Scamwatch: bogus online bargains

Scamwatch: bogus online bargains
Scamwatch: bogus online bargains

Stay one step ahead of the fraudsters with our series of articles giving you the lowdown on the scams they use to trick people out of their hard-earned cash - and how to avoid being taken in by them.

This week, we explain how to avoid falling for the latest online marketplace scams.

How does it work?

More than a quarter of Britons have been the victim of an online marketplace scam, losing £63.76 on average in each incident, according to a new report from local trading website Gumtree.

Popular categories targeted by online fraudsters include vehicles, jobs, and property, as well as miscellaneous items for sale.

In many cases, the items or positions advertised are slightly cheaper or more attractive than others available, but not so different that they arouse suspicion.

Morten Heuing, general manager at Gumtree, told The Telegraph: "Whilst millions of people use these websites safely and successfully, the reality is that fraudsters are out there exploiting honest users."

How can I avoid being caught out?

Marketplace scams can be difficult to spot. When participants in a recent survey were shown eight adverts and asked to identify the fraudulent listings, only 7% of respondents spotted all the scams.

However, there are some signs that indicate an advert may not be all that it seems. These include spelling mistakes, a lack of detail and factual errors in the description.

Victims of scam listings also report being put under pressure to complete the transaction quickly, with many encouraged to pay for an item without seeing it first.

I've been defrauded. What should I do?

The Gumtree research shows that one in six people who fall for marketplace scams are too embarrassed to tell anyone about them.

But reporting fraudsters is an essential part of the fight against scams of this kind.

So be sure to report online scams to the marketplace concerned, as well as the police via Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.