If you haven’t been the victim of a scam then you’re being either dishonest with yourself or you must be the most prudent person in the world.
Affecting people in Italy at this moment there are two major scams in circulation. I would call them “kopy-kat” scams because they imitate companies or web sites one normally accesses.
The first is the Ryanair website look-alike scam. You type in ‘Ryanair’ in Google because you can’t quite remember the exact wording of the airline’s website or because you haven’t saved it in your favourites, you click on the address that comes up and the typical Ryanair web site appears. Or does it? Look again at the web address. Does it say http://www.online-ryanair.com/ ? If so then you’ve been had! The correct Ryanair web site (from Italy) is, of course, https://www.ryanair.com/it/it/
The problem is that if you get on the kopy-kat site without checking the web address correctly you’ll subsequently be charged admin and reservation fees of at least twenty euros for each flight which will actually offer you nothing. The only thing that you’ll get is your flight reservation. At least Ryanair gets the money for that!
Part of the problem is Ryanair’s of course. Their own web site has to have an alert mind to navigate for if you’re not careful you’ll find yourself hiring cars, hotels, excess baggage, special insurance etc. when you don’t really want to.
I suddenly realised I was on the Ryanair Kopy-Kat web site and had already booked my flight giving my credit card number! Feeling totally idiotic I quickly phoned up my credit card company and told them to block my card excepting the payment to Ryanair (I had received and verified a genuine Ryanair flight itinerary by this stage). To date no other company has taken money from me and I have a new credit card winging its way to my house.
Investigation on the internet pointed to one of several Ryanair kopy-kat sites, all of them relating to an address in Bucharest, Rumania and some of them allowing pop-ups of a sexually solicitous nature. Reading further I noted that many, many Italians have been had by this eastern European maverick manipulation.
The second scam is even worse. It’s the change your energy supplier without realising it scam. A person speaking Italian with a Rumanian accent phones you up (I think I know my foreign-Italian accents by now) and introduces herself (in this case) as being from the electricity supply company you use. That’s the first problem. One is all too used to having companies phoning one up persuading one to change to another energy supply company with a better deal. But what happens when the person from the supposed energy company you are using tells you that you have been overcharged, not just for your last bill but for all your bills for several preceding years and that your energy company’s phone call is in order to communicate this information to you and to put it right? Great! Let’s have some money back then. When the next question was for me to confirm my fiscal number (essential form of ID in Italy) I answered ‘but if you are my energy company then you have this information – it’s on every bill you send me. Also, if, as you say, I have been overcharged then all you need to do is to refund me the amount overcharged on the next bill.’
I realised this was another scam, again unfortunately coming from that country which is regrettably making a name for itself in such dealings. I excused myself, said I was in a hurry to go to work and put the phone down. If I had gone any further I might have found myself signing up for a contract with another company even just by speaking!
I have since come to three rules to avoid scams which must be strictly adhered to at all times.
- Always check the web address of the company you are contacting, especially if it’s Ryanair!
- Never accept telephone calls from your supposed energy or phone company. Your real company would never normally contact you in this way.
- Never, never give your fiscal number or customer number to anyone on the phone. (if you give anyone your credit card number then you deserve to be taken for a ride!!)
Scams, regrettably, will always persist. Any world traveller knows that. But be wary in your own country and especially your adopted country too. It would be interesting to know about any other major scam that people living in this part of the world have had to extricate themselves from.