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Online shopping and auctions

Hertfordshire’s highest volume fraud category is “online shopping and auctions”.  Although there are many different types of fraud under this category, the majority of our recently reported online shopping and auction frauds relate to auction sites.

Online auctions are a popular way to buy and sell new and second hand goods, but you should take care about what you buy and from whom, who you are selling to, and how you make or receive payments. 

Online shopping and auction Fraud is linked to a wide range of goods, from household and electrical items to cosmetics, fashion and even pets.  

For the most up-to-date expert advice about safe shopping online, visit Get Safe Online.  Advice includes: 

  • Ensure that any online retailer unfamiliar to you is reputable by researching them. Check the authenticity of the website before making any purchases. Conduct a ‘whois’ search to identify when the website was created, be wary of newly formed domains. You can conduct this search using WHOIS.
  • Establish a physical address and telephone contact details. Carry out online research in relation to the website, company name and address to identify any poor feedback or possible irregularities.
  • Remember that the best way to find a reputable retailer is via recommendation from a trusted source.
  • Payments made via bank transfer are not protected if you do not receive the item.
  • Remember that paying by credit card offers greater protection than with other payment methods in terms of fraud, guarantees and non-delivery.
  • Before entering payment card details on a website, ensure that the link is secure, in three ways:
  • There should be a padlock symbol in the browser window frame, which appears when you attempt to log in or register. Be sure that the padlock is not on the page itself ... this will probably indicate a fraudulent site.
  • The web address should begin with ‘https://’. The ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’.
  • If using the latest version of your browser, the address bar or the name of the site owner will turn green.

When using auction sites: 

  • Use a login name for the auction site that is different from your email address. Also ensure you use different passwords.
  • Understand what the auction company can do (and won’t do) if something goes wrong.
  • Be clear about shipping and delivery costs (e.g. if they are included and if not, if they are clearly stated).
  • When making a payment to an individual, never transfer the money directly into their bank account but use a secure payment site such as PayPal*, where money is transferred between two electronic accounts. *We note that PayPal Buyer Protection does not cover motorised vehicles (of any kind).
  • When selling, check payment has been received before you despatch goods (beware fake PayPal emails)
  • Visit Get Safe Online for comprehensive advice about using online auction sites.

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