These aren’t set in stone, but they are big red flags. If any service you want to sign up with does one of them, take a deep breath before continuing. If they do more than one, run away – fast. Take my advice – these are not lessons you want to learn the hard way

  1. They don’t validate your email
    If they don’t validate the original email, it suggests that you’ll never get a notification if someone tries to take over your account. Depending on how important the service is, that could be a major problem (you’d want to know if someone changed the email on your Internet banking, for example). However, these validations are the one exception to the following rule, where you don’t want them…
  2. Using a “no reply” email address
    Email addresses are the easiest to forge in the world. If they use “noreply@…” for any communications, then where can you go to check whether an email is genuine or not. Beware – it’s a sign of a company that doesn’t take security, or customer services, seriously.
  3. Making it hard to delete your account
    This is a particularly egregious trick. It’s illegal in the European Union, and it suggests that the company are quite happy to play fast and loose with your personal information – and that they’re not happy to let this cash cow go. Handing over your personal details to them suggests you’re in for a life of otherwise untraceable spam. Check AccountKiller before signing up, and don’t sign with anything on the black list. Even the grey list, tread carefully.
  4. No support contact details
    For open source projects, this probably isn’t such a problem – you already have all the component parts already. But for a commercial service, where you’re paying good hard cash up front, or you’re putting your intellectual property in their hands, it should be a major red flag and you shouldn’t even consider going there.
  5. No registered company number
    This may sound weird, but company registrations point towards a certain size of corporation. They allow you to research the company, and find out (should you need to) who owns it. Without this, there’s no way you can find out who you are doing business with – meaning that if you ever get into the position of needing to take legal action against them (or, more likely, get your local trading standards to take action) – then you’re more likely to be out of luck.

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