Category: Warning

Automated Competition Entries

Many people like entering competitions – they are a challenge and you might win a worthwhile prize. Some people even make this a full time job – entering as many high value competitions as possible.

A small number make a significant amount of money on a regular basis but for most it’s an occasional win for fun and to supplement their income.

There are automated services online that once you’ve handed over payment and your details will enter you into dozens or even hundreds of online competitions each month.

Are These Services a Good Idea?

Yes and no.

They will get you into large numbers of competitions with little effort and cost.

But there are disadvantages, including:-

  • You may be entered into competitions that you wouldn’t want to enter
  • You may win prizes that are of little or no use to you
  • They can only enter you into competitions that don’t require any skill and that is very limiting
  • Many competitions do what they can to disallow automated entries
  • Most competitions are intended to bring people to a website and the use of an automated service denies that so the competition provider loses out

There is nothing illegal about the automated competition entry services but maybe it’s better to manually enter competitions of your choice.

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Online Scams and How to Protect Yourself

A guest post by John Adams

Scams are very common, whether you are running an online business or not. Scams surround us in various forms. Unfortunately, small businesses are more prone to these scams mainly because many do not give sufficient focus to the online security of their business. Moreover, they don’t generally have the same access to cyber experts as do the larger companies.  Here are some common online scams that target small businesses:

  • Phishing or Smishing
  • SEO scams
  • Payment scams
  • Malware
  • Vanity scams
  • Fake invoices

Scammers target everyone around them, whether in business or the public. The scammers create believable stories to convince you to give them your money and if you’re not wary you may fall victim to their practised ploys.

However, the most important thing is that you should know how to protect yourself, as follows:-

  • Accept that fraud and scams do exist. Be alert when you deal with any uninvited person or business.
  • If you are not sure about the legitimacy of a business or person you have met only once, search on the internet for those who may have had a similar experience.
  • Avoid opening/answering any suspicious email, message or pop-up window
  • Do not give out your personal details unless you are very sure who you’re dealing with
  • Make sure your computer and mobile are secured and have updated security software installed.
  • Pick strong passwords and consider changing them periodically
  • Keep your social media privacy settings high
  • Ignore requests for your details or money
  • Watch out for anyone using unusual payment methods e.g. Western Union
  • Shop online only on trusted websites and brands

Protect yourself now to avoid any damage. And if you have fallen prey to an online scam then report it to law enforcement.

James A. Abate provides highly professional criminal defense representation and personal attention during troubled times.

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The Amazon Brushing Scam

This is a strange scam as it starts with unexpected packages being delivered to you, typically from Amazon but could be from other suppliers.

The fraud starts with a the scammer creating an account on Amazon using a real stranger’s name and address. Then the scammer orders products and they are delivered to the stranger’s home address, which is a surprise for the recipient.

Q. Why would anyone do this?

It’s all about getting good reviews. The scammers use the account they’ve set up to post fake ‘verified reviews’ on Amazon (or another service) that are positive about the products the scammers want to push or may be negative about competitor’s products. The scammers may be the sellers of the products or may be paid to specifically create these fake reviews, or to damage a sellers reputation.

Investigators believe it is largely third-party sellers on Amazon that are buying their own products in order to leave a  five-star review, and using stranger’s  names and addresses to appear as independent customers.

The recipients of the products may be very surprised at goods turning up on their doorstep but they are not charged for the items in questions, so it is theft as such.

Where the problems arise for the recipients is that they may not be able to turn off the deliveries and getting the account cancelled will be difficult as only the scammers know the passwords etc.

There is also a bigger worry – how did the scammers get their details in order to create the account?

If the scammers have that information about you then they may use it to carry out more damaging forms of identity theft.

If you receive packages from businesses such as Amazon that you did not order, then do contact the supplier and change any relevant logins and passwords.

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HMRC Arrest Warrant Scam

Lots of scammers impersonate HMRC to call or text or email with messages about your needing to make instant payment against the amount you owe HMRC in unpaid taxes.

This new version of the scam involves automated calling systems, cloning of phone numbers and a call centre of criminals.

E.g. You receive an automated call (or maybe its recorded on your answer phone)

The message states that an arrest warrant had been issued under your name and you should press “1” to speak to the case officer or maybe the message directs you to call a specific number.

If you press or call the number you are put through to a call centre of scammers and you will be pressurised to make immediate payment to avoid being arrested.

The payment is likely to be iTunes vouchers. This may seem an odd choice, but once purchased – you just need to tell them the ID number for the vouchers and they can make use of them.

Obviously HMRC do not really accept payment in vouchers so this should warn any potential victims, but some people do pay up without thinking or checking.

The number is usually displayed on a person’s phone as 0300 2003300 – the official number of HMRC. On some phones, when the call comes through “HMRC” appears on their screen as if that is the genuine caller.

However, while the number appears to be a genuine it is in fact from fraudsters looking to trick unsuspecting victims out of their money.

Don’t assume anyone who has contacted you is who they say they are. If an email, phone call or text message asks you to make a payment, log in to an online account or offers you a deal, verify whether it’s real or just a clever scam.

How to Stay Safe Against These Scams

  1. Recognise the signs – Genuine organisations, such as banks and HMRC, will never contact you out of the blue to ask for your PIN, password or bank details
  2. Do not give out private information, reply to text messages, download attachments or click on links in emails you weren’t expecting
  3. Forward suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC to and texts to 60599, or contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to report any suspicious calls or use its online fraud reporting tool

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Browser Hijackers

A browser hijacker is software that modifies your web browser’s settings without permission. The result is usually unwanted advertising in the browser, and sometimes the hijacker replaces the home page setting or search engine page with their own page. Making you unintentionally visit certain websites gives the hijacker higher advertising revenue. Browser hijackers may also contain spyware to obtain banking information and other confidential data.

Browser hijackers infect computers usually through shareware, freeware, and advertisement support applications deployed through web browser add-ons. Adware and spyware infections can also result in browser hijackers, as does exploitation of certain browser vulnerabilities.

The malware can be an email attachment or website accessed from a link in a message. Torrents can also be used for infecting a computer with the malware.

Symptoms of Browser Hijacking

  • Your search engine has been replaced by
  • Endless pop-up advertisements
  • Much slower than usual for loading webpages
  • Extra toolbars on the web browser that you didn’t install

Examples of well-known browser hijackers include Ask Toolbar, GoSave, Coupon Server, CoollWebSearch and RocketTab.

Sometimes when you want to download a piece of software, there is a custom downloading tool that leads you through the process and often these will install browser addons or other malware without your permission. The screens may be designed to trick you into accepting installation of software that you don’t want.

The browser hijackers benefit from their hijack as follows:-

  • Display persistent advertising that pays the hijacker
  • Steal confidential information
  • Spy on users

If your computer suffers a browser hijacking, you may be able to uninstall it in your browser settings or your anti-virus or anti-malware software may be able to remove it. Otherwise there are specialist removal tools on the Internet.

How to Protect Your Systems from Browser Hijacking

Also, try to avoid running freeware programs, which upon installation may unpack software you’re unaware of. And be sure you check the download settings of any software you intend to install to reduce the chances of unwanted applications making their way onto your computer.

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