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‘Phantom goods’ scams: what are your rights?
Citizen’s Advice has recently warned of the rising number of phantom goods scams being carried out which have conned people out of thousands of pounds a year. These scams involve purchases being made online but the goods never being delivered and services never existing or coming into effect.
With these scams increasing in number, the charity feels that a warning and advice needs to be given to make consumers aware and give them an idea of what they can do if they fall victim to this kind of scam.
Insurance, flights, cars and furniture are goods and services routinely targeted with low prices to entice customers into thinking they are getting a good bargain but in reality, they don’t exist.
Citizen’s Advice said that almost all of those who fell victim to one of these scams failed to get their money back, with the average loss estimated at around £1100, they urged consumers to take their time when making purchases online, specifically for big ticket items.
Chief executive of Citizen’s Advice, Gillian Guy, spoke to the BBC about these types of scams; “With so many people shopping online to compare deals, scammers are using numerous tactics to target people with phantom goods. They are drawing people in with cut-price deals and then persuading people to buy items with phoney recommendations from customers.”
In the first three months of 2017, the charity’s advice line received calls related to 555 different cases of phantom goods scams. This is a 17% rise from the same period last year, a rise which has worried the charity’s boss and prompted fears that more people could become victims of these scams if the public do not become more vigilant.
Citizen’s Advice said that the scams they dealt with included jewellery, houseboats, car insurance, driving lessons and cameras. Many scammers use websites or social media sites such as Facebook to ‘sell’ their products, often backing up their quality service with fake reviews and recommendations from past customers.
Any social media accounts or websites that have been found to be linked to one of these scams has been closed by the government with the police making hundreds of arrests but as soon as one site or account closes, another opens to trick more people out of their money.
Although these scams only account for a small proportion of scam cases, consumers – particularly those buying online – are being urged to avoid paying for items for items via bank transfer as this makes it very difficult to reclaim money should it be discovered that you have been a victim of a scam.
Shoppers are also being asked to research companies and traders before purchasing from them as well as looking for the padlock icon in the address bar when paying. If you are unsure, don’t make a purchase from a retailer and use something like a credit card where you have protection over your payments.
If you are worried about these sorts of scams, remember the Take Five campaign to stop fraud by Financial Fraud Action UK.
- Never disclose details such as your PIN or full banking password
- Don’t assume contact via text, email or phone call is authentic
- If you feel rushed, take a step back. A genuine company will not rush or force you into making a decision or payment
- Something doesn’t feel right? Listen to your instincts
- Don’t panic, keep calm and stay in control of the situation