/ Scams

What’s the emotional impact of an online scam?

The financial impact of online scams is easy to see, but we don’t talk enough about how else this type of fraud affects us. How do scams impact your behaviour online?

20/11/20: Almost one in 10 scammed by fake sellers

We really appreciate everyone who has taken the time to share their experiences with scams so far, as we know this isn’t always easy.

Since the last update, we’ve been continuing to investigate the scale of online scams and have today published the findings of our latest research into scam adverts on social media sites and search engines.

Alarmingly, we found that almost one in 10 people (9%) have fallen victim to a purchase scam – when someone is misled into paying for a product that never turns up or is not at all as described – via an advert on a social media site.

The same proportion of people (9%) had fallen victim to a scam advert via a search engine.

And our worrying survey findings were backed up by first-hand reports from people. When we asked for victims of social media purchase scams to get in touch with us, we heard from more than 200 people in just 48 hours. 

This includes people like Christine, who ordered a CBD oil product advertised on Facebook with false endorsements from Fern Britton and David Attenborough.

She was promised a sample for £2.50, but £170 was later taken from her bank account – more than her weekly pension. Although she did receive the sample she doesn’t think it is genuine CBD oil.

If you’ve fallen victim to a scam advert on social media or another online platform, we’d be keen to hear your experience in the comments below.

14/10/20: Government must take action to protect people

Today we’ve published research into consumer attitudes, knowledge and behaviour relating to scams on social media platforms.

We found that people are seriously underestimating their chances of falling victim to fraud on the sites and suffering the devastating emotional and financial consequences that this can result in.

Our research, comprised of an in-depth online community of Facebook users and a nationally representative online survey of 1,700 users of the site, found that users’ knowledge of what Facebook does to protect people from becoming a victim of a scam was low.

However, when details of Facebook’s actual systems and processes were explained, users were sceptical about their effectiveness and questioned whether they are sufficient.

While our research was conducted with a focus on Facebook due to its size and influence in the social media landscape, we believe that the findings and implications can be reasonably extended to apply to other similar social networking sites and online platforms.

We also heard from courageous scam victims who told Which? about how their experiences affected their confidence in themselves, their ability to trust others and even their mental and / or physical health.

Which? is now calling for online platforms, including social media sites, to be given greater responsibility to prevent scam content appearing on their platforms.

The government has a perfect opportunity to deliver this in the upcoming online harms bill and, if not, ministers must set out their proposals for further legislative action to effectively protect consumers.

05/10/20: Emotional impact

How many online scams are out there? How long’s a piece of string….

We’ve covered hundreds here on Which? Conversation in order to warn people of the dangers they pose by showing examples.

Thanks to the comments here in the community, we’re able to respond rapidly to new ones, and recognise the ones that are causing the most concern.

You can opt to receive these alerts directly via our scam alert service here:


 
 

Emotional harm

We’ve often spoken about what happens during a scam, and how new scams look online. This has included everything from ordering something online, only to receive a fake version, or even something entirely different: 

To ‘friends’ contacting you with a fake email, asking for cash, or even asking to take over your computer via remote access.

The financial impact of scams is evident, but we’ve spoken less about how scams might impact us in how we behave and how we feel when going about our business online.

How hard might it be to recover trust in a friend to whom you sent money in good faith, only to find that friend had been hacked? What about regaining your confidence online when you believe you are able to spot a scam, only to become the victim of one yourself?  

Tell us your story

We believe that the emotional impact of scams on consumers needs more attention, so we’d like to hear your experiences.  

If you were the victim of an online scam of any type, what happened, and how did you feel? Were you able to find a resolution?

What changed for you afterwards? Has there been an emotional impact on you personally, such as a loss of trust or confidence, or avoiding certain activities?  

If you haven’t been the victim of an online scam, does having knowledge of the many scams online have an impact on you?

Do you feel that certain online spaces are safer than others? Would a social media site, for example, be safer than an online marketplace?

If you see a scam on a particular site, do you know how to report it? If so, how often do you do so? 

If you were the victim of a scam, would you feel comfortable talking about it?
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Be kind

Please treat this discussion as a safe space. For some, these might be difficult stories to retell.

We want to understand this difficulty and make sure we all consider the impact this has directly from people who have been affected. 

This is not an opportunity to apportion blame or judge others for their choices, as this isn’t constructive to the discussion, nor does it invite others to be open with their experiences.

For this particular conversation we may remove comments to this effect. 

You may wish to comment under a pseudonym, or email us directly on conversation.comments@which.co.uk if you’d rather not discuss your experience in public.

How to comment under a pseudonym:

First, make sure you’re entirely logged out of Which? Conversation.

In the upper right corner, click on your username, and then click “Sign Out”. You can also use Private or Incognito browsing in your browser.

Navigate to the comment box at the bottom the page.

What you type in the comment box and in the name box will appear publicly on the site. The email address you provide will be visible only to moderators and site administrators, and will not be shared further without your consent.

If you would like to follow this conversation by email, or if you would be happy for a writer or researcher from Which? to follow up with you, we would recommend you using an email address on which you can be contacted.

If you would like, you can also get in touch with your story via email

Support is available

Which?’s has extensive Consumer Rights guidance on Scams, including how to identify and report scams, and how to get your money back if you have been a victim.

Additionally, Which? Legal can offer you tailored legal advice on a variety of consumer problems.

Being scammed can take a huge toll on you emotionally and mentally. It helps to speak to someone about what you’re going through.

Mind – confidential information and support

Mind has a confidential information and support line, Mind Infoline, available on 0300 123 3393 (lines open 9am – 6pm, Monday – Friday).

The charity also runs the supportive online community Elefriends where you can talk about and share your experiences of mental health.

Victim Support – 24/7 helpline

Victim Support has a free, 24/7 helpline where you can speak to someone confidentially. This can be a one-off call or they can refer you to local services for on-going support.

This service is free and run by Victim Support which is an independent charity.

You can contact Victim Support by:

 

Comments
Terry Gabriel says:
19 October 2020

In October 2018, while checking my bank account on line I noted a pending payment of a fraudulent transaction on my Lloyd’s current account where my Lloyd’s visa debit card had been used to make purchase with a company based in Sheffield South Yorkshire, selling cheap computers and other electrical goods, of nearly £500 (I live in Kent). My debit card is kept secure and never out of my possession. However I do occasionally make online or telephone purchases, mostly with Amazon. I contacted Lloyd’s and they stopped the card immediately and issued a new one with a different number. The new card was received a few days later. Before I had even used the card I noted yet another fraudulent transaction, this time with the new card for a subscription with Netflix. It appears that the scum-bucket involved bought a computer then subscribed to Netflix for films and videos at my expense. When signing up with Netflix, you get a free month before the first subscription is taken but you have to provide a credit or debit card number. The original card number was recorded by Netflix but by the time the first subscription was taken, my new as yet unused debit card had been issued.
Lloyd’s (and Netflix) were very good and reimbursed me within days. I reported the matter to my local police but they weren’t interested and advised report the fraud to the City of London Action Fraud, who collate these crimes on a National basis, which I did. I also reported it to South Yorkshire police but again they were not bothered telling me to report it to my local police who could then request an action by them. In essence all it needed was the police to contact the Sheffield company, get the full details of what was purchased, the name and address of the person who made the original transaction, get hold of the courier company, speak to the delivery driver, get details and description of the person who received the goods, then take it from there. Its not rocket science is it?
I was concerned that Netflix were able to charge me on a card I had never used. I complained to Lloyd’s but they said it was all down to Visa and because where there is a regular subscription, Visa will automatically give any new card details to the company concerned. This is a nonsense and just allows more fraud to be committed. Visa, just batted me off back to Lloyd’s. The Banking Ombudsman was useless and I never heard a word from Action Fraud in the City. I was not out of pocket, so just gave up. The sad thing is the scrote responsible for stealing from my account had most likely done the same to other citizens and could very easily been caught. I have no idea how my card became compromised and can only suspect it was by some bent employee working for a company I dealt with.

Terry: yes, it is not unusual that payments can be simply carried over to a replacement card, but with my credit cards it does not happen if I have stopped a card due to fraudulent activity.
I NEVER use my debit card for online purchases, I only ever use a credit card. My experience is that credit card companies (certainly Visa and Amex) are very responsive and quick to resolve issues. I do not think that banks are as good. Additionally, the consumer protection given to purchases and transactions via credit card is far greater than if I were to use a debit card.
With a credit card I think that my maximum loss could be up to the credit limit on my card, but with a debit card it could be everything in my current account and perhaps even to an overdraft limit?
I have had some instances of fraudulent transactions on both my main Visa and main Amex cards, over the past 10 years. In every case, as soon as I phoned the card issuer, the disputed amounts were put on hold and removed from my pending balance so that I could continue using my card OR immediately use the replacement when it arrived (by courier). I had a case where a cash machine at the supermarket failed to give me any money (400 or 500 pounds, I forget now) but recorded the transaction as successful. I phoned the bank immediately and while still at the machine, and was assured it would be reconciled and corrected inside 24 hours. It took them 3 WEEKS to restore the amount to my account.
I use my debit card solely for withdrawing cash. I use credit card for everything else, and with online management if I spend , for example, £40 at the supermarket on my credit card, then that evening at home I use online banking and pay £40 to my credit card account. So I am always in control of my credit card balance, AND my credit rating is maintained or even improved. There is no need to only pay your credit card bill at the end of the month.

Terry: a further thought that occurred to me . . . . in 2004 I had a chequebook intercepted in the mail (the banks used to send them out automatically, so i did not even know it was on the way or lost), and a cheque with forged signature was passed. My bank reimbursed me and the Police investigated. BUT because I was reimbursed I was no longer regarded as a victim of crime. It was left to the Bank and their insurer whether they wanted to follow-up. Twelve months later almost to the day, in 2005 another cheque from the same book was passed. I had already stopped all the cheques in that “missing” book, but my Bank told me the “stop” only lasts 12 months – which the fraudsters knew. Again I was reimbursed so no longer a victim. I followed this up and was even able to speak to the Police Officer who had investigated my first case. . . . . .he told me that if the Bank or their insurer did not want to bother, the Police dropped the case (even though they had ID and an address for one of the fraudsters).

There might be the same approach in concept to your case – if you are reimbursed, you are no longer seen as a victim of crime, perhaps. Hence the Police might not be interested.

Bright eyes says:
21 November 2020

I admire you for trying to get the scroat stopped.even though you weren’t out of pocket. Seems like you were the only one tryino to do something about it.well done you.may the scroats next shit be a hedgehog.

My bank’s policy is to issue a new cheque book as soon as twenty cheques have been paid, but I nearly ran out of cheques before realising I had not received a new book. I ordered a new book which arrived today and the first thing I did was check the numbers are consecutive to the last one in the current book; unfortunately they are not so I have reported this and requested a stop on the missing cheques. I would not have thought to do this if I had not read these comments in Which? Conversation.

Scottie says:
20 October 2020

I wish Which? would use some of their clout to produce public information films to advise people what not to do.

Bank transfers instead of PayPal or similar, when using eBay/Facebook/etc, should always be regarded as a dubious request.

It’s all well and good that they push to get banks to refund scammed people but that reflects on what interest we get and the ability of banks to pay for other services. eg cash machines, closing of branches, etc.

Scottie, I agree wholeheartedly with your last sentence.
One thing that annoys me a little with “Which?” is that they might ask you to sign up to a petition to , for example, force banks to assume all liability and refund anyone who has been scammed.
But there is no option to offer an alternative opinion or debate the issue, or to say “no, I do not actually agree with a blanket requirement that banks take total liability”. You have to either sign-up and agree or not.

Sharlene Gregory says:
28 November 2020

I paid for something with a bank transfer but bank said they couldn’t get my money back I found out the sight used was lag it and only took card payments which I had not read in small print someone had hacked in pretending to be them and asked for direct payment that I did it looked exactly like the sight I was useing

Colin Brady says:
29 November 2020

Sharlene, I know it is too late to help you, but NEVER buy using a bank transfer. Buy from someone else who accepts card payments, paypal, or something similar such as Amazon payments. Reputable, RELIABLE retailers do not use bank transfers, they will have a payment system set up.

Sharlene, I know it is too late to help you, but NEVER buy using a bank transfer. Buy from someone else who accepts card payments, paypal, or something similar such as Amazon payments. Reputable, RELIABLE retailers do not use bank transfers, they will have a payment system set up.
Be especially suspicious if something is offerred at a price that seems “to good to be true” or “too good to miss”.

”But there is no option to offer an alternative opinion…….” Quite, I think all campaigns and polls should give the option of disagreement, or indeed seek a proper debate before going public with the “consumers’ view” when consumers have not been properly consulted. But if you do give an opportunity for disagreement you might not get the answer you want.

Robyn T says:
22 October 2020

I was scammed by a woman living on the outskirts of Edinburgh. She offered via Facebook to finish off cross stitch kits for free as she was laid up at home bored and unable to do much due to an accident. So I sent her 3 kits. One for herself to keep as a way of saying thank you and 2 others which I had started but hadn’t finished. The value of these was around £60+.
I was first alerted about 2 weeks or so afterwards by another person who had sent a kit to her too. She’d asked for it back and had got no response and as I seemed to know her could I please contact her. I explained that I didn’t really know her but that the woman had been ill and back in hospital from the messages I’d received. Time and messages dragged on, one of which was to the other person who had sent a kit basically laughing at her for sending it. I contacted her myself and asked for my kits back and even included a stamped addressed bag but nothing wass returned. So I contacted her sister and asked her to intervene on our behalf and although she responded nothing was returned. So I wrote to her husband hoping for some response but again nothing.

I know a lot about this woman but it’s clear that she never had any intention of returning the kits and believe she’s sold them. I’ve contacted several Facebook groups to warn them of her antics and it appears she has done this before with other items.
So I reported it to the cyber fraud department and to Facebook. Nothing has happened, except for a phonecard about 18 months later from someone who said they were from the cyber fraud department but it soon became clear that she wasn’t and was just after my bank details which there was no way I would have given her.

I now trust no one especially on Facebook and although I still buy on-line (I have little choice as I’m in a wheelchair), I am extra cautious and always busy using my credit card as I know I have extra protection. I never ever pay by bank transfer and if asked then I report them, and a business that asked for cash on delivery without an invoice or receipt as they were clearly avoiding VAT.

Sorry to hear your story Robyn, there really are some awful people around.

A few years ago, after checking them out, I bought something online from a shop who advertised one product but sent out a different version of it. They ignored my emails so I found their nearest police station and reported them. It didn’t get me the version I wanted, but the police were very helpful and paid them a visit.

I would be extremely wary of anyone asking for cash on delivery unless it is a local business you know and trust but if they are honest, they should be happy to accept a cheque.

To check out who you are shopping online with, this Shopping Checklist might help you shop safely.

john says:
28 October 2020

Hello, Which Magazine I get repeated telephone calls which are scams. After the caller hangs up I key into the phone which gives me the last caller number and they are all withheld No,s. Can Which Magazine start a petition to pressurize the government to stop all withheld numbers from contacting legitimate telephone numbers? this would surely put a stop to telephone scams Because only people who withhold numbers are either criminals or have some other alternative reason to withhold their number.

Hi John, what you’re suggesting would would also prevent any and all legitimate uses of witheld numbers, e.g. by doctors and other medical services.

But you can also block withheld numbers yourself.

Which has recently produced a guide to blocking nuisance calls, see:-https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/cordless-phones/article/how-to-block-nuisance-calls-aHkHz1m7wCes

For example, BT customers can sign up to the free Call Protect service and set that to block withheld numbers, see:-https://www.bt.com/help/security/bt-call-protect—-how-to—–guide

Hello John, actually as pointed out by DerekP there are many organisations that have legitimate and valid reasons to use withheld numbers. This might increase still further with staff working from home – I have received call-backs from several companies using withheld numbers as the individuals are now working from home.

There is no legitimate use of a withheld or spoofed telephone number.
If you don’t want someone to be able to call you back, then use a different way of contacting them such as writing a letter. If you knock on the door of a client or patient, he can see who you are and decide whether to engage in a conversation. Would it be acceptable for healthcare workers to call at people’s houses wearing stockings over their heads? Government employees or agents carry identity cards. Why should the telephone be an exception?

I believe it is perfectly legitimate, and very sensible, for doctors and medical services to be able to ensure that they are speaking to the right person when they call. I can imagine situations where, if their number or identity were revealed by the telephone instrument, another person of a malevolent bent or as a prank, seeing the caller ID, might cancel it or they might ask unwelcome questions. It’s called patient confidentiality. With a call blocker phone or line service all other numbers can be stopped or intercepted.

See also annechad’s comment here –
https://conversation.which.co.uk/scams/vitamin-pill-covid-cold-call-scam/#comment-1612810

I used to get hundreds of unsolicited calls and they used to drive me mad. Then my phone supplier, Talk Talk. brought out a call barring service which I immediately subscribed to. It worked a treat as I now receive zero, yes ZERO unsolicited calls. For those not familiar with this service, Any calls not on your approved list which you can compile yourself are intercepted by a TalkTalk voice who asks the caller to give their name, you are then told by Talk talk who the caller is and have options available including refusing the call. My experience with the system is that unsolicited callers will hang up as soon as they hear the TalkTalk announcement thereby saving you the inconvenience of answering the call. I’m sure other phone providers offer a similar service.

Jane M says:
28 November 2020

Over the years I have had numerous scam emails texts and phone calls; so many in the last year that my daughter, who works in bank provenance and security thinks I am on a “suckers list”. Fortunately about 6 years ago the bank alerted me and asked if I knew someone in Wales who tried to debit my account with a little over £1000 – a large transaction. The bank asked if I minded them involving fraud investigators – of course I agreed – and it took three weeks to sort out, change cards and be able to bank by phone or internet but at least I was safe,
More recently I have been attacked and nearly caught out but realised very quickly and had time to prevent damage.
I am now very wary and watchful, take photos of any info on the phone and relay it to the apparent issuing authorities and to the police; I also don’t respond to any solicitations or scare warnings. I a m sure I still risk problems but can only be watchful; how sad to have to be so untrusting.

Edmund Ironside says:
7 November 2020

If I was in contact with a company or bank by email but felt unsure of their authenticity is there any group I could contact who would be able to verify their standing? I am at present looking to lodge quite a large sum with a bank but not sure if they are genuine.

EDAN

Edmund – I would start with an enquiry to the Prudential Regulation Authority, an arm of the Bank of England, which regulates and supervises banks, building societies, credit unions, insurers and major investment firms.

If you have no knowledge of the bank in which you are proposing to make a substantial investment, and have not had any formal correspondence with it other than on-line, then I would suggest reviewing whether you should proceed or considering a possible division of your investment to avoid putting all your eggs in one basket.

Having a substantial sum to invest might also justify consulting an independent financial adviser. For a small fee you could either get peace of mind with your choice or an alternative but safer home for your money.

The usual reason for people investing in organisations they are not sure about is because the projected returns are superior to those in the well-known investment places. Where the rewards are higher the risks are generally greater.

Hi Edmund,
What is the name of this bank?

Shehar says:
28 November 2020

No-one has mentioned Paypal which I use when ordering stuff online- if it is offered. How secure is it?

Shehar – PayPal might be reasonably secure but it is only a money exchange service. It does not have any contractual responsibility for the fulfilment of the order you place unlike a credit card issuer which is jointly liable and can provide redress in the event of a contractual breach or a dispute [s.75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974]; this is critical in the case of an order worth £100 or more. PayPal is possibly the next best thing if you don’t have a credit card or the trader won’t accept credit card payments [although it might be worth considering why that might be the case].

Arlette says:
29 November 2020

I contact someone on face book ad to do with herbs etc, lovely photos of her garden and countryside etc….she claimed she was setting up a PayPal account in a few days, she was a black USA woman.. living in Germany with her German boyfriend, who was ex-cop and now a dental nurse. We spoke through messenger and said she was visiting the UK, and would meet up….all very friendly …
WHEN SHE MENTIONed PAYMENT FOR HERBS ETC, SHE SAID it would take her a few days to set up..Paypal.I thought this was very odd…. when she had set up, the PayPal logo looked different from the usual. Paypal logo, wanting £35. I got in touch with a woman in the USA to do with fraud.. as l there was no email for her the….dental nurse… She was so convincing etc…..

Arlette – You have to be careful with what people say and the pictures they display on Facebook. It is not easy to check the truth so it’s best not to part with money without full reassurance since you might not get the goods but you could still lose your money. There are usually alternative, reputable, and reliable suppliers for everything promoted on social media. If a deal is attractive because of the price, bear in mind that cheapness usually comes at a cost.

Chris Counsell says:
28 November 2020

I was sent a link by someone I trust about an article she wanted me to read. When clicking on the link, it went straight to an advert for an ‘Ultrabrush Teeth Cleaning’ device, with a very slick video. I thought this was what my friend wanted me to read about. As it was her birthday coming up, I thought I would buy the product as it seemed like a wonder way to get your teeth clean! You can look this type of product up online – but don’t make the same mistake and buy it! Anyway, it cost £75 plus a lifetime replacement warranty offer of £13 more. Usually I am quite cautious about online purchases and do my research in advance (reviews, check the company location etc.). I was in a bit of a rush so when it came to the order placement page, I quickly checked and saw the company appeared to be based in Spain. OK, EU rules apply etc to returns within 14 days. When the order confirmation came through it said delivery 3 weeks. I was prepared to wait but I should have thought immediately this means China shipment. When the item arrived it was not branded UltraBrush at all, but VWhite. Nevertheless, we gave it a try and found it to be completely useless at cleaning teeth. So if you see one of these and are tempted, don’t buy it! It cannot possibly work, and subsequent internet searches show several sites debunking all the pseudo science claims made for this product. I tried to contact what I thought was the Spanish seller company, only to be sent round a website on endless circular links that take you nowhere near an address or contact details. The only option is to fill in the online form and raise the problem. When you do this, a reply comes from a totally different company, which appears to be based in USA. They then refuse to do anything about your complaint.
Fortunately, AMEX are exceptionally good at customer service and I raised a dispute. I gathered all the evidence as they request and sent it to them. The dodgy company tried to maintain the charge by submitting counter documents but all they could do was confirm I had ordered an Ultrabrush, while they had delivered a VWhite (substitute brand) with no evidence of any lifetime warranty certificate. Also they could not refute any of my claims about the goods being not as described and unable to perform the function they claimed.
AMEX found in my favour and refunded all the money to my card.
Big lesson for me – no more impulse buys as a result of professional looking and slick ads on the internet, and a warning that, before clicking on a link from a trusted friend, check what they are sending you, so you are not deceived by thinking they want you to look at the ad.

David J Kay says:
28 November 2020

I often get cold telephone calls, one the other day asked for me by name and knew my post code which is very concerning. The caller was very friendly asking if I was ok and in good heath etc. I ignored all this and asked why who he was and why he was phoning, after a few more polite how are you questions he said that government money had become available for my postcode (then told me the post code) and offered to install free a security system in my home.
Alarm bells always ring when the word “free” is mentioned and should be a lesson to anybody that free does not mean free but a con! I cut off the call and checked the number as I like to phone back. This was a private number so could not be returned. Some times a number appears but either does or ring, answer or gives the message “please check and try again”
I am sure that by asking lots of questions ,never confirming any given details, checking that the answers relate to your question etc could save a few poor people getting conned by these scum bags

Dave Bean says:
28 November 2020

I once reported a scam text to Lloyds. The worrying thing was it was telling me I had made a purchase using the bank in Royston. At the time I used to travel up there but never used any banks or made purchases in that area. I told the guy in Lloyds, an irate Scotsman who aggressively asked me what he expected him to do about it. I told him he should log it as they mention Lloyds. He just got more and more aggressive so I put down the phone and rang the police to see if there was a way of reporting. The policeman was absolutely disgusted with the reaction i got and put me onto an online reporting site and I was rewarded with a nice email some time after thinking me as they can form patterns and so hopefully help in tracking these scammers

I bought a small present for my teenage son from a facebook ad. When he opened it he laughed and said I’d been scammed because it was nothing like the advert. He was right! It didn’t cost much but I tried to get a refund. Eventually I went to Paypal. Their normal rule is that you have to return the product to get a refund because it protects both parties. But the refund costs to China were astronomical (this puts most people off returning scam items) and I was able to persuade them that the company was scamming its customers by showing them the Trustpilot reviews and emails they sent me. I got my money back, but Paypal didn’t stop the scam company from using them. Now I never buy from a facebook ad if the website doesn’t have a physical address. No genuine company has no address or phone number. And I’ve taken to posting on these ads to suggest people think very carefully before buying something from a company with no physical presence.

Anne, i will NEVER buy anything from a facebook ad or other social media, you are buying with NO consumer protection. Under UK legislation even China based sellers are supposed to have a UK address for returns.
On Amazon I have had only one or two minor problems with China-based sellers where the item was faulty or not as advertised and the seller wanted a return to China. I simply contacted Amazon directly, they refunded me in full and told me to just throw the item away in each case. I did not have to argue or deal with the seller again.

But there is no formal consumer protection regarding the safety of products bought through marketplaces operated by Amazon, eBay and so on. Which? keep reporting unsafe and dangerous products made available through these routes that evade regulatory action.

I use Amazon for its many virtues (although I wish it was properly taxed) but am very careful about the origin of any product that could be potentially harmful.

malcolm, there is the same regulatory protection as for anything. But Trading Standards have been run down somewhat and when i contacted them about some unsafe electrical, sockets they did not even understand the issues I was raising regarding non-comp[liance to Uk standards.

Peachester, Amazon (and others) are not legally responsible for what is sold through their marketplaces. Some of us want to change that.

Amazon fulfil many marketplace sales especially from Chinese sellers who rarely have more than a year of feedback. Surely they should be responsible for those sales.

Malcolm, you are however wrong when you said there is no consumer protection regarding the safety of products.

I simply do NOT buy electrical or items with significant cost or safety implications from non-uk based Marketplace sellers on Amazon. But on the occasions that I have had an issue with any item from a China based seller., Amazon have always supported me and resolved it quickly and satisfactorily.

DerekP says:
30 November 2020

What protection is there then?

Peacheater – There might be personal resolution of a consumer complaint by the marketplace platform, possibly primarily for commercial reasons, but there is no collective consumer protection provided by these operators.

In a major article in the December Which? magazine, following extensive undercover research, Which? has demonstrated that the marketplaces have not acted responsibly following reports of unsafe, even dangerous, electrical products, have not removed them from sale, have not contacted customers who have bought such items, have not taken any action against the sellers of such products, and have allowed the trade in unsafe products to continue unchecked.

They have consistently acted in defiance of an EU protocol to which they have notionally signed up and have shown complete contempt for the law and fair trading regulations. Only when Which? has contacted them directly have any corrective actions been taken and then only late, inconsistently, and not sustainably. Individual members of Which? do not pay their subscriptions to act as a consumer protection enforcement service for multi-billion pound trading enterprises that to all intents and purposes are exploiting buyers and sellers at both ends of the transaction and making it very difficult for other retailers to survive.

I think that is what we mean by ‘consumer protection’ – not just whether someone gets their money back for a useless article or can keep a misdelivered parcel; that’s just commercial convenience.

Peacheater, here is a link to a Convo that discusses this: https://conversation.which.co.uk/money/online-marketplace-regulation/
In the Introduction – ” Online marketplaces are not currently responsible for ensuring the safety of products sold on their sites, removing unsafe products from sale or notifying customers when something goes wrong.

Wendy Dono says:
28 November 2020

Being sick to death of cold callers via telephone I joined my ISP’s block calls system. It works well. Cold callers usually hang up, my friends were a bit peeved at having to give their name and wait for me to give the OK but it is so good not to have to shout, swear, press the fire alarm button and all sorts of things to try and put them off. I even told one crook that he needed lessons in how to be a good crook. He was told that banks, DSS, tax people, BT, Microsoft etc do NOT phone people. Only problem is with ‘number withheld’ usually from NHS or GP surgery. Why they cannot just put ‘NHS’ on screen would stop recipients from worrying who the mystery call is from.

That would be a gift to nuisance callers, Wendy. I am sure they would find a way of creating an NHS caller ID.

RICHARD ELMHIRST says:
28 November 2020

I was very surprised to find that my bank was going to pay out of my account a Direct Debit that I had not set up or given any instructions about. The Company was called Home Sure Solutions and purported to insure household appliances against breakdown.
The unusual part of the direct debit compared to normal break-down cover was to take £140 as a lump sum and then a monthly payment. This may be a legitimate Company but how come my Bank had set up the payment without my knowledge or approval?
Check your Direct Debits.

I recently had an attempted withdrawal for the payment of goods by telephone made from my Barclays account which they blocked. I asked them if they what action they were taking to find the criminal and they replied that as the account had lost nothing they will not act thereby aiding and abetting a criminal to avoid justice.

Electronic Biker says:
28 November 2020

Recently I have received texts on my mobile from two friends who are in the contacts list in the phone. But when I replied the friends stated that they had not sent any texts recently and had no idea what I was talking about! The two friends don’t know each other so it is not a conspiracy to make me think I am losing my marbles. The only answer I can think of to account for this is that someone somewhere has been poking around inside my phone without my knowledge and then pretended to be my friends by using spoof numbers. Laugh a minute, or something more sinister?
The person or persons poking around in my phone would have had access to my bank accounts if there had been any such information stored within it. There isn’t, because it is not a very smart phone and I wouldn’t dream of using any mobile phone for financial transactions anyway. I do store some passwords on it in an area called ‘Code memo’, which is extremely secure mainly because the unlocking code is not stored in the phone (e.g. for comparison with what I type in), it only exists in my head. What’s more, it doesn’t say “Wrong! Try again!” if a wrong number is used, it just displays a completely useless set of passwords instead of the real ones. I have yet to see a similar system on any other mobile phone.
Maybe the spoof texts were revenge because the criminal was unable to extract any useful information from my phone. So maybe I was lucky. Other people who keep all sorts of stuff on their phones might not fare so well. Be warned – be careful what information you keep on your phones, even if it is apparently harmless emails or texts. Anything involving bank details is a no-no. And don’t use the cloud.

Why does anybody purchase items from social networking sites. We are consistently told of dodgy deals on these sites yet people still buy from them. There are loads of other places you can purchase your items from without bothering with social media and most methods are far safer. I for one would never, ever purchase anything from any social networking site.

Richard – The answer to your basic question is that social media has a powerful hold on users; it has become an essential accessory supposedly providing a gateway to a safe and protected world inhabited by family, friends and well-meaning others. On the back of this ride the scammers, fraudsters, deceivers, thieves and frighteners. Users are led to believe that if it’s promoted on a social media site it must be good, because social media, liking and sharing, are ‘a good thing’.

There is a gambling site promoting bingo games showing people how they will be part of a family and among friends. Presumably people respond to that approach. How do we educate people in reality?

That is the difficult question, Malcolm, and I wish there were a straightforward answer. Are people taking refuge in social media and sociable pastimes because they are worried that the normal world has become an unfriendly place, or are advertisers cultivating the notion that the everyday world is hostile so that they can lure them into a synthetic community and then exploit them? A bit of both in all likelihood and the one feeds off the other. But breaking the cycle seems to be impossible.

I wouldn’t want society to become pathologically suspicious of everyone and everything else, but on the other hand there are grave dangers in being too trusting of what is said and shown on the internet.

I don’t want censorship, but fake news and dangerous conspiracy theories have to be resisted. The power of ‘influencers’ has reached ludicrous proportions. People have become manipulated into suggestibility over the most preposterous claims. Is this because the education system no longer develops our critical faculties adequately? Has the art of reasoning been jettisoned for the instant kapok factoid?

News must be digestible, self-gratifying and not challenged; the ‘authorities’ must be wrong. Unfortunately, some people get so screwed up in this vortex of misinformation and deceit that they harm themselves, lose their self-esteem, and descend into a deep depression. Perhaps learning the hard way is the only way and a few knocks and bruises on the path to maturity are needed to build up self-confidence, but the forces against them are determined, clever and utterly remorseless, and peer pressure is their powerful weapon.

I am against advertising online gambling but one thing I do find extremely hypocritical is the number of bookies that instruct us to be careful of gambling and that they will give us breaks during the session, advise us to stop when enough is enough; as if they have a genuine interest in our welfare, when all they want is to extract out money in a losers’ pastime.

I have not bought anything from social media sites, and I do not intend to. It would be interesting to know what proportion of sales are fair and honest, for the sake of balance.

The efforts of some human beings to cheat others has a very long history and there are ‘interesting’ accounts of food adulteration. At one time, sugar was expensive and lead salts were cheap. The traders may not have known that lead is a cumulative poison.

Long before the internet arrived we had some dodgy mail order companies advertising in newspapers and magazines and to encourage readers to use them, publishers funded the Mail Order Protection Scheme (no longer operating), which offered to reimburse customers who did not receive advertised goods.

I don’t know how those who are defrauded by fraudulent advertising on social media but if they pay by card there is at least a possibility of recovering their money. I don’t understand why card providers offer services to fraudsters and they need to get their businesses in order because we are all indirectly paying to support refunds to those who have been defrauded.

I don’t take an awful lot of notice of the TV gambling adverts but some words stick after a while like ‘Ruby’ that has been around a lot longer than Covid. The advert is very ‘pink’ and aimed at lonely women, even encouraging them to dress up. Late at night amongst ‘friends’, drink in hand . . . . a recipe for being relieved of their finances.

Ham37 says:
28 November 2020

Scams are even perpetrated via well known platforms! I purchased item through eBay with PayPal in July. Never ever received and seller refused to provide evidence of delivery simply stating a tracking number for a Hong Kong courier that said delivered. This apparently had gone through Hermes for delivery but number not recognised by their website and Hermes support would not give out details as I was not ‘ the customer’ but the sender was. Sender simply ignored these points and repeated tracking number and that I should ask Hermes. I made complaint to PayPal fully expecting their “promise” to refund me the £40 paid, however they simply dismissed my claim because a tracking number was supplied. When I pointed out that their investigation was flawed as they had not taken on board that I am left in no position to obtain the supposed evidence of delivery so surely they must make seller liable to produce it the response was that as a tracking number (which could have easily been made up as it was not investigated) had been provided and seller said it was delivered they would do nothing more. Thus even PayPal failed to check the legitimacy of the seller! Ebay said the complaint process was only to be dealt with by PayPal! So, I then applied to Hermes for data access rights. This revealed the only evidence available was that a Hermes van had parked by my property with GPS and no signature nor photo was taken for covid reasons (how does that stop a photo of recipient being taken?) but driver had apparently handed it to a person on the driveway! As it was not me nor my neighbour who was this person? Upon complaint back to Hermes proffering the idea that either the driver had lied or given it to somebody unknown without ensuring their identity I merely had reassurance that drivers would be reminded to start following my safe place instruction specifically stating to give to occupant from inside my house or neighbours. I asked them to contact seller as I was being ignored only to be told that their customer was in fact a foreign courier firm and not the selle so no answer would be provided. So the couriers have failed me, eBay and PayPal have failed me and thus I am stalemated. I have lost £40 and any trust in eBay and PayPal so called promises to buyers. They will no longer have my custom. I am angry, hurt by the lack of customer care, and
disgusted by the certainty that somewhere within this line a fraud has been committed against me and I have been ignored!

And unfortunately, Ham37, you would have been no further forward had you paid for the goods using a credit card because the consumer protection under s.75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 [making the credit card issuer jointly liable for the fulfilment of the order] does not apply to amounts under £100.

The only safeguard is that if the seller will not accept credit card payments there might be a reason why not, so extra caution is required. It must be the case that PayPal is recouping significant transaction fees from sellers that would not satisfy a credit card issuer as an approved merchant.

PayPal is merely a means of money exchange and, on the evidence of many reports to Which? Conversation cannot be relied on for recompense when something goes wrong; as you have found, their intervention only goes so far and possibly has more to do with reputation management than customer satisfaction.

Kelloggsmum says:
28 November 2020

Sorry in advance for long post but might help someone else.
I’ve been scammed at least twice this year. I just feel such an idiot for not checking as thoroughly as I would normally. Facebook really should have a Wealth Warning for the ads they allow. I’m especially annoyed with myself as I usually check the products out to see if it’s cheaper somewhere else and that it’s a legitimate item.
I was taken in by an ad for a ‘Unique trunk and mushroom cat tree’ in February 2020 and some lovely looking hexagon cat shelving in August 2020 both supposedly from American companies.
I had an email confirmation of the order for the cat tree. I heard nothing regarding the cat tree for a couple of months (you know covid) I checked with PayPal, there was a note from the company saying Covid had delayed delivery but they’d send the order out asap. A few more weeks checked again this time the message said the delay was due to supply problems from China.
First I heard that China was involved the ad said it was an American company.
Still no cat tree and now no messages on PayPal either. I was surprised to receive a very thin cotton puppy coat ‘out of the blue’ around August, I had no idea who from and what to do with it. I did have an email address ([edited]) but have had no reply to my many emails of course.
As regards the cat shelving I also have an email confirmation of the order and amazingly several replies to my messages asking where my cat shelving is!
There was a tracking number too (I later learned it was a very questionable delivery company) which showed that my item had been delivered on 10th October. The only item that was delivered was the metal toilet-roll holder. Unfortunately, this all happened before Which! explained this particular scam. Amazingly I am still getting replies [edited]
On 21/11/2020 I received:
“Dear,
We are sorry for the problem of the product.
Just we checked it for you, the worker in our warehouse they made a mistake. They choose the wrong one for you, we hope you give us a chance. We offer you 2 solution.
(1)You can keep the product or , we will give you a 35% refund as our compensation.
2)If you can’t accept it, please help it return to us, it may cost you nearly 30 dollars.
We’re doing a small business and can’t cover the shipping cost and additional fee again. We really hope to get your kind understanding.Which solution do you choose? Waiting for your reply.Have a good day”
I responded, “I couldn’t see how a worker could mistake a toilet-roll holder for bulky, wooden, cat shelves!”
On 26th “the one you want is out of stock, if you agree discount of 50%, we can refund to you, if you want to return it in your charge, after we get the return, we will charge the shipping fee and refund the rest to you”
Me: Which part of my order is ‘out of stock’? I ordered 5 items.
today 28th
“they are all not in stock”
I don’t know what to do, laugh or cry!!
I’m going to demand a full refund just to see what their reply will be.
Thank you for letting me vent.

[Moderator: we’ve edited this comment to remove email addresses. Please don’t post contact details (either your own or someone elses’) as this helps protect people’s privacy. For more information see the Community guidelines]

Eric Robson says:
28 November 2020

I was cold called by someone purporting to be stopping unwanted calls. He asked me to confirm my name and address which he knew.
He then asked me for the expiry date on my card which I thought odd but perhaps he was confirming my details.
But then he asked me for the rest of the card details and the alarm bells rang – what did he need those for when he was supposed to be blocking calls!
I refused saying I didn’t give out those details over the phone and he tried to reassure me saying that they would be kept secure but I still refused and when he insisted I ended the call.
He immediately rang back and I blocked his number and ended the call again. He tried once more and stopped.
I hadn’t had this type of call before, it is usually the the £600 has been taken from your account variety, please be aware of these and tell others

Spike says:
29 November 2020

I received a heavily ‘Boots Chemist’ branded email offering a ‘Surprise gift to all ‘Boots Advantage Card’ holders. Just a brief survey about customer services and you get through to the site where the ‘skin cream product used by Hollywood stars’ is free. Only £3.91 P&P. This linked to an eye cream product also free just the £3.91 P&P to pay. To my horror on completion of the order c£157.00 was taken from my account. I cannot stress enough how authentic the email looked even to the reproduction of the ‘Boots Advantage Card’. On closer inspection however, I can see the email has a strange IP address, (So annoyed I didn’t spot that) but the order has now been confirmed. I immediately contacted my bank (Paid by Debit Card) who are organising a charge back once the 15 day mandatory period has elapsed. Lesson learned – If something seems to good to be true etc etc…….

Spike, sadly the “free beauty products and pay only P&P” is a very well known and well used scam. 5-6 years ago it was “dead sea mud packs” and many people signed up and did not get their money back because they HAD agreed to monthly purchases and an ongoing payment instruction without reading what they were accepting.
Incidentally, I NEVER use a debit card for online shopping. I find banks are poor at resolving problems and credit card providers, (especially the majors) are far more fleet-footed and in fact your legal consumer protection with a credit card is stronger than with a debit card.

I am the receiver of regular scams every week sometimes each day, the call (recorded message) says I am from Amazon your online account will be charged £79.99, to stop this listen to one of our operatives press 1, I did this, they asked person questions like date of birth, who I bank with, etc., etc., when this happened I just said this is a scam f**k off do not call me again !!!, but they still do.

The other one is a refund from HMRC owing me hundreds of pounds in a cheque, asking me what is your date of Birth ?, who do you bank with ?, another scam, I just say you don’t need to know this information your cheque can be cashed at any bank, as soon as I say this the telephone goes down. Once they have your date of birth, and your bank they don’t need any more information, they can raid you bank account and clear it out, it is a total scam.

These telephone numbers come through on what it looks like a legitimate phone number, land line or mobile. I have recorded some of the telephone numbers and phoned them back, they do not exist !!.

Philip J. Wilson
Morecambe

Philip, by pressing 1 you confirmed that your number is active and correct. It is far better to just delete the messages. do not have an answer message with your name or your own voice, use the phone company standard answer message.
A couple of years ago the scammers actually routed the calls when people pressed a key “to speak to someone” via expensive premium lines and many people lost a lot of money.