Why Internet scams are becoming harder to detect

Internet scams are becoming more and more elaborate and easier to fall for, according to the Howard household. Here are two scams that we’ve experienced in the last couple of months:

Trial products

Mrs H signed up for a trial product which arrived quickly and was good value at £29.95. The next month we noticed a number of significant transactions on our credit card (we always use the credit card for Internet purchases so that we can appeal to the credit card company, rather than having to claim back money into our own debit account).

We called the company we’d bought the trial from, and they asked us to look at the terms and conditions of the trial.

How often do you check the terms and conditions on ecommerce sites? How often do you even click through to the terms and conditions page?

On this site, number one term was “the cost of the product will be £200 from the second month”.

The second term was that we would be automatically registered and charged for other products.

Luckily, the person on the phone was extremely rude and ended up putting the phone down on us. I called the credit card company who, as soon as I said I think we’ve fallen for a scam, they said “Is it xxxxxxx company, because we’ve had a number of complaints about them, however they are adamant they are not hiding anything, it’s all in the terms and conditions. It’s morally wrong, but not illegal.”

I then wrote an email to the company and focussed on the rude phone support rather than the product, and they agreed to refund the additional items and the second month’s “full” cost.

The trust had already been broken and I asked the credit card company to reinssue our cards with new numbers, so there was no way we could be charged at a later point.

A few key lessons from this:

  1. Read the terms and conditions. Even if it’s a quick glance, it’s important to read them.
  2. Always use a credit card and not your debit card for Internet purchases.
  3. If you regularly buy from Internet sites, I think it’s worth changing your card number from time to time (even if it’s every couple of years).


We haven’t had a virus on our home PC for several years. I make sure our anti-virus software is regularly up to date and configured correctly. The kids also have parental controls on their accounts, which prevents them going to many sites.

This morning Mrs H woke me up and called me over the computer to show me the screenshot below:


At first glance, I looked at it and agreed that it looked like we had a virus. I paused, and thought “Why is this screen inside Internet Explorer?” and then I realised it was just an elaborate web page.

Mrs H had been looking for a photo to use on a birthday card (she’d searched on Google Images) and when she clicked on a site, this came up.

I’ve seen a number of virus warning ads and websites over the years, but this one was the most accurate-looking of them all.

A few key lessons if you see a virus warning:

  1. Take a screenshot (just press the Print Screen button, and email it to yourself in Gmail/ Hotmail). You might need this evidence later.
  2. Close all windows and applications.
  3. Open anti-virus, and run a scan. Only follow instructions from your anti-virus program, nothing else.

0 thoughts on “Why Internet scams are becoming harder to detect

  1. Clearly the answer is to take away Mrs H’s credit card and internet access. Problem solved. I’ll be automatically charging my consultancy fee to Mrs H’s credit card.

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