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Online shopping fraud

Shopping and auction fraud involves fraudulent shopping scams that rely on the anonymity of the internet.

As the popularity of internet shopping and online auctions grows, so the number of complaints about transactions is increasing. Some of the most common complaints involve:

  • buyers receiving goods late, or not at all
  • sellers not receiving payment
  • buyers receiving goods that are either less valuable than those advertised or significantly different from the original description
  • failure to disclose relevant information about a product or the terms of sale.

If you are a victim of shopping or auction fraud, the most immediate problem is that you have no real prospect of returning the goods or having your money refunded.

After this, there is a risk that your identity details could be compromised. Fraudsters could steal your identity and use it to access your personal finances or obtain goods or finance from alternative sources.

Are you a victim of shopping and auction fraud? 

  • You’ve bought goods from an online seller that are either late in arriving or don’t arrive at all.
  • You’ve received goods from an online seller that don’t match the original description. 
  • You’ve given identity details or personal financial information to an online seller who has used them in criminal ways.

What should you do? 

  • If the seller has misrepresented the goods you’ve bought, report the fraud to Action Fraud
  • Keep all evidence of the offence, including goods and correspondence.  
  • If there is a business dispute over the nature of the transaction, contact the website involved. Or, you can alert Consumer Direct by phone on 08454 04 05 06.

Protect yourself against shopping and auction fraud

  • Make sure you understand how the website’s feedback function works. Feedback will give you useful information about recent transactions other buyers have made.
  • Check the item's description carefully – ask the seller questions if you’re not sure of something.
  • Beware of people offering you a deal below the current bid or reserve price, especially if they contact you direct. Remember, if an offer sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.
  • Be extremely careful when buying things from people with little or no selling history.
  • Be aware of phishing emails that look like they come from the online auction or payment site you’re registered with, asking you to update your account details or re-enter them because your account has been suspended.
  • Check the URL in the web browser. A tactic often used by fraudsters is to change the address very slightly (if they’re spoofing an eBay site, for instance, they may have an address such as ‘. . . @ebayz.com’ whereas the real site is ‘. . . @ebay.com’)
  • Read the terms and conditions carefully, including those relating to any dispute resolution procedures the site offers.
  • If you bid for an item unsuccessfully, don’t be tempted to trade off-site if another seller approaches you with a similar item.

As a buyer you should:

  • Try to avoid paying by money transfers - they aren’t secure.
  • Be careful when using direct banking transactions to pay for goods. Make sure transactions are secure.
  • Don’t send confidential personal or financial information by email.
  • Use an online payment option such as PayPal, which helps to protect you.

As a seller you should:

  • Be wary of accepting payment by cheque. Even though it may clear, you are still liable if the cheque is forged or stolen.
  • Don’t accept a cheque for a higher amount and refund the difference. This is a common fraud that only comes to light when the buyers’ cheque turns out to be stolen or forged.

The Fraud Advisory Panel has also produced some advice about online shopping scams (pdf, 40kb).