Staying safe Online and avoiding Internet Scams

When using the internet it is important to be aware that unfortunately there are some unscrupulous people who have seen the growing use of the Internet as an opportunity to scam people and defraud them of their hard earned cash.  Take time to read about common scams and read our advice on how to stay safe online.

Read the small print!

A growing number of supposedly honourable established companies are profiting from people not reading and understanding the wording. When agreeing to a service we are frequently presented with a lengthy script and a button to press if we agree. We suggest that everyone prints out this text first and reads it before clicking to accept any agreement.

It is important that everyone reads the small print before commiting themselves to any agreement on the web.

Sometimes it is not easily possible to print out an agreement that is displayed in a window and you can only read all of it by scrolling down. One way of being able to read any size of print is to select or highlight it, press the right-hand button on your mouse and select Copy, then paste it into a Word file. Once it's in Word or other wordprocessing document you can change the font size to one you can easily read. It's a good idea to print this text and file it so that you know exactly what you agreed to at the time.

  • In the UK, contact your local citizens advice bureau for advice -if it is a product or service that you purchase, the law may protect you under 'distance selling' rules and provides for cancellation within 7 days.


One method of protecting yourself is not to be sold anything. Visit sites and use services that you know you can trust when you require a particular product and not when someone is trying to sell it to you.  Treat any offers from web sites that you do not know with extreme caution. Spammers send out email to hundreds of thousands of people daily, they spoof the headers making it seem that they are from reputable companies. If you are able to View Source using your email software, hidden links will tell you exactly which web site the email is promoting.

Some scams are becoming very well known and people are increasingly less likely to fall for them.  Typical examples are 'The Nigerian Fraud' where you receive a letter requesting help and willing to pay a large amount of money into your account. This scam has spread around the world. Delete any requests for help  because all you will be doing is funding criminals.  Do not reply to these people otherwise you will be pestered for various other reasons.

Stay safe online and beware of business directory scams - there are business directories that offer a free update for your business. The small print conceals a large payment for adding the record in the first place.


Selling non-existent goods and services

Every day we hear of a new fraud on the Internet. Ticket sites selling fake tickets for pop concerts and events, imaginary holidays, stolen cars and good through auction sites, and car rental. Many of us need to rent a car occasionally and often cannot afford to fall victim to one of these.  Stay safe online and beware of car hire scammers - be aware that some companies advertise a cheap deal which does not materialise when you arrive at your destination and need that car.

Marginal scams

Supposed cash back with a sting

How often do you purchase an item and find that you can claim £10 towards your next purchase if you click here? If you just click and do not read the small print you discover later that you signed up for membership of a 'supposed' Shopper's Discount Club and they deduct a monthly fee from the credit card that you used to make your purchase. The web site promoting this obviously gets a cut from the profits.  Credit card companies have known about this for a number of years and it's definitely a case of buyer beware. You can usually get your money back after a number of phone calls and a lot hassle but many people do not notice that they are paying this monthly fee because they're too busy to check their credit card statements.

Companies offering this most dubious service have included Vista Print (search for Vista Print scam on the web) and more recently Ryanair and Wizzair.  No doubt their excuse is that terms and conditions are there for all to read, albeit in smaller print. So again, carefully read all that you are agreeing to, or better still, do not accept anything free unless you have read it carefully and can easily contact the company to verify  on the phone. There is always, but always, a reason if something is free. The big message these companies are sending out is that they have no respect for their clients; everyone is a punter and 'fair game'.

Still on the subject of Ryanair, if you have time listen to this song written in their honour and cry (with laughter).

Finding phone numbers on the web

Many people hardly ever pick up a telephone directory nowadays or use directory enquiries because it is easy to find phone numbers on the web. However, there are companies who pay for sponsored listings that appear above all web results for popular search terms such as 'bt customer services'. The phone numbers they display are not the ones that you are looking for but premium line numbers beginning with 09. They might argue that they are providing a service but it's a very expensive service for a free number. If the website does not feature the company logo, don't use it. If you copy the domain name and type it into Whois, it will tell you who the owner of the website is and list their contact details. Complain to them directly.

The other way of avoiding this deliberate attempt to take your money is to ignore the sponsored listings and read results further down the page. Google are implicated in this in that they are not taking any responsibility for displaying sites that are on the edges of the law.

Misleading claims

Some companies seem to think that we are a bunch of 'numpties'. Disregard any claims that include the words 'may' or 'could' because that introduces ambiguity. You could win the lottery but the chances are that you won't.

The Vauxhall lifetime, 100,000 miles warranty is one such example. The word lifetime is used in association with a 'could' and yet, if you sell your car after one year you will find that there is no warranty to pass on to the next owner because it only applies to the first owner. Not much of a warranty in reality; one year is hardly a lifetime and since you are unable to pass it on,  it has no intrinsic value.  The web can be used as a tool in these and similar cases. Search for the manufacturer and 'warranty problems'. It is amazing what you find. 

I remember the days when there was trust in business transactions, when it was easy to contact customer services without working through a lengthy menu, when companies and employees had loyalty to each other and being British meant being honourable. In these days of rampant greed that trust is no longer a given.  The culture of litigation, compensation, fines and penalties has partly contributed to this loss of loyalty beween client and business.  Phrases such as 'get them before they get you' have crept into common idiom. One of the best ways to find which companies you can trust is word of mouth and reputation.


Cottage Gems for Luxury Holiday Accommodation
Cottage Gems for Luxury Holiday Accommodation
Cottage Gems for Luxury Holiday Accommodation
Cottage Gems for Luxury Holiday Accommodation
Cottage Gems features luxury holiday cottages, stylish lodges, 5 star retreats and country houses.
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