Category: Warning

A Pre-Paid Funeral Is Not a Good Deal

The Fairer Finance consumer group has published a report into pre-paid funerals and concludes that the Funeral Planning industry is not working well for consumers and millions of pounds of consumer’s money could be at risk.

The average cost of a funeral is now £3,900 so it makes sense for many people to plan ahead to ensure there is the money for a funeral for a loved one or themselves.

Telesales companies have been bombarding people with calls about planning their funeral and an estimated six million people over the age of 50 have been contacted.

James Daley of ‘Fairer Finance’ said “the combination of a fast growing market, fuelled by high pressure sales to a potentially vulnerable customer base is creating a perfect storm. “

“A growing number of customers are likely to be let down when their plan is claimed on – with some funeral plan providers passing on significant extra costs to the families”

The people making the calls are usually commission based and charge up to £1,000 per plan sold so obviously that’s a big chunk of the money gone that was expected to pay for the funeral.

This market is basically unregulated and the report findings will be reviewed by The Treasury, the Competition and Markets Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority.

There are reputable companies involved in the funeral planning industry and this can make sense for some people. But do not take up an offer from a cold caller and do your research to find the best plan for your needs and ensure you understand what it includes as it seems that 90% of people taking these plans do not fully understand what they will get.  Contact the relevant company directly – to avoid commission going to an agent.

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Do You Understand Facebook Security

The Internet Resource Centre (www.idtheft.org) carried out a survey to help Facebook users deal with concerns over identity theft.

The key concern from the survey results is that many Facebook users don’t understand the privacy settings and believe their information has more restricted circulation than is actually the case.

63% of respondents believed their information was only visible to friends if their profile was set to private. Not true.

Over 90%  of respondents say they have their full name visible on their profile and more than 50% have their birthday, pets names, hometown, high school name and current city visible. All of this information is very useful to identity thieves.

Most people do not share passwords with others, but 10% say they reuse the same password on other sites. If your password is hacked, then the hackers often try the same login and password on other systems so if you share passwords across systems then you’re putting all of them all at risk from one hack.

Most survey respondents have received scam emails and messages, phishing emails and messages and more than 10% report their account was accessed without their permission. The results were mostly embarrassment and damage to reputation but also loss of money in some cases.

Many victims of identity theft do not realise their identity has been compromised  until some time later e.g. when a bank statement arrives or debt collectors start to phone.  By then a lot of damage could already have been done.

The page at http://www.digitalspy.com/tech/feature/a552990/how-do-i-make-my-facebook-profile-private/ contains detailed information on Facebook privacy settings.

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Social Networking and Identity Theft

Billions of people use social media networks – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and more.

Many people share lots of information about themselves and sometimes that can give fraudsters what they need to scam you, specifically to steal your identity.

Identity theft is where a fraudster acquires confidential information about you – sufficient that she can access your online accounts, take out credit cards or loans in your name, commit crimes and use your name etc.

This can be a devastating experience for some and once your identity has been stolen it’s very difficult to reclaim it without a lot of help.

How Identity Theft Can Happen Through Social Networking

To make full use of social media you need to divulge information about yourself but you should be aware of the following risky activities:-

  • In Settings – choosing privacy to be “low”
  • Accepting invitations to connect from unknown people
  • Downloading free APPS – games etc.
  • Sharing your password
  • Clicking on links that lead you to other websites, even if the link was sent to you by a friend or posted on your friend’s profile
  • Clicking on links in phishing messages or replying to them

E.g. A woman receives a message from one of her friends on social media recommending a cat video for which there is a link. She trusts her friend so clicks on the link, but it doesn’t bring up a video. She didn’t know that her friends profile had been hacked and taken over and the link was to a malicious website. A computer virus has  now downloaded to her computer from that website.

She later finds that emails have gone out in her name to all of her contacts asking them to click on the malicious link.

Be aware and stay safe.

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Fake Online Reviews

[picture – Each child only sees the part s/he is examining – old proverb]

Online reviews of a product or service can be very useful and most people buying online do check out such reviews first.

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 or service and find the best deals.

We rely on those reviews being honest – by people who have actually used the relevant product or service and giving their honest opinions.

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.

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.

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There is further information at

http://www.fightbackonline.org/index.php/guidance/13-warnings/46-the-problem-of-fake-online-reviews

In conclusion,  online reviews can be very helpful but you do have to consider why the author of such reviews wrote them – was there any self interest involved or monetary benefit?

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The Clear Smart Fake TV Sales Scam

Clear-Smart advertise bargain price TVs on the Internet at clear-smart.co.uk

When you try to buy one – the card payment fails. Any card payment fails and they offer a further discount if you pay by bank transfer.

If you agree and pay – then your money is gone.

Meanwhile they fob you off with stories about the TV having been lost or damaged in transit or out of stock. They say anything to put you off for a while.

If you persist, then in time they turn nasty as they don’t like too many calls asking where the product is.

Then it’s obvious that it’s all just a scam – there are no TVs and having paid by bank transfer – the money is gone. Also, as they have your card details – your account may be at risk.

The moral is clear – always check carefully who you are buying from and NEVER pay by bank transfer or money payment agent as the money may be gone irretrievably

Clear Smart is a trading name for CS Online Retail Limited with registered owners – Charlotte Catherine Hicks and Nigel Peter Davis.

If you know anything about Clear Smart or CS Online Retail Limited then do let me know by email.

The Trading Options Scam

There are thousands of professionals who trade stock market options for a living and many do very well in this complex and risky world of finance.

Scammers like products such as Trading Options as there are cases in the news of people working from home making a fortune trading options, legitimately.

The scam is simple – entice people with tales of huge successes, the jet set lifestyle and leaving their troubles behind them.  Tell people they will make fast profits in a few hours a day, be able to give up their jobs and almost instantly achieve riches beyond their dreams. Then sell them rubbish.

For many people there is also an element of fear attached to the idea of trading on the stock market so to remove that fear the scammers may promise money back guarantees or the first few trades at no risk or a pot of money already in your account.

For example, a recent email states “Your account is ready and loaded with 5 Non-Risk Trades + 150% bonus!”

Followed by

No Risk No Reward? Not True!

But they know full well that although a lot of people can be enticed into trying trading but the vast majority lose money and give up.

There are perfectly legitimate companies offering stock market trading but the reputable firms do not cold call or send spam emails and they make people very much aware of the risks involved.

A recent piece of research showed that home investors who trade options made on average only 20% of the profits of those investors who steered clear of options.  So it’s better to avoid trading options unless you are an expert.

If you want to try trading then do find a reputable company and learn before risking your own money.

Warning: Online Advertising Networks

An online advertising network or ad network buys advertising space on any websites and sells that as package deals to advertisers . The key function of an ad network is aggregation of ad space supply from publishers and matching it with advertiser demand.

The advertising network market is a large and growing market, with Internet advertising revenues expected to grow to $240bn in 2019.

Online advertising may be on websites on desktop computers and mobile devices, in RSS feeds, on blogs, in instant messaging applications, mobile apps, e-mails, and on other media.

Large publishers often sell their remaining advertising space through ad networks.

Online advertising networks typically use these three approaches:-

  1. Vertical Networks: The network works with a group of publishers in an industry sector e.g. travel and any advertisers will be able to see where their adverts will be positioned.
  2. Blind Networks: These companies offer good pricing to direct marketers in exchange for those marketers not knowing control over where their ads will run. Blind networks achieve their low pricing through bulk buying of advertising space and mopping up last minute spaces available.
  3. Targeted Networks: these focus on specific targeting technologies such as behavioural targeting and contextual targeting.

The Issue With Ad Networks

Location: Most ad networks do not disclose where the ads will be placed for how many impressions.  So advertisers are in the dark to some degree and may end up with their ads appearing on sites they would not want to be associated with e.g. gambling sites carry a lot of ad network adverts.

Pricing: An advertiser may buy a package of advertising space that includes some sites they like. However the ad network may place very little on those sites as they are probably more expensive and instead place most of the ads on lower quality websites which will be cheaper.

This way the ad network can make larger profits at the expense of quality.

Relevance: Ad networks may place ads anywhere they can get bargains and this is likely to be sites that are irrelevant for the advertiser. This leads to poor results and failure to communicate with the chosen market.

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

The Central Register of Companies

A letter arrived for Fightback from The Central Register of Companies and Businesses.

The letter looks official but is not addressed to a person or a job role, just to the company.

It starts off by specifying the company start date and address then comes the deceitful part.

Go to www.cregist.co.uk and pay for the publication of your company.

Lack of payment will result in lack of entry in the Central Register of Companies and Businesses.

At first glance, maybe that sounds bad and I’d better pay up quickly. But of course it’s just a  sales pitch wrapped up to sound like it’s an official requirement.

The letter continues saying the same things in different official sounding words.

In accordance with the current register rules (8 of internal rules), publication of an entry in the Central Register of Companies and Businesses requires payment of an optional registration fee of £200.

The letter does not class as a scam because the wording is careful to avoid actual lies. However, it is designed to fool people who don’t read it carefully and I suspect many businesses have signed up for what is essentially just an entry In a business directory without realising that’s all it is.

If you want to pay for an entry in a directory – that’s fine, but don’t pay for such things without reading the offer carefully.

Don’t be fooled.

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