What does an online shopping scam look like?

14 November 2023

4 min read

Shopping online can be a great way to find festive gifts for friends and family, or to look for deals in the Black Friday and New Year sales. It can be quick and convenient and there are so many places to shop from, including online marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace, TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat.

But anyone can be victim to an online shopping scam because scammers:

  • Post products at tempting prices
  • Post products they know people are struggling to find
  • Can appear trustworthy and genuine
  • May apply pressure to rush you into making a purchase.

Scams are more common during the festive season, Black Friday and New Year

Cases of online shopping scams increase around the festive season and the Black Friday and end-of-year sales. Be extra wary of deals that seem too good to be true around this time.

Report a scam or a potential scam

Call 159 – this service quickly redirects you to your bank, so you can report scams and suspected fraudulent contact.

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Stories from victims of online shopping scams

Hannah was looking for boots that had sold out online. She lost £120 in an Instagram scam.

Hannah missed the chance to buy a pair of boots she loved and she couldn't find them anywhere else. She later saw an Instagram advert for them at a great price.

Hannah clicked on the advert, which took her to a website. All the reviews she saw were extremely positive.

The website asked for orders to be place through their business WhatsApp account. Hannah messaged to order the boots, and they asked for payment by bank transfer.

Hannah sent £120 but sadly never received the boots and she lost her money.

Wilfred needed a replacement car fast. He lost £1,900 in a Facebook Marketplace scam.

Wilfred relied on his car to get around for work and errands. When his car broke down, he needed to find another car quickly. He found a decent car at a low price on Facebook Marketplace.

Wilfred was suspicious of traders online, but this seller sent him several photos and convincing documentation, and was generally very pleasant and reassuring.

The seller said it's normal to pay a deposit by bank transfer up-front to protect sellers from scams.

Wilfred sent £1,900 without having seen the car. Sadly, he never got it and he lost his money.

How to protect yourself from online marketplace scams

Take your time and be careful how you pay

Remember, anyone can be the victim of a scam. Criminals know how to get your guard down and get you to trust them quickly. It's helpful to remember:

  • Always be very wary of paying by bank transfer
  • Avoid paying a deposit upfront unless you've seen the item and know it's genuine
  • Speak to someone you trust for advice
  • Don't feel pressured to act fast.

Look for reviews and check the reviews are real

It's important to check if a seller is genuine by checking for reviews about them on trusted websites, such as Trustpilot or on their marketplace profile (such as on Facebook Marketplace or Etsy). Signs to look out for include:

  • There are no, or very few, reviews
  • There are lots of bad reviews
  • There are only good reviews, especially if many don't make sense
  • They only have reviews on their own website.

Read more about how to protect yourself from online shopping scams.

Scammers are posing as us

Scammers are calling our customers pretending to be calling from The Co-operative Bank. They're more active around the festive period.


  • Never share your card's 4-digit PIN, or your online banking password, secure key codes or one-time passcodes sent to your phone
  • Never transfer money as instructed over the phone, including to a 'safe' account.

Related articles and guides

More about online shopping scams

Stay safe from delivery scams

How to spot a holiday scam

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