Warning over bogus shopping sites as scam sales surge

Consumers are often lured by the false promise of a slashed price or a bargain, says Bank of Ireland

Bank of Ireland has warned consumers about a new wave of purchase scams luring unsuspecting shoppers through online ads to make payments for goods and services that subsequently turn out to be fake.

In the past year, there has been a 32 per cent increase in purchase scams reported to Bank of Ireland.

From relatively low-value items such as clothes and trainers, through to holiday home deposits and even cars, consumers are often lured by the false promise of a slashed price or a bargain.

They are asked to pay directly by sending money from their bank account to another account via bank transfer, a method that provides little protection.

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Once the payment is transferred, the seller usually cuts all contact, and the product or service never arrives.

“Fraudulent advertisements online and on social media have been the subject of regular warnings for some time,” said Bank of Ireland’s head of fraud Nicola Sadlier.

“This alarming trend is not going away, even with increased awareness among the general public, and repeated calls for websites and search engines to remove the adverts. These fake ads should be caught before they are published online, but many are not.”

She stressed that it was “unacceptable” to see fraudsters operating so openly through online advertisements.

“No company should be generating advertising revenue from criminals – search engines, websites and social media platforms really need to step up and crack down,” she said.

Bank of Ireland warned people against clicking on these adverts and reminded people that “if something sounds too good to be true, it’s probably fraud”.

People are being urged to be alert to poor grammar and spelling or vague product descriptions and to always go directly to the online shopping sites by typing the web address into web browsers.

Links in unsolicited emails or on social media are not always safe and should be avoided, while payments should only be made through secure methods including debit or credit card, or the secure payment method recommended by reputable online retailers and auction sites

And it is always essential to view large purchases in person before making full payment for them.

Scams are becoming increasingly problematic for banks – and their customers, with a significant number of consumers making contact with the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman last year over fraudulent activity on their accounts, according to a recently published report.

The report from the financial watchdog found that nearly a quarter of all banking complaints received included conduct grouped under the heading Disputed Transactions, which includes financial scams and fraud.

The FSPO cannot investigate fraud, which is a matter for the Garda, but it investigates complaints relating to service failings in dealing with a customer who suspects fraud on their account.

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor