Stay Safe Online By Avoiding These Top Three Scams

Living in a democracy means there are laws to abide by. Most of these laws are brought in through a controlled government process, and they are designed to protect us from harm. For those people that do break the law, they can be caught, trialled and punished as the state sees fit. But, the revolution that is the internet has severely changed how we as a nation deal with crime – and has brought about a whole host of new crimes people are able to commit. The issue with the internet is that it is, for the most part, completely anonymous. Plus, even on websites where people technically shouldn’t be anonymous, it is very easy for a criminal to make a fake profile. This can be seen as an effort to evade the law, and it is why it makes it very difficult for the police to track down online criminals. As our technology develops, criminals are finding new ways to scam ordinary, everyday people out of money online. But, there are things you can do to protect yourself from online crime.


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Credit card fraud

Credit or bank card fraud is one of the most common crimes found on the internet. In real life, in order to steal money from your bank account, a criminal will need to have two things: your card itself and your PIN number. Online, however, they will only need the number. This makes it exceptionally easy for criminals to steal bank information and pose online in your name. It also makes it harder to track down the thief, compared to if they were in a real life bank or store.


A common way thieves try to get hold of your card details these days is by sending a scam email. You may receive an email from your bank or some other financial body which asks urgently for your personal details. These emails are designed to instil fear and urgency into you, so don’t be alarmed if you immediately want to respond. They may also bear your brand’s logo and look very convincing. But, 9 times out of 10, these emails are fraudulent and you will lose money by complying. Phone your bank to tell them about any emails you receive and they will be able to offer some clarification for you.


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Copyright infringement

Copyright infringement is someone taking your online intellectual property and claiming it as theirs. The property could be anything, from a video, to an article – even a photo. Back in 2010, Twentieth Century Fox sued British website Newzbin for uploading links that led to material created by Fox. Fox argued that Newzbin had accessed the films unlawfully and that distributing them online was a breach of copyright.  Anything original that is posted online automatically gains ‘copyright’ status. So, you don’t need to ‘apply’ for your work to be copyrighted. However, breach of copyright is quite a frequent online crime, simply because it is really easy to do. In fact, some people may not even realise that they are breaching copyright law by using a certain photograph or re-posting an article.


But if you notice that something you created is springing up in other places online, you may have been a victim of copyright infringement. Before you take any legal action, it is important to make sure you have your facts right. Double check that the work is copied exactly by using an online plagiarism checker like Copyscape. If you are certain that your work has been copied, contact the author or site owner asking them to remove the work. Use a ‘Whois’ search tool or Companies House if you are not sure who to contact from the site directly. Should that not work, you can file a DMCA web complaint with the web host. To learn more about digital property visit websites such as Azrights, as they will be able to advise you on copyright law.


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Pyramid schemes

Pyramid selling is a form of business that has been around for years. If you don’t know what it is, pyramid selling is essentially where you earn money by getting other people to sign up to a scheme or business. There is nearly always the promise of huge financial gain once you yourself have put a significant amount of money into the cause. Usually, the scheme will collapse, meaning that the owners pocket the money and you are left penniless. This is not a new kind of scam, but it has been re-branded for the internet generation. Pyramid scheme recruitment used to happen at local seminars, through random phone calls, posted letters or word of mouth. These days, pyramid schemes usually appear in the form of online pop up ads promising that you will be able to ‘get rich quick’. There are several other warning signs to look out for too. The product or service the scheme revolves around may seem pointless or of little worth. That being said, even large, seemingly legitimate brands have been accused of pyramid selling. Weight management business Herbalife has recently been ‘exposed’ as a pyramid scheme, with hundreds of people saying they were swindled out of money.


Other signs that point towards a business being a pyramid scheme is a large upfront joining fee and insistence that the scheme is legal. You may also be pressured into making rash decisions and encouraged to use a hard selling technique in order to recruit new investors. If you think you have become involved in a pyramid scheme, it is vital that you take action immediately. Break off all contact with the people who run the scheme and alert the police as soon as possible. If the scheme has hold of your bank details, alert your bank immediately so they can cancel or freeze your account. You may find that the ‘investors’ try to contact you again claiming that they can help recover any money you have lost. Don’t fall for it – you will only end up losing more. Keep a record of all communication you have had with the scheme and present it as evidence to the police.

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