Fighting Crooks Online And Offline: Beware

crook-px-250Not all the crooks are online! There are crooks online AND offline, and unfortunately we have to beware and protect ourselves. I have been too trusting in the past, but I'm gradually getting a healthy dose of scepticism and cynicism knocked in to me.

Let me tell you a little story about something that has been driving my stress levels through the roof for the last month.

Crooks Offline

The shower in the guest bathroom broke. And with an influx of family to stay over the Christmas period I wanted to make everything as convenient as possible.

So I needed to find a plumber pretty quickly. I had two plumbers round to quote for the problem but they seemed a bit vague about what was going on, so I got the feeling I was being “set-up” for an expensive investigation into possible pipe-work problems. The shower had worked fine for several years.

Then Russ pointed out that no-one had actually opened the shower to check if it was broken. They'd all jumped to the conclusion that I needed a big investigation job. So, not having a trusted plumber, my son suggested we use a very well known UK website where trades-people are rated according to the service they give customers.

I posted my job offer and literally within minutes I had a response and – let's call him “Pete The Plumber” – offered to come round and give me a free quote for the job. He was with us within an hour. A very personable young man, and a quick check on his reviews showed that he had excellent ratings.

unreliable plumberHe opened up the shower, told me I needed a new one, then went online, showed us the one we needed – priced at £200 – and offered to pass on his trade discount if we paid him up-front.

It seemed a reasonable request to expedite the job, which he said could be done two days later if he had cleared funds to buy the shower from his supplier. So I gave him £150 in cash. He gave us a receipt (with his address on) promising a fixed price to do the job and went off to buy the part, promising to return within a couple of days.

The Start Of My Unreliable Plumber Problems

That was the end of the good news. To cut a very long story short, he spun me along for two weeks with stories about illnesses that were preventing him from working and, as he'd seemed such a nice chap, I took him at face value and replied sympathetically. Then – as my need for the shower repair became more and more pressing – so did my requests for him to come.

He gave me a whole series of dates and times when he could come to do the job, every promise being broken. Finally he offered a refund if I was unhappy. I said “Yes please”, so the promises to come and repair the shower then turned into dates and times when he would refund my up-front payment – again all broken.

Dig Deeper Into The Ratings

Further investigations into his five star ratings on the website revealed that if you clicked into the comments, a depressing trend of stories emerged similar to my own, or shoddy work that later wasn't corrected. Perhaps what had happened was that most people had immediately rated him excellent for his prompt arrival and helpful manner then not gone back to correct their ratings into “unreliable plumber” for various reasons.

I also spotted that he had been “rated” regularly all through the time he'd claimed to be too ill to work.

Finally I contacted the website, but they said reply turn-round time could be up to 5-days. When I did get their answer (admittedly before 5 days) they didn't actually address the question I'd asked! I didn't bother to ask again.

One Month On….

After this had gone on for a month I was completely stressed out and feeling very stupid that I couldn't book a plumbing job without getting mugged off. Everyone in the family had their own opinions about how I should have handled it – of course.

I even tried psychological “warfare” :

  • Texting to ask how he would feel if someone had treated his Mum like this
  • Reminding him that £150 might not be a lot of money for him, but it represented almost a week's pension income for me – as discussed in my previous post about planning for retirement
  • Telling him the stress was making me ill, this was true: I had headaches and a permanent sick feeling in my stomach, constantly checking the doormat for my promised refund

He replied claiming to have a conscience and promised several further dates to refund my money, but still didn't turn up.

Finally, patience at an end I issued an ultimatum that if I didn't have the cash back in my hand by 6pm that same day I would issue an official complaint to the website where I'd found him – and from which he'd told me he got most of his work.

guard dogI was made braver because that day Matt, his wife and his dog Bailey were visiting me, so I had moral support.

“Pete” (not real name) the unreliable plumber turned up 15 minutes late, true to form. Matt (a gentle giant) went to the door to take the money from him, and we let Bailey do his “guard dog” duty and bark his head off – obviously behind closed doors.

That's not Bailey on the left. Bailey is a sweetheart, albeit a noisy one.

Matt stood and ostentatiously took down the plumber's van registration, and I'd already assured “Pete” that my security cameras would record him delivering the refund back to me.

So, I got my refund – finally – but why does it have to be like that? Why can't people use their skills for good instead of to scam and cheat people?

Moral Dilemma

I would like to tell you that I immediately went onto the website and gave him a bad rating, to protect others from my experience. But I haven't. Why?

  • Was it implicit in our arrangement that if I got my money back I wouldn't complain?
  • I've read that this site won't accept negative reviews where no work was done
  • Do I want another visit from “Pete the unreliable plumber” late one night? No I do not!

It's on my conscience that my “refund” could have been collected from some other trusting soul who handed over cash for an up-front payment.

Given the three points above, what would you have done?

Staying Safe

Obviously to stay safe from rogue tradesmen I should never have paid the money up front, and checked more deeply into the reviews. But I did feel I'd taken basic safety measures by using the site to find someone in the first place.

So, as with staying safe from crooks online, basic offline security measure are no longer enough. Which brings me back to crooks online and my blogging “challenges”.

Crooks Online

backdoor-px_250Added to the stress of the unreliable plumber, has been the continuing fight with my blog security.

As I learn more about the scary world of WordPress security problems, it's looking as if – despite taking basic security precautions – some online scamster has a backdoor into my blog and dumped a load of rubbish php files there that let my blog function fine on the face of it.

But I don't want them there.

This probably happened a long time ago – maybe even from a hacking on my previous hosting company, as the current company (as at February 2016) is adamant it couldn't have happened with them.

Improved WordPress Security Measures

Well, like the rogue plumber, these scamsters have picked the wrong victim this time as I'm too stubborn to give up.

I have implemented even stronger security measures than I had before and I'm now getting regular emails from All In One WP Security's free plugin about all the login attempts that are immediately being locked out at IP level.

Another plugin worthy of note is iThemes Security. I really recommend you to get on their mailing list, because they hold excellent training webinars from which I've learned so much over the last few days in their “WordPress Disaster Week”.

A lot of what I have learned over the past couple of weeks is very scary and depressing for an innocent, part-time blogger, like me, who thought she could just get on quietly blogging in peace. I really don't have time to waste fighting technical issues. I know the direction I want to take my business, but crooks online are determined to waste my time.

basic security measuresI'm actually quite out-raged about this problem, because – as mentioned before – I'd already taken lots of basic security measures:

  • My WordPress version is kept up-to-date by my hosting company
  • I'm in and out of my blog every day keeping plugins up to date
  • I approve comments manually (only) and check links
  • My hosting and WP password are 18+ characters and symbols
  • I already had more than one security plugin loaded

Obviously those still haven't been enough and I'm not qualified to comment on suggestions for the causes that people put forward or refute, equally enthusiastically.

I'm looking at an even stronger solution now, that will clean my site completely and fix this once and for all. I'm still getting my questions answered.

A Lesson For New And Part-time Bloggers

As a complete new-comer to blogging I distinctly remember thinking “No-one would want to hack my little blog”.

How wrong could I be! Implementing WordPress security measures is probably even more important to a new blogger – because of your inexperience. Once the hackers “get in” (and trust me, they will, if you're slapdash about security) it's difficult and expensive to get them out. All the plug-ins in the world will be too late.

Start as you mean to go on and implement at least one of those two plugins above. (As at February 2015 I have FOUR security plugins running at once and it's frightening to see how many login attempts they're blocking.)

The plugins are free – cleaning up a hacked blog isn't. And if you're a part-time blogger you need all your time for writing and promoting. Not repairing damage.

WordPress Help Behind The Scenes

This post wouldn't be complete without a big thank-you to two wonderful online friends who have given me so much support and encouragement, suggesting measures to take, and technical questions to ask, that I would never have thought of as I tried to beat the crooks online.

A big thanks to two of the most genuine, kind and honest bloggers I have come across online. No surprises…..

Huge thanks to Adrienne Smith and Enstine Muki for taking time out of their busy days to be trust-worthy friends to this part-time blogger.

If you are unlucky enough to be hacked, you may find out how to fix a WordPress hack yourself here.

UPDATE March 2016

Click HERE for the next installment of what I did to fix my WordPress security problems.


Joy Healey

I left it too late to plan for a financially secure retirement. Don't make my mistake. Start building an extra income with a part-time (or full-time) business online. Think you don't have time? Can't afford the start-up cost? Can't meet sales targets? Contact me for free advice (no obligation) on the best fit for your circumstances. Exciting retirement business opportunities here.

Kim Willis - February 22, 2016

Hi Joy

Some salutary tales here!

Actually, my experience is that more money is extracted unethically from people offline than online. For example, think of the seminars that promote overpriced property, share trading courses, and options trading schemes. Most of the people who buy these investments and training programs (some costing $20k and more) will lose their money.

Eight years ago I lost $400k to a scammer in a cattle investment scam. A friend of mine told me about an employee – he stole nearly a million from his company. Scammers are everywhere, but it seems to me that the big money scams are usually offline.

Another thing I’ve learned – scammers are often quite charming. They have a unique ability to fool and disarm their prey. Scammers are sociopaths without a moral compass.

Thanks for your post Joy!


    Joy Healey - February 22, 2016

    Hi Kim,

    Oh WOW ! $400k – that certainly makes my £150 look very paltry. I’m so sorry – but great to see that you’ve bounced back after it. That’s the sign of a true entrepreneur.

    I agree, there probably are more scamsters offline than online. I suppose online we naturally (hopefully) have our guard up a little, whereas meeting this very charming and open-looking young man face-to-face in my own home, and with my son there, made me drop my defences. I’ll be more careful next time.

    And as for my blog – I have more security plugins installed and am taking other security measures too.

    Have a great week, Joy – Blogging After Dark

Harleena Singh - February 22, 2016

Hi Joy,

Interesting indeed to read through all that you underwent!

Yes, there are crooks online and offline. However, we are lucky in a way that the offline works are taken care of by the local workers. So, if anything goes haywire, we can reach out and grab them right there and then, which does happen off and on. But because they are nearby, they are also careful as they don’t want to lose their clients.

I can imagine how it must be if you go through it all as you have to book for the services, online. I’m glad you got your refund though, after going through all that you did. But it does leave bitterness around and all that you had to go through as well. Online crooks are all over, and yes, the plugins you mentioned do help quite a lot. I’m glad my better half takes care of the admin part of it all.

Thanks for sharing. Have a nice week ahead 🙂

    Joy Healey - February 22, 2016

    Hi Harleena,

    It certainly wasn’t an experience I’d choose to repeat. Although it wasn’t a HUGE sum of money, it’s the principle of the matter. Certainly being local means that I had his address and my son was going to go round with me to collect the money if he didn’t return it, which we can’t do with online scamsters.

    You’re lucky to have Vinay handling the admin of your blog! I dislike the technical part – it’s fine when all is well, but when it falls apart, I fall apart too!

    Thanks for your visit, and enjoy the rest of your week,
    Joy – Blogging After Dark

Enstine Muki - February 22, 2016

What a terrible experience with ‘Pete’ and the website not accepting negative reviews where no work was done is bad to keep their visitors away. After such an experience, there is need for them to change their policies. I think Pete is taking advantage of this to perpetuate his evil.

Now, about the issues with your blog, I’m glad you are almost deciding on an option that will handle those dirty things. Once you’ve finally moved to them, it will be another exciting thing to read about how it’s working with them.

I know Adrienne too well and I’m glad she was there to help fight the evil. It was good to be part of the team too and thanks for trusting me and sharing with me some of these issues.

That’s what it means to have real blogging friends in ones community. As you know, we are there anytime to try to chip in something so count on us.

The new week has started and I wish you solutions all round – off and online

    Joy Healey - February 22, 2016

    Hi Enstine,

    You’re probably right about “Pete” taking advantage of that fact. It had never occurred to me that my reviews wouldn’t be accepted until I did more research about the site.

    So…. with the offline scamster “bested” I’m getting ready to fight the online ones!

    Still one techy challenge to be overcome before I (in theory) get rid of my techy problems forever – always the optimist LOL.

    A quick glance in my inbox shows a reply from the support team, with help to move me another step closer. When my plans move further on I’ll be back to update everyone.

    What a team to have helping me out, you and Adrienne. I’m so grateful and hope that one day I can return the favor.

    As you say, a new week and new beginnings.

    Thanks again, Joy

Shantanu Sinha - February 22, 2016

Hello Joy,

Thanks for making us aware through your article.
Sorry to hear about that “Pete” such a pathetic crook he is.

Yeah these crooks should always be checked upon.
They can make life full of stress and could stop your activity.
Agreed from your point that we should be doing complete check up on the ratings, if we are booking some one for our help.

Hope people will now be more careful towards these crooks who are playing their messy games in our lives.

Thank you. Have a great week ahead.

Shantanu Sinha

    Joy Healey - February 22, 2016

    Hello Shantanu,

    Welcome to my blog, I am so pleased you found me and I hope you will find plenty of helpful information here:-)

    You’re right – I will certainly be a lot more careful in the future when taking on tradespeople.

    Enjoy the rest of your week, Joy – Blogging After Dark

Sue Bride - February 23, 2016

I’m sorry to hear of your problems with plumbers and your website. Finding reliable tradesmen can be a nightmare. I’ve also learned to get fixed quotes. Before I sold my last (weatherboard) house it needed painting inside and out. I got a recommendation from a friend who had a much smaller job done by the owner himself. For me he brought his team. Let’s say their age was against them and they were incredibly slow and had to go off to another job half way through. $40,000 later I was finishing off myself the day before the house was open for inspection.

    Joy Healey - February 23, 2016

    Oh my goodness Sue – that’s terrible, and even backed up by a personal recommendation, which people say is better than a ratings site.

    Makes my paltry £150 look pathetic to have stressed about 🙂

    I suppose for me it was the last straw breaking the camel’s back on top of a load of other stresses going on at the time.

    Enjoy the rest of your week, Joy – Blogging After Dark

Edward Thorpe - February 23, 2016

Hi Joy,

You lead such an exciting life! Or, when the ‘student is ready…’

Actually, a low-energy hustler took advantage of a nice person. I doubt your friends and family would want you to change. I know that I like you just the way you are.

Oh yeah, be kind to ‘Pete’. He’s probably destined to become your local government representative of some consumer support group.
Have a great week,

    Joy Healey - February 23, 2016

    Hi Edward,

    I SO BADLY want my life to be boring (aka peaceful!)

    You’re too kind 🙂 I’ll just try to be a BIT more cynical then!

    Love the idea of “Pete the unreliable plumber” on a consumer support group – or perhaps a “be kind to plumbers, always pay them up front” group!

    You have a brilliant week too – I have lots of “normal people” activities this week, so not too long spent on the blog – or even the duff shower.

    Joy – Blogging After Dark

Adrienne - February 23, 2016

Hey Joy,

I’m SO sorry about the plumber issue… I can’t believe that guy had good ratings yet he tried SO hard to rip you off. I’m glad you stood your ground and he finally returned your money. That’s a horrible way to treat people and I wouldn’t have let it go either. Of course we have a pretty reputable company here in town that I always use so that’s never happened to me. Yay!!!

As far as the crooks online, they are just pure evil. I remember watching a webinar a long time ago now and the guest that was on there was a hacker. He had been shown the error of his ways and was there to warn people how they get in and why. For him it was just because he could but some people are just evil like that plumber.

They don’t care about you, they just care about themselves. Some of them do it to hijack your traffic while others just do it to make your life miserable. I’ll never understand the minds of evil and I hope none of us ever really do.

I’m just SO glad Enstine was able to help you and of course I’ve been through my own learning curves with database files and server issues as you know per our conversation. I’m just glad to have helped in any way I can and I know that this issue will be behind you soon. I know you’ll be so excited when it is too.

Thank you for the mention, how very kind of you and also for sharing your story. This is yet another wake up call for us all.

You enjoy your week now.


    Joy Healey - February 23, 2016

    Hi Adrienne,

    Well, “Pete the unreliable plumber” was the last straw that (almost!) broke the camel’s back with other things happening in my life. A few people on Facebook have implied I was gullible to have trusted online ratings because they’re mostly faked. If so it’s a sorry state, but then I guess the world is in a sorry state all round.

    LOL he may have thought I’d give up, but “no way”. He certainly picked the wrong one here.

    Anyway, it’s time to move on (and find another plumber – goodness knows where) from both offline and online crooks.

    Likewise my plans to zap the online crooks are in progress, and I hope they will soon be a thing of the past too.

    If my story prompts even one new (or established) blogger to tighten up on security I’ll be very happy.

    Will keep you posted! Thanks again,

    Joy – Blogging After Dark

Donna Merrill - February 24, 2016

Hi Joy,

It is totally annoying to have to deal with security issues, for sure.

All any blogger wants to do, as you say, is put good content on their blog and use it to engage with our readers and followers.

But no!

We have to be worried about all kinds of hackers and smashers and party crashers… :(:( and we don’t even know why or what they want from us, right?

I have my blog managed by Krishna World Wide hosting so I don’t have to worry about any of this.

But… I have many sites, and a lot of them are on HostGator shared hosting plan, so it’s up to me to secure them. Yikkk

I’ll certainly check out the resources you’ve shared here to see if I can make use of them on my shared sites.

Thanks for the great advice, and good luck with your own issues 🙂


    Joy Healey - February 24, 2016

    Hi Donna,

    It’s the last thing any of us need for sure, and as you say – I have no idea what they hope to gain.

    Anyway, I am tentatively hopeful that the issue has been fixed now – by moving hosting accounts.

    In fact…. drum roll…. if all has worked you’re the first comment I’m replying to on my new account.
    I’ll be writing more about the move next time, but for the moment I’m still tentatively checking everything out!

    Joy – Blogging After Dark

Nicolas Puegher - February 24, 2016

Hi Joy,

Hope that you don’t find any other service like that in the future, the world isn’t perfect and there’re tons of them out there but as you said we need to have our eyes open to avoid any of these things.

Also, very helpful advice for WordPress security, I need to work more about that with my blog and I will add those plugins for sure and I will check them out. You said you have 4 security plugins, could you share with me the names please?

Thanks Joy! Have a good day 🙂


    Joy Healey - February 24, 2016

    Hi Nicolas,

    Yes, I’ve really gone through the mire the last couple of weeks! Hopefully I can get back on track now.

    The plugins I had installed were WordFence, iThemes, WP Site Guardian and All In One WordPress Security.

    BUT….. the solution I have gone with isn’t using any of these, and it turns out that having all four installed wasn’t doing me any good at all. Probably because I was trying to bolt the stable door after the horse had fled, as my site had already been hacked (despite all my best efforts) and no-one noticed.

    If I were to recommend a free plugin to you it would probably be All In One WordPress Security or iThemes Security.

    However, the solution I have gone for is to change my hosting to try and stop the hackers ever getting into my site. I’ll write more about it in my next post over the weekend. My site has only been on my new hosting company less than 24hrs so I’m waiting for things to settle down – but it’s certainly looking good at the moment.

    Meantime – yes, do get some security measures installed. Prevention is certainly better than cure.

    By the way…. Welcome to my blog, I am so pleased you found me and I hope you will find plenty of helpful information here:-)

    Joy – Blogging After Dark

Peter Beckenham - February 25, 2016

Hello Joy,

What a distressing and worrying time for you.

That Pete the Plumber story was just the awful and it makes you wonder how we can possibly judge who we can trust – online or offline.

I dont want to tempt fate but luckily I have not had any really poor experiences online apart from our IP address being hacked that eventually resulted in all my domains and associated emails being blacklisted…this was a real bummer that’s for sure.

It was great to see 2 very special bloggers come to your assistance. Adrienne and Enstine are so very special people who despite their busy schedules, always go out of their way to help others.

Do hope things are starting to look up for you Joy.

Best wishes from the remote Thai village blogger


    Joy Healey - February 26, 2016

    Hello Peter

    Yes, it’s been a rotten few weeks, but I’m getting there.

    Oh gosh, a hacked IP address is a new one on me (I hope). I suppose one ray of light in this hacked blog saga was that I was still getting traffic from Google which was a relief. Let’s hope it continues.

    It was really great how Adrienne and Enstine rallied round. I also had several suggestions from other blogging friends.

    Ah well, onward and upwards!

    Joy – Blogging After Dark

Enstine Muki - February 25, 2016

Hi Joy,
Just coming back here to say congrats on moving to a new platform.
I’m sure you are going to give us details in an up coming blog post 😉

    Joy Healey - February 26, 2016

    Hi Enstine

    Yes, I’ve been very pleased with the way they moved my blog to the new hosting.

    Have some more to go, but we decided to check that everything went fine with this one first.

    Oh yes – another blog post about it all will be coming on soon!

    Thanks again for your help, Joy

Chery Schmidt - February 25, 2016

Hello Joy, So sorry to hear about all your challenges that you have been having my friend!

A Lesson learned with your plumber Pete HUH? I for one will never pay anyone in advance again.. Oh Yeh I too have been burned by this one..

Crooks offline as well as online “”FOR SURE”

I am going to go and check out your plug ins you suggested above, one can never be to secure..

Thanks for sharing
Chery :))

    Joy Healey - February 26, 2016

    Hi Chery,

    I suppose I shouldn’t take it so personally that all thes crooks are out to get us, but I do 🙁

    Anyway, without wishing you ill (of course) I’m relieved I’m not the only one to have been caught like this. I’m still psyching myself up for finding someone else to come and do the job.

    Bit of a warning on the plugins – I have been advised by the hosting company I’ve now moved to that I probably had too many security plugins installed! I’ll be writing more about it next time.

    Have a great weekend. Joy – Blogging After Dark

Tuhin - February 29, 2016

Hello Joy,

There is no short of frauds in this world and their numbers are increasing day by day.

While I have come across a numerous (can’t count even) touts in the form of salesman, plumber, electrician and so on, I am yet to encounter a real online threat.

May God never put me in such a situation.

Thanks for this post. Really alarming situation!

    Joy Healey - February 29, 2016

    Hi Tuhin,

    I like your comment, because so many people I come across seem to think that the Internet is more fraudulent than the offline world.

    There are crooks in both “worlds” and while I’m pretty vigilant online, I am working on increasing my vigilance offline.

    Have a good week, Joy – Blogging After Dark

Mandy Allen - February 29, 2016

Brilliant post, thank you, and a lesson to us all about security. I have not had the ‘Pete the Plumber’ experience, thank goodness, as I live in a very small community where we all use the same local tradespeople, so poor performance would by spread by word like wildfire and they wouldn’t get any more work! Very frustrating experience when you don’t have that network though.

Enjoy the journey!

    Joy Healey - March 1, 2016

    Hi Mandy,

    I wish I had as good a support network of tradespeople as you do!

    Happily my online support network for business connections is probably far better then the offline one.

    Enjoy the rest of your week, Joy – Blogging After Dark

katja finkel - March 4, 2016

Hello Joy, All you talk about is marketing. Why don’t you talk about online games sometimes where there is very rare chance of fraud?

    Joy Healey - March 4, 2016

    Hi Katja, Very simple answer to this one… I know NOTHING about the subject, don’t play them and have no interest in them. So what could I add?

    More to the point my blog isn’t targeted towards people who are interested in them, it’s targeted towards Internet Marketers and I don’t think they’d want to read such posts.

    I wish you well with your online ventures – you probably have a wider targeted audience than I do and I’m sure you’ll have great success when you find them. Perhaps there are forums where they will connect?

    Good luck, Joy – Blogging After Dark

Lawrence Walsh - June 21, 2016

Really An Informative Share!

Security is the concern of every individual, I used to avoid installing any sort of security devices to lessen the expenditure but when a burglary happened at my place then I realized how important it is!

I have installed intercom system in each room of my home even in the store room.

Keep Sharing Such Quality Stuff!

    Joy Healey - June 21, 2016

    Hi Lawrence,

    It’s very interesting this parallel between home security on online security. Because I think of my blog as my online home.

    Yes, I saved a few dollars by not installing security measures on my blog, but at what cost long term?

    And yes, I also have security measures at home 🙂

    Joy – Blogging After Dark

Comments are closed