Personal data specialist ALLOW has launched a new suite of services which it claims will help protect your personal information and privacy.
is designed to cut down on junk emails, stop you being tracked online, prevent email spam, flag up privacy risks on your social media networks and monitor for the exposure of sensitive personal information.
I've given it a go to see what it can find about me.
The Data Shield
The first thing I made use of was the Data Shield. You supply ALLOW with certain bits of data that you want the system to monitor across the net, and should it ever see that information appear on a scammer website or wherever, you'll be notified.
Things that you can flag up for monitoring include website user names, credit card details, email addresses, phone numbers, bank account numbers and passport numbers.
So far I haven't been notified of any of my information popping up on any sites where they shouldn't be.
Social media sites like Facebook can cause all sorts of problems when it comes to privacy. The Facebook monitor went through posts appearing on my timeline which featured profanity (which could put off future employers), as well as identifying privacy and location risks which could expose me to scammers or burglars.
The results of this were a little surprising. Firstly, I hadn't realised just how often my friends swear in their status updates. But everything I had put in my profile, from relationship status to political outlook to religion were flagged as being a threat to my security, privacy or both.
Some I can understand – ALLOW points out that my real friends know that I'm married, so there's no need to really have it on my profile. Similarly, posting which school I went to gives away the answer to a common security question. But I'm not sure that pointing out my political leanings is really much of a threat to my privacy.
The third service in the Facebook monitor tracks location risks. This basically highlights when you have been tagged as being in a certain location. I can understand why this can be dangerous while you are actually in that location, but all of the tags the monitor flagged up for me were pictures uploaded by my wife of our holiday, days after we had returned.
The RemoveMe service is really useful – it immediately removed my email account from eight marketing databases. Already my inbox seems a little leaner!
If you want to, the RemoveMe functionality can also be used to sign up for the Mail Preference Service, The Telephone Preference Service, the Royal Mail Door Drops Service and the E-Mail Preference Service. It's all done with the click of a button, much easier than having to sign up individually to each of these services.
This one is only open to people that use Google Chrome as their browser when surfing the internet. The plug-in tool stops websites and advertising networks tracking what you are up to.
Other browsers are on the way, including Firefox and Internet Explorer.
If you receive junk mail in the post, you can register it with ALLOW. The firm will then take steps to try to get you off the marketing list behind the junk mail. You can report junk mail to ALLOW online, via text message or on a Freephone number.
The Emailshield service lets you generate a 'random' email address which you can enter when using websites like Amazon. The address is generated by ALLOW, so you'll still receive the emails, just without having to dish out your details!
Data Risk Report
Each month you'll be supplied with a report breaking down your information, privacy and security risks.
What it costs
There are three different costing plans with ALLOW. The basic package includes the Facebook Monitor, Browser Protection and the Data Risk Report. This package is absolutely free.
The next two packages you'll have to pay for. The monthly package has all of the applications I've covered above, plus insurance of up to £10,000 to cover you against your information being hacked, compromised or your identity stolen. This will set you back £2.50 a month. The annual package offers the same, but for £2 a month, though obviously there's more commitment involved.
Both of the paid-for packages come with a 30-day trial so that you can see how it works before having to shell out any cash.
Will I be signing up?
I definitely think it's worth giving the trial a go. It's been an eye-opening experience for me, and while I'm not sure it's something I'll actually pay for on an annual basis, I can certainly see me paying for a monthly 'health check' every now and again, just to be on the safe side.
What do you think? Do you use any specific software or services to keep your details safe online? Will you be giving ALLOW a try?
- 1. Mid-contract price hikes
<p>It is reasonable to assume that if you take out a mobile phone contract at £30 a month for 24 months that's exactly what you'll pay unless you exceed the tariff. Yet mobile phone providers have come under fire for a snag buried in the small print – a clause to allow mid-contract price rises.</p>
<p>Prices are rising by a median of 81p a month and 70% of consumers are completely unaware off this sneaky move, according to Tesco Mobile, so be sure to check any new contracts before you sign the dotted line.</p>
- 1. Land banking
Land banking involves plots of land offered for sale, often online, with the promise of sizable returns when planning permission is approved for housing or other development. Yet often the land is located in areas protected from development by planning law.</p>
The companies involved soon disappear with investors' money and as the firms are not protected by the Financial Services Authority, their funds are not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme</p>
- 2. Money mule
Fraudsters recruit unknowing accomplices through email under the guise of offering employment, seeking a personal favour, or through internet shopping sites. The recruits are persuaded into receiving what are essentially fraudulent payments and then passing funds on.</p>
The 'mules' are frequently offered a small financial incentive to encourage involvement and face difficulties in proving their innocence when the fraud is discovered.</p>
- 3. Carbon credit fraud
The scams claim to offer people the chance to profit from carbon credits. Under regulations that permit businesses to emit a tonne of CO2 – the companies claim to offer investment in green projects like a forestry scheme or a solar panel project, which generates carbon credits that are then sold on to heavy industry.</p>
A flashy brochure or website tells of a reliable 'government-backed' scheme which provides reliable returns for investors. Such a scheme doesn't exist however – a reality investors only discovered when they have parted with their cash and the company is untraceable. As with land banking, fraudulent companies are not covered by the FSA so victims have no course for recompense</p>
- 4. HMRC phishing scam
Receiving an email from the taxman saying you are owed a payment may seem like a nice surprise, but it is actually from fraudsters trying to relieve you of your cash instead.</p>
The emails provide a "click-through link" to a cloned replica of the HMRC website. The recipient is then asked to provide their credit or debit card details - all the information the criminals need to clear your account, and sell on your personal details.</p>
- 6. Crash for cash scams
Insurer Direct Line reported a hike in the number of 'crash for cash' scams last year – where fraudsters fake accidents by making unnecessary emergency stops at busy roundabouts or slip roads, forcing motorists to crash into them.</p>
They then make bogus claims to the innocent motorist's insurer, often including fictitious injuries and passengers.</p>
- 7. Driving school scams
Learner drivers have been taken for ride by being unknowingly taught by trainee instructors. An investigation by the AA found up to 27,000 extra driving tests have been failed in the last year because one in 10 learner drivers are unwittingly taught by an instructor they do not know is learning on the job.</p>
- 8. One man mail scam
July saw the arrest of a Leicester postman who stole £46,686 worth of mail over two-and-a-half years. Yogeshbhai Patel, 38, was jailed for two years for stealing mail including 2,000 DVDs and 2,250 games along with CDs and other electrical equipment. He intercepting the valuable packages and spent the money on living a luxury lifestyle including helicopter rides and a trip to Las Vegas.</p>
- 9. Smart meter scam
The Trading Standards Institute reported over 200 cases where elderly homeowners have been targeted by telephone cold callers, purporting to be from their energy supplier and offering energy saving devices which could cut their bills by 40%.</p>
The TSI tested the devices in homes where owners had fallen for the scam, only to find they both failed to satisfy electrical safety standards or deliver any tangible energy savings.</p>
- 10. Thermal camera fraud
Thermal cameras that track ATM pin numbers are the latest weapon in their arsenal and US scientists have warned it is the next threat for this form of crime. Researchers at the University of California at San Diego found that up to 45 seconds after a person types their pin code into an ATM machine or door entry pad the numbers and even the sequence are still readable by thermal cameras.</p>