Sale shop scam sites

Be wary of bargains too good to miss; they might just empty your bank account.

SCAM woodblocksFirst, if you think you might recently have ”bought” something online that’s such a great bargain you can’t believe your luck, check to see if the website has the company’s address on it. If not, call your bank, get a stop put on your card and report it to the police Action Fraud centre:

www.actionfraud.police.uk or call 0300 123 2040

At best, you’ll get a counterfeit. At worst, you’ll get nothing, then the scammers will use your card details to empty your account.

Warning signs

If you’re looking online for sale bargains check:

  • Is there a phone number and a postal address? If not, leave the site straight away.
  • How’s the English? If the language sounds a bit odd – as if it’s been cut and pasted from several different sites – it probably has been. Is the grammar correct? If not – and it’s more than just the odd typo – be suspicious. If the writer misses out “the” and “a” where they ought to be, be suspicious. If it jumps from chatty to formal and back again, be suspicious.
  • If the items for sale are less than you can find them anywhere else, be suspicious.

Things that lull you into a false sense of security:

  • The products are last season, the kind you’d get at a real outlet shop.
  • Prices are cheap, but not so stupidly low that they’re obviously fake or non-existent.
  • The website is well designed, functional and professional looking.

My sorry tale

I was looking for a particular bag that I can’t really afford, the Paul Smith Redcar, because I was born in Redcar and I like Paul Smith’s design and quality. But £550? Ouch! I usually go to the outlet on the outskirts of York, but I’m not up there for a month so I thought I’d have a mooch around the internet.

I found one for £250 on a UK website, but it was out of stock.

Then I found a website called handbagoutlet.com – don’t go there – which had a range of Paul Smith bags all for €125 each. As the prices were in Euros I thought it was in Europe, and as they were cheap, I convinced myself that it was a kind of outlet for outlets.

I used a Visa credit card that had been gathering cobwebs, knowing that if it all went wrong I could get my money back.I “bought” my Redcar, and another two bags for Japanese friends who adore Paul Smith. Very happy with myself. But all the same, in the back of my mind I did wonder if they could be counterfeits, especially at that price, so without really allowing myself to give it much brain space, I used my Visa credit card that had been gathering cobwebs, knowing that if it all went wrong I could get my money back.

Then it all went wrong.

First, my bags immediately went into the best seller list. So no one else had bought more than one of anything? Then my order was number 33. Is that all? So the website must only have been there for a couple of days. The alarm bells were gently tinkling. I’d only looked at the Paul Smith section, then I noticed that they claimed to be selling Louis Vuitton bags. I know for certain that Louis Vuitton doesn’t discount. Oh dear. They were counterfeits.

I emailed to ask for their address. Nothing.

The worst of it is that I once wrote a book on counterfeiting, and I still didn’t spot it.It got worse. I then discovered that these handbags might be worse than counterfeits; they might not exist at all. Some sites take your money, then use your card details and you don’t even get a fake in the post, you get nothing at all.

I checked the police website, Action Fraud. This is what they say about online shopping fraud.

http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/fraud-az-online-shopping-fraud

I looked on the Money Saving Expert website to check how to make a claim under Section 75 after using your Visa card to buy something that doesn’t turn up, or isn’t what you thought you were buying. Banks don’t always make it easy for you to get your refund. True, I was a bit daft to be duped, but what are the credit card companies thinking – giving trading accounts to criminals?

http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/shopping/section75-protect-your-purchases

So first, I called my bank. They told me that the transaction had already gone through, which is pretty fast. Most companies don’t process the money until they are ready to ship the goods. (Or maybe they’d already shipped them.) We cancelled my credit card. As I said, I hardly ever use it so it’s not going to put me to a lot of trouble.

Next I reported the fraud on the police Action Fraud website. This takes quite a while, as there are lots of boxes to tick and pages to click through, but please do it. For starters it gives you a crime number, and it also helps the police to shut these criminals down.

The following morning I got another email, which showed that all my worst fears were justified:

“Dear Customer,
We received your order and payment.But our audit team for your order inspection, 

found that your order has certain risks,Would you pls scan us the front images of
your credit card and id card ,you can hide the last four number of card, it is safe!
then we can send the package to your goods. 

sorry to take you such a touble , for what we do is just to ensure the benefit of
our customers . Hope you can understand and have a check later . I am looking forward
to your early reply to send out your order as soon as possible.

If you have any problem , pls email me .
thanks .”

See what I mean about checking the English? “Sorry to take you such a touble.”

I politely emailed back to say that my bank had confirmed they had already been paid and that there was no problem at all. (I added a smiley face.) And I asked them to ship the bags immediately.

If I’d been just a fraction more gullible, I’d have handed over my identity wrapped up and tied with a ribbon.Their credit card merchant account had already given them the last three digits of my card – they were shown on the confirmation email – so if I gave them the first 12, then they would just have to run it a maximum of ten times to find the 13th number, and bingo! They would be able to
max out my account in moments.

And if they had my passport number, my date of birth and all the other things on my “ID”…

I’ve learned a lesson. Several, to be honest:

  • Some people are evil. Some are evil and very clever. They are also out to get you, and your money.
  • When bells go off in your head, listen to them.
  • Remember to check for discount Louis Vuitton. If you find it, get out of there as fast as you can.
  • If you can’t afford it, forget about it.
  • If the language is dodgy, so are the people behind it.
  • A cancelled credit card isn’t a big deal compared with a stolen identity.
  • Tell the police; if they know about it, they can find them and shut them down. If you feel a bit silly and you decide to keep it quiet, other people will be duped too.

Also worth checking out: 70+ common scams (online and offline) and how to avoid them

Sarah McCartney

About Sarah McCartney

I’m a writer, perfumer and yoga teacher, and I like sharing what I know.