More and more more people are being caught out by ‘phantom goods’ scams, which cost them an average of £1,100, Citizens Advice Scotland has said.
Newly published figures have revealed a 17% increase in people across the UK reporting this type of scam, where they are conned into buying items, often high value items like cars and flights, which turn out not to exist.
The findings were released as part of Scams Awareness Month.
The campaign is being led by the Citizens Advice service and Trading Standards. It encourages people to be aware of scams, and also to report them.
‘Phantom goods’ scams involve fraudsters advertising items at cut prices on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, and online marketplaces such as Gumtree and Ebay. Scammers will also post fake customer reviews to give the impression they are a reputable trader.
The CAB has analysed over 3,600 scams logged by the Citizens Advice consumer service across the UK between January and March. 555 cases of ‘phantom goods’ were recorded this year, compared to 495 cases over the same period in 2016 – a rise of 17%.
Anne Lavery, Acting Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Scotland, said:
“Scams can have a lasting financial and emotional impact on people’s lives.
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.
Added Patricia Gibson MP, SNP Spokesperson on Consumer Affairs:
“It’s really important that people don’t rush into buying an item when they spot a bargain, but take some time to make sure it’s genuine first.
“Be particularly wary of sellers who ask for direct funds transfer like ‘Faster Payments’. Once you hit the transfer button, there is very little chance of getting your money back if something goes wrong.
“Reporting scams also helps the authorities to take action against fraudsters and allows people to get advice on ways to try and get their money back.”
Adam Gaunt, Chair of Chartered Trading Standard Institute Scottish branch commented:
The focus of this month’s awareness campaign is tackling the stigma around scams by getting people talking. It is so important to realise that scams can happen to anyone.
“Whether you’ve previously been affected or not, you can play your part by recognising and reporting scams, seeking advice and talking about the issues.
“By acting on scams, you’re helping to protect yourself and people in your family or in your community who are less able to identify and avoid scams.”