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Guidance

Purchase Scams

How does the fraud happen?

Criminals are seeking new opportunities to target Businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. They are exploiting the demand for items such as face masks, vaccines, test kits and hand sanitiser by selling non-existent products online at discounted prices to attract buyers.

Purchase scams rely on the anonymity of the internet. The victim consciously makes a payment for goods or services which do not materialise or turn up at all.

Be cautious of any emails, ads, posts, texts or phone calls advertising anything in relation to coronavirus. If the offer/price looks too good to be true, it usually is.

What to look out for:

Do some research to find out what a fair or competitive price is for similar goods in the same condition; if the offer sounds too good to miss out on, it might not really exist, be fake or of inferior quality.

  • 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.
  • Be cautious of positive testimonials from satisfied customers. How do you know these testimonials are genuine? It’s worth looking for reviews on different websites – don’t rely on reviews the company has put on its own website.
  • Check online if there is adverse criticism of the company. If you are uncertain, run a search for the name of the website and include the words “scam”, “fraud” or “fake”.
  • How professional does the site look, is it well laid out? Does the site include high resolution images, and is the language free from grammar and spelling errors? Try comparing the site you’re on with one you already trust; you should be able to see if there are any differences.
  • Double-check the website address (URL) and contact details of a firm in case it’s a ‘clone firm’ pretending to be a real firm.
  • Read the terms and conditions on all but particularly not known websites (some state quite clearly that there are no refunds).

How to protect yourself and your business:

Only transact with people you trust, if you're purchasing goods from a company or person you don't know and trust, carry out some research first.

Before you buy anything online it's best to do some research and check reviews to make sure a seller is genuine. Do, however, remember that reviews can be faked or hijacked.

Think about the necessary information for your purchase and do not give any more than is necessary. Never give out your company or personal bank account or credit card details unless you are certain who you are dealing with.

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.

Ensure that the website is secure. You need to do this by carefully checking the address for subtle misspellings, additional words and characters and other irregularities:

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'.

The above indicate only that the link between you and the website owner is secure, and not that the site or company itself is authentic.

You can run an online search to check the registration details to the organisations that regulates that domain name, this will let you know who has registered the site.

You can enter the website address of the company store you’re browsing at the below link. If the details match the contact details listed on the website, chances are that it is a genuine company site.

https://www.whois.com/whois/

Criminals often use stock images or other people's images or use 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 or TinEye.

Always think twice and make double checking second nature.

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.

Need to report a fraud or a scam?

Other ways to get help

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