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Half of online sellers have been fleeced by fraudsters: tips to stay safe

Joanna Faith
Written By:
Joanna Faith

Online shoppers are regularly urged to be vigilant against fraudsters, but sellers should also be on guard, a new report warns.

Nearly half of people (47%) who have sold items on online marketplaces such as Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree and Shpock have been defrauded, with the average seller losing £2,054, according to a study by Shieldpay.

As many as 30% of the population has sold an item or service, such as plumbing or carpentry, online, equating to nearly 16 million people.

However, over two fifths (43%) of people are put off selling online due to the risk of fraud.

Just one in five (19%) people believe online marketplaces are doing enough to protect sellers as well as buyers from fraud.

Tom Clementson, of Shieldpay, said: “It’s not just buyers who are at risk in the online world. Millions of sellers have fallen foul of fraudsters and it’s putting people off using online marketplaces.

“Sellers turning away from online marketplaces poses a real threat to the industry, especially as it transforms to a model which depends on transaction revenue.”

How can sellers protect themselves?

If you’re worried about falling victim to a scam, follow these tips from Shieldpay:

Be aware who you’re dealing with

The beauty of online marketplaces is that you can transact with people you’ve never met – but you still need to know a few things about them. Genuine buyers have held accounts for longer and will have received positive reviews from a variety of sellers over time – so check out their history, and only use payment methods that verify their identity.

Stay on the platform when communicating

Many online marketplaces have their own messaging systems. If a buyer wants to take the conversation off platform – be wary, because you may not be protected if the buyer is looking to defraud you.

Ask for proof of delivery

Some untrustworthy buyers will try to dishonestly claim a refund on the basis they haven’t received their package. If you send via a tracked delivery service, that requests a signature to confirm receipt of the package, it will be more difficult for would-be scammers to insist your product was lost in the post.

Listen to your instincts and follow your gut

If something feels wrong, then don’t be afraid to question the situation. Follow your gut. Fraudsters will try and lull you into a false sense of security. If you’re worried that you may be at risk, report it to the Police or Action Fraud straight away, who can help you, or register the incident with CIFAS – the national fraud database, who can help protect you.