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Scammers using fake PayPal emails stole over £1m in the UK in last quarter

Fraudsters tricked Brits into sending over £1m worth of goods to them that they hadn't paid for

National fraud and cyber crime reporting centre Action Fraud said over 3,000 online crimes saw UK online sellers lose more than £1m to fraudsters in just three months.

Fraudsters duped people selling goods online through faking PayPal payment confirmation emails, which coaxed them into sending goods that had not been paid for.

A total of £1.12m worth of goods were stolen between October and the end of December in 2019, according to Action Fraud.

The organisation said scammers sent the victims emails that appeared to be from PayPal, confirming they had received payment for sold goods. They then sent emails requesting a tracking number, which hurries the seller. The victims then sent the goods without checking.

Pauline Smith, director at Action Fraud, said fraudsters will go to great lengths to target people on online marketplaces. “It’s really important to follow our advice to help protect yourself and always trust your instincts – criminals will try to make unusual behaviour, such as asking for a tracking number before you have sent the item, seem like a legitimate request.”

Action Fraud said victims were largely selling electronics, vehicles, phones and household furniture via online marketplace platforms.

While these platforms have tight IT security in place, fraudsters pray on human fallibilities to dupe people. A spokesperson for eBay encouraged all of its members to take precautions to improve the level of security protection on their accounts. “Don’t get caught by fake payment emails, and always confirm you’ve received a PayPal payment before sending an item – check your PayPal account and ensure the payment icon in your My eBay is highlighted.”

Read more about Action Fraud

  • Reports made to Action Fraud and handed to the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) had been languishing in a database until recently.
  • Cyber fraudsters are registering domains that appear to belong to UK universities so they can defraud supply companies, according to Action Fraud, the UK cyber crime reporting centre.
  • UK businesses reported losses of £1,079,447,765 in 2016, according to figures released by Get Safe Online and the UK’s national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre Action Fraud.

Action Fraud recommends sellers be aware of the warning signs that your buyer is a scammer. “Don’t be persuaded into sending anything until you can verify you’ve received the payment.” It also advices people not to click on links or attachments in suspicious emails, and not to respond if asked for personal or financial details.

“Listen to your instincts: if something feels wrong, then it’s usually right to question it,” Action Fraud said.

PayPal said it goes to great lengths to protect customers, but said: “There are still a few simple precautions we should all take to avoids scams,” adding that if you think you’ve received a phishing email, you can forward it to [email protected] without changing the subject line, and it will tell you if is fraudulent.

Click here for more PayPal advice.

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