Category: information

Financial Loss Due to Fraud



Source: Crime Survey for England and Wales. Office of National Statistics. 2017 data.

 Cost Fraud Involving Financial Loss (%) Cumulative Loss (%)
Less than £20 9.0 9.0
£20 – £99 30.0 39.0
£100 – £249 18.8 57.9
£250 – £499 14.5 72.3
£500 – £999 10.9 83.2
£1000 – £2,499 9.6 92.8
£2,500 – £4,999 4.2 97.0
£5,000 – £9,999 1.7 98.7
£10,000 – £19,999 0.8 99.4
£20,000 and above 0.6 100.0

You can see from the figures that there were modest losses (less than £100) for 39 % of victims, but at the other extreme, some people lost more than £20,000.

The higher losses are most commonly from frauds involving house purchase and investment fraud.

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Are Amazon Vine Reviews Genuine?

Amazon Vine is a service for Amazon’s “most trusted” reviewers – a sort of club for top reviewers. These reviewers are called Vine Voices and they get new and pre-release items to review and to keep. So that is a good benefit.

A Vine review on a product is identified with a green stripe. Amazon invites customers to become Vine Voices based on their reviewer rank, which is a reflection of the quality and helpfulness of their reviews as judged by other Amazon customers. Amazon provides Vine members with free products that have been submitted to the programme by participating vendors.

Amazon say that Vine reviews are the independent opinions of the Vine Voices as the vendor cannot influence, modify or edit the reviews. Amazon does not modify or edit Vine reviews, as long as they comply with the posting guidelines. Amazon Vine is an invitation-only programme. Customers who consistently write helpful reviews and develop a reputation for expertise in specific product categories are most likely to be invited into the programme.

  1. Are Vine Voices expected to write only positive reviews?

No. We welcome honest opinion about the product – positive or negative. Of course Vine reviews must conform to all our posting guidelines. Customers can vote on the helpfulness of Vine reviews just like they can for any other review.

  1. Are Vine Voices paid for writing reviews or pressured to write favourable reviews?

No. Voices are not paid to participate in the programme and write reviews

All Vine products are submitted by vendors to Amazon, and distributed by Amazon to the Vine Voices. Vendors have no contact with the Vine Voices, and have no influence over which Vine Voices will review their products.

You have to conclude that Amazon Vine reviews are genuine and as they are written by the ‘best’ reviewers, you may want to check their reviews (where available) before purchasing relevant items.

Do leave a comment on this post if you are a Vine Voice or if you have opinions on this matter – click on the post title then scroll down to leave your comment.

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Fakespot Identifies Fake Reviews

The website at was created to “Bring trust back to the Internet” say the owners.

Fakespot is a data analytics company that wants to change the way people read reviews and similar content.

They believe that authentic user reviews are just about the best thing to come out of the Internet. However, the user review system is often abused by sellers that pay for reviews, by companies trying to make their competition look bad, and technologies that pretend to be real reviewers.

How to Use Fakespot

Fakespot can scan all of the reviews for any product or service you select on Yelp™ or Amazon™, Trip Advisor and Apple APP store and tell you whether the reviews are generally reliable or generally unreliable through the letter grade system.

With so many online shopping options, a strong or weak product review can have a huge impact on whether or not a purchase is made. The credibility of these reviews is undermined by businesses who leave fake reviews for themselves or for their competitors – or by individuals with an undisclosed bias.

Fakespot does not review products so cannot tell you how good a product is, it simply analyses the existing reviews looking for patterns that indicate authenticity or otherwise.

Fakespot uses various techniques to evaluate the authenticity of reviews, including:-.

  • English language pattern recognition
  • The profile of the reviewer
  • Correlation with other reviewer data

The algorithm uses machine learning to constantly improve itself by looking at profile clusters, sentiment analysis and cluster correlation. We use artificial intelligence that has been trained to pick up on patterns. The more data that flows into the system, the better the system gets at the detecting fakes.

Amazon unverified reviews are considered unreliable by Fakespot because when the system associates a product review with a product purchase, that review is from a “verified purchaser”. These reviews are in most cases reliable, since Amazon has already confirmed an actual purchase of the product being reviewed.

But, if an Amazon review is not from a ‘verified purchaser’ there is no way of knowing for sure if the reviewer even used the product. While it is possible that a reviewer could have purchased the product elsewhere and left a review on Amazon at a later date, without purchase verification, it is impossible to tell.

Also, Fakespot systems have shown that most paid reviews come from unverified purchasers.

Do leave a comment on this post – click on the post title then scroll down to leave your comment.

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Statistics on Fraud



Government statistics on fraud include analysis by age, qualifications, ethnic group etc. for the year 2016

Age Group Overall (%) Men (%) Women (%)
16-24 4.8 4.8 4.8
25-34 7.9 7.1 8.6
35-44 7.7 8.4 7.1
45-54 7.5 6.7 8.3
55-64 6.4 7.1 5.6
65-74 4.9 5.3 4.5
74+ 3.3 4.4 2.4


You can see from these figures that the age group with the highest incidence of fraud is the 25 – 54 year olds. There could be many reason for this but the most obvious is that this group is likely the most financially active and hence there are more occasions where they can be defrauded.

The separate figures for men and women are roughly the same and show nearly the same pattern by age.

The government statistics also include analysis by marital status and this shows little difference between marrieds and unmarried, except for much lower reports of fraud for widowed people. This is likely to be for the reason that this is largely an older group of people and hence less financially active on average.

The analysis by occupation is interesting in that the greatest incidence of fraud is for those in the professional / managerial group. This may be due to these people being more likely to be involved with investments, overseas properties, visits to major events around the world etc. which create more opportunities to be victims of fraud.

There are various other analyses of the data and the analysis by highest qualification achieved shows highest levels of fraud for those with a degree or equivalent.  This may be due to these people having a higher level of income or can you think of a more likely reason?

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Fake Designer Goods

Market stalls, tourist spots, high streets, beaches, the Internet – all places where you are likely to come across people selling fake designer goods.

But is there any harm in nabbing a pair of “Louboutins” from a market, or a “Chanel” handbag from a girl selling them on a foreign beach?

The answer depends a lot on the situation and what the buyer expects. If you make an impulse buy in a tourist market and pick up fake perfume – as long as you know it’s going to be fake then that’s up to you. Whereas if you invest a lot of money in an APPLE iPhone believing it to be genuine but at a bargain price and then find out the item is a cheap knock-off – you’re not going to be pleased.

The argument that by buying fakes you are doing the legitimate business out of their sales is true sometimes but most people are never going to buy the expensive designer goods and buying something that looks expensive but was cheap may be harmless fun.

Fake goods do damage the reputation of the legitimate companies and chances are the fakes are made in much worse factories and conditions than the genuine articles, so should be avoided for that reason alone.

The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau advises consumers to avoid buying fake goods because “you’re helping the trader to break the law”. “Many fraudsters use the proceeds from selling counterfeit goods to fund drug dealing or other types of organised crime”

“In 2010, Louis Vuitton initiated 10,673 raids and 30,171 anti-counterfeiting procedures worldwide, resulting in the seizure of thousands of counterfeit products and the breaking up of criminal networks.”

“So long as people know what they’re getting, there’s really no need to get worked up about it.”

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Open Banking

Open Banking was launched in January 2018, in an effort to increase competition within the UK financial sector, and to facilitate closer relationships between big banks and new fintech companies (i.e. financial technology). The law will force the big banks to release data, to third parties if customers so choose.

The initiative will enable individual customers to easily share their banking data with approved third party institutions, putting customers more in control of their own data. The government believes this has the potential for far-reaching impact beyond banking, extending into lending, savings, investment and other areas ready for innovation.

This will make it easier for new products and services to help customers securely move and manage money more easily and efficiently.

At the moment, only the UK’s nine largest banks and building societies must make your data available through Open Banking. Other smaller banks and building societies can choose whether to take part in Open Banking.

The banks and building societies who currently offer Open Banking are: Allied Irish Bank, Bank of Scotland, Barclays, Danske, Halifax, HSBC, Lloyds Bank, Nationwide, NatWest, Santander, The Royal Bank of Scotland and Ulster Bank.

Every provider that uses Open Banking to offer products and services must be regulated by the FCA or European equivalent.

  1. How do I control who has access to my information?
  2. You choose which regulated apps and websites you want to use. You decide what information they can access, and for how long. No one gets access unless you say so.
  3. Can a regulated third party provider make a payment from my account without me authorising it?
  4. No. You’ll always need to approve any payment made from your account.

If you’re interested to try Open banking – contact your bank or check the website

You can change your mind at any time and tell your bank to stop sharing your information, or you can cancel with the firm directly.

Only firms registered with the City watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority, (or the European equivalent) can use the Open Banking system to access your data like this.

But, be warned that banks may not take responsibility if something goes wrong when you gave the third party permission to take funds from your account.

If the company is registered by the FCA and you notice a payment you didn’t authorise, you should be able to claim back the money from your bank — providing you haven’t been negligent with your account details.

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

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Fake Trip Advisor Reviewer Jailed

An Italian has been jailed for selling hundreds of fake TripAdvisor reviews.

The owner of an Italian business (Promo Salento) that sold fake TripAdvisor reviews has been sentenced to nine months in prison. He posted favourable reviews on behalf of hundreds of restaurants and was sentenced by a court in Italy and also ordered to pay around €8000 euros (£7,100) in damages and legal costs.

The unnamed businessman submitted over 1,000 paid-for reviews to TripAdvisor, pretending to be satisfied diners. He charged restaurants €100 euros for 10 reviews.

The court in Puglia ruled that writing fictional reviews using a false identity is criminal conduct. Paid review fraud is illegal in EU countries, but this is the first case to result in a jail term. TripAdvisor hailed the result as “a landmark ruling for the Internet”.

TripAdvisor said that writing fake reviews has always been fraud, but this is the first time we’ve seen someone sent to jail as a result” – Brad Young, the company’s vice-president, in a statement. He also said that since 2015, they’d put a stop to the activity of more than 60 different paid review companies worldwide.

TripAdvisor is the world’s biggest travel website with more than 600 million reviews covering accommodation, airlines, museums and restaurants. The quality of the customer reviews is essential to TripAdvisor and there has been bad publicity over fake reviews at times with complaints that TripAdvisor doesn’t do enough to weed out the fake ones.

There has been the development of a market for businesses offering reputation management which can them include writing good reviews and submitting negative reviews of their competitors.  This not legal but is difficult to prove.

As an experiment, a Vice journalist wanted to see if he could get a ridiculous non existent restaurant to rank high on TripAdvisor.

He selected his garden shed, called it “The Shed”, created a pretentious website and made photographs of ridiculous looking food – largely created with shaving foam, colourants and anything to hand. Then using friends he created so many top reviews that his shed became the number one restaurant in London according to TripAdvisor.

Oh dear, TripAdvisor.

Almost all reviews on TripAdvisor and similar sites are believed to be real, but do beware the fakes.

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Rise in Identity Theft in Over-60s

Identity theft is where a criminal gets personal information on someone and pretends to be that person so they can take out credit cards, bank accounts, loan agreements etc. in that person’s name.

Identity thieves generally don’t care about the age of their targets as long as they are over 18 (so they buy alcohol etc. with the fake identity) but increasingly the over-60s age group are being targeted.

In the first half of 2018, there were more than 14 thousand reports of identity theft in those aged 60 and above. The total number of identity theft cases in that time was over 80 thousand.

There are more and more people over 60 accessing the Internet so this makes it easier for criminals to find such targets.

And it may be that over-60s are more trusting and less familiar with the dangers of the Internet so don’t take the necessary steps to protect themselves as they should.

Be careful about giving away your private information e.g. name, address, email address, date of birth, bank details etc.

Be equally careful about callers claiming to be from an organisation you deal with e.g. water company, Internet provider, local government, local bank etc.

If in doubt, check the genuine phone number and call them to verify the situation.

Got to for more advice on personal security.

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

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The Spanish Prisoner Scam

This a very old scam and is the origin of the modern Nigerian 419 scams (also called the Advance Fee scam) and shows that some scams have roots from a long time ago.

The Spanish Prisoner scam is a confidence trick originating in the late 19th century. The fraudster tells the victim that he is (or is in correspondence with) a wealthy person of high estate who has been imprisoned in Spain under a false identity.

The fraudster offers to let the victim put up some of the funds, with a promise of a greater monetary reward upon release of the prisoner plus another incentive  such as gaining the hand of a beautiful woman who is the prisoner’s daughter.

After the victim has paid the ransom, he is told that further difficulties have arisen, and more money is needed. The fraudster continues to press for more money until the victim is cleaned out or refuses to pay any more.

A key element of the Spanish Prisoner scam is an emphasis on secrecy. The Police cannot be involved and identity of the prisoner cannot be revealed. The scammer will claim to have chosen the victim, based on his reputation for honesty and straight dealing.

This fraud came to be known as the “Spanish Prisoner” because, often, the letter-writer claimed to be trapped in a Spanish jail, for reasons arising from the Spanish-American War. The letter was written on thin, blue, cross-lined paper, such as is used for foreign letters, and is written as fairly well-educated foreigners write English, with a word misspelled here and there, and an occasional foreign idiom.

Modern Version

In the advance-fee fraud, a valuable item must be ransomed from customs or an impound or lost-baggage service before the authorities realise its value and block the repossession.

In the Nigerian 419 scam, a relative of a deposed African dictator or Libyan leader or Iraqi leader (or similar countries leaders) offers to transfer items (gold or diamonds or bearer bonds or just cash) worth millions of dollars to the victim in return for small initial payments to cover release fees and other expenses.

Another variation spreads via hijacked social media accounts, where a message is sent to all the social media contacts of the victim, claiming that the victim is in a foreign country, has been robbed, and needs money to be sent immediately to pay for hospital bills or airline tickets or to bribe the Police in order to escape the country etc. and paid by Western Union or similar money transfer agents.

This scam is very well know but large numbers of scammers still use it in some form and people still fall for it in and in total lose hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

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

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Trusteer Rapport

Trusteer Rapport is a free security tool that’s often promoted by banks for online banking.

It’s advertised as an additional layer of security over and above anti-virus software. It is designed to protect confidential data, such as account credentials, from being stolen by malicious software (malware) or by phishing.

The software includes anti-phishing measures to protect against misdirection and attempts to prevent malicious screen scraping; it attempts to protect users against the attacks know as:- man-in-the-browser, man-in-the-middle, session hijacking and screen capturing.

Trusteer Rapport is installed as a browser extension.

This all sounds very good, but there are reviews on the Internet suggesting that Trusteer can cause computers to run very slowly, cause conflicts with your already installed anti-virus software and cause browser crashes.

Various financial institutions have been distributing the software to their customers via internet banking services.

This has included:- Bank of America, Société Générale,Tangerine, INGDirect, HSBC,The Royal Bank of Scotland, CIBC, Ulster Bank, First Direct, Santander, Standard Bank of South Africa, Nedbank, Scotiabank and more.

It is usually good advice to follow your banks recommendations, but do be careful if you install Trusteer and report any problems immediately to your bank. .

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