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Mini Bonds Warning

A mini-bond is essentially an IOU issued by a company to an investor, in exchange for a fixed rate of interest over a set period of time. At the end of this period, the investors’ money is repaid.

This is how bonds of all kinds are used. The investor gets interest on the ‘loan’ and the company gets  cheap money for a period, essentially.

There is no legal definition of a ‘mini-bond’, as opposed to a normal bond, but the term usually refers to bonds for relatively small businesses, often retailers, that may struggle to raise money on larger markets.

Typically, the bonds are for three to five years, and investors earn regular interest payments during the life of the mini-bond. Some bonds offer rewards in another form such as discounts on their products.

The return on investors’ money entirely depends on the success and proper running of the issuer’s business. If the business fails, investors may get nothing back.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) say that Mini-bonds typically offer high returns and this reflects the much higher risks involved compared to other types of investments. A business does not generally have to be regulated by the FCA to issue mini-bonds and there is normally no protection from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).

Any investors should think carefully before investing in a mini-bond, and not invest any money they can’t afford to lose.

From 1 January 2020, it is against FCA rules for anyone to promote ‘speculative mini-bonds’ to retail consumers, unless they are considered to be ‘sophisticated’ or have a high net worth.

The specific type of mini-bond that the FCA consider to be the most problematic is where a company raises money from investors with the intention of lending the money to a third party or investing in other companies, or property. Being able to pay interest and repay the original investment depends on how these lending or investment activities perform. Where these products are marketed to ‘eligible’ investors, they will have to clearly state the risk of losing all of the investment, and also provide clear information on the costs and charges associated with the product.

This type of company could face cash flow problems that delay interest payments, or it could fail altogether and be unable to repay any of the money investors have lent it.

Mini-bonds cannot easily be converted into cash as there is normally no market for these bonds.

If you receive a regulated investment service, such as investment advice, relating to a mini-bond from an authorised person and they fail to meet DCA standards, you may be able to complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

If you have any experiences with mini bonds, do let me know, by email.

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Stupidest Spam of the Week Stop Cancer

There are endless scammers offering magic remedies for various illnesses and complaints. Some even choose cancer for their remedies.

This scammer wants to cover all bases and her remedy supposedly cures cancer, diabetes, arthritis and all viruses including AIDS.

What is the remedy?

Apparently it’s an exercise that takes 5 minutes once per day.

How can she prove it’s genuine – by claiming to have documented medical case studies dating back over 5,000 years.

We have very little information on language from that long ago but there are Egyptian records going back thousands of years, Sanskrit was spoken, Akkadian was in use and a form of ancient Chinese.

Which language was her medical studies written in?

We don’t find out but obviously it’s all just made up rubbish – there is no magic exercise and no records.

A truly pathetic scammer.

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Tinder Cracks Down on Fake Photos

There is a big problem in Tinder (the dating APP) over fake photos.

It is estimated that hackers have stolen more than 70,000 photos of Tinder users and put them on cyber crime sites to allow criminals to create fake profiles. These are usually for catphishing frauds.

Catphishing is where someone uses another person’s photo and profile and pretends to be that person in order to win the trust of the recipient and often to scam them.

Once the data has been hacked, there is little can be done. However, Tinder faces the problem of fake accounts and is trying to crack down on fake profiles and photos by insisting on photo verification –  to help users tell if the person they are talking to is who they claim to be.

Tinder say they will use human-assisted AI to verify profile photos uploaded on to the dating app by asking people to take a number of real-time selfies.

If a match is made, profiles will be given a blue tick checkmark verifying that the person’s appearance is real.

Tinder is also testing offensive message detection, using machine learning technology to ask users whether they feel bothered by something someone has said and allowing them to report it.

How to Check a Profile is Genuine

  1. Google reverse image search

Copy the photo and paste it or the URL into Google reverse image search at images.google.com.

Google will attempt to check if the image is elsewhere on the Internet.

  1. Check their Social Media Profile

You would expect that anyone using a dating site will have social media accounts – so check them and see if the photos and profile match.

  1. Google Search

As long as the name isn’t too common you might find information about them on standard Google searches.

Do Share this post on social media – click on the post title then scroll down to the social media share buttons.

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Identity Theft

Identity theft has always been a problem, as fraudsters take out loans in someone else’s name or use a false name and address when arrested or take out credit cards in the victim’s name.

Nowadays, identity theft is prevalent as it has become much easier in the electronic age. Every day, millions of phishing emails are sent out by scammers trying to get your confidential information so they can defraud you.

The key information they want is of course name, date of birth, logins and passwords and financial information. But whatever the criminal starts with, they may seek further information to make their fraud easier to commit. They may call you claiming to be from the council or the authorities or your bank etc. and use the information they have to convince you of their authenticity and then gain more from you in the guise of confirming your ID etc.

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

A “phishing” email is one that pretends to be from some trusted organisation and seeks to get you to provide your confidential information e.g. credit card details, banking details, passwords etc.

Once the scammers have your details, they will try to access any accounts you could have.

For example:- to access your Amazon account, the scammer just needs your login and password. To set-up a new bank account in your name the scammer needs proof of ID (passport or drivers licence being the most common) plus proof of address, date of birth etc.

Protect Yourself

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

Check out http://www.fightbackonline.org/index.php/guidance/12-explanations/50-the-mechanics-of-identity-theft for more information.

Stay cautious.

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

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Web of Trust

https://www.mywot.com/

Web of Trust is a browser extension for your computer and an APP for your smart phone. It works on Chrome, Firefox and Safari browsers.

It has more than 6 million users and has rated more than 56 million websites.

WOT claims to secure you against scams, malware, rogue web stores and dangerous links on the Internet.

The idea behind the Web of Trust is to try to make the Internet a safe place by automatically checking any website before your browser opens it. It does this by having a regularly updated list of dangerous websites. That list comes from its users marking websites as dangerous, so it’s crowdsourced information.  WOT say they also use blacklists compiled by other people, of dangerous websites.

This is a great idea – if you find a dodgy website then you tell WOT and they can then warn other people about it.

But, this approach does have its limitations.  For example, auction sites have been marked dangerous by WOT because of a few bad sellers. It’s also possible that some sites are marked dangerous by members because they don’t like them rather than there being anything dodgy about them.

Reputation icons are also shown next to links on search engine results, social media platforms, webmail, and other popular sites to help you search safely.

When the WOT add-on is installed, you will see a small doughnut shaped icon next to your browser’s address bar. The icon shows you the site’s rating and reputation: green indicates a safe website, yellow tells you to be cautious, and red indicates potential danger.

The Web of Trust website also has an online community with more than 215,000 posts so it is an important community which discusses website ratings, security and online safety.

Alternatives

There are lots of alternatives services that provide a similar warning before you access websites such as Google Safe browsing.

There are also similar services provided by the makers of anti-virus and anti-malware software such as Site Advisor.

If you worried about the safety of browsing, then do look at WOT and its competitors and pick the one that works best for you.

If you have had bad experiences with websites or these protection services – do let me know, by email.

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