The Internet is bursting with advertising. At every corner it flashes, bounces and screams at you: “Buy this product! Now! At a super special price!”. The fact that the Internet is flooded with advertising can hardly be blamed on the operators of the respective websites. After all, they get money for advertising banners, pop-ups and the like. Many smaller entrepreneurs finance their web presence precisely with this advertising, which is so annoying for us.
Some advertisements are useful because they point us to interesting offers. However, a large proportion of them do more harm than good. This is because it is not uncommon for dubious sites to be advertised, which only serve as a scam machine. Many users are lured there with supposedly free offers to enter their data.
Disillusionment follows a short time later: invoices, reminders and letters from lawyers flutter into the e-mail inbox. Many consumers are shocked by the horrendous sums that are then demanded from them. And this is for services they didn’t actually want to use.
Today we would like to explain how you can protect yourself from such attacks and scams.
Table of contents
Types Of Dangerous Advertising On The Internet
There are advertisements for almost everything you can imagine. To help you distinguish between dangerous and harmless ads, we will now introduce you to some of the scams that are commonly found on the Internet.
Beware of clicking on banner ads that are particularly intrusive and annoying. Behind them are rarely serious companies that mean you no harm.
The New Diet And Weight Loss Miracle To Try Out For Free
The secret of how to lose 5 kilograms a day without giving up chocolate and the like: expensive fun. Most of the time, there’s nothing but hot air behind scams like this one.
The trick is simple, but it works flawlessly: you lure curious people to a page that actually doesn’t look so bad. On the main page, they ramble on about the great effects of this diet. “It’s quite easy and anyone can do it, including you!” Which one must do exactly, in order to let now really the Pounds fall, one does not experience naturally. For this there is a super great free e-book that you can download. In some cases, these bait offers are actually free of charge and viruses.
Most of the time, however, you can’t get any useful information without falling into the trap first. The truth is that you don’t get anything for free.
Instead, you are supposed to click on a button and/or enter your own data such as address, e-mail address, name and more. No one suspects that they are entering into a binding contract with a company that will incur astronomically high costs. Somewhere in the fine print (possibly even on a separate page) it then says.
„By clicking the ‘download now’ button, you are entering into a legally binding contract with XY company. This will incur costs of €60 per month.”
Only when the first, outrageously high bill arrives do you understand that you’ve been played dirty.
Therefore, please note that hardly anything on the Internet is free. Only product samples can sometimes be ordered free of charge and without shipping costs.
A Lottery In Which Only The Organizer Wins
Just as often as the new diet miracle, the free lottery appears on the scene. In contrast to harmless, serious sweepstakes, many prize competitions on the Internet aim to scam you.
Particularly brazen are ads like “You’ve won an I-Phone! Click here.” And then you’ll be taken to a site that will either investigate you, ask for your money, or send Trojans, spyware and viruses to your PC.
Please do not enter your address, name and e-mail address in contact forms of sweepstakes whose operators you do not know. Limit yourself to those sweepstakes that are operated by recognized companies.
Once you have given your data, you may be flooded with fraudulent e-mails that promise you prizes and actually have only one goal: to take your money out of your pocket.
Some “You’ve won!” emails actually give you a product when you reply to them. However, this product is inferior and does not bring much benefit. In return, you have to attend an event where they want to sell you something. The presenters are highly trained to sell people something they don’t really want or need. At the end of the presentation you get the thank you: a bitter disappointment.
In dubious sweepstakes, only one person wins: the organizer. He gets your data, which he can resell at a high price. There is no prize, and if there is, it is a completely different one than the one claimed in advance. That’s why it’s better to keep your hands off sure-fire chances of winning that make unrealistic promises.
Test Your Subscription For Free* Now!
Dangerous subscription traps are particularly well known in the cell phone industry. For more than ten years, there have been providers who lure kids and young people in particular on TV or the Internet. Great ringtones, funny apps and more can be ordered by sending a single SMS to the provider. The fact that it’s not quite that simple can be read in the fine print (if you have a magnifying glass handy).
*In doing so, you enter into a subscription that costs you €19.99 per month.
That’s a lot of money for someone who only gets a small allowance per week or month. Many kids and teenagers are sitting on a mountain of debt because they have taken out several cell phone contracts and subscriptions that they can’t afford on their own.
What used to happen mainly in the form of TV commercials is now increasingly found on the Internet. Subscription traps of all kinds circulate on many Internet sites, to which you are lured with colorful, highly visible advertising banners. If the advertising is obtrusive enough, you click on it unintentionally and end up on the corresponding website without actually wanting to. It only takes a few spontaneous clicks before you end up with an unwanted subscription.
That’s why you should always read the terms and conditions (general terms and conditions) to find out exactly what you are buying or ordering. When reading, look for keywords such as “subscription” and “cancellation period”. If you really want to take up a subscription, then please pay attention to the cancellation period and calculate whether you can actually afford the costs incurred. Also, check whether there are any hidden additional costs such as shipping costs or the like that are not included in the subscription price. It’s best to only take out subscriptions that you can cancel at any time without notice. A subscription should bind you for a maximum of one month or a few deliveries before you can cancel it. If this is not the case, then it is better to do without it.
Some providers advertise a free subscription that you can use free of charge within a certain period. Of course, nowhere does it say that the subscription automatically becomes binding and chargeable for you after this period has expired. That’s why it’s always a good idea to cancel a trial subscription even before the end of the trial period if you don’t want to continue using it or aren’t sure about the follow-up costs. If you don’t find a contact form on the homepage of the operator, check the imprint and write an e-mail in which you explicitly cancel the subscription. Include your name and customer number and ask to confirm the cancellation briefly with a reply email.
Caught In The Trap? Here’s What You Can Do!
Despite all the well-intentioned advice and precautions: It can happen to anyone that they still fall into the trap. If you are shocked to discover that you have fallen victim to a scam, it is best to stay calm for the time being. Follow the tips below to be on the safe side.
Don’t Let Yourself Be Scammed!
Payment requests, invoices and reminders can be quite scary. Especially when an alleged lawyer is involved. It doesn’t matter whether you received the threatening letters by mail or e-mail: First of all, do not pay!
Inform yourself before you actually pay for something you didn’t actually order out of sheer worry. In most cases, the scammers are not entitled to the money they claim from you. If they have obtained the business by pretending false facts (“Try it for FREE now”), then it is clearly a fraud crime.
However, once you deposit, it becomes harder for you to claim your right. This is because the payment is considered as consent. You can then cancel the payment with your bank and contact the police.
Whether in the case of an unwanted subscription or a rip-off trap: use the option to withdraw from your contract in writing. The Chamber of Labor and the Consumer Protection. (https://www.verbraucherzentrale.de/home for Germany, http://www.arbeiterkammer.at/index.html for Austria) you can request standard forms to withdraw from online transactions.
Fill out the form and send it by registered mail to the address you find on the reminder or invoice. Registered means that the recipient has to sign on a form provided by the letter carrier. This confirms that he/she has received your letter. At the same time, you should send the document by e-mail (as a PDF or scanned image). This way you will be on the safe side. Normally, this should solve the problem. If you still receive letters from the scammers, please contact the police, where you can explain the situation in detail and file a complaint.
Do not let bills and reminders scare you. Not even if the threatening letters do not want to end. Under no circumstances should you give in! By the way, you can read more about this topic at the Internet Ombudsman. http://www.ombudsmann.at/schlichtung.php/cat/45/aid/261/title/Internet-Abzocke_mit_vermeintlichen__Gratis_-Angeboten:_Muss_ich_zahlen_
Together You Are Strong
Talk to your parents about what happened. Explain to them that it’s not your fault that you’re receiving reminders and bills from the dubious company. Be open about it and ask them for help. Your parents may have had experience with this issue themselves and can save you additional trouble. They can also accompany you to the police, make important phone calls for you and ask their lawyer for advice.
Successfully Avoiding Trouble
Now you know what types of Internet rip-offs there are. We have also informed you about your rights as a victim of fraud. You are already ahead of the scammers. However, you should still follow these tips to avoid scams. This is the best way to avoid unpleasant threatening letters and the associated expense for you.
Install Pop-up Blocker
In the meantime, there is a so-called pop-up blocker for all browser programs. The program Google Chrome even suppresses pop-up ads automatically without you having to install a pop-up blocker.
For most other browsers there is the program ABP (AdBlock Plus), which you can install directly in the settings of the browser or at https://adblockplus.org/ for free.
For users of Apple devices, there is also a pop-up blocker. This is integrated in the “Safari” browser. However, you have to activate it first. It works like this:
Go to the Safari browser.
Click on “Security”.
Now you have to check the “Suppress pop-ups” box.
After that, no more pop-ups should appear when browsing with Safari.
Ask Questions And Stay Skeptical
Whenever you’re about to order from a new online store or come across a seemingly great offer, keep your eyes open for signs of Internet rip-offs. Remember that it’s rare for anything to be free on the Internet.
If you have to click a button to get to the offer, check that there is nothing under or next to the button that says anything about a paid service or anything similar.
As soon as you have to enter personal data such as address, name or even bank details, please talk to your parents about your intention. Take a close look at the site together and decide whether it is trustworthy or not.
If something seems strange to you, you can contact the provider directly using the contact form, telephone number or e-mail address and ask a question. However, when calling, please make sure that you do not call a chargeable number. This can also be quite expensive under certain circumstances. If in doubt, ask an adult for advice before dialing a number you don’t know.
Use Known And Reputable Sites
If you want to stay on the safe side, it is best to use established (i.e. well-known) sites with which you may even have had positive experiences. Large shopping portals like Ebay and Amazon are usually very safe and have little to nothing to do with fraud.
To buy cheap, you can use comparison portals like Geizkragen or Geizhals. The online stores listed there usually have various security seals and are quite reliable. You can also read reviews from other users who have already ordered from this store.
If In Doubt, Ask The Consumer Protection Agency
If a site’s offer appeals to you, but you’re not quite sure whether it’s trustworthy, then ask. Contact the consumer protection agency, the Chamber of Labor or ask your parents for advice. When in doubt, it’s always better to spend an extra two minutes on a phone call than to be angry about a horrendous bill afterwards.
Always Stay Up To Date
If you regularly listen to the news, read newspapers, or read up on the latest news on the Internet, you have a clear advantage. That way, you’ll know about current scams early enough and won’t fall for their tricks as easily.
So keep your eyes and ears open so that you are always well informed.
Worksheet For The Text
1) What can you do to avoid being scammed in the first place? What precautions have you taken?
2) Turn to the person sitting next to you and tell them everything you remembered from the article. Take turns after that.
3) You want to use a free offer on the Internet. However, you are not quite sure whether the product does not have hidden costs. What can you do?