Purchase Scams

What is a purchase scam?

  • Fraudsters sell non-existent products at discounted prices to attract buyers. The victim intentionally makes a payment, but for products which do not exist and will never arrive.
  • Criminals rely on the anonymity of the internet to advertise non-existent goods on websites (including auction sites) and social media.
  • They’ve also been known to clone genuine websites or use paid advertising to lure customers to a fake website.

What to look out for

  • Do some research to find out what a fair price is for similar goods in the same condition. If the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • You can search for a company's details on GOV.UK. This will tell you if they're a registered company or not. Check where the company's office is and whether they have a landline in this country and a proper address, including a street name, rather than just a post office box.
  • Check online to see if there are warnings and bad reviews about the company. If you’re uncertain, run a search for the name of the website and include the words “scam”, “fraud” or “fake”. Don’t rely on reviews the company has on its own website.
  • How professional does the site look? Is it well laid out, are there obvious grammar and spelling errors? Compare the site to one you already trust.
  • Double-check the website address and contact details of the company in case it’s a ‘clone firm’ pretending to be a real firm. Check the address for subtle misspellings, additional words and characters and other irregularities.
  • Check that the website is secure. The web address should begin with 'https://'. The 's' stands for 'secure'; this only indicates that the link between you and the website owner is secure, not that the site itself is authentic.
  • You can use this online tool to run a search of a webpage’s domain name. This will let you know who has registered the site. If the details match the contact details listed on the website, chances are it’s a genuine company site.
  • Criminals often use stock images, other people's images or the same image on multiple websites/adverts. You can check if images appear elsewhere on the internet by carrying out a reverse image search on Google.
  • Read the terms and conditions before you buy (some state that there are no refunds).

Actions you can take

  • Always use the secure payment method recommended by reputable online retailers. Be very wary of requests to pay by bank transfer. If a buyer or seller tries to persuade you to go outside the site’s usual process or payment methods, treat with extreme caution, as its likely a scam.
  • Never give out your company or personal bank account or credit card details, unless you're certain who you're dealing with.
  • Share this page with employees and colleagues, so they know what to look out for. Put training in place, so people in your business know how to spot and handle common threats. You can use our webinars and resources to help.

Always think twice and make double checking second nature

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Take Five to stop fraud

Take Five is a national campaign that offers straight-forward and impartial advice to help everyone protect themselves from preventable financial fraud. This includes email deception and phone-based scams as well as online fraud – particularly where criminals impersonate trusted organisations.

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