These scams can happen when you find something online that you want to buy. This could be a holiday, flights, concert tickets or building materials. Once you've paid, you lose contact with the seller. You'll may receive no goods, or goods that are different to those advertised.
These scams can happen when you sell items online. You may send the goods as agreed and never receive payment. Or you may be tricked into returning an overpayment. The criminal may send you a cheque for more money than the value of the item being sold. They ask for the extra money to be transferred back or sent on to a third party, for example a 'shipping agent'.
How can you spot them?
These criminals are very clever, but sometimes warning signs could help you identify them.
- An item priced under the recommended selling value – does it sound too good to be true?
- The seller makes extra effort in communication to push the sale through.
- The buyer sends you more money than they need to pay for the item. They'll ask you to return the difference.
- A seller you don't know asks you to use 'PayPal Friends & Family' service or to pay for goods by bank transfer.
- Facebook Marketplace is a great way to buy and sell locally. Be cautious when buying an item that you can't see in person. The seller may be using a fake profile, buying this way is high risk.
How can you protect yourself?
Even if there are no warning signs, we'd recommend considering the following:
- if buying from a reputable buying site such as eBay, Airbnb or Autotrader stick to the payment advice they provide. Use secure payment channels if they're offered. Never communicate outside the site
- always use secure payment methods where you can. PayPal (buying goods), debit and credit cards can offer more protection than bank transfer
- where possible view items in person before making payment. Never pay for large items like a car in advance
- be wary of accepting payment for goods by cheque
- never send personal or financial details by email. Emails can be intercepted
- research the seller and site and always read the reviews. Check several review sites and compare them. This helps rule out any fake reviews left by fraudsters.