Category: Guidance

Worldwide Business Review Awards

World Wide Business Review magazine send out huge numbers of emails to businesses  asking if they would accept a nomination in the 2017 UK Enterprise Awards hosted by Worldwide Business Review.

Who nominates the businesses? – that isn’t disclosed but it’s an easy assumption that it’s whoever is on the email lists they buy.

If you send a reply email accepting their nomination then you get a letter asking for supporting information.

The supporting information is fairly standard :-

  • An overview of the company
  • Flagship products or services
  • Biggest achievements to date
  • Future of the company
  • An award winning area of the business
  • Main competitors and what sets your business apart from theirs
  • Details about the individual

These are all sensible areas of research into a potentially award winning business, but the last question is the killer.

“Do you have a suggested award title?”

This is not about a reason for the award – it’s about trying to get the ‘customer’  to commit to the idea of wining by selecting their own winners title.  In essence – everyone can have an award.

Is there any harm in that? No, but should people be given awards where they pick their own title for the award and if so does it have any merit?

Some people call these types of awards “Vanity Awards” or “Trophies for Sale” and they exist in the book world, in business, in wealth, in International commerce etc.  This is not illegal but it is certainly questionable and the value of such awards is dubious at best.

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

Web of Trust

“Powered by 140 Million Users & Machine Learning, our free browser extensions, mobile app and API let you check if a website is safe before your reach it, giving you a clean and safe browsing environment” claims the Web of Trust (WOT) website checker.

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 it’s limitations.  For example, auction sites have been marked dangerous by WOT because of one or 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 100,000 posts so it is an important community which discusses website ratings, security and online safety.


There are lots of alternative services that provide a similar warning before you access websites.  Google Safe browsing is one of the most popular and is free.

There are also similar services provided by the makers of anti-virus and anti-malware software. Site Advisor is one of the most popular. These services don’t have the advantage of crowd sourcing but they are technically very proficient.

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.

HSBC To Use Voice Identification Passwords

You may have seen the recent adverts on TV or heard them on radio saying that HSBC customers can now use their voice as their password. This is only for telephone banking.

HSBC say “Voice ID making telephone banking safer than ever”.

  • Access telephone banking through your voice
  • No need to use your security number
  • Easier and safer to access your account through telephone banking

Can it really be accurate, reliable and ‘unfakeable’?

Francesca McDonagh, HSBC UK’s head of retail banking and wealth management, described the change as “the largest planned rollout of voice biometric security technology in the UK”. “The launch of voice and touch ID makes it even quicker and easier for customers to access their bank account, using the most secure form of password technology – the body.”

However, Barclays has already introduced voice recognition software, though only available to certain clients. RBS and NatWest have offered finger print technology for more than a year.

First Direct is owned by HSBC and will have access to this technology for its customers within weeks.

How it will work?

HSBC say “Your voice is unique, just as your fingerprint is which means you can create your own voiceprint with us. Once you’ve created your ‘voiceprint’, you’ll be able to use your voice to access telephone banking and we’ll use this to further help protect against fraud”.

When  you contact HSBC telephone banking – instead of entering two random digits from your telephone banking security number, they’ll verify it’s you by asking you to say a short simple phrase.

Will it be safe?

HSBC are convinced this is secure. You might think that a simple recording of your voice would do the trick, but HSBC say their system is far more sophisticated than that and can identify recordings.

HSBC also say their system will be able to cope with people who have got colds or slight impediments. “Things such as the size of your mouth or your vocal tract don’t change. Neither do your cadence or your accent when you’ve got those little colds”.

How do You sign up for Voice ID?

Simply call 08000 852 380 to enrol for HSBC Voice ID

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Have You Been Caught Out by Clickbait?

Clickbait is the name for eye catching links  on a website that when you click takes you to a website that has paid for traffic but maybe unrelated to the graphic or text on the link.

Generally these rely on sensationalist headlines or eye-catching thumbnail pictures to attract people to click and to encourage forwarding of the material on social networks. Clickbait headlines typically aim to make people curious enough to make that click.

Why do people want traffic to their website?

The obvious answer is because they believe their website has something worthwhile to offer. But money is also a big reason for many. The more traffic a site appears to have then the higher the charges that can be made for advertising.

The Most Popular Types of Clickbait

1. Lists

e.g. “The Top Ten Celebrity Haircuts” or “The Top Twenty Places in Surrey to Visit”

The user expects this will be a list as described above, but often it’s a page full of adverts with a small reference to one of the top items and the user has to click to get the next one and so on. So, you have to visit lot of pages to see the total list.

2. Humour

Everyone likes a good laugh.

3. Nastiness

e.g. “Celebrities With Ugly Partners”.

This is just sad.

4. Sarcasm

E,g, “12 Reasons Not to Visit New York”

People who like New York want to see what they’ve missed and people who want to know about New York will click to see what to beware of.

5. Kittens and Puppies

Anything that appears ‘cute’ can make large numbers of people click to see more.

6. Pictures of Scantily Clad Women

Using pictures of women dressed in very little is nothing new but it still attracts the attention.

7. Controversy and Shock

Some people will use a falsely controversial headline to lure people in, and then backtrack on the headline in their article.

e.g. “You’re Going to Lose All of Your Customers”

Even if the content is interesting, this just annoys people.

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How to Freeze Your Credit

This is not about stopping paying interest or anything similar. It’s about protecting yourself against scammers opening new lines of credit in your name.

It may be a somewhat extreme approach, but for some afflicted by scammers – choosing to freeze their credit accounts and blocking the ability to take out more credit can be a sensible if temporary move.

How to Freeze Your Credit Cards

You have to contact each of your credit card providers and either cancel the card or request that they block the card for a period. Asking to freeze your card (while still paying any interest due) is a rare request and they may not want to co-operate. However if necessary you can always cancel the card and open a new account after you  no longer feel the need to block access.

How to Stop Scammers Taking Out New Lines of Credit

You have to contact each of the three primary credit bureaus and request a block on new credit. They will give you a 10 digit pin number without which no-one can take out new credit cards etc in your name even if they have all the necessary other information about you.

Equifax:  or call 0845-603-3000.

Call Credit : or call 0330-024-7574

Experian:   or call 0344-481-0800

Credit freezes can be a hassle if you need to unfreeze your reports because you’re applying for a loan for example, it can take several days to unfreeze it and allow access.

A credit freeze won’t help prevent fraud on existing accounts, which constitutes 88 percent of identity theft.

Regular Reports

It makes sense to regularly check your credit reports. You get one free credit report per year from each of the three major credit bureaus.

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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 to harm yourself or anyone else.  Following these points below can help:-

  1. Check the privacy and security setting son your social media and set them appropriately.
  2. Set strong passwords (at least 8 characters long and including capitals, numbers and symbols)
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Be careful who you follow or friend. You may want to have hundreds of friends, but does it really help anything?
  7. Periodically, try a Google search on your name – to see what personal information is available
  8. Never log in from public hotspots. Most social networking sites don’t have a secure login (https), so your user name and password could be copied at any time. 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.

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How to protect Yourself Against Online Scams

The points below can help you to be safer online – but stay cautious, especially where money is concerned.

1. Don’t buy anything or agree to anything that seems too good to be true.
The offer of riches or a bargain or some reward may tempt you, but be careful. If something seems too good to true then it almost certainly is.
2. Always check and confirm the identity of individuals and websites you are dealing with, both online and offline. Do not give away any personal information unless you are sure of who they are and why they need the information.
3. Don’t fall for an advance fee scam. That is do not pay upfront for a job application, a reward, a lottery win or anything else similar.
Any work-at-home scheme where you have to pay upfront is likely to be a scam and anything else where you pay up front for something where you don’t expect a charge is also likely to be a scam.

This applies, for example, to lotteries, other supposed competition wins or inheritances, and people claiming they want to share money they inherited or won.

  1. Don’t buy (or rent) from someone you don’t know or haven’t checked out. This is a difficult one as it’s the business model for Internet business Airbnb and many people around the world have benefited from renting out their home to strangers or renting the home of a stranger. If you are going to do this, make sure to read the reviews carefully looking for anything suspicious and if there aren’t enough reviews on the property then find another one.
  2. Protect your confidential information. Don’t give out private information in response to an inquiry you didn’t initiate.
  3. Buying Online. Use services like PayPal to limit your exposure to card fraud. Once your card is registered on Paypal you can use it on most websites to make secure payment without those websites having sight of your card details.

When buying online, check for “https” in the address line and a closed padlock symbol . If they are missing then the site isn’t safe for confidential information such as login and password.

  1. Don’t be pressed into taking precipitate action. The scammers will try to make you do things quickly – so you don’t have time to figure out that it’s a scam. They will make things appear urgent or set a deadline.

No matter how persuasive an offer seems or how much an agent pushes you to agree on a deal now to get a discount, don’t do it!

  1. Do not respond to charity emails as these can be fake – only donate to charities you know or have checked out and send your money directly to the charity.
  2. Use reputable Internet security software on your PC and keep it up to date. Choose products with “Internet Security” or similar wording rather than simple anti-virus programs as they have more comprehensive features and protection.

Regularly check that you’re using the latest version and that it automatically updates its malware definitions.

Ignore pop-ups and other warnings that your machine is infected that don’t come from this program. And never pay money in response to such warnings.

  1. Don’t click on links and attachments in unsolicited, unchecked messages or social networks.

This may be difficult for some people used to such messages from friends, but it’s your choice to take the risk or not.  At Christmas time many people send e-cards and scammers know this and send their own malware versions, so be warned.

  1. Don’t use Cash Transfer companies such as Western Union or Moneycorp as if the transaction proves to be fraudulent you cannot recover your money.
  2. Be wary about downloading software from unfamiliar websites or using torrent sites that share files. These might install malware on your PC.
  3. Set strong passwords and ideally use different logins and passwords for each website.
  4. Never reply to spam messages – there’s no point and you would only end up with more spam messages.

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Consumer Rights and Scams

The Consumer Rights Act of 2015 covers a lot of areas including – the quality of products and services, returning goods, repairs and replacement, digital products and more.

One approach scammers use is to supply goods that are poorer quality than the buyer expects and has a right to receive e.g. fake perfumes, fake medicines etc.   As a consumer you don’t have to write off shoddy products or fakes as ‘you get what you pay for’ but realise the Consumer Rights Act is intended to protect you against this.

Products and Services (including digital products) must be of satisfactory quality, match their description and be fit for purpose.

Satisfactory Quality

Products must not be damaged or incomplete or faulty when received, otherwise you can claim a replacement.  If you buy a cheap item then you cannot reasonably expect it to last as long or work as well as a more expensive version.

Match The Description

If the product or service does not match the description e.g. missing features, then you can claim under the Consumer Rights Act 2015

Fit For Purpose

The products must be suitable for the intended use as long as the intended use matches the description of the products. You cannot use a plastic snow shovel for digging your garden and claim it doesn’t work – that use is different from the intended use as described by the supplier.

Make use of the Consumer Rights Act to stand up for your rights.

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The Danger of Contactless Cards


Credit and debit cards that you just have to wave near to a payment terminal rather than feeding them into the terminal are increasingly common.

They do save time and you don’t have to remember your pin number but they are usually limited to a maximum of about £30.

Q. What are the dangers?

They are prone to all the normal dangers of credit and debit cards (people secretly swiping them or double charging etc.) but additionally they can be scanned and charged by scammers with portable units that can be bought on the Internet.

If you’re paying at a supermarket till and a person walks by at the right time with a “skimmer” they can charge your card and you don’t know anything about it until the bill arrives.

Plus once they’ve skimmed your card – they’ve got the details and make a fake card with your details and keep charging it until you phone your card supplier and tell them to stop your card.

Q.What can you do to protect against ‘skimming’?

An aluminium card holder will prevent someone skimming your card while it’s in your pocket but won’t be of any help when you’re paying a bill. These are available at lots of places and on eBAY etc. for a few pounds.

Alternatively you can wrap your cards or wallet in aluminium foil.

There is also a new technology answer to this problem. It’s called Skimguard.

This works by detecting incoming signals to your cards and it blocks those signals. Doesn’t even need batteries.

Online and Offline

The contactless cards have two modes of operation ‘online’ and ‘offline’

When payments are processed online, the card and payment machine immediately communicate with the customer’s bank. If a lost or stolen card has been cancelled, this will be flagged immediately and the payment disallowed.

Offline payments are stored in batches by retailers and processed online to the bank at a later point, sometimes a few days later with smaller stores. This can allow a thief buying goods on a stolen card to go undetected for up to a few days after the card has been reported stolen.

Protect your contactless cards and use them safely.

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Safe Online Banking


Online banking is becoming very popular as people have less time to visit their banks to carry out transactions and we’re becoming very used to doing more and more business on our mobile devices (and PCs).

Logging in on a Desktop or Laptop Computer

You should always access the bank website from your browser favourites or type in the Internet address – never respond to emails claiming to be from your bank asking you to click to login or to provide them with security information. These are always scams as your bank will never ask for such information in an email.

You need to have anti-virus installed on your computer and to keep it up to date. This will prevent the worst viruses getting into your computer but no software is infallible and you need to exercise caution as well – e.g. do not open attachments in email unless you know the person who sent it to you.  Two popular packages are from McAfee and Norton. There is also anti malware software available that can protect against a wider range of threats to your security.

The login pages of bank websites use secure access  (https) so a locked padlock or key symbol should appear in your browser window when accessing your bank site.

Using a Mobile Device

You can use the browser on your mobile device to access your bank’s website but it’s better to download and use the bank’s APP (make sure you download the official one). Keep the APP and the device up to date with all security updates.


You should ensure that your Wi-Fi at home uses a password rather than allowing open access.

There are numerous places such as restaurants, shopping centres, trains and buses that offer free Wi-Fi. Again you should only use this if it requires a password to login and you should avoid any financial transactions on public Wi-Fi

Scammers have been known to setup free Wi-Fi in town centres and use it to collect passwords and personal; information from users.


The banks use various methods to ensure the safety of your information and you should use these wherever possible.

Barclays has PINsentry which is a device that generates unique 8 digit code you use whenever you want to access your account. This is much stronger security than just a password.  Natwest recommends use of IBM Raport security software for better protection against online intrusion.  Lloyds use an anti-fraud process called Enhanced Internet Authentication (EIA) to help keep you safer online. Santander recommend downloading Trusteer Rapport which is free and has won awards for keeping customers’ details secure.

Check your bank statements regularly and contact your bank immediately if you spot any transactions that you didn’t authorise.

All of the banks put a lot of effort into trying to keep you safe with their online baking so follow their guidance.

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