Purchase scams

Scammers often list fake or non-existent items for sale on social media and online marketplaces. Their adverts look genuine, and someone you know could share or repost one without realising it’s a scam.

How it could happen to you

  • You see an advert on social media or a website you trust. It looks like it’s from a genuine company, but the link takes you to a fake website. You pay for an item that doesn’t exist or the site steals your information
  • You find a second-hand bargain on social media or an online marketplace. The seller might say you can pay more money for faster delivery. You pay, but they never send the item
  • You find a great deal on flights or a holiday rental. You pay and get a confirmation email, but when you arrive at the airport or your accommodation, you find out that the booking was fake.

How to protect yourself

  • Remember that scammers are good at impersonating well-known brands. Always check deals are genuine by going to the company’s official website. Type the address into your browser instead of using the link in the advert, in case it takes you to a fake site
  • Before you pay, research the site or seller and check for fake or negative reviews
  • Be suspicious if someone asks you to use a payment method you weren’t expecting. For example, if you’d usually pay by card or from a digital wallet, but someone asks you to pay by bank transfer
  • If you’re buying on social media, try to view the item in person to make sure it exists, especially if you’re buying something expensive
  • Never agree to buy vouchers or expensive items such as jewellery or gold for someone as a way to pay for something else
  • Remember that if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

What does it look like? 

We've written a story that shows what a purchase scam might look like. It describes common tactics we know scammers use, based on insights from our fraud and scams team.

Types of scams to watch out for

These are among the most common tricks currently used by scammers but they constantly come up with new ways to contact you, so be vigilant.

Impersonation scams

When someone pretends to be the police, a bank, a friend or business, to convince you to send them money. 

Investment scams

When you’re invited to invest in things that are worthless, or don’t exist.

Purchase scams

When fake or non-existent items are advertised for sale.

Advance fee scams

When fake companies ask for an upfront fee and then don’t provide the service you’ve paid for.

Invoice scams

When account details on an invoice are changed, or emails are intercepted, so the money is wrongly paid into the scammer’s account.

Romance scams

When someone pretends to be interested in a romantic relationship with you. They gain your trust and then ask for money.

Pension scams

A scammer says they can make you money, and convinces you take a lump sum out of your pension – then steals it.

Doorstep scams

A rogue trader knocks on your door and pretends your house needs work – then overcharges you for it and often doesn't finish the job.

Bereavement scams

A scammer contacts you after someone has died, and says you owe money to pay off a debt or access a payout.  

Phishing, smishing, and vishing

You receive an email, text message, or call claiming to be from a well-known company or organisation such as a bank or the police.

You may also like…

Padlocks locked onto a red-painted fence

Protect yourself from fraud

Learn about the different types of fraud

More and more people are being targeted by fraudsters, so it’s important to be alert. Knowing about the different types of fraud can help you protect yourself and your money.

A young woman writes notes as she takes a phone call at a table in a café

Think you’ve been a victim?

How to report fraud or a scam

Find out what to do if you’re worried about a card payment, how to report fraud and scams and what happens after you tell us, plus get tips on how to help protect yourself.

 A logo of a hand that says Take five to stop fraud

Take Five to stop fraud

National awareness campaign

Take Five is led by UK Finance and backed by the Government and other organisations. If you receive a phone call, text or email you think might be fake, it urges you to stop – take five – and challenge what you’re told.

Find your way around money

…and make money work for you

Your money – the way you spend it, save it and (try to) look after it can be complicated.