What is it?

Online shopping provides criminals with an opportunity to trick people into paying for goods and services that don’t exist, often advertised via auction sites or social media with images taken from genuine seller’s to convince you they’re the real deal. Criminals also use cloned websites with slight changes to the URL to trick you into thinking you’re purchasing from the genuine site. They may also ask for payment prior to delivery and send you fake receipts and invoices that appear to be from the payment provider.

Types of fraud include buyers paying deposits for pets that don’t exist, DIY equipment purchases and electronic devices such as games consoles, mobile phones and other devices. Another tactic criminals use to trick people into falling for fraud is to ask for payment for courier services or insurance when buying and selling online.

How to spot purchase Fraud

  1. You’re offered a heavily discounted or considerably cheaper product or service compared to the original items genuine worth. The deals often sound too good to be true.
  2. You’re asked to pay by bank transfer instead of using the online platform’s secure payment options.
  3. You receive a fake email receipt/invoice that appears to be from the website you’ve purchased from or the payment service used to make your purchase. The email address domain doesn’t match that of the genuine sender’s.
  4. The website that you’re purchasing from was only launched days/weeks ago.
  5. A sense of urgency is placed on ordering the product or service so that you don’t miss the price/deal.

Examples of purchase Fraud

Social media

Callum* bought a laptop advertised at a heavily discounted price compared to the one he’d seen on an official  website. Upon contacting the seller, he was told that the offer was for a limited time only and if Callum wanted the laptop, he needed to pay quickly by bank transfer to secure the item. Proof of payment was sent by the seller but when Callum asked for a tracking number he received no response. After numerous attempts to contact the seller, Callum searched their name using a search engine and came across numerous bad reviews from other people. He never received the laptop.

Fake websites

Mary* saw an advert for a blender that was selling at a third of the price that she’d seen on other sites. The website looked  very professional and included lots of pictures and detail, so Mary proceeded with the purchase, believing she was getting a fantastic deal. Once her purchase was complete, she received an email from the ‘payment provider’ informing her there had  been an issue with her payment and that a refund had been processed. Mary tried the purchase again, but little did she know she was paying a criminal – for a second time. She never received the blender.


Desperate to secure tickets to a sold-out concert, Nigel* posted a message on social media asking if anyone had tickets that they wanted to sell. Shortly after he was contacted by someone who had a couple of spare tickets. Nigel was elated. After a number of back-and-forth conversations Nigel was convinced the tickets were genuine, so he proceeded to make payment by bank transfer. The tickets never materialised and there was no further contact from the seller.

Find out more information on ticket fraud here.


After several days of searching, Paula* spotted a listing for a puppy on an online auction site. She contacted the seller and not wanting to miss out, paid a deposit into the account details that the seller provided. Later that day, Paula received a message from the seller requesting additional payment to cover costs for vaccinations and insurance. Desperate for companionship, she proceeded to pay the associated fees. After a few days, Paula got back in touch with the seller but didn’t receive a response. She tried again on numerous occasions but never heard from the seller again. Subsequently the link that she used to view the puppy disappeared.


Andrew* was using a holiday booking website he had stumbled across online to book a summer break overseas. He was looking through listings and found one that had everything he wanted and was at a very low price. He didn’t want to miss out on the great deal so he quickly contacted the owner, made a payment and provided his personal information.

Days later he realised he had fallen for a fraud when he couldn’t get hold of the owner and he found out the property was not on any online maps.

Find more information on holiday fraud here.

*These case studies are based on insights from partners

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.

Report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via actionfraud.police.uk. If you are in Scotland, please report to Police Scotland directly by calling 101 or Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000.

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.

Where possible, use a credit card when making purchases over £100 and up to £30,000 as you receive protection under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.

Read online reviews to check websites and sellers are genuine, and ask to see high value items in person or via video link, as well as getting copies of the relevant documentation to ensure the seller owns the item

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

The introduction of Lucy’s Law makes it illegal for you to purchase pets sold by a third-party seller. If you’re looking for a pet, buy it directly from a breeder or consider adopting from a rescue centre instead

If you have visited a website you think is suspicious you can report it to the National Cyber Security Centre.

Scam warning: Criminals may purport to be from Take Five, using our official branding on websites, social media posts, literature, on the phone or by text. Take Five doesn’t provide endorsement or approval for any products/services and would never call or text anyone.