The Mirror Lifestyle Content

Take your time online

Take your time online

A few days ago, l read a story about how bargain hunters had been misled by fake websites trying to get them to part with money.

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This story was about how Wilko, a popular chain store, had gone into administration and how fraudsters were trying to cash in on the unfortunate situation. 

With Wilko in administration, naturally, there was the opportunity for some good bargains since it was closing down. But the fraudsters had other ideas too. Several fake websites have been set up by fraudsters promising shoppers heavily discounted goods from the collapsed company. 

In one report, it was stated that at least one site was attempting to draw people in with a social media post offering a sofa at £4.99, as well as other discounts of almost 90 per cent on some goods, with the promise to consumers that “because there are still a lot of goods piled up in the warehouse, we are going to sell at a super low price”. Meanwhile, Wilko does not even sell sofas!
 

In fact, a spokesperson for the administrators from PricewaterhouseCoopers had to respond as follows: “We have been made aware of a number of fake Wilko websites, which are offering Wilko products at heavily discounted prices. These websites are not genuine and have been set up to scam users, the only legitimate Wilko website is www.wilko.com.

“We are in the process of working with the relevant authorities to have these websites removed. We would like to remind our customers that all Wilko sales are now in-store and you are unable to purchase items online.” 

By the time of this statement, some consumers had already lost money. 

The Wilko story attracted my attention for two main reasons. First, the budget chain store is one l know very well. I have, on a few occasions, shopped in a Wilko store, and indeed, there were some good bargains on offer. 

Therefore, a headline report that Wilko was in administration with many concerned about the fate of the thousands employed in the company certainly was a concern to me also— an observer though.

Now, the second reason is the focus of this week’s edition, which is the attempt by the scammers to swindle unsuspecting customers. This is the sad reality of life online.

 In times past, it was very easy to notice who could be the “thief” among the lot by observing movements and taking note of weird patterns of activities.
 

Today, you don’t see the thief as far as cybercrime is concerned; they just follow the trail of your online footprint, all at your blind side. 

Criminals online are always looking at the fault lines, the weakness in the system that could get you to part with your hard-earned cash, so it was not a surprise to me to read about the dodgy websites offering heavily discounted Wilko goods.

To avoid these copycat websites, not only in the case of Wilko but generally, you must always make sure that you type in the correct website address, making sure that the website address is correct and matches the site you intended to visit. 

Most often, the fake websites have similar URLs (the website address) to the original one but by close observation, you will notice slight differences, such as spelling errors or a different domain extension (.com, .info, .biz, etc.)

Of course, it is not that straightforward at all times. For this reason, let me pose this question: What steps do you take to address the situation whereby the e-commerce website is legitimate and well-known but scammers have set up “stores” with fake goods on offer to swindle customers? 

Well, this question is premised on my own experience of parting with money to an artisan to conclude a job for me only for him to do a runner! Because l am always sceptical about online deals, I actually met this supposed professional, and I drove him to show him what he was supposed to do. He started work that same day, impressively, and continued for about three days. I added more money because of the “progress”, only for him to just abandon it all and refuse to answer his phone calls.

He is still a wanted person as far as l am concerned! 

I brought in my personal experience here to demonstrate how sometimes no preparation or diligence is enough. A conman is always a conman, whether in online business or through traditional face-to-face deals, sealed by a signed contract between parties. But then again, the risk of losing money to those you engage online is high as you normally wouldn’t know where they reside or have their shops.
 

In my case, I thought meeting him in person was great and the fact that he had his company “registered” as a limited liability company was enough too. But after his quick dash out, it was noticed that the company was not even registered! The risk is, indeed, real!

As I explained in the September 26, 2020 edition, with cybercrime on the rise, you must always beware of your footprints online.  According to available records on global figures, cybercrime costs businesses over US$600 billion a year, estimated to be one per cent of global GDP.  

“The digital world has transformed almost every aspect of our lives, including risk and crime so that crime is more efficient, less risky, more profitable and has never been easier to execute,” the Chief Technology Officer for McAfee, a US-based software company, Steve Grobman, said. 

Grobman made this statement when reviewing a 2018 assessment report on the impact of cybercrime on businesses. The Report-Economic Impact of Cybercrime – No Slowing Down- was put together by McAfee, in partnership with the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Think-Tank based in the United States (US).

In the referenced edition I made it clear that: “All that is needed, in most of the identified and investigated cybercrimes, is for the hacker to be able to get your attention, interest, desire and action.  If, for example, you receive an email announcing prize money for a ‘lottery’ that you have ‘won’, you can either choose to ignore it or respond to it by following the instructions normally attached, explaining how you can receive/redeem your ‘prize’.

If you choose to respond and follow through the well-crafted processes issued by the scammer, you end up the loser, simply because the scammer’s primary motive was for you to become his/her prize money, and not the other way round.

The email was the bait, and you became the victim, in the end, was a good prize for the scammer!” The scammers got the attention of the Wilko customers because they had an interest and desire to get some goods at a bargain. In a situation like that let your verification process be strong so that you don’t end up deceived to part with money. 

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