Category: Guidance

Does Your Website Attract Fake Traffic

Website owners are always keen to know how much “traffic” their site gets i.e. how many people visit the site, which pages they read etc.

We all know that some of the traffic on the Internet is fake, but most website owners hope it is a small percentage of the real traffic.  However, some companies in the field of advertising believe that up to 50% of traffic achieved through advertising could be fake.

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

This is the reason why so many websites these days insist you answer a Capcha query (click the I’m not a robot button) to prove you are a human being.

Fake traffic is traffic generated by software not by humans. Fake traffic is used to artificially inflate ad revenue by making a site’s audience appear greater than it is in reality.

If an advertising network identifies a website’s traffic as fake, it will likely result in suspensions or even bans on the publisher’s advertising account.

How To Identify Fake Traffic

This is a complicated matter and needs expertise, but you would start by examining the statistics for the website :-

  • A very high bounce rate can indicate a lot of disinterested visitors or bots (computer programmes rather than people)
  • A very low pages/session figure can mean people attracted to the site are only interested in one link then they leave. If combined with a very short average length of visit can mean automated viewing not people.
  • Geography: If your website is in English and you get large amounts of traffic from countries where English is not typically used much, that can indicate suspect traffic.
  • A sudden unexplained increase in traffic can be welcome but if it doesn’t make sense e.g. no extra purchases or comments then it may be caused by automated systems scanning your website.

How to Stop Bots Accessing Your Website

Using a CAPTCHA to ensure visitors are human rather than computer is a good start and there is a file on your website called robots.txt which tells bots whether or not they are allowed to access the website. (Check on the Internet for how to access and edit this file on your website). Reputable business bots will access and obey the instruction in robots.txt but scammers, spammers, hackers and many others will ignore it.

If the fake traffic problem is seriously impacting your website and customers, then there are online services that will filter out such unwanted traffic but that does cost of course.

All sites attract fake traffic and the more popular a site then typically the more fake traffic it will get.

If you have any experiences with this problem, do let me know, by email.

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How to Check a Financial Web Site is Genuine

Imagine you want to find the best place for your savings or the best place to invest a windfall or the best pension scheme available, for example.

You might go to a professional financial advisor or to your bank or other finance organisation you know.

But if you don’t have the money for an advisor then it might be a case of asking friends and relatives for their opinions or just using a search engine.

However, when you get to searching online, there is a huge number of finance organisations online and many criminals create fake websites that sometimes look exactly like the ones for genuine businesses.

Q. How do you tell which websites are genuine and which are fake?

The starting point is to ignore unsolicited emails, text messages, calls etc. – these are very likely to be fake and should be ignored.

Things to Look For

  1. Check the message and website looking for mistakes
    • Correct URL e.g. Barclays Bank rather than Baclays Bank
    • Use of broken English
    • Simple spelling mistakes or serious grammatical errors
    • The content on the website doesn’t make sense
    • Pictures, diagrams etc. that fit in with the rest of the site and haven’t just been added at random to fill space.

2. Open the Google Transparency Report webpage.

https://transparencyreport.google.com/safe-browsing/search?hl=en_GB

Click the “Search by URL” field in the middle of the page and type in the Internet address for the website you want to check. Google will tell you if it can find anything dodgy about the website.

  1. Check the company on the Companies House website at https://www.gov.uk/get-information-about-a-company
  2. Check for reviews online about the business and check anti-scam websites

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Improving the Quality of Consumer Reviews

Research shows that it is generally the people with strong opinions who leave product reviews and the majority without strong opinions tend not to leave so many reviews.

So that leaves most people with no voice, by their own choice.

Bigger companies, usually have more customers, which can mean a higher likelihood of more reviews, which can mean more potential customers reading the reviews which can lead to more sales.

This can be a virtuous circle for big brands.

Research by Sinan Aral for MIT suggests that some reviews can be systematically biased.

“Social proof”, a psychological and social phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behaviour in a given situation may be the basis for this.

Improving the Quality of Consumer Reviews

Reviews are shown to have a significant effect on consumer decision-making and it is important for people responsible for getting reviews (Marketing agencies and businesses) to do what they can to ensure the quality of their customers’ reviews.

  • Request feedback. The higher the percentage of customers that leave reviews, the better for the accuracy or the reviews overall. This can also reduce review bias and balance review sentiment. Requests can be through feedback surveys or simple questions post purchase.
  • Remind customers that their opinion helps others. When asking for feedback, social reinforcement goes a long way and can also lead to a better balance of reviews.
  • Provide incentives. These can be money rewards, but freebies, discounts, access to special offers etc. can also work.
  • Leave an appropriate length of time after purchase before asking for the review. E.g. PC World wait 28 days after purchase before asking for reviews.

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How to Stay Safe on Public WI-FI

The first piece of advice is to avoid public Wi-Fi completely.

A public Wi-Fi network is inherently less secure than your home or office Wi-Fi because it is publicly available.

If you do need to use public Wi-Fi then pick one which needs a password and do not carry out any financial activity or buy anything or access your email or do anything else needing passwords.

If you want to be secure when using public Wi-Fi you will need a VPN (Virtual Private Network) installed on your devices.  These encrypt all communications between your devices and their target websites etc.

They also let you browse websites without anyone being able to track your location and activities.

Alternatively you can take your own Wi-Fi with you by using your mobile phone to create a Wi-Fi hotspot for your devices.

Points to Remember

  1. Leave Wi-Fi turned off until you need it.

When you’re finished working online, turn it off again.

  1. Turn Off File Sharing

If you have file sharing of any kind enabled then turn it off while on public Wi-Fi as it could be copying your confidential information to the Internet unencrypted.

  1. Keep Your Antivirus and Antimalware Up to Date

You must have anti-virus and ant-malware installed and make sure to keep them up to date or their effectiveness will diminish.

  1. Use https Websites where Possible

Https access is safer than http access so stick to those websites that have https versions where possible.

  1. Don’t Leave Your Devices Unattended in Public

You don’t want some accessing your laptop, smart phone or other device. Even if they don’t steal it, they may access your information or install a malicious APP

Stay Safe.

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Santander Security Advice

Like the other big banks, Santander do offer advice to their customers on how to avoid the scourge of online fraud.

https://www.santander.co.uk/uk/help-support/security-centre/keeping-yourself-secure

Santander say “We take every step possible to keep your finances and personal details safe. However, you play an important role too. Together we can make life really difficult for would-be criminals”.

There is a list of common threats and a basic description of each and tips on staying safe online.

The common threats Santander focus on are:-

  • Remote Access Scam
  • Tech support scams
  • Telephone scam/courier scam
  • Free trial offer scam
  • Guide to Invoice Fraud
  • Text message phishing (smishing)
  • Phishing
  • Mule accounts
  • Cheque fraud
  • Investment fraud / share sale
  • 419 / advance fee fraud
  • Trojans (Malware)
  • Spoofing – The caller ID scam
  • Pension scams

If you’re a Santander customer, you can ask them for specific advice about staying safe online and if you find irregularities in your account then do let them know ASAP.

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

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Check Who’s Using Your Wi-Fi

If your connection to your home Wi-Fi always seems sluggish – maybe someone is accessing it who shouldn’t be.

If you unplug the router for a few minutes, that will remove anyone connected to it, but only until you reconnect the router then your devices and possibly someone else can connect again.

If you think someone has access to your Wi-Fi who shouldn’t have, and knows the passcode then you need to change the passcode.

If there is still reason to suspect someone is accessing your WI-FI without your permission, then there are steps  you can take to identify the culprit.

Check the Router Access List

You will need to login to your router. The instructions when you got the router will tell you how to do this and it may also say on the back of the device. These instructions differ for each router.

You will need to know its IP address (plus login and password) and then you can access from any computer browser.

The router will show you a list of devices currently attached to it and usually enough information for you to recognise who the devices belong to.

You will see something similar to this

Wired Devices
MAC Address IP Address Device Name Time Connected
54:21:XX:XX:XX:XX 195.179.0.2 Erica’s PC 2 days 4 hours 31 minutes
Wireless Devices
54:21:XX:XX:XX:XX 190.161.0.9 Chromecast 45 minutes
54:21:XX:XX:XX:XX 190.161.0.8 Android Phone 140927271 1 day 12 minutes
54:21:XX:XX:XX:XX 190.161.0.7 iPAD 35 minutes

The device name will hopefully tell you enough to identify the owner of the device but if you have several Android phones in the house, for example, then it may not be enough.

What to do if you find an unauthorised device

If you have not set the router to encrypt the data then make that change and try again.

If you still seem to have an interloper then that person must have hacking skills and you would need to invest time and money in a network monitoring or employ an expert to trace the interloper for you.

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