Scammers are targeting popular auction websites and are fraudulently taking thousands of pounds from online shoppers, a charity has warned.
Citizens Advice has warned people to be on their guard, adding that sites such as Gumtree and eBay are at risk of becoming a ‘hotbed for scams’ and false postings.
One in six consumer problems that were reported on Gumtree were found to be scams, while one in ten cases on eBay were fraudulent.
The charity group looked at postings in the six months until March this year and has now warned people to be extra vigilant against deals which sound too good to be true.
Being watchful for false ads
Online shopping has grown in popularity in the past years but this has only increased the level of fraud associated with this method of purchasing.
Fraud related to online shopping cost consumers £63.6m in 2013, according to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.
“These sites are an important service for buyers and sellers, but con artists are profiting from them too,” explained Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy.
“Scammers are swindling people out of hundreds of thousands of pounds by posting false products and services online.”
Things to look out for
Numerous examples were provided by the charity of people who paid money for various services and products only to lose out for a number of reasons.
One flat hunter provided a landlord with money for a property only to find somebody else living there, while another victim had a car he purchased taken away by a logbook lender as repayments were not completed by the previous owner.
The main issue was people paying for goods that they never receive. More than 4,300 cases were looked at by Citizens advice and nearly 500 were found to be a scam or a potential scam.
People are encouraged to report instances where they are the victim of fraud and it can be possible to get the money back in certain instances.
Protecting purchases when online
Certain levels of protection exist when using credit, debit or prepaid cards, but the key factor is to limit who has access to any bank details as this can prevent further fraud.
This is where prepaid cards can be advantageous as they are not directly linked to a bank account, which should make the majority of funds safer.
They also limit what can be spent to whatever is on the card at that particular time and they can be cancelled or replaced if something does go wrong.
While it is incredibly difficult to stop fraud occurring, there are actions that can be done to make it more difficult for scammers.
Trading Standards and Citizens Advice can provide help and guidance, while banks should be contacted immediately in any instances of fraud, as should the police.