prices to higher last minute prices.

But what about online giants such as Amazon?

Amazon operate ‘dynamic pricing’ which means they will change prices frequently depending on demand and changing circumstances – this can be multiple times in a day but is more usually once or twice a week for many goods.

The weather forecast changes and the prices of some items changes accordingly. Monday and Tuesday are the least popular days for online shopping so there are more bargains to be had whereas the weekend is more popular so the prices go up.

Anything that potentially changes the level of demand can trigger price changes.

So, how do you deal with this?

It can be difficult to know whether prices for what you want are likely to go up or down but it can be advisable to watch the price of items for a while and see if you can get a good deal.

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Legal Steps to Recover Your Stolen Money

This is a series of steps for attempting to recover money stolen by fraudsters. It has been created by Barrister  Gideon Roseman following his skirmish with fraudsters. You can read about that at fightback.ninja/amateur-detective-recovers-stolen-money/

  1. Immediately phone your bank and ask to speak with the fraud team

Explain what has happened and demand they immediately contact the fraudster’s bank, i.e.  the bank you transferred your money to.

  1. Immediately contact a solicitor or barrister who can accept instructions directly from members of the public (or alternatively you can attempt to do this yourself). Ask them to immediately make an application to freeze the fraudster’s bank account and any other bank account that the fraudster has with their bank. The application should include a request for an order that the fraudster’s bank provides the following information:
  • all contact details (mobile phone, home phone, email address, residential address etc.) for all signatories to the fraudster’s bank account and any other bank account held in the fraudster’s name or any other signatory to this bank account that is held at the bank
  • all bank statements for the fraudster’s bank account and any other bank account to which the fraudster or any other signatory has with the bank in question for a period of 6 months; and
  • the current balance of all bank accounts with the bank that is in the fraudster’s or any other signatory’s name.
  1. Once you get hold of the court order, this will need to be immediately emailed to the fraudster’s banks’ ‘court orders’ team who can process it. You can ask your bank for this email address.
  2. As soon as you receive the information from the fraudster’s bank, consider the following points:

(i) has your money been transferred or paid to any recognisable company you can contact, such as a known retailer

(ii) if you can identify a company that has received your money, you can then contact this company, explain what has happened and request they either cancel the transaction made by the fraudster or request them to hold onto the money they have received and

(iii) has the money been transferred to other bank accounts.

  1. If your money has been transferred out of the fraudster’s bank account and into another bank account, you have the option of returning to court and making an application for the information set out above and repeating the process set out above.
  2. When you have received the fraudster’s bank account statements, try to work out the dates and times of the transfers out of their accounts. Your bank will be under a duty to contact the fraudster’s bankers, who will then freeze the fraudster’s account.

If your bank has failed to act within a reasonable period of time after you have notified them of the fraud, which has enabled the fraudster to transfer your money without a trace, it is likely that your bank will have breached their duty and will have to compensate you.

Good luck.

If you have any experiences with scammers, spammers or time-waster do let me know, by email.

Airline Delays and Compensation

There are EU laws defining how much air passengers should be compensated for various flight delays.

However, many of the airlines are not playing fair with their customers and large numbers of people find they have to complain to the Civil Aviation Authority for their recompense. This is after they have been through the airlines dispute resolution process.

The Denied Boarding regulation covers flights originating in the EU and all flights by EU registered airlines.  However it does not cover non EU registered airlines flying outside the EU.

  • Short haul passengers are entitled to 250 Euros if the flight is delayed by more than 3 hours
  • Long haul passengers can be entitled to 300 Euros if the flight landed between 3 and 4 hours late
  • Long haul passengers are entitled to 600 Euros if the flight landed more than 4 hours behind schedule
  • Delayed passengers may be entitled to meals, refreshments, email service, phone calls and even overnight accommodation depending on the delays.

The airlines argue that most causes of delays are outside of their control e.g. weather problems, bird strikes, airport issues etc. and therefore they shouldn’t have to pay, but the regulators take a more open approach and expect the airlines to pay compensation in many of these cases.

For the EU law to apply, you’ll need to have departed from the UK, European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland.

The airlines should help you at the airport. But if not, then you’ll need to apply to the airline afterwards. Make sure to keep any relevant receipts and don’t overspend – they won’t compensate you for luxury hotels and extravagant meals and alcohol etc.

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/holiday-cancellations-and-compensation/if-your-flights-delayed-or-cancelled/  has detailed information on exactly how much you can claim.

The Which consumer magazine site has a letter creator to help you claim compensation. At http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/i-had-a-flight-delay-can-i-get-compensation

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Starting a Small Claims Court Case

Before starting a small claims case in the courts, you should have made a serious attempt to resolve the problem or your case could be rejected for that reason.

But if that fails, then you need to know who the defendant is – you cannot start a court case without clearly identifying the defendant.  It also makes a great deal of sense to take legal advice before starting a case so you will have a legal opinion on whether you have a winnable case.

The next step is to gather all relevant evidence and if you believe you have a good case then go to the government website https://www.gov.uk/make-court-claim-for-money/overview

The fees involved are for example £100 – £170 for cases where the money in dispute is between £1,000 and £3,000, but the full list of fees is available from that page.

Start your case.

You can start a case on paper rather than online but the fees are higher and the process will take longer.

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/ to register.

Make sure you have a strong case before going down this route and make sure you have exhausted other simpler options first.

The steps involved are further outlined in the article http://fightbackonline.org/index.php/guidance/12-explanations/70-using-the-small-claims-court-to-sue-a-scammer

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Virgin Media Customers at Risk of Hacking

Virgin Media has told 800,000 customers to change their router passwords to protect against being hacked.

This only applies to Virgin media customers with the Super 2 router. The router is box that provides your Internet connection and WI-FI.

Which consumer magazine has been investigating Wi-Fi in the home and discovered this problem.

Virgin Media said the risk was small but advised customers using default network and router passwords to update them immediately. This means that if your router has never had its password changed, then you should consider changing it.  To do this you need to use your browser and connect to the http address for the router.

A spokesman said: “The security of our network and of our customers is of paramount importance to us. We continually upgrade our systems and equipment to ensure that we meet all current industry standards. We regularly support our customers through advice and updates and offer them the chance to upgrade to a Hub 3.0 which contains additional security provisions.”

Supposedly, the issue exists with other routers of the same age and is not exclusive to the Virgin Media model.

Which carried out the study in conjunction with ethical security researchers SureCloud and they tested 15 devices -of which eight had security flaws.

In one case a home CCTV system was hacked using an administrator account that was not password protected. Hackers were able to watch live pictures and in some cases were able to move cameras inside the house.

Which? called for the industry to improve basic security provisions, including requiring customers to create a unique password before use, two-factor authentication, and issuing regular software security updates.

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