Author: Felicity Anderson

Sophisticated online crime is on the rise and yet traditional scams still prevail, according to the UK’s leading body for consumer protection.

In their annual report issued this week, National Trading Standards (NTS) warned of new threats to consumers, with criminals selling ‘phantom goods’, online and exploiting smart TVs and voice-activated home devices to steal data.

Yet despite increasingly sophisticated tactics employed by criminals to avoid detection, “many people are still hounded by cold callers, scam mail, and doorstep scammers”, reports the BBC.

In its report, the NTS states that, “An evolving criminal landscape does not mean the more traditionSophisticated online crime is on the rise and yet traditional scams still prevailal scams will disappear.

“Instead, National Trading Standards is seeing a trend of criminals diversifying and adapting their current schemes, evidenced in mass marketing mail scams.”

NTS prevented nearly £127m in losses to consumers and businesses during the year, however, they issued a warning to consumers about the most dangerous emerging online threats over the year ahead.

What online scams should we be looking out for?

Continued manipulation of online ticket retail sites

Fake ticket websites and manipulation of genuine sites by scammers and organised criminals are an ongoing problem for consumers purchasing tickets for their favourite artists and events online, according to the NTS.

Figures from Get Safe Online reveal that one in ten people in the UK has been victim to a scam when buying tickets on the web.

Typical scams include buying tickets that simply don’t exist or unwittingly revealing payment card details to an identity thief or fraudster via an unsecured online payments page.

Purchasing goods through social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram

Social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram are increasingly being used as e-commerce platforms, providing ample opportunities for criminals to build fake profiles and offer ‘phantom goods,’ from jewellery to cars.

This is Money published an article this summer charting the rise of consumers being tricked out of their money online by inadvertently transferring cash to criminals for products that don’t exist.

The newspaper revealed that “Citizens Advice recorded 555 cases of the sale of ‘phantom goods,’ between January and March this year, a 17 percent rise on the same period last year”.

It said the average cost of each scam was £1,100 and that more people lose money in this type of online scam than any other.

Fraudsters typically advertise items at cut prices on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, often using advertising features, which can give their offerings an air of authenticity.

They build believable profiles by posting fake customer reviews and misleading images to further give the impression they are a reputable seller.


The newspaper reports that one victim, “paid £2,000 for car insurance he found on Instagram, with a seller who had comments of recommendation from other users.

“He was told the paperwork would be emailed after he transferred the money, but realised it was a scam when the email never arrived.”

Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards, told This is Money: “I would always urge people to be vigilant when buying products online. The web and social media platforms have created a new risk for consumers. Criminals are able to set up multiple accounts to sell fake or non-existent products from almost anywhere in the world, concealing their real identity and contact details”.

The risks posed by connected devices such as smart TVs and home assistants

Our growing use of connected devices are making our lives easier, but they are also potentially providing opportunist scammers and hackers with access to our homes and our personal information.

National Trading Standards (NTS) urged customers to “remain vigilant” as fraudsters could now easily hack into smart devices, with potential threats likely to include viruses and data protection issues, according to The Sun Online.

Mike Andrews from the NTS eCrime Team, told the Sun Online,

“People often seem to think they are completely safe but there is just as much risk associated with using a smart TV as there is using with using any computer connected to the internet, especially when it comes to entering your personal data.”

He advises consumers to research the safety features of their smart devices and change the default passwords that they came with, along with limiting the amount of personal information being shared through them.