BRITISH eBay users are being targeted by a new scam.

Computer security experts say a con known as ‘second chance’ could cost British users of the online auction site millions of pounds.

People who have lost out in an auction are sent an email offering them a second chance to buy goods they have bid for. But when they click on a link in the email, they are taken to a hacker’s website where their credit card details are stolen. Because the hacker’s site looks identical to eBay – which runs a legitimate second chance service – many are fooled by the scam.

News of the latest swindle to hit the auction site comes as a teenager from South Wales admitted stealing £45,000 by selling non-existent electronic
equipment to eBay users.

The 17-year-old from Pontypool, who cannot be identified because of his age, conned more than 100 people into thinking they had bought cheap mobile phones, computers, games and consoles. Buyers sent cheques but never received the goods.

The boy, who will be sentenced at Newport Crown Court next month, funded an extravagant lifestyle that included a trip to New York and nights out in stretch limousines.

The ‘second chance’ scam has already conned thousands in the US, and has now hit Britain – where eBay hosts 9m visitors a month. Pete Simpson of computer security firm Clearswift said: ‘This could cost people an awful lot of money. The huge number of users makes eBay a big target, especially as many users are perhaps not as technology literate as they could be.

‘The problem is these emails, and the sites the hackers create, are indistinguishable from the real thing. The average person just won’t spot something is going on.’

Mr Simpson warned users to look out for scam emails. He said: ‘ Hundreds of thousand of these things are being sent, and it only takes 2% or 3% of people to respond and you have made a lot of money.

The technology gets more sophisticated every day. Already we are seeing emails that can install a virus that photographs your screen and sends it to its creators. It is a constant battle, and every time eBay blocks a scam, the hackers leapfrog them with another one.’

The auction site itself admits it is powerless to stop the fraud. Garreth Griffith, eBay’s UK head of trust and security, said: ‘We do offer a legitimate service to sellers where if a sale falls through they can approach the next highest bidder, and this is what people are taking advantage of. We urge people to use the same common sense they would in a shop.

He said users who get a suspicious email should look at the address of the link in the email as it appears on the browser, to check it is from eBay.

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