Buying online scams

You may be confident about shopping online, but this won’t stop a fraudster. They use social media profiles and websites to target anyone, especially those who buy without checking that something is genuine.

Discover how fraudsters tempt you into buying items that are fake or don’t exist.

Protect your money: always pay by debit or credit card.

  • Buying on websites

    Fraudsters can create fake sites or excellent copies of genuine sites. They know how to advertise things to pull you into a sale.

    We explain how scam sites work so you can protect your money and details.

    This is an image of a website called Bargain World. It offers brand new items like a smart phone and laptop at half price or less if you pay by bank transfer.

    Fraudsters create their own websites

    A fake or copy of a genuine site can include customer reviews. But it’s impossible for them to copy a genuine site address. This is the first place to check. Always type out an address to visit a site, as a link in a message may be a scam. Once you’re sure a site is genuine it’s safe to log on, enter details or buy something.

    Can you pay by card?

    Unlike most genuine companies, fraudsters won’t let you pay by card or a service that gives you some protection. If you pay by bank transfer, it puts cash straight into a fraudster’s account. Some scam sites try to collect personal and banking details through a fake card payment option. Entering your details may give fraudsters a chance to target you with another scam.

    Do you have to pay right away?

    Fraudsters don’t want you to do any checks before you buy. That’s why they put time limits on sales to hurry you into a decision. Before you buy anything, make sure a site is genuine and offers some kind of payment protection.

    Fake sites have reviews and contact details

    Fraudsters create fake reviews and include business contact details to convince you a site is genuine. Check independent review sites. Are there any bad comments? Maybe there are too many good reviews that have been posted at the same time. Fraudsters may reply if you contact them. But be careful if they only want you to pay by bank transfer as this doesn’t protect your money.

    Is a price low or an item hard to find elsewhere?

    Fraudsters know that low prices attract people, as do items that are sold out or rare. Be suspicious if no other site has the same item for sale or at the same low price. You may have to pay a higher price to get it from somebody genuine. But that’s better than losing your money to a scam.

    A secure site will have a closed padlock image in the browser bar and have https:// at the start of its address. But these do not mean a site is genuine, so do your own checks to make sure it’s safe before you buy anything.

    Never enter your bank PIN or bank password on a shopping site.

Buying on social media

A good deal could be a scam. Fraudsters work hard to make offers and adverts seem real, even for low value items. They know that people may forget to do any checks if the price is good and they haven’t been able to buy the product elsewhere. Make sure a seller and item are genuine.

This is an image of a seller’s social media profile. He has one hundred and twenty-one friends and has been a member since two thousand and twenty one. He has fourteen followers and is selling a brand new I phone fourteen for three hundred and ninety nine pounds.

Fraudsters pretend to be genuine sellers

If you find something for sale on social media or an online marketplace, it could be a scam. Fraudsters often behave like other sellers, winning your trust by sharing things like personal details. They want you to pay directly to a bank account and won’t take a card or other online payment that protects your money.

Do you have to pay right away?

Fraudsters don’t like you to take your time to check a deal is genuine. They want a quick sale and will try to force you to pay, using reasons like other people want to buy the item. Try to avoid making sudden decisions to buy, even if you really want something. If an item is local, large or expensive, go to see it before you pay. When you can’t see an item in person, pay by card or a service that protects your money.

Do you have to pay a bank account?

Sending money to a new person is like giving someone cash. A bank transfer is how fraudsters want you to pay. They can quickly take your money out of their bank account and usually this can’t be recovered. Fraudsters won’t let you pay by card or any service that protects your money.

How do you know that a seller is genuine?

Fraudsters can create good reviews, pictures and followers, and people may even recommend them. But a fraudster will never meet in person to show you an item, or let you pay by a method that offers protection, such as a card payment. Be careful who you trust on social media.

Is a price low or an item hard to find elsewhere?

Fraudsters know that low prices attract people, as do items that are sold out or rare. Be suspicious if nobody else has the same item for sale or at the same low price. You may have to pay a higher price to get it from somebody genuine. But that’s better than losing your money to a scam.

Always pay by debit or credit card to protect your money. Or use a payment service that offers buyer protection.

The most common items fraudsters sell

Fashion

Fraudsters offer items that are in demand, like designer clothes and trainers.

Be suspicious if an item is sold out online and they want you to pay by bank transfer.

Vehicles

Check a vehicle on the DVLA website for free.

Always inspect and test drive a vehicle before you decide to buy. Fraudsters put genuine vehicles in fake adverts.

If they want money upfront for a vehicle or a vehicle part, even for delivery, it’s a scam.

Tech

Fraudsters tempt you with low prices for items like computers, game consoles and smart phones.

But they’ll never let you pay by card or other online payment to protect your money.

Holidays

Make sure your holiday or rental deal is genuine.

Use a trusted company that’s protected by ABTA or ATOL.

Only pay on the booking site where you find a deal.

Pay by card. This can protect your money if things go wrong.

Tickets

Fraudsters like to offer tickets for sold out or popular shows and events.

Only buy from a trusted ticket company or website that’s registered with The Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR).

Use your card to pay or a payment service that offers buyer protection.

If you can’t pay by card or find the same price elsewhere, then buy from a trusted seller with good reviews instead.

Other scams fraudsters use to trick you

Learn how fraudsters can offer fake investments and steal your money through social media or over the phone.

Investment scams

Fraudsters pretend to be genuine companies and advisers.

How to invest safely

Social media scams

Did you know fraudsters set up fake profiles just to steal money?

Stay safe on social media

Scam calls

Find out how fraudsters can use your details to win your trust.

Avoid scam calls

Learn about the latest scams

Fraudsters are always looking for new ways to try to steal your details and money. Discover which scams are common right now.

Go to latest scams

Have you been targeted by fraudsters?

Contact us right away if you think you've been scammed. We can then guide you on what to do next.

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Stay scam safe

Discover how to spot and avoid scams, and how to report fraud.

Protect yourself from fraud

Stay scam safe

Discover how to spot and avoid scams, and how to report fraud.

Protect yourself from fraud