Buying online scams

Fraudsters can target anyone who buys online, including the most confident shoppers as they may buy without thinking. That’s why fraudsters set up social media profiles and even create websites to offer things for sale. But these things will either be fake or not exist at all.

Before you buy anything online, make sure you know what methods fraudsters use to draw you into a sale.

Protect your money: always pay by debit or credit card.

  • Buying on websites

    Some fraudsters have the skills to copy genuine sites or to set up fake sites that look professional, with deals to influence your shopping habits.

    Always make sure a site is genuine before you use it, otherwise you could lose your money or have your details stolen.

    This is an image of a website called Bargain World. It offers brand new items like a smart phone and laptop at half price or less if you pay by bank transfer.

    Fraudsters create their own websites

    A seller may have a website, reviews and give receipts but that doesn’t mean they’re genuine. It could be fake or a copy of a genuine site. Fraudsters can’t copy a genuine site address, so check it first. And never use a link in a message to visit a site. Type it out yourself. Make sure a site is genuine before you log on, fill in any details or pay.

    Can you pay by card?

    Genuine sites, even from a small business, let you pay by debit or credit card, or a payment service that protects your money. Fraudsters want bank transfers because it puts cash straight into their accounts. A fake site may allow you to enter card details, but it won’t take your money. It’s just to steal your details to use against you in a later scam.

    Do you have to pay right away?

    Fake or copied sites often use deadline deals to influence your decision to pay. If you rush and fail to check a site is genuine, you may end up paying a fraudster. It’s better to take your time to make sure everything is safe to protect your money.

    Fake sites have reviews and contact details

    You should be able to find lots of independent reviews on a genuine site. Be wary of bad reviews, or lots of good ones in a short space of time. Fraudsters may include full business contact details on a site and may reply if you get in touch. But they’ll still want you to pay by bank transfer.

    Is a price low or an item hard to find elsewhere?

    Fraudsters tempt you with low prices and items that are sold out or rare. There’s usually a good reason why you can’t find the same item elsewhere at the same price: because it’s a scam. It’s better to pay more to a genuine seller than to lose your money.

    A secure site will have a closed padlock image in the browser bar and have https:// at the start of its address. But these do not mean a site is genuine, so do your own checks to make sure it’s safe before you buy anything.

    Never enter your bank PIN or bank password on a shopping site.

Buying on social media

It can be difficult to tell the difference between a good deal and a scam. Fraudsters take time and effort to set up a fake sale, even for low value items. So, you should take your time to check it’s genuine and not focus on price or availability.

This is an image of a seller’s social media profile. He has one hundred and twenty-one friends and has been a member since two thousand and twenty one. He has fourteen followers and is selling a brand new I phone fourteen for three hundred and ninety nine pounds.

Fraudsters pretend to be genuine sellers

Anyone can offer an item for sale through social media or an online marketplace, even a fraudster. Fraudsters may share some personal details to convince you they’re genuine. But they’ll want you to pay by bank transfer or a way that doesn’t offer you any protection.

Do you have to pay right away?

Fraudsters often say someone else is interested in an item to push you into a quick sale. Sometimes your need to buy something creates its own pressure. Go to see items that are local, large or expensive. Pay when a seller hands it over. If you can’t, pay by card or another way that protects your money.

Do you have to pay a bank account?

Fraudsters have bank accounts and want bank transfers because it’s like giving them cash. Be suspicious if a seller won’t let you pay by card or a way that offers buyer protection. Fraudsters move your money out of their account very quickly, making it hard to trace and get back. 

How do you know that a seller is genuine?

A seller may be recommended, have good reviews, pictures and followers. But it could all be made-up or stolen. One way to tell if they’re genuine is to meet in person. A genuine seller will let you pay in a way that protects your money.

Remember, you can’t always trust what people say on social media.

Is a price low or an item hard to find elsewhere?

Fraudsters tempt you with low prices and items that are sold out or rare. There’s usually a good reason why you can’t find the same item elsewhere at the same price: because it’s a scam. It’s better to pay more to a genuine seller than to lose your money.

Always pay by debit or credit card to protect your money. Or use a payment service that offers buyer protection.

The most common items fraudsters sell

Fashion

Fraudsters may offer designer clothes and trainers as they’re often in demand.

Be suspicious if an item is sold out everywhere else and a seller wants you to pay by bank transfer.

Vehicles

Check a vehicle on the DVLA website for free.

Fraudsters use fake adverts for genuine vehicles. So, inspect and test drive in person before you pay.

Never pay upfront for a vehicle or a vehicle part, even for delivery.

Tech

We’d all like to get a computer, game console or smart phone for a bargain price. But even a bargain can cost you money.

If a price is too good to be true and you can’t pay by card, it’s a warning sign.

Holidays

If a holiday or rental deal is too good to be true, it could be a scam.

Buy from a trusted company that’s ABTA or ATOL protected.

Only pay on the booking site where you find a deal.

And always pay by card to protect your money if things go wrong.

Tickets

Fraudsters use online marketplaces and social media to offer tickets for popular or sold out shows and events.

Get your tickets from a trusted ticket company or a site that’s registered with The Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR).

Use your card or a payment service that offers buyer protection.

If you can’t pay by card or find the same price elsewhere, then buy from a trusted seller with good reviews instead.

Other scams fraudsters use to trick you

Learn how fraudsters can offer fake investments and steal your money through social media or over the phone.

Investment scams

Fraudsters pretend to be genuine companies and advisers.

How to invest safely

Social media scams

Did you know fraudsters set up fake profiles just to steal money?

Stay safe on social media

Scam calls

Find out how fraudsters can use your details to win your trust.

Avoid scam calls

Learn about the latest scams

Fraudsters are always looking for new ways to try to steal your details and money. Discover which scams are common right now.

Go to latest scams

Have you been targeted by fraudsters?

Contact us right away if you think you've been scammed. We can then guide you on what to do next.

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Stay scam safe

Learn how to spot and avoid scams, and how to report fraud.

Protect yourself from fraud

Stay scam safe

Learn how to spot and avoid scams, and how to report fraud.

Protect yourself from fraud