With all the cyber security that big firms have at their fingertips and the mountains of online reviews at ours, you’d think the internet would have become a safe place to shop, bank — or even find a plumber.
Far from it. The web is like the Wild West, and the internet giants and our banks do far too little to police it.
Just ask John and Dell Lavers, who were refused a £195 refund by Amazon and their bank, Lloyds, for computer equipment they never ordered or received.
Risk: The web is like the Wild West, and the internet giants and our banks do far too little to police it
It should have been blatant that a fraudster had misused their account, yet they were asked to prove something that didn’t happen and needed Money Mail’s intervention 18 months later to win justice.
Today, we also reveal that Airbnb is letting hosts list illegal holiday lets in areas such as Spain, Turkey and New York.
If police turn up and throw you out, it seems that you’re on your own. And let’s not get started on Google’s shamelessly laissez-faire attitude towards dodgy adverts for investments or scams.
The internet giants are creaming it in but seem unwilling to spend their vast profits to protect us from crooks and fraudsters.
As for the banks, Money Mail has repeatedly warned that customers are being left out of pocket when they are tricked out of savings by fraudsters posing as a car salesman or staff from a firm such as Microsoft or TalkTalk.
A telling sign that all is not well is a plan to change the way we pay for goods on the internet.
Under changes being overseen by major card companies, half of all online purchases will from next year require two forms of authentication.
As well as entering your card details, you may need a code sent to your mobile phone. A sliver of good news.
For now, tread carefully online. Use a credit card when you can and pay it off in full each month.
That way you’re putting the bank’s money at risk, not yours.
At the very least, use a separate bank account rather than your main debit card. You should always check statements religiously for suspicious activity.
And if you still fall foul of online cowboys, let Money Mail know and we’ll do our best to fight your corner.
Talking of the Wild West, one of my pet hates is workmen who give you a quote and then when the bill arrives it’s twice the price.
This happened to me earlier this month when I was charged £204 for work that I was originally told would cost £85.
Your letters and emails suggest that this sort of sharp practice is commonplace.
You’d have thought that the advent of online reviews would have made plumbers, electricians and builders scared to try it on.
But I reckon that most of these are bogus and have been written by company employees.
How else do you explain so many household service companies (including the one I used) getting 9.9/10?
If you’ve found evidence of dirty tricks or fake reviews, please let me know. My gripe is far from the worst I’ve heard; the most unscrupulous tradesmen prey on the elderly and vulnerable for thousands of pounds. You can’t count on Trading Standards or the police to take on the case — they say they haven’t the time.
Tony Hazell revealed in his Prudent Investor column last week that after decades he’d ditched his investments with star fund manager Neil Woodford.
In a candid online interview, Mr Woodford hit back, with an insight into why he’s struggling to eke out a return for millions of savers who trusted him with their money.
He says the market has been ‘hijacked by short-term players’ who see it as ‘some kind of venue for a betting game’.
Tony this week says he’s testing a strategy where you invest in funds that are on a hot streak and reviewing them every six months. It’s not the high-risk trading that Mr Woodford hates, but it’s a different approach. Can’t wait to see who comes out on top!