Published: August 11, 2012
Online shopping scam warning issued by police to Burnham residents

Police have this week warned Internet shoppers in the Burnham-On-Sea area to beware of web scams being used to gain cash from people.

The scam, involving the online payment service PayPal, highlights the dangers of sending out goods you are selling online before you have received any money.

Criminals visit sites such as eBay, posing as genuine buyers and tricking people into sending their property to an address in the belief it has already been paid for.

The fake buyers offer a price for something they want and then say they will make a payment through PayPal.

However, these fake buyers then send sellers fraudulent PayPal emails that look very genuine. The email claims to be a notification of funds pending that will be paid into the sellers' PayPal account as soon as a tracking reference number is given to ensure the items have already been posted.

The sellers then post off their property and email a tracking number in the belief that the money has already been paid and is waiting to be transferred, but they never see a penny.

DC Greg Brunt, from Avon and Somerset Constabulary's financial investigation unit, told "This is probably the biggest of the purchasing cons that everyone falls for. But PayPal will NEVER send an email asking for a tracking reference number."

"If you do receive correspondence from PayPal or even a site like eBay and you are not sure if it is genuine, you can always ring those companies directly and find out. The awful thing about this scam is that not only do the sellers lose their property, but often they are left out of pocket because they have paid large sums of money for post and packaging, especially those selling large items."

"The best way to avoid being a victim of this type of fraud is to not send any goods out until you can see the funds in your PayPal account. If you can't see it, simply wait."

The second scam involves bogus Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) companies who get in contact with people under the pretence of assisting in a PPI claim they are entitled to. These criminals then get victims to pay fees up front for services that are never delivered.

Scammers will usually ask for these 'fees' in the form of vouchers or by transfer through Western Union.

DC Brunt says: "It is important to remember that a genuine company will generally never ask for any money or payment to be made before you have received your compensation from your lender either by cheque or by payment into your bank account."

"They will also never ask anyone to make payment by any form of voucher system or wire transfer including UKASH and Western Union. Normal practise is for recipients of a PPI claim make payments after you have received an invoice from us in writing."

"If you are a PPI customer and you receive a telephone call asking you to make a payment or buy vouchers, hang up and call the company back via the official phone number."

If you think you may have been a victim of web scammers please report it to Burnham Police using the non emergency number 101 or contact your local Trading Standards department at Somerset County Council.

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