Bromley Trading Standards is warning residents to be wary of scams when shopping online and learn to spot the signs of fake sellers and websites.

The warning follows news that recent statistics show that more people locally are victims of online fraud through online shopping than any other online fraud. Metropolitan Police cybercrime statistics for March 2024 reveal that online shopping and auction fraud account for 20 per cent of all online fraud incidents reported to Action Fraud in the borough.

Online shopping gives consumers many opportunities, but it also provides opportunities to criminals, who use the anonymity of the internet to sell fake or non-existent goods. Thus, consumers are encouraged to be cautious and to learn to spot the signs of these scams.

Shopping online - spot the warning signs and protect yourself from criminals:

  • In most cases, the buyer and seller never meet, so you are reliant on the security of the website.
  • Items will usually be advertised with bargain prices compared to other listings of a similar type - they may even have pictures of the item so it appears to be a genuine sale.
  • Pictures may also have been taken from somewhere else on the internet. You can check photos using a reverse image search on the internet using websites like or
  • Buyers are encouraged to move away from the website to complete the transaction - you may be offered a discount to do so.
  • Be suspicious of requests to pay by bank transfer or virtual currency. Use the recommended payment method the website offers or you may not be refunded for any losses to fraud.
  • You may be contacted about an item you 'bid' on but didn't win - offering you the chance to buy the item. Check the seller and their bidding history.
  • Sellers may insist on using a third-party payment service for mutual protection and you may receive a legitimate looking email directing you how to make payment, but the payment will go to the fraudster. You risk not receiving the goods or, if you do, they may be counterfeit.
  • If you are selling an item, a 'buyer' may contact you to arrange to purchase the item. Criminals can fake a confirmation that payment has been made.
  • Check the buyer and their history. Log into your account via your normal route (not a link provided in an email) to check funds have arrived.
  • You may be asked to send items to a different address to the one registered on the user account, e.g. a work or friend's address.
  • You may not be protected by the website or payment service if you send to an alternative address.

Visit the Action Fraud website for more advice on how to protect yourself from online shopping fraud.

Whilst there are more victims of online shopping fraud than other types of cybercrime, it is not the only type of online fraud. Regular Trading Standards alerts readers will recall we previously shared advice regarding romance fraud, with some victims losing substantial sums of money. The advice always is to be naturally cautious, mindful of the potential dangers, and to make checks where you can.


Protect yourself and others by reporting incidents.

Contact your bank if you have given your financial details - Call 159 | Stop Scams UK.

Contact Citizens Advice for help and advice on 0808 223 1133 or on the Citizens Advice website.

If you have given your details or lost money, report the scam to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or on the Action Fraud website.

The Metropolitan Police website offers a collection of guidebooks and videos to help prevent fraud and cybercrime - watch a video guide on how to stay safe when shopping online.

You can also visit the Bromley Council website for more information.

Bromley Trading Standards

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Bromley Trading Standards also runs a fair-trader directory to help you find a safe, reliable trader that you can trust, visit to learn more.

Published: 15th May 2024