I got emailed yesterday by a journalist who wanted to know about scams and dodgy websites. Basically the questions was “is there a resource you used to understand whether something was right, wrong or just a scam?”. Well there wasn’t any particular website, but if there was it would be likely to be instantly out of date because you simply can’t keep up with the Nigerian’s Romanians and Russian’s, let alone your local Wide Boys.
But having a think about it, I came up with a number of ideas that I’d thought I’d share.
The old saying goes “if something looks to good to be true it probably is”. I tend to trust my nose. Eg. If an Ebay reseller has 900 recommendations that are all positive, one line long and made roughly 6 seconds apart – Things probably aren’t squeaky clean.
Emotional Google Searches
I like to do a google search with an emotional term next to the piece of software I want to research. eg “Jomsocial crap” brings up discussions in web based forums where real users let loose – rather than someone paid to do a review. The weight of public opinion is useful.
The Australian Communications & Media Authority – ACMA
ACMA has some nice stuff on Current Scams – Spam & e–Security here. Obviously its Australian centric and will always lag behind what’s actually happening so common sense should also apply rather using this as a definitive resource.
The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission – ACCC
The ACCC has a speciality website called Scamwatch that’s here . Although useful, like the ACMA site, it will always lag behind real life, so see point 1 – Apply Common Sense
The Australian Securities & Investment Commission – ASIC
ASIC also has a speciality web site, known as FIDO. This site tends to focus on dodgy investment opportunties, such as computerised horse race betting schemes etc. Its a great site but again – don’t forget to apply common sense.
All this brings me to two other questions, both around when is information dodgy or a scam, or is it simply just a bit of spin.
Question 1. What if the dodgy information came from a “trusted source” like the government?
The answer is that the Australian section of Wikileaks is a fantastic resource for getting another perspective on Government Announcements. That is of course unless it gets blocked on us downstream.
Question 2. Does a high Google ranking = More authoritative content?
The short answer is No. Consider this – Say I write a blog on a brand new topic. If you write an article on the same topic and link to me because you want some external validation – I now rank higher than you on Google. Because I
am now the number one ranked person on Google for that topic, others are much more likely to link to me because I am on top – further increasing my lead. I become an authority on the topic, not because I am right, but because I wrote on it first and a computer algorithm liked that.
So lots of good stuff around, but never let it get in the way of common sense – no matter how good the Nigerian Investment opportunity looks :)