Police are urging Northamptonshire residents to be wary of fraudsters who are using Facebook Marketplace to con innocent users.
Crooks are posing as genuine buyers or sellers, targeting advertised high value items and faking bank transfers to trick their victims.
Between January and March this year a total of 175 complaints about the online site were submitted to Action Fraud, resulting in sellers losing goods worth a combined total of £192,786.
But the true cost of this type of fraud is believed to be significantly higher, with only a small percentage of incidents being reported to the authorities by victims.
It’s prompted officers from Northamptonshire Police’s Economic Crime Unit to issue a reminder to those who use the selling platform.
Fraud protection officer PC Neil MacKenzie said: “Online auctions and marketplaces have become a very popular way of buying and selling but fraudsters are using them to take advantage of your trust.
“Fraudsters target sellers who are advertising high value goods such as designer clothes, mobile phones, game consoles or other electronic gadgets – all of which can be easily posted to the buyer.
“After their item has sold, the seller is led to believe that payment has been made or is pending as the buyer has sent them a screenshot or email confirmation of a fake bank transfer.
“However it’s not until after they have posted or handed over the item that they then discover the payment has not been made and that the buyer’s contact details are false.
“While online buying and selling pages can be a good way to reduce clutter and help make some extra money, we would always recommend that sellers check to ensure a payment has been cleared before handing over their item.”
Police have issued the following top tips for online buyers and sellers:
• If anything doesn’t feel right about the transaction, cancel it!• Always check your account or third-party payment facility to ensure a payment has been cleared before handing over or posting items• Do not use links or websites supplied by the buyer to check for payment, as these can also be forged and look genuine.• Always log in to payment providers directly on your device to verify you have received the payment.• If a buyer becomes pushy, aggressive or makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to block them and report them to Facebook• Minimise the personal information you share in the advert such as your address, email, or phone number• If you’re meeting to exchange items, ensure your safety, take a friend or relative, and arrange to meet in a busy public place• You could take images or videos in case of any dispute or theft
If you think you have been a victim of fraud you should report it to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting centre.
Reports can be made by calling 0300 123 20 40 or online by visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk.