Fraud warning as online shopping scams and auction cons dominate reports

Online shopping scams and auction fraud are the most reported types of fraud, according to figures from Which?

The consumer group has identified 12 “emerging fraud threats”, and, even though online shopping scams and auction fraud are the most reported, investment frauds were responsible for the biggest losses.

The average investment fraud victim loses more than £50,400 to pyramid or Ponzi schemes, according to figures based on findings from Action Fraud reported in the latest Office for National Statistics crime survey for England and Wales.

People aged between 20 and 39 are the most likely to have reported being scammed in the past year, accounting for almost two in five (39%) of reports to Action Fraud.

Read more: ‘Alarming’ growth in fraud as scam adverts dupe victims

Many of them lost huge sums of money to online shopping scams, pyramid schemes and rental fraud.

People aged between 60 and 79 made up 20% of reports, and seemed especially vulnerable to computer repair fraud, where they made up 47% of cases.

Between November 2020 and December 2021, individual victims lodged 448,838 reports with Action Fraud for losses of more than £1.9bn, Which? said.

Many of the scams come from phishing emails, or rogue adverts on search engines and social media, while dodgy investment firms often pretend to be backed by celebrities or online influencers.

Online Safety Bill: “It’s up to the government and regulators to get it right”

Which? said the Online Safety Bill must make sure that the regulator has what it needs to hold companies to account and take strong enforcement action.

Which? money editor Jenny Ross said: “The government’s decision to include paid-for scam adverts in the Online Safety Bill, along with promises to make reimbursement mandatory for bank transfer scam victims, was a huge step in the right direction, but it’s now up to the government and regulators to get it right.

“We will be checking carefully that the Online Safety Bill goes far enough in protecting consumers from fake and fraudulent adverts, and it’s vital that the government swiftly introduces the right legislation for bank transfer fraud that will ensure victims get fair and consistent treatment.”

Read more: Dating sites are ‘riddled with scammers’ as TSB finds women make up two-thirds of victims

Here are the 12 “emerging fraud threats” identified by Which?, with the year-on-year increase in reports of such scams to Action Fraud in brackets and the average scam loss:

1. Online shopping/auction scams (14%), £650

2. “Other” advance fee fraud – where scammers ask someone to pay money upfront for fictional goods or rewards (15%), £1,296

3. Offline shopping fraud – this could include buying goods from a newspaper advert in person or on the high street (14%), £2,692

4. Computer repair fraud (24%), £1,448

5. “Other” investment fraud – financial fraud perhaps involving foreign exchange, cryptocurrency or investment seminars (34%), £24,089

6. Dating scams (39%), £10,349

7. Boiler room scams (57%), £24,887

8. Rental fraud (11%), £1,531

9. Phone fraud – fraudsters may pose as a mobile network to offer non-existent or worthless insurance, or scams may involve missed calls or texts that charge premium rates when someone replies (48%), £252

10. Pyramid/Ponzi schemes – investment scams may pay earlier investors with money taken from later investors, but the flow of new investors eventually runs out and so do the returns (59%), £50,429

11. Fraud recovery scams – when someone is asked to pay a fee to someone who pretends they can recover money you lost to a previous fraud (33%), £17,598

12. “419” advance fee fraud – these scams involve a bogus request from a stranger to pay an admin fee to help move money from one country to another in return for a portion of the money (61%), £2,563

Watch and follow the chancellor’s spring statement on Wednesday from 1230 on Sky News