Scamwatch: online shopping fraud

Beware websites selling goods under false pretences...

young businesswoman looking at...

Stay one step ahead of the fraudsters with our series of articles giving you the lowdown on the scams they use to trick people out of their hard-earned cash - and how to avoid being taken in by them.

This week, we explain how fraudsters are using fake photographs to trick people into buying dodgy reproductions of the items shown.

How does it work?

When you buy something over the internet, you often base your choice on a picture of the item.

But sometimes, when they arrive, the goods look nothing like they did in the photograph you saw online.

In one recent case, a bride-to-be as tricked into buying what she thought was her dream wedding dress, only to be sent a poor imitation of the dress in the photo.

Her problems started when she spotted a beautiful white dress with navy vintage lace advertised on Facebook.

Clicking on the ad took her to a website called SammyDress, where the dress was about 70% cheaper than she had seen it elsewhere.

However, when it was delivered, it was "a cheap, dirty piece of viscose that looked like a child's Halloween costume".

How can I avoid being caught out?

Before ordering items from an unknown website, it is wise to do a quick search to find out if other people have had a bad experience with the site.

When the lady whose wedding dress dreams were shattered by SammyDress did this after receiving her delivery, she discovered hundreds of other people had also been scammed.

Other sensible checks to make include that the retailer actually exists and is registered to a proper address, rather than just a PO Box.

Paying by credit card is also prudent, as this gives you extra protection due to credit card providers being jointly liable if goods or services prove unsatisfactory (although this is only the case if the goods are worth at least £100).

I've been defrauded. What should I do?

Under the Consumer Goods Act, you have 30 days to reject a faulty item and get a full refund.

So the first thing to do when you receive unsatisfactory goods is to write to the retailer quoting your rights under this law and demanding your money back.

If that fails, the Consumer Ombudsman may be able to help, while if you feel the retailer has acted fraudulently, you should also contact Action Fraud (0300 123 2040).

It may also be worth contacting your credit card company to see if you can get a refund that way.

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