17 March 2010
It is better to be too critical than too trusting on the Internet. A person or company contacting you may be something entirely different from what they claim.
Consumers are misled online in many different ways. Common to all different types of scam is that appearances deceive. With different promises and stories, people are persuaded to give money, personal information or bank details.
In some cases, the language and design of the e-mails or websites are so poor that consumers instinctively ignore them. However, the Finnish Consumer Agency, The Finnish Consumers' Association, Kuluttajat-Konsumenterna ry and the Finance and Property Fraud Unit of the Finnish Police remind that many websites and e-mails are so carefully designed that, at a quick glance, one does not necessarily notice any difference to an official website or e-mail. Moreover, the address of a fraudulent website may be almost identical to that of the real website, apart from just one letter or the last couple of characters of the address.
Swindlers also pose as other people by means of stolen personal information and e-mail accounts. For instance, in Facebook, there have been messages asking for money that seem to originate from someone you know but are not actually written by them.
Different emotionally appealing stories are also used in scams. The sender of the message needs money to recover from an illness, accident or theft. They promise a reward for their helper, which is never sent however.
How to avoid scams
- Be critical towards all requests you receive on the Internet. Giving your bank or credit card details or personal information online is the same as to give your money or credit card to a stranger.
- Do not send any money unless you are entirely certain about the identity and reliability of the person who requests them.
- Think carefully before opening any pop-up windows you encounter.
- If something sounds too good to be true, it normally is.
You can find more tips and advice in the “Scams” section on the Finnish Consumer Agency’s website. On the website, consumers can also report to authorities any scams they have encountered.
In 2007, the Finnish Consumer Agency launched a cooperation network against scams. Other members of the network include the Finnish Food Safety Authority EVIRA, the European Consumer Centre, the Federation of Finnish Financial Services, the Financial Supervisory Authority, the National Bureau of Investigation, Kuluttajat-Konsumenterna ry, the National Agency for Medicines, the Lottery and Gun Control Unit at the Ministry of the Interior, The Finnish Consumers’ Association, the Office of the Data Protection Ombudsman and the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority. Luottokunta and Itella Corporation participate as well, since they are in an essential role as payment transaction service providers and transporters of the products in e-business.
A model for the Finnish network has been ICPEN (International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network) that supervises international marketing. Over 30 countries participate in the network. The network was founded in 1992, and the Finnish Consumer Agency has been participating from the very beginning. Advice on how to recognise scams and shop online safely can be found on the ICPEN website.