IT3000: Stay Safe Online – Online Shopping Scams

Online Shopping Scams – Don’t get caught out!

The bank holiday weekend is upon us and many of us will spend a few leisurely hours doing some internet shopping.

Unfortunately the increase in online retailers, especially those that allow users to list their own items, has led to increase in scams and cybercrime.

Many of the top auction sites or ad sites (such as eBay, Gumtree, Friday-Ad etc) have fallen foul of these scams, as once a item is listed they have no way to check its credibility.

Large items such as cars and boats are popular with scammers, but they are in fact just choosing a random item to ‘sell’.

It could just as easy be a horse, rug, van, computing item or even a specialist item. In fact the more specialised the item the more dangerous the scam. You are likely to wonder how this possibly be a scam, as how would someone know about the item unless they were actually selling one!

Don’t forget, it is very easy for a scammer to take the description and photos from a legitimate listing and use them a later date.

How to avoid scammers

With any online purchase of a high value item visit the seller and look at the item to make sure it is as listed.

Ask questions, the seller should know about the item they are selling!

If it is a distance sale use PayPal or an on-line card payment, and remember to never give your details over the phone.

If you can pay using a credit card do so, as this will give you another level of protection.

NEVER do a bank transfer! eBay and other auction/listing sites DO NOT provide escrow services or take payment directly.

For an expensive purchase, you can use a solicitor. Most are not as expensive as you may think, and they can hold money in escrow.

As with our previous post we urge you to be wary of any emails you may receive in connection with the item you are bidding on

Most importantly, if it looks too good to be true – it most properly is! Walk away!

An example of an online eBay scam

A very specialised expensive item is found for sale on eBay. The item is often slightly cheaper than elsewhere and appears to be a ‘bargain’.

An offer is made and is accepted.

Payment is then made through PayPal. At this point all is looking good.

The PayPal payment is then returned to the purchaser, with a follow up email saying “Sorry PayPal have rejected the payment because is it over the amount the seller can accept”.

The seller asks if the purchaser could make the payment via eBay escrow as this is a safe as PayPal.

The purchaser is directed to a site, where first part of the URL (web address) appears to look like eBay. (In reality the URL is so long that it is only the part you can see that looks like eBay)

The site looks exactly like eBay.

A pop up chat window appears asking “how can I help?”.

The purchaser explains that they wish to do an escrow payment for an item.

The purchaser is that asked a lot of questions regarding listing and details are taken, as you would expect from a legitimate site.

Also by this time the seller has emailed the purchaser and his last name is the same as the their, a physiological tool that increases the level of trust.

The purchaser use the chat window to provide the ‘eBay employee’ with bank account details to make the escrow payment.

They payment is then made to the seller.

The purchaser does not received their item and the payment is lost.

Useful Links

Find out more about online shopping and auction fraud.

Most online auction and listing sites will offer advice on how you can stay safe online.




Stay Safe Online Reminder!

To check to see if a link in a browser it what it claims to be, simply hover over the link and check the bottom left hand of your browser, if the text matches then you know the link is genuine!