Category: Website Review

The Consumer Action Group

www.consumeractiongroup.co.uk

The Consumer Action Group is an online forum which provides free support and advice to anyone with consumer problems.

This covers dealings with banks, credit companies, retail organisations, employment, armed forces – you can see its wide reaching and it’s a huge forum with over 385,000 members and 4.8 million posts.

There’s also a library of information about consumer rights, an out of date blog, an email newsletter, access to webmail, a consumer action group magazine and more.

But really it’s the forum that makes it work and that’s where people can get free advice.

If you’re new to using a forum – basically people pose questions and any other member is free to post answers or comments. You don’t have to post something if you don’t want to – you can simply search and read on anything that interests you about being a consumer.

The site is paid for by donations and by advertising. Most of the adverts are at the top of the pages so once you scroll down they are out of sight.

The forums cover all forms of consumer action from buying to being an employee and there is a community centre with advice on how to stop smoking, technical support for electronic devices, cost cutting tips, weight loss etc.

This is a comprehensive and useful resource generally on being a consumer but especially if you have problems with a supplier’s products or service. Whatever the problem, there is likely to be someone on consumer action group who has been through it before and may be able to help you.

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Safe From Scams Website

http://www.safefromscams.co.uk/

SafeFromScams was created in 2010 to offer information on how to protect yourself against scams.

The sales pitch for the site is:-

“It’s a very dangerous world out there. You might lock your doors.. The scammers are everywhere. They want to part you from your hard-earned money, to steal your identity, or simply take advantage of your honesty to make a profit from others. You might be law-abiding, but they’re not. There are thousands of them, in person, in business, on the phone and online – and they’re growing more ingenious all the time”.

They say that the site is the resource to learn about scams of all types, from the classics that are still being run regularly, like bill-padding, builders, and chain letters – which still work – to the new ones that keep appearing, things like phishing, mobile phone scams, or those fake lotteries.

The website was created seven years ago as at that time, there was no single UK resource for interesting features and practical advice on how to stay safe from scams.

They say that the features and articles are written by experts – who have experience, or a particular interest in this area.

The guy who started Safe From Scams is John Rowlinson – the owner of PtS which has software and property companies and he uses those to fund the Safe From Scams website and a number of similar sites.

The site covers a wide range of scams, including Credit Card Scams, Travel Scams, Fake Goods, Medical Scams and is a great resource for more detailed information on the various kinds of scams.,

There is also an ‘Ask the Expert’ feature.

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Cold Caller Number Lookup

It is estimated that each day, twelve million people in the UK receive one or more cold calls.

Have you received a scam call or an annoying cold call and wished you could register their phone number online to warn others about them?

Or do you want to know if a caller is a scammer or cold caller?

Go to www.badnumbers.co.uk   to check their number or register the caller’s number as ‘bad’.

Bad Numbers is a reverse telephone number lookup website and has collected over 20,000 ‘bad’ telephone numbers so far.

The website is very simple – you just type in a number and see if it is already registered. If not and you want to register it then you type in why and that’s about it.

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The Identity Theft Resource Centre

http://www.idtheftcenter.org/

The Identity Theft Resource Centre (ITRC) is a non-profit organization that supports victims of identity theft in resolving their cases, and broadens public education and awareness in the understanding of identity theft, data breaches, cyber security, scams/fraud and privacy issues.

It is for American citizens only. You can call the ITRC on a Freephone number and they provide no-cost case mitigation and consumer education to approximately 10,000 victims and consumers annually. ITRC maintains records of data breaches and publish the list each week.

ITRC aim to:-

  • Educate consumers, corporations, government agencies, and other organizations on best practices for fraud and identity theft detection, reduction and mitigation
  • Serve as a relevant national resource on consumer issues related to cybersecurity, data breaches, social media, fraud, scams and other issues.

The ITRC also conduct research and surveys in collaboration with partners and sponsors resulting in white papers, fact sheets, and solutions to educate consumers and businesses.

They believe that prevention and reduction of identity theft will require education and cooperation between consumers, businesses, law enforcement agencies, and legislators.

ITRC is a very useful organisation and they help a lot of people each year.

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Victim Support

Website:  https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/

VICTIM SUPPORT is an independent charity that works towards a world where people affected by crime or traumatic events get the support they need and the respect they deserve. They help people feel safer and find the strength to move beyond crime. Last year they offered support to just under one million people.

If you’ve been affected by crime, Victim Support can support you to move forward. The services are free, confidential and available to anyone in England and Wales, regardless of whether the crime has been reported or how long ago it happened.

Contact Victim Support by phone on their national number (08 08 16 89 111 ) or by local phone number or go online.  (The care team in Surrey is on 0808 168 9274)

Practical help

Being a victim of crime can lead to all kinds of practical problems. This can range from minor issues (such as damage to your property or having to fill in insurance forms), through to serious medical problems or the loss of your home. While emotional support can help you to deal with your feelings after a crime, practical problems often act as reminders of what you’ve been through and make it harder to get your life back under control.

That’s why they also offer help with sorting out the practical implications of crime.

They can help with simple tasks like filling out forms (for compensation claims, for example), getting broken doors and windows fixed and installing burglar alarms. they can also assist with bigger problems such as getting medical treatment, getting rehoused or dealing with the criminal justice system over the course of your trial. They’ll give you the information you need to understand your options and next steps.

Everyone reacts to crime differently, which is why their services are tailored to individual needs. They’re here to help anyone affected by crime, not only those who experience it directly, but also their friends, family and any other people involved.

About Victim Support

The main source of income is from Police and Crime Commissioners and other statutory and non-statutory bodies for the essential services that are provided to victims.

But Victim Support relies on donations to help fund projects and services for other service needs. Donations are vital to help them work for a world where people affected by crime and traumatic incidents get the support they need and the respect they deserve.

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Hoax-Slayer

The website is www.hoax-slayer.net

Hoax-Slayer is owned and operated by Brett Christensen, who lives in Queensland.

Hoax-Slayer debunks email and social media hoaxes, thwarts Internet scammers, combats spam, and educates web users about email, social media, and Internet security issues. That’s how it describes itself.

Hoax-Slayer also highlights latest scams, has a series of guides to avoid the most popular types of scam. It’s been in operation since 2003 and is paid for by advertising (the adverts are quite intrusive at times) and affiliate commission on product sales.

This site also looks at hoaxes of various kinds – some involving scams and some not.

E.g. “Donald Trump Arrested Virus” Fake-News Post

Message circulating via WhatsApp and social media websites warns users not to read a news item showing “two police officers arresting Donald Trump on your computer screen” because it is a virus that will infect your computer.

E.g. 2  Decorative Magnets on Refrigerators – Cancer Warning Hoax

Warning message claims that researchers at Princeton University have discovered that electromagnetic radiation from decorative magnets stuck to refrigerator doors “radiated” the food inside thereby massively increasing the probability of cancer in test mice used in the study. The hoax goes into detail about research at Princeton to prove this.

This is just rubbish of course.

There are moving images on screen which can be annoying but the site content is very good and in a modern format so the site works well on mobile devices.

You can subscribe to receive an email of headlines each time there is a new post or you can use the RSS feed if you prefer to manage the data directly.

The site is based in Australia but the world of scammers knows no international boundaries and the same scams are found the world over.

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Legal Beagles Consumer Forum

Legal Beagles is a free forum offering support, discussion and help in many areas of life to do with  legal matters. The forum has thousands of members – “dedicated and enthusiastic individuals who are experienced in consumer issues of all kinds”.
www.legalbeagles.info

 

As at March 2017, Legal Beagles has 69,000 registered users and 2.3 million people visited the forum in 2016 so it is a very busy active forum.

The main use for the forum is where someone has experienced a problem that may involve the law in some way but they don’t know where to start. The forum provides a friendly easy way to post questions, describe a situation and they may get free advice from people who have faced the same problem..

The advice doesn’t replace dealing directly with a solicitor of course, but gets people started and that may lead to engaging the services of a lawyer or it may be a problem they can deal with themselves.

A quick look at latest posts shows someone concerned over Lloyds TSB bank charges, someone with issues over a phone they bought from Prague, a plumber who won’t fix a broken shower, a person with problems over a County Court Judgement. You can see it’s wide ranging.

There’s also lots of discussions that are not about problems as such e.g. money saving tips, consumer rights, student finance, employment law and much more.

The main categories on the forum are:-

  • Court claims
  • Employment
  • Family
  • Parking
  • Money and debts

It’s free, can be useful and you certainly learn a lot by seeing what’s going on.

Legal Beagles consumer forum is a good place to start with any matter that could become a legal issue.

They are also active on social media.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/legalbeagles.info

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LegalBeagles

Scam Hunter Website Review

http:// scamhunter.org

Exposing Internet Scams and Frauds Worldwide

Scamhunter.org was setup some years ago and its purpose is to help people recognize and avoid many of the common advance fee frauds, lottery scams, and scams on the Internet. Educate yourself on ScamHunter.org so you won’t get caught in the con artists’ traps. Their philosophy is “Sunlight is the best disinfectant”.

Scamhunter  focus on Advance Fee scams, Penny Stock scams, Lottery scams and Phishing scams but they do also publish about other types of scams.

The site has been very successful in helping people and was in the past targeted by scammers who managed to bring down the site through a DDOS (distributed denial of service) attack. The site was rebuilt with its new name scamhunter.org.

There is a search facility that lets you try a company name or a scammers names to see if there is anything published about them on Scamhunter.

This is a very useful site with a considerable breadth of information about scammers and their methods. It covers the most common scams and has information going back to before 2009.

Recent Alerts Section on the Home page

This is the recent items that have come to the notice of the Scamhunter.

e.g. Mrs. Jovann Mafra (scam warning), YOUR PAYMENT IS IN SERIOUS DANGER (Scam Alert), Re-profiling Funds (Scam Warning), Lt. General Susan J. Helms (scam alert), Harley Wang Mystery Scam, German Scam Messages, Sr. Diego De Martinez of Portugal (scam alert) Cancelled: Contact MoneyGram director, Ebrahim Talib, Bahrain Petroleum , company (scam warning), Qatar Foundation (scam alert), Mr. Frank Moses, JFK Airport (scam warning), Mr. Deneys James, Attorney (scam warning), Abandoned Bank Account Scam, Susanne Klatten Charity Foundation (scam alert)

Scammers never stop.

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Web of Trust

https://www.mywot.com/

“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.

Alternatives

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.

TrashCan Disposable Email Addresses

You may be at an exhibition and want to download an advertised document but you have to give an email address to get it and you know your email address will go on their list for Marketing emails so you don’t want to give your real email address.

Or maybe you’re just on the Internet and you have to key in your email address for a one off reason.

Disposable email addresses are the solution. Use once and throw away.

There are various email providers  including Yahoo and Google etc. that offer disposable email addresses and there are some specialist suppliers.

Trashcan is a new supplier that has simplified the process as much as is possible.

You go to the site www.trashcanmail.com

Type in your desired email address @trashcanmail.com

If it’s already in use you’ll have to pick a new one otherwise it’s now yours.

You don’t have to register or give your name and email address.

The disposable email address is yours.

To check any incoming mail – go to the website and type in the address and see what you’ve got.

That’s it.

Clearly this is not very secure as anyone can go to the Trashcan website and key in your email address deliberately or accidentally while trying to make one for themselves.

But it’s designed for a one-off use then forget it.

If you want a secure disposable email address then there are lots of providers available eg. Yahoo, Guerilla Mail and Maildrop. But if you want a one-off quick email address to use then Trashcan might fit the role.

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