If you’re not careful when making an online purchase, you might be buying more than you bargained for.

There aren’t many things we can’t buy online, whether it’s a holiday, a car, a Christmas present, event tickets, a TV licence, a games console or a pair of trainers. However, scammers use fake websites, emails, texts and social media posts to advertise these and many other items that simply don’t exist.

If you buy something and it’s a scam, not only will you be disappointed when it doesn’t arrive, chances are you’ll lose your money too. Not only this, but you could be funding either an extravagant lifestyle for the fraudster or organised crime gang, or even more sinister activities such as terrorism, drug cartels or people trafficking. That’s whether you’ve been defrauded of £10 or £10,000.

Your top buying safety tips

Please read Get Safe Online’s expert, easy-to-follow safety tips to help protect you from falling victim to purchase scams, and be sure to pass them on.

  • However desperate you are to buy an item that’s in short supply or a last-minute present, don’t pay for it by transferring money directly to people or companies you don’t know. If it’s a fraud, your bank may not be able to recover your money. If you can, pay by credit card. The same goes for holidays, travel and tickets.
  • Many fraudsters are substantial organisations which operate as businesses, with the resources to set up fake websites that are very similar to the real thing. Make sure a website is authentic by carefully checking the address is spelled correctly. Ideally, type it in rather than clicking on a link in an email, text or post. Or go to www.getsafeonline.org/checkawebsite
  • Learn how to spot fraudulent emails, texts or DMs, or fraudulent offers or prize draws on social media. Don’t click on links in emails, texts or posts that you’re not expecting, and don’t open unexpected email attachments.
  • Make sure payment pages are secure by checking that addresses begin with ‘https’ (‘s’ is for secure) and there’s a closed padlock in the address bar. But remember: the https and closed padlock mean that the page is secure, but the site could still be operated by fraudsters.
  • Social media sites/apps and online forums are a popular place for advertising gifts, tickets and holidays. Many are genuine, but many others are fraudulent. Be extra vigilant about checking that such ads are authentic.
  • Log out of the web page or app when payment is completed. Simply closing it may not log you out automatically.
  • Don’t knowingly buy fake or counterfeit goods, and do all you can to make sure brands you do buy are genuine. Fakes are of inferior quality, contravene copyright law and affect the livelihoods of workers who make the real thing. They can also be unsafe in use.
  • ‘Low-cost’ or ‘free’ trials can cause problems if you don’t read the small print and look for independent reviews. Whether they’re for the latest handset or slimming pills, you could be signing up for large monthly direct debits which are very hard to cancel. And if it’s for slimming or any other pills, check our advice on Buying Medicines on the Get Safe Online website.
  • Text messages and emails claiming to be from home delivery firms are also commonplace, informing you that there’s a charge for re-delivering a parcel, or a shipping fee to be paid. However busy you are or how much online shopping you do, keep a record of everything you buy and, if it’s specified, which parcel delivery firm the retailer is using.
  • Check that holidays, short breaks, accommodation or flights you book online are genuine by carrying out thorough research. Look for independent reviews, and make sure travel agents / tour operators are genuine by checking for an ABTA/ATOL number. It’s always best to pay by credit card for extra protection.
  • Do your research when it comes to pricing. Some sellers advertise products at a bargain or lower price during sales or events like Black Friday, when in fact they’re no cheaper … or even more expensive.
  • Reporting fraud is essential. If you’ve lost money, report it immediately to your bank, as this will increase your chance of getting your money back and the fraudster being traced. Also, report it to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre on 0300 123 20 40 or at www.actionfraud.police.uk. In Scotland, report fraud to Police Scotland by calling 101.
Get Safe Online

Get Safe Online is the UK’s leading source of information and advice on online safety and security, for the public and small businesses. It is a not-for-profit, public/private sector partnership backed by law enforcement agencies and leading organisations in internet security, banking and retail.

For more information and expert, easy-to-follow, impartial advice on safeguarding yourself, your family, finances, devices and workplace, visit www.getsafeonline.org.

If you think you have been a victim of fraud, report it to Action Fraud at www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.

Scam Alert

Recently, there has been an increase in reports, particularly in Petworth and Midhurst, of attempted scams where the scammer has claimed to be a police officer phoning from a local station.  Scams and frauds account for 52% of reports to Police forces nationally and is on the rise, often with scammers targeting the most vulnerable in our society.

If you or someone you know receives a call from someone claiming to be from your bank or a police officer, verify who you are speaking to.

  • Your bank or the police will NEVER ask for your pin number or bank card.
  • Your bank or the police will NEVER send a courier to your home to collect your card, money or any other valuables.
  • The police WILL NOT ask you to withdraw money from your account or purchase other valuables.

Last week PCSOs Lemm and Kowalski, part of our local neighbourhood Policing Team, were on foot patrol when they met an elderly female who had just withdrawn a large sum of money from her local bank branch having been contacted by a scammer.

She explained that someone had called her landline and identified themselves as a police officer from her

local station who advised that someone had scammed her cards and money had been withdrawn fraudulently from her account.

The scammer suggested that her cards should be stopped. The victim called the number on the back of her bank card and spoke to who she believed at the time was her bank, however it is most likely that she was still talking to the scammers on the same line as she did not listen to hear for a dialling tone. The scammers then posed as her bank asking the victim to provide PIN numbers for her debit cards which she gave them.

She was then contacted by the scammers again who claimed that her bank was acting fraudulently and that in order to safeguard her money she was instructed to withdraw a large amount of cash, convincing her that she would be assisting with a Police investigation.

Police explained that this was a scam known as courier fraud and accompanied the victim to her bank where she had withdrawn the money from earlier in the day where she was assisted by a member of staff who helped deposit her funds back into her account, checked there had been no fraudulent withdrawals and stopped her current cards.

Courier fraudsters will tell you that they are the Police and insist that you are helping with an investigation around corruption within your local bank branch. When the money has been withdrawn the scammer will be quick to tell you that the money is counterfeit and will send a courier, often unconnected to the scammers, to collect the funds. This incident of course had a positive outcome but please be aware of any such calls.

Phone Contract Offers

Sussex and Surrey Police have received several reports from victims who have been contacted by fraudsters out of the blue offering phone contract deals.

  • Be extra vigilant when you have an upgrade due, or your contract is due to end as this is a key time for fraudsters to target you with fake contracts and deals.
  • Be wary of anyone offering you discounted deals out of the blue, telling you to act quickly. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Avoid giving your personal information over the phone.

If you have information about any crime call 101, email: 101@sussex.pnn.police.uk or call the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. If you see crime taking place call 999.

WG Neighbourhood Watch Coordinator – Priscilla Pinkham