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I’d like to think of myself as internet-savvy. I do almost everything on it nowadays – from the monthly food shopping to paying bills, buying DVDs and CDs, it’s all done on my computer screen. In the six or so years since I started playing with the internet, I’d like to think I’m aware of every internet scam out there.
I mention this because last night I happened upon freeipods.com. The website sounds utterly preposterous – getting an MP3 player worth £250 for nothing sounds like fool’s gold. Apparently they get commission from the number of people who sign up for their sponsors. Sounds odd, but it’s been on Newsnight and the BBC News, and I know of one person who has actually received one, so I thought I’d sign up, What can I lose, I thought?
So, the sign up was straightforward. I chose a username and password and burst into the members page, eager to find riches. I was faced with several options for sponsors I needed to sign up with – DVD clubs, casinos and the like. However, one caught my attention – an MP3 site offering cheap access to thousands of high-quality MP3s for a low one-off charge. Compared to Tesco or Napster downloads, it was a bargain – $19 for lifetime membership. $19 for an Ipod, I thought, and away I went to sign up.
Not, obviously, without checking its authenticity first, of course. A quick search on Google didn’t throw up too many warning signs, and the little padlock on my browser indicated that it was a secure site for my payment. I was all set to go. Plugged in my payment details, got confirmation…. And then nothing. No web page with MP3s, just a page telling me how to use other programs to get them. Click, nothing. Click, nothing. A warm, gooey, unpleasant feeling seeped through my body. I’d laughed at countless internet newbies signing up for scams, putting them down as unbelievably naive. I’d had been taken for a mug, and now some nefarious criminally-minded bastard had my debit card details. I was INCENSED I tell you, more at my complete failure to notice the scam than anything else. If it can still be a scam when it has a secure trading site, what’s the point in having the secure padlock icon?
And that is why, at ten to eleven last night, I was on the phone to a wary woman from Alliance and Leicester, explaining that I’d signed up for a dodgy website and there was a distinct possibility that they may use my card details for a new Boeing 737 they’d had their eye on. After I explained that it was a music website and not some sordid den of carnal knowledge, she was much more helpful and stopped my card immediately. So, for the next seven days, I am debitcardless, which frankly is a relief for my bank manager.
And I don’t think I’ll hang around for that iPod, either.