Fraud & Security

Protect your business from purchase scams

What is a purchase scam?

You're offered heavily discounted prices for products however, after paying for the goods, you discover that they do not exist and will never arrive.

Criminals rely on the anonymity of the internet to advertise the non-existent goods on websites (including auction sites) and social media. They’ve also known to clone genuine websites or use paid advertising to lure customers to a fake website.

What to look out for

If you are buying goods online from a new supplier:

  • Check to see if there are warnings and bad reviews about the company. Run a search for the name of the website and include the words “scam”, “fraud” or “fake”. Don’t rely on reviews the company has on its own website.
  • Double-check the website address and contact details of the company in case it’s a ‘clone firm’ pretending to be a real firm. Check the address for subtle misspellings, additional words and characters and other irregularities. 
  • The web address should begin with 'https://'. The 's' stands for 'secure' which indicates that the link between you and the website owner is secure, not that the site itself is authentic.
  • How professional does the site look? Is it well laid out, are there obvious grammar and spelling errors?
  • Read the terms and conditions before you buy (some state that there are no refunds).

You can search for more information about a company on GOV.UK which will tell you if they're a registered company or not. Check where the company's office is and whether they have a landline in this country and a proper address, including a street name, rather than just a post office box.

Visit GOV.UK - Get information about a company

Actions you can take

  • Always use the secure payment method recommended by reputable online retailers. Be wary of requests to pay by bank transfer. If a buyer or seller tries to persuade you to go outside the site’s usual process or payment methods, treat this with extreme caution, as it’s likely to be a scam.
  • Never give out your company or personal bank account or credit card details unless you’re certain who you're dealing with.
  • Share this page with employees and colleagues, so they know what to look out for. Put training in place, so people in your business know how to spot and handle common threats.