Sign in / Join
1750

‘Phantom goods’ scams are on the rise as more shoppers transfer money for online items that don’t exist

The number of people caught out by ‘phantom goods’ scams is rapidly increasing, research reveals today.

Shoppers are being conned into transferring money for expensive items such as cars and flights which are advertised online but don’t actually exist.

Charity Citizens Advice recorded 555 cases between January and March this year, a 17 per cent rise on the same period last year.

The number of people caught out by ‘phantom goods’ scams is rapidly increasing, research reveals today

It said the average cost of each scam was £1,100 and that more people lose money in this type of scam than any other.

The scams involve fraudsters advertising items at cut prices on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram and online marketplaces such as Gumtree and Ebay.

They often post fake customer reviews to give the impression they are a reputable trader before flogging a range of goods from jewellery to driving lessons.

The most common items for people to get scammed on are cars, flights and furniture.

One man paid £2,000 for car insurance he found on Instagram, with a seller who had comments of recommendation from other users.

He was told the paperwork would be emailed after he transferred the money, but realised it was a scam when the email never arrived.

It can be hard to get your money back when you pay with a bank transfer, but his bank was eventually able to claw back the money from the scammer’s account.

The scams involve fraudsters advertising items at cut prices on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram and online marketplaces such as Gumtree and Ebay

Another woman spotted a houseboat for sale on ebay. She exchanged emails with the seller and agreed to purchase the boat for £5,000. She was then sent a link to a fake PayPal site to make the payment and has been unable to get her money back.

Phantom goods scams made up 15 per cent of 3,600 frauds reported the Citizens Advice between January and March.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: ‘Scams can have a lasting financial and emotional impact on people’s lives.

‘It’s really important that people don’t rush into buying an item when they spot a bargain, but take some time to make sure it’s genuine first.’

Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards, said: ‘I would always urge people to be vigilant when buying products online. The web and social media platforms have created a new risk for consumers.

‘Criminals are able to set up multiple accounts to sell fake or non-existent products from almost anywhere in the world, concealing their real identity and contact details.’

Citizens Advice also said those aged between 40 and 60 are the most affected by scams, with 34 per cent claiming to have been victims of fraud.

Phantom goods scams made up 15 per cent of 3,600 frauds reported the Citizens Advice between January and March