Beware of Fake Apps, Copycat Websites & Unsecure Payment Sites This Holiday
If you have a long holiday gift list, sometimes it's easier to buy online rather than shop at local brick and mortar stores.
This season, I've read that we'll spend close to $91 billion over 61 days, according to Adobe's 2016 Digital Insights Shopping Predictions. The company report claims that Black Friday, which I took part in, sold $3 billion in online sales. It's terrific news for retailers, but there's a group of folks who love the heightened gift buying season too; the rip-off and scam artists behind devious shopping swindles.
AARP offers good suggestions that I echo in order to keep your credit cards and money far away and safe from the hands of con artists.
Bogus apps flood Apple and Android stores imitating familiar retailers like Dollar Tree and luxury brands including Christian Dior. A few have phishing methods that steal personal information and hijack mobile devices until a ransom is paid, says the New York Times.
How to avoid: Before you download, check the logo and description for misspelled words or titles, omitted letters, or poor English, since many originate in China. Avoid the ones with few customer reviews, new apps, or links to apps from other retailers.
The ones that arrive via email, text messages and social media posts and promise a generous reward like a coupon or a product for giving your opinion about future purchases. The links that lead to the survey often hide computer malware that attempt to retrieve personal or financial information.
How to avoid: Be leery of generic "Dear Customer" inquiries. When legitimate companies ask about customer experiences, they personalize using your and the product you bought, along with the date and time of the purchase. You can expect to receive legitimate review emails within 30 minutes after the online transaction. Also, don't fall for expensive reward items just for answering a few questions. Before clicking on any link, hover your mouse over the URL and if the address doesn't display the company's name before the dot com, assume it's a scam.
Beware of copycat websites
Those that mimic well-known retailers. The counterfeit online sites may look like the real deal, but carefully observe the domain address in the URL. It may be off by a letter, or variation of a company name like Walmartco.mn, indicating the website was registered in Mongolia, or walmart.cm for a site in Cameroon.
How to avoid: Pay attention to the product description text and URLs not ending with .com or .org. Check out the Contact Us page to find the business address and verify it by looking up the company on the Internet, or a phone number. If a number is listed, call it to make sure it's working and doesn't lead you to just voicemail. Credible companies have live operators.
Unsecure Payment Sites
If you're buying online, never provide credit card information on any page without an https://. The "s" means it's secure. To stay tuned to current scams, sign up to receive Fraud Scams at AARP: http://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/fraud-watch-network/.
I Have A Brand And It Haunts Me
I was talking to my pal “Jonas” who recently decided to freelance (vs building a multi-consultant business) when he left a bigger firm to do his own thing.
Jonas is a global talent guy who works across the planet for some of the world’s most well known companies. He decided his best play—the one that would allow him to focus on what he loves most and live the life he’s planned—is to freelance for other firms.
His plan got off to a bit of a rocky start because—get this—none of the firms he approached believed he’d actually want to “just” freelance. He’d earned his rep by steadily building deep, brand name client relationships, practices and business, not by going off by himself as a solo.
Or as he put it “I have a brand and it haunts me.”
We both had a good belly laugh because he was already rolling in new projects, thrilled with his choice to freelance.
And yet, isn’t that the truth?
Good, bad, indifferent—our brands DO haunt us.
They whisper messages to those in our circle “trust him, he’s the bomb”, “hire her for anything creative as long as your deadline isn’t critical”, “steer clear—he talks a good game but doesn’t deliver”.
And thanks to social media, those messages—good and bad—can accelerate faster than you can imagine. One client, one reader, one buyer can be the pivot point that takes your consulting business to new territory.
So how do you deal with it?
Yep—you go for more of what comes naturally. In Jonas’ case, he stuck with what he’s known for—his work, his relationships, his track record for integrity—and won over any lingering skepticism about his move.
We weather the bumps in the road by staying true to who we are at our core.
So when a potential client says “Sorry, you’re just too expensive for me”, you don’t run out and change your prices. Instead, you listen carefully and realize they aren’t the right fit for your particular brand of expertise and service.
When a social media troll chooses you to lash out at, you ignore them and stay with your true audience—your sweet-spot clients and buyers.
And when your most challenging client tells you it’s time to change your business model to serve them better, you listen closely (there may be some learning here) and—if it doesn’t suit your strengths—you kiss them good-bye.
If your brand isn’t haunting you, is it really much of a brand?
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