Shopping and auction fraud

What shopping and auction fraud involves

This type of fraud involves the misrepresentation of a product advertised for sale or the non-delivery of purchased products. It can happen, for example, through an internet auction site.

As the popularity of online auctions grows, the number of complaints about transactions has increased. Some of the most common complaints involve:

  • Buyers receiving goods late or not at all and sellers not receiving payment
  • Buyers receiving less valuable goods or goods that are significantly different to those detailed in the original description
  • Failure to disclose relevant information about a product or the terms of sale.

How shopping and auction fraud affects you

As a victim of shopping or auction fraud, the most immediate problem is that you have no real prospect of returning the goods or having your money refunded.

After this, there is a risk that your identity details could be compromised. As a result, fraudsters could steal your identity and use it to access your personal finances or obtain goods or finance from alternative sources.

What you should do

Many problems arising from shopping and auction fraud could be prevented if web sites provided better guidance on how to carry out transactions safely. To reduce the risks:

  • Make sure you understand how the web site’s feedback function works. When available, feedback gives users useful information about recent transactions made by other users
  • Check the item’s description
  • Ask the seller questions
  • Read the terms and conditions, including those relating to any dispute resolution procedures the site offers
  • If you bid for an item unsuccessfully, do not be tempted to trade off-site if another seller approaches you with a similar item.

As a buyer you should:

  • Try to avoid paying by money transfers. They are not secure
  • Be careful when using direct banking transactions to pay for goods. Make sure transactions are secure
  • Do not send confidential personal or financial information by email
  • Use the online payment option, or use a reputable ESCROW account that holds your money in trust until you have received and checked your purchases.

As a seller you should:

Be wary of accepting payment by cheque. Even though it may clear, you are still liable if the cheque is forged or stolen

Do not accept a cheque for a higher amount and refund the difference. This is a common criminal cash back fraud that only comes to light when the buyers’ cheque turns out to be stolen or forged.

If the seller has made a direct misrepresentation, you can report the matter to the National Fraud Reporting Centre, which will refer the matter to the police to start an investigation. To assist the investigation, you should keep all evidence of the offence,

including goods and correspondence.

However, if there appears to be a business dispute over the nature of the transaction, notify the web site involved. Alternatively, you can alert Consumer Direct by phone on 08454 04 05 06.

Other sources of advice

Consumer Direct 08454 04 05 06
City of London Police
Metropolitan Police Service

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