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Weekend reading: Don’t be scammed

Weekend reading

Good reading around the web this weekend.

However many times you warn them about scams and tricksters, people don’t listen.

I’m not only talking about the likes of my mother, who is an old-fashioned sort who believes that if somebody has taken the time to knock on her front door or phone her up then she should speak to them – even if they’ve blatantly only come to check if she’s senile enough to be diddled out of her pension, or when they’re phoning from Nigeria.

Even less interested in scam stories, seemingly, are the likes of Consumer Direct, The Office of Fair Trading, the FSA, and the National Fraud Agency.

All these and more turned out to be completely uninterested when MSN Money journalist Neil Faulkner tried to shutdown a scam website promising guaranteed 100% gains over five years and 100% protection for your money (about as likely as me getting a gift-wrapped Keira Knightley for my birthday, and her having arranged the whole thing personally when she discovered my deep interest in nerdy financial matters).

The journalist discusses this official disinterest in my post of the week, from The Motley Fool:

You can’t go and say, look – I know that there could be people losing thousands here. There could be people losing millions altogether, so please can you investigate. They don’t do it. They only want to hear about it after you’ve lost the money. As you and I both know, when you lose money in these investment scams, you normally don’t get it back, so it doesn’t help anyone.

The complete interview, which recounts how a dozen scam-busting bodies and charities showed no interesting in busting a scam, is also available as a podcast.

It makes for enlightening – and depressing – reading. If these scammers were shoplifting or mugging grannies, they’d be nicked. On the Web, they rip-off their victims without a care.

It all proves again that only you can be responsible for your money:

  • Delete anything that comes through email.
  • Ignore junk mail and shred old documents.
  • Hang up the phone at will.
  • Go ex-directory where possible.
  • Don’t buy any product or service you didn’t initiate the hunt for yourself.

When it comes to investing money, look out for FSA-registration and research widely. Most people should simply use common-as-muck tracker funds, anyway, so you’d better have a good reason to go off-piste.

Outlandish promises on a website do NOT qualify for ‘extremely good reason’ status. Trust me, I’d know if there was a safe way to get 100% gains over five years with no risk.

There’s not!

From the blogs

On the mainstream sites

  • Commodity prices threaten global recovery… – The Economist
  • …and it’s getting hard to tell oil from wine – The Economist
  • 4 signs of a frothy market – Motley Fool
  • Facebook: Not a home run – Wall Street Journal
  • Britain triggers global inflation alarm – FT
  • NS&I index-link certificates to re-open in new financial year – FT
  • Doing nothing for a year increased returns – FT
  • Beware the infrastructure fund hype – FT
  • UK retains £13.8bn worth of used ticket stubs – FT
  • Barclays fined over ‘cautious’ fund [But really, caveat emptor]FT
  • US stocks up to 70% overvalued? – Merryn/FT
  • Hmm: An expensive, trend-following ETF fund-of-funds – FT
  • Free banking is an illusion – Telegraph
  • Small caps are still beautiful – Independent
  • What if interest rates take off? – The Guardian

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{ 13 comments… add one }
  • 1 Neil Wilson January 22, 2011, 5:28 pm

    You could always just order an anatomical skeleton. Near identical to Keira Knightley – you’d hardly know the difference.

    .-= Neil Wilson on: Taxpayers Money – myth and reality =-.

  • 2 ermine January 22, 2011, 5:37 pm

    picturing the gift wrapping on KN was fun 🙂 As well as going ex-directory, signing up with the Telephone Preference Service and Mail Preference Service both help no end. As is using things like the free option of Flextel or similar voice indirect numbering services to mask your real phone number for when you have to give a phone number. Best done when you first move into a house too – judging by how other people moan I get hardly any cold calls.

    As a general principle if an offer comes to your house it’s no good. If it were any good they wouldn’t have to hawk it door to door!
    .-= ermine on: Fighting Energy Costs – my journey =-.

  • 3 Salis Grano January 22, 2011, 9:13 pm

    I too can vouch for the effectiveness of MPS and TPS.

    It’s probably a bit too much to expect much action on ludicrous website claims if the company is not registered in the UK and the best rule remains caveat emptor.

    However, the story does illustrate once again the lackadaisical attitude of the financial establishment over the past few years. Just how difficult was it to see that 100% mortgages and bank reserve ratios below 10% were not a good idea?
    .-= Salis Grano on: The original PF blogger =-.

  • 4 Marc January 23, 2011, 2:02 am

    I’m going to make a few points here, hopefully it will stimulate a bit of debate. Some of it is a tiny bit technical, but nothing incomprehensible (hopefully!).

    Firstly, I hope nobody takes the interviewees criminally stupid suggestions seriously: “block the website, using techniques that a lot of hackers do to hammer websites like they wanted to do with Amazon recently”.

    Such ideas [to DDOS them] are proffered by people who don’t have the requisite technical expertise to realise that such actions would cause detrimental effects to other innocent parties at several junctures, in addition to being largely transient and only effective against static targets.

    So in essence he thinks the British Government should launch illegal attacks on servers in another country, and in the process slow down and clog all of the network interconnections between the attacker(s) and the target. Furthermore, it would take out any other sites residing on the same servers that are unrelated to the “target”. Frankly, the fact that these sites are so mobile, they just keep moving elsewhere and under different domains – they aren’t relying on people remembering their URL! It is futile, and suggesting we should attack them is simply stupid, and only causes collateral damage.

    Another suggestion of blocking the websites is extremely Orwellian, and the beginning of government censorship – in all other countries where internet filtering has been introduced for purposes such as blocking illegal pornography, it has eventually been extended to censor other media/information that the government of the moment wishes their public to be ignorant of.

    “Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither” B. Franklin

    I realise this is a bit off-topic, but I think it makes a extremely pertinent point. The fraudsters will find easy ways of circumventing any blocking and filtering systems, and they will carry on unhindered, whilst the rest of the public will have sacrificed their rights to the authorities for an illusion of safety.

    Hacking, DDOSing and blocking (etc.) are not _real_ solutions, it takes a few seconds to mirror up the same material elsewhere and carry on spamming. Better is to educate people, and try to make netizens aware of proper security procedures (such as how to understand certificates), and legitimate global take-down/financial investigation procedures to eliminate the fraudsters’ funds and possibly catch them, rather than repeated scraping of the resultant excrement from the pavement, as the beast flees into the distance.

  • 5 twentysomethingmoney January 23, 2011, 6:00 am

    Scams… if its too good to be true, it usually is. Live by that, and you wont get taken.
    .-= twentysomethingmoney on: My 5 Year Goals =-.

  • 6 Salis Grano January 23, 2011, 9:58 am

    @Marc, no debate from me. Suggesting that there can be such a thing as legitimate ddos/hacking/netblocks etc. is indeed a dangerous road to go down.
    .-= Salis Grano on: The original PF blogger =-.

  • 7 Surio January 23, 2011, 11:19 am

    > about as likely as me getting a gift-wrapped Keira Knightley for my birthday

    Ha Ha… Like others mentioned before, that WAS fun to imagine. I too had a fleeting interest in her in the distant past, so it was even more funnier.

    .-= Surio on: Response to Financial Samurai’s “The Dark Side Of Early Retirement” =-.

  • 8 The Investor January 23, 2011, 2:22 pm

    @Marc – Thanks for the thoughtful comments. I agree, that was a bit of a weak link in the chap’s presentation of his case.

    I guess the frustration of seeing so many of The Great And The Good washing their hands of a site that was clearly going to take money off gullible people eventually got the better of him, and had him thinking outside of the normal laws.

    Sometimes I wonder if The Internet being so new, we expect to have liberties we wouldn’t expect in real-life. e.g. It was only 200 or so years ago that you could travel freely across the Continent without a passport. Perhaps the shock of State bodies interfering with Internet entities will eventually wear off? Just a thought.

    I agree some sort of globally agreed and legitimate take-down procedure working with ISPs — perhaps funded by a levy on the big financial firms, who will benefit from the cheaper costs of the Internet and better policing of scamsters — has to be the way forward.

  • 9 The Investor January 23, 2011, 2:23 pm

    @Ermine – Totally agree re: door-to-door sales. I treat them all as Trick-or-Trickers. 😉

    @All – My admiration of Keira Knightley knows no bounds. If she’s too skinny for you Neil, you know where to send her when she tires of discussing modern money theory with you. 😉

  • 10 The Accumulator January 23, 2011, 7:22 pm

    @ The Investor – “Trust me, I’d know if there was a safe way to get 100% gains over five years with no risk.”

    Yes, but you wouldn’t tell us about it 😉

    @ Marc – Great comment.

  • 11 The Investor January 24, 2011, 7:07 pm

    Tsk. Seeing as it’d be a Ponzi scheme, I’d have to! 😉

  • 12 Marc January 24, 2011, 10:29 pm

    @The Investor – Isn’t the National Insurance “fund” for pensions basically a Ponzi scheme too :P?

  • 13 The Investor January 25, 2011, 12:12 am

    @Marc – Hah! 🙂 Nobody is making money out of that though!

    Good podcast I heard today on the subject of UK pensions:


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