Beware of new copycat websites

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Lincolnshire Trading Standards and Lincolnshire Police are warning residents about a new type of copycat website.

With a significant number of residents getting in touch with Lincolnshire Trading Standards about ‘fake’, copycat websites selling vehicles at super low prices, the two authorities are teaming up to issue a stark warning about shopping online.

The websites in question featured cars, expensive machinery and large plant, all for sale at low prices. They were designed to look like existing local businesses websites, copying their contact details, addresses and information from Companies House.

Unfortunately, these websites were full of fake information – con artists had just copied adverts from other websites and changed the prices.

A number of residents, who contacted the website to purchase vehicles, were persuaded into sending money up front via bank transfer before seeing the cars. After the money had been transferred the ‘company’ no longer responded to calls or emails.

Pam Allen, senior trading standards officer at Lincolnshire County Council, said: “People need to be careful when shopping online. Although the majority of websites are genuine, there are a small number, like this one, which are not. They use very sophisticated technology to dupe people into believing what they are seeing.”

With this in mind, we would suggest people follow a few tips:

- Double check the domain name

- Think whether the price is too good to be true?

- Never pay by bank transfer

- Browse the website - look for typos, poor English, contact us details,

- Check the returns policy

- Read some online reviews

- Double check if the trust mark is genuine

DC Stuart Barnes from Lincolnshire Police, adds: “We would ask the public to observe due diligence when shopping online and to consider their actions when spending large sums. Take note of Trading Standard’s advice. If it appears too good to be true, then it more than likely is. If in doubt, be very observant and keep researching. If still in doubt, then avoid and report.”

If you have been caught out by such a website, please report it to Trading Standards via Citizens’ Advice on 03454 040506 or online at: www.citizensadvice.org.uk

Please also report the incident to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or online at: www.actionfraud.police.uk/report_fraud