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Leanne Wetheim, 24, of Gilwern, Wales was given an eight month suspended prison sentence, ordered to do 160 hours community service and pay costs of £2,000 by Cardiff Crown Court, for selling fake designer makeup online. Some of the counterfeit cosmetics contained dangerous levels of lead.
So what was she doing, and how can you avoid being a victim of online fakes?
Fight back - latest on scams
Wetheim pleaded guilty to five charges under the Trades Mark Act 1994 after selling fakes from four eBay accounts.
Evidence turned up by investigators revealed that she had turned over around £25,000 over an eighteen-month period. She had received an understandable level of negative feedback from some customers about the quality of the make-up, many adding that it was fake, but she continued to sell the products through eBay.
Fight back - latest on scams
One of the accounts was brought to the attention of Powys County Council's Trading Standards Service. It made several test purchases of what she was claiming were MAC and Benefit products, and the brand holders confirmed they were fakes. Her property was then searched.
It was at this point that a selection of the products taken from her property were sent away for scientific safety testing. One mascara was found to contain 68 mg/kg of lead - compared to the legal limit of 20 mg/kg.
Barry Thomas, the council's Cabinet Member responsible for Trading Standards, said: "The levels of lead found to be contained in these products should act as a deterrent to those who seek to purchase these products from these auction sites as they have no way of knowing what they contain, and ultimately the effect they may have on the health of the person buying."
Clive Jones, the council's Principal Trading Standards Officer with responsibility for Special Investigations, added that anyone taking part in similar criminal action can expect to be caught. He said: "Our surveillance on illegal activity involving counterfeiting is increasing and we ask users of auction sites or any person offered suspected counterfeit goods to be vigilant and to warn us of any suspicious sellers through our contact points. Alternatively ring Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111."
Spot a fake
It's a risk we always take when we buy on an online auction site. According to Which? nowadays 23% of all fakes are sold online and 10% of all shoppers have accidentally bought at least one fake. Border Agency staff say they are seizing record numbers of fake goods being brought into the UK. Last year 5.5 million fakes were caught at the UK's borders, with a value of over £10 million.
It is therefore worth taking care when buying through an auction site. You need to be sure of what you are buying and from whom. Check out the comments from those who have bought from the trader in the past. You want there to have been plenty of comments and all positive. Even one complaining about quality should be a red flag.
Ask plenty of questions until you are satisfied with the answers as to the provenance of the product.
And if something seems too good to be true, then it probably is, so steer clear of products at huge, inexplicable, discounts. As this case has proven, not only could you end up with a dodgy rip off, but one that's a risk to your health too.
- 1. Mid-contract price hikes
<p>It is reasonable to assume that if you take out a mobile phone contract at £30 a month for 24 months that's exactly what you'll pay unless you exceed the tariff. Yet mobile phone providers have come under fire for a snag buried in the small print – a clause to allow mid-contract price rises.</p>
<p>Prices are rising by a median of 81p a month and 70% of consumers are completely unaware off this sneaky move, according to Tesco Mobile, so be sure to check any new contracts before you sign the dotted line.</p>
- 1. Land banking
Land banking involves plots of land offered for sale, often online, with the promise of sizable returns when planning permission is approved for housing or other development. Yet often the land is located in areas protected from development by planning law.</p>
The companies involved soon disappear with investors' money and as the firms are not protected by the Financial Services Authority, their funds are not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme</p>
- 2. Money mule
Fraudsters recruit unknowing accomplices through email under the guise of offering employment, seeking a personal favour, or through internet shopping sites. The recruits are persuaded into receiving what are essentially fraudulent payments and then passing funds on.</p>
The 'mules' are frequently offered a small financial incentive to encourage involvement and face difficulties in proving their innocence when the fraud is discovered.</p>
- 3. Carbon credit fraud
The scams claim to offer people the chance to profit from carbon credits. Under regulations that permit businesses to emit a tonne of CO2 – the companies claim to offer investment in green projects like a forestry scheme or a solar panel project, which generates carbon credits that are then sold on to heavy industry.</p>
A flashy brochure or website tells of a reliable 'government-backed' scheme which provides reliable returns for investors. Such a scheme doesn't exist however – a reality investors only discovered when they have parted with their cash and the company is untraceable. As with land banking, fraudulent companies are not covered by the FSA so victims have no course for recompense</p>
- 4. HMRC phishing scam
Receiving an email from the taxman saying you are owed a payment may seem like a nice surprise, but it is actually from fraudsters trying to relieve you of your cash instead.</p>
The emails provide a "click-through link" to a cloned replica of the HMRC website. The recipient is then asked to provide their credit or debit card details - all the information the criminals need to clear your account, and sell on your personal details.</p>
- 6. Crash for cash scams
Insurer Direct Line reported a hike in the number of 'crash for cash' scams last year – where fraudsters fake accidents by making unnecessary emergency stops at busy roundabouts or slip roads, forcing motorists to crash into them.</p>
They then make bogus claims to the innocent motorist's insurer, often including fictitious injuries and passengers.</p>
- 7. Driving school scams
Learner drivers have been taken for ride by being unknowingly taught by trainee instructors. An investigation by the AA found up to 27,000 extra driving tests have been failed in the last year because one in 10 learner drivers are unwittingly taught by an instructor they do not know is learning on the job.</p>
- 8. One man mail scam
July saw the arrest of a Leicester postman who stole £46,686 worth of mail over two-and-a-half years. Yogeshbhai Patel, 38, was jailed for two years for stealing mail including 2,000 DVDs and 2,250 games along with CDs and other electrical equipment. He intercepting the valuable packages and spent the money on living a luxury lifestyle including helicopter rides and a trip to Las Vegas.</p>
- 9. Smart meter scam
The Trading Standards Institute reported over 200 cases where elderly homeowners have been targeted by telephone cold callers, purporting to be from their energy supplier and offering energy saving devices which could cut their bills by 40%.</p>
The TSI tested the devices in homes where owners had fallen for the scam, only to find they both failed to satisfy electrical safety standards or deliver any tangible energy savings.</p>
- 10. Thermal camera fraud
Thermal cameras that track ATM pin numbers are the latest weapon in their arsenal and US scientists have warned it is the next threat for this form of crime. Researchers at the University of California at San Diego found that up to 45 seconds after a person types their pin code into an ATM machine or door entry pad the numbers and even the sequence are still readable by thermal cameras.</p>