What is it?

You pay in advance for goods or services that are never received, often via an online platform such as an auction site or via social media with criminals creating fake websites and documents that seem genuine to trick you.

How to spot a purchase scam

  1. You’re offered a heavily discounted or considerably cheaper service or product compared to the original price
  2. You’re asked to pay by bank transfer instead of using the online platform’s secure payment options

Examples of purchase scams

Social media

Callum bought a laptop advertised at a heavily discounted price compared to the original. Upon contacting the seller, he was told that the price of the laptop would drop further if payment was made by bank transfer today. Proof of payment was then sent to the seller and when Callum asked for a tracking number he received no response. Callum searched the seller’s name and came across several bad reviews from other people. He didn’t receive the laptop and lost his money.

Fake websites

Mary saw an ad for a blender that was selling for £5. The website looked to be very professional and included lots of pictures and details, so Mary proceeded to continue with her purchase, believing she was getting a fantastic deal. Once her purchase was completed, she received a return email from the ‘payment provider’ informing her there’d been an issue with receiving her funds and a refund had been processed. Mary tried the purchase again, but little did she know she was paying a criminal – for the second time.


Desperate to secure tickets to a sold-out concert, Nigel posted a message on a forum and was then contacted by a seller who had spare tickets. Long email conversations between Nigel and the seller convinced him the tickets were genuine and existed, so he proceeded to make payment by bank transfer. The tickets never materialised and there was no further contact from the seller nor could he be reached.

If you believe you’ve fallen for a scam, contact your bank immediately on a number you know to be correct, such as the one listed on your statement, their website or on the back of your debit or credit card.

Always remember

Be suspicious of any “too good to be true” offers or prices.

Use the secure payment method recommended by reputable online retailers and auction sites.

Do your research before making any purchases and ask to see vehicles in person with the relevant documentation to ensure the seller owns it.

Purchase items made by a major brand from the list of authorised sellers listed on their official website.

Always access the website you’re purchasing from by typing it into your web browser and be wary of clicking on links in unsolicited emails.

Always ensure you click ‘log out’ or ‘sign out’ of websites.