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Sunday, 14 February 2016

2 Free Tools That Would Protect You From Online Scam

Sally was laid off when the economic crisis hit very hard. She became a stay-at-home-mom and started taking full care of their two kids whilst her husband worked 3 jobs in order to make ends meet. Whilst surfing the internet, she came across several work-from-home-opportunities promising huge payments. She saw this as an opportunity to support her husband, pay the bills and save enough for the future as she has always done in the past. Besides she can get her ‘groove’ back because it was flexible. There was however a catch. She needed to pay $100 dollars to sign-up and get started. Being desperate to work, she did. After making the payment, she got nothing more than just some useless training materials and spammy links to non-existent survey taking websites. Tried as she did, she could not get a refund though there was a money back guarantee in the terms of agreement. She gave up trying to find work online. Does this story or similar ones resonate with you or someone you know?

online scam

Have you ever been scammed online through a website before? Are you one of those who have come across some work-at-home-online opportunities but still have doubts to whether they are genuine or not? Save the authority sites like Clickbank that offer affiliate marketing opportunities and a few others, sometimes finding a genuine work online opportunity is like looking for a ‘needle in a haystack’. True, there are many scams online and I have been in this game for far too long not to know this. Scamming takes different shapes and forms. Phishing (a form of email spamming as a bait to get people to take certain actions that would lead them into being scammed) and online dating scams are a couple of examples. The focus here however, would be on scamming through websites since this blog is about earning income online (most contemporary businesses have websites anyway). According to a research published by Citizens Advice on 1st May 2014, of about the 4 million people who were scammed, close to 250, 000 of them were through websites. Assuming each of these people lost ‘a paltry $50’, this means a cool $12,500,000 in the pockets of the scammers.

What to do
Now unless you’re a nonagenarian; sorry if you’re a nonagenarian with computer skills, you should be technology savvy. This should help you in doing thorough due diligence before diving into any online work program. Usually, the first instinct when you discover a work-online opportunity is to investigate the website with Google search; I used to do same. However, this is not wholly effective because what you usually get are affiliate sites or blogs providing favourable reviews. It’s very important that you investigate every work-from-home program or any website that involves monetary transactions before signing up. Now let me introduce you to two free and simple but very important online tools that should save you time, aid your final decision and protect you from being scammed through websites? What are they?

1.     Scamadviser

This website happens to be my favourite. No wait a minute, before you go screaming, “yeah right, just another blog showing you how to avoid scams” hold on a bit because it’s not. As the interface below proves, it’s actually an online software with a search bar where you simply copy and paste the URL (web address) of any website you want to analyze for credibility. Click the “check it now” button and bingo it retrieves all the important information about the website! See this in fig 1.
                                                                    Fig. 1

Avoiding Scams

It has this gauging meter with red on the left end side (indicating danger or high suspicion), yellow in the middle (indicating moderate or high suspicion depending on the direction it’s tilted; either more to the left and vice versa) and Green on the right end (indicating that the site is safe to use) as indicated in fig 2.

Fig, 2

Below it, you would find detailed information on the name of the owners, the age of the website, its location (whether hidden or not), their phone number/numbers and their Alexa ranking (a high Alexa ranking could mean high credibility though not necessarily).

Fig. 3

All this information is very crucial in deciding whether to sign-up for the website or not. It even gives you a short advice on what to do. Better still, you should find at the tail end of most searches, the opinions of people from all over the world who have been using the website. It’s very important that you read these opinions to help you decide because they would give you a good insight into how the owners conduct business. Note however that, in as much as these opinions matter, they may also be a platform where competitors or owners may create several fake accounts to spam with discrediting or favourable comments (it’s a possibility; I have seen it many times). It can be a bit tricky but all in all, if the analysis that the site retrieves and the comments below follow a similar negative or positive trend, then it’s a good signal to either be weary or proceed. You can even follow scamadviser on twitter to know the latest scam sites to avoid. The good thing about scamadiviser is that it has a direct link to SIMPLYWHOIS as indicated in fig 4 below so now let’s talk about it.

Fig. 4

2.     Simplywhois

Simplywhois is another important tool that you should never ignore if you want to sign-up for any work-online program. The good thing is that, it’s linked to Scamadviser so you can directly click the link from the site and it would research the website you were already researching on scamadviser. It gives you a bit of what scamadviser provides but digs a bit deeper by providing information on which server the domain is hosted, for example Godaddy or Wordpress, maybe. It not only provides the domain age but also provides information on the domain lifespan (when the website would ‘expire’ so to speak). You can even type in an IP addresses and do background checks if you wish. And oh wait, it also provides you a phone number where you can report the website should you have any scam issues. The only limitation is that access to an open proxy must be authorized or the information would not be retrieved. This however is not a big deal because it’s usually the big and credible websites like Amazon that do not authorize access to their proxies. See the Amazon example in fig 5 below. As you can see because it has a protected proxy, the details could not be retrieved but I have highlighted all the spots where you would find all the important information. You can also see arrowed, “related domains”. When clicked, this would show if the site owners own other websites. You can use this to do further research into their activities. It threads all the way down but I have shortened it in this photo.

Fig. 5


Here are a few things to take note of from the retrieved analysis from both scamadviser and simplywhois.

a)      A hidden website location should raise some eyebrows. Some websites owners may hide their website location because their location may have been classified as a top scamming location though they may be running a genuine business. Also, sometimes this is done to protect them from getting unwarranted emails. You should just be weary if it’s an e-commerce site where you would have to make or receive payments online.

b)      If it’s a business with tangible products but without a physical location, address or phone number you should avoid them like a plague.

c)      The domain age and lifespan is also important but not necessarily full proof against scam. For example if the website had existed for at least 5 years but scamadviser still points to the red button, you should be weary. Reason? It could be because they are scamming people but they have not been reported yet. It could also be because they have poor customer service. Then again, the domain age can fool anyone. For example, it’s possible to have a very credible work-online-business owners with a website which is just a year old and which has a short lifespan in order to test their model before full introduction or a scam website that may have existed for 5years and beyond. However, unless you know the ‘young’ website very well, it’s advisable to err on the side of caution by picking the ‘older’ one for the simple reason that, most scam websites are young and have short lifespan. Until you investigate the ‘young’ website very well it’s best to pick the older one because at least you can do further investigations on them. Here’s a final catch though. Once again I would like to repeat that, the domain age is not a full proof against scam! Let me give you another typical example in a popular industry called Binary Options. I have personally investigated a binary options site on Scamadviser and Simplywhois which showed that they are about 10 years old when actually this type of business started not more than 5 years ago. That should immediately raise some eyebrows. They may have done three things here. 

1) They may have had a trading website in existence before binary options started online so they converted, 

2) they may have bought an old domain name that already matched the business or 

3) they are using a service to hide the real age of the domain in order to create an impression of credibility. 

These combined with the feedback from other users of their website was enough to put me off.

Okay. So if you didn’t know, now you know. I personally use these two tools every time I discover something new and they have saved me from online scams. This is not to suggest that every new website is necessarily a scam. Infact if you have a website it would be great to test it on scamadviser to know how the world sees you. You can actually contact Scamadviser with some proof that your business is genuine if their analysis about your website was wrong. This would help you build credibility. Most importantly, don’t ever be scammed by websites again. Feel free to share this article and your opinions if you found it useful. It might just safe someone.