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Internet auction sites


Although there are other internet auction sites, eBay is a popular site and using them as an example is not in any way an indication that they are at fault or are anything other than a reputable auction site.

According to eBay, most of the disputes are merely misunderstandings and can be resolved through buyer and seller communication. If not, eBay offer a dispute resolution service, more details of this service can be found on their website.

The Citizens Advice have a dedicated Consumer Advice Helpline (0808 223 1133) which you can contact, if something has gone wrong with a purchase. Useful information can also be found on their website, please see the links in Related Information for further details.

If a dispute resolution service does not resolve the matter and you believe you have been the victim of a crime rather than a misunderstanding, you can make a report to your local police either via their 101 or via their online reporting form. Please see the link in Related Information for force contact details. If you or the other party are overseas you will need to make the initial report to your local police force who will then make enquiries with any other force if appropriate.

The police service cannot and will not check the buyers or sellers details prior to you making the purchase/sale. If you are in any doubt at all about the buyer/sellers authenticity then do not go ahead with the purchase/sale, see question in related information for tips on buying goods from the internet.


Buying and selling items on the internet is quick, easy and offers a wide range of choice. Here are a few simple steps to follow to ensure you stay safe whilst shopping online:

  • Always buy from a reputable site, read through their terms and conditions and always remember to log out when you have finished.
  • If using an internet auction site, check the seller's reputation and take time to read the guides issued by them
  • If goods are advertised substantially cheaper than elsewhere, be careful as it may not be genuine
  • If buying from a private seller make sure you have full contact details and not just an email and mobile phone number
  • Be wary of sending cash and money order. It is advisable when paying over £100 to use a credit card as it offers the best protection in case anything goes wrong.
  • When entering payment details make sure the website is secure; a small padlock should appear at the bottom of the screen and the URL should read https://- the 's' stands for secure.
  • Consider using an online payment option such as PayPal.
  • Never pay by direct bank transfer.
  • Avoid using public wi-fi when online shopping, hackers can intercept passwords and credit card details.

Action Fraud is the UK's national fraud reporting centre; if you come across something suspicious when shopping online or something seems too good to be true, you can report it via their website. Additionally, the UK European Consumer Centre (UKECC) provides free and impartial advice for anyone who experiences problems when purchasing goods in other European countries. Please see links to this and Action Fraud in the related information section.


What action you should take will depend on whether you and the suspect were in the same country when the offence occurred. If this is the case, you will need to make a report to the local police service of that country.

When making the report you should make a note of the date, time, details of the incident itself, which police officer and station it was reported to and any relevant contact information. This will help support any insurance claims made and will be useful if you are required to give evidence in court.
We would also advise that you find the nearest British Embassy, Commission or Consulate who will be able to assist you.
If you and the suspect are/were in different countries when the crime occurs then you will need to make a report to the police in your own country - not the country where you think the crime occurred. This is because there are official procedures that must be followed when investigating international crime, and the request must come from a recognised law enforcement authority.

To find your nearest Embassy and for further information, please see the websites in Related Information.


Just because a car is advertised on a reputable site such as Autotrader or Ebay does not automatically mean that the seller is genuine. Many criminal gangs have been using reputable sites to advertise cars that don't belong to them or don't even exist.

Once the buyer decides that they want the car they are then taken to a fake website where they hand over the cash for a car that they will never see. The website is supposed to hold on to the cash until the vehicle is received (supposedly an independent place to hold the money whilst the deal is done), but it goes straight into the bank accounts of the criminal gangs, most of whom are based abroad.

There are a few ways to spot a fraudulent car sale:

  • Check the address and postcode are correct
  • Check the contact numbers – for a big company there should be a land line AND a mobile number
  • Look out for suspicious voicemail messages and spelling mistakes in emails/messages
  • Be wary if you cannot meet the buyer in person or if you can't physically view the car prior to purchase
  • HPI check can tell you whether a car is stolen, has any finance owing or if it has been written off – see the website in related information but please note there is a charge for their service

VSTAG (The Vehicle Safe Trading Advisory Group) is a forum designed to combat vehicle-related fraud and offer protection from this during the buying/selling process. You will find a link to their website in the related information section.

Contact your local police force

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