Published on: 25 October 2023

How does it work?

You find a deal online – either for yourself or a gift for someone else. The seller seems legit and responds promptly to your emails. But when it’s time to pay, they ask you to do it by bank transfer. This is not a secure method like a credit or debit card, where you‘re better protected.

As you’ve been speaking to the seller regularly, you feel like everything will be fine. But as soon as the money has been sent across, they stop emailing back. And the bargain that you ordered never arrives.

How big of an issue is this?

According to UK Finance's Annual Fraud Report (opens in a new window) £59.6 million was lost through purchase scams in 2022. So it’s important to do some checks before you hand over your hard-earned cash.

Ask yourself why a seller would want a bank transfer and not have you pay in a more secure way. Be sure to check out the seller and/or the website. Are there multiple online reviews? Does the site they’re using look legitimate?

If you’re buying from an online marketplace site, try and be as sure as you can that the goods exist. If needs be, ask for more photos of the item. And stop talking to anyone that refuses to send more – it’s usually a sign they don’t have it in their possession.

Finally, you should also do some research to see how the price they’re offering compares with other sites. If it’s a lot cheaper, there’s a chance that it could be a scam. And you should not go through with the purchase.

Things to remember

  • Be wary of any prices or deals that feel too good to be true.
    It means they probably are.
  • Don’t pay anyone you don’t know by bank transfer.
    Where possible, use a credit card for purchases over £100 and up to £30,000 – they’re protected under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
  • Make sure you don’t feel rushed.
    Scammers will often create a sense of urgency. Saying it’s a limited offer or price encourages you to act without taking as much time to consider the purchase.
  • Always do your research before buying anything.
    And with more expensive items, such as a car, take the time to see it in person and check all documents thoroughly.
  • Use official websites
    Especially when buying things such as concert or gig tickets. Find out more about ticket fraud (opens in a new window)
  • Check that the offer is genuine when buying a holiday online.
    Be sure to look for independent reviews. And check that the provider is registered with ABTA or ATOL. They are the travel protection agencies.
  • Don’t share any one-time codes that you’re sent when shopping online.
    These codes are used to confirm that you’re the one making the purchase, so don’t share them with anyone.
  • Don’t forget about our Scam Check Service
    If you’re ever unsure about a payment you’re making from your Nationwide current account, you can talk to us first. Call us, or visit us in branch, and we’ll tell you if we think it’s a scam or not. This is our Scam Checker Service. Some payments are excluded.

To find out more about this, and other purchase scams, visit the Take Five website (opens in a new window).

Victim Support

Our partnership with this independent charity supports customers who’ve been a victim of fraud or a scam. They offer a tailored service to meet your individual needs. It’s free, non-judgemental and confidential. And they will help you for as long as you need.

The Nationwide Fraud team will refer you for further support if you need it.

Stop. Challenge. Protect

We're proud to be supporting the industry fraud awareness campaign Take Five, which encourages you to perfect the art of saying NO to criminals by taking five minutes to Stop, Challenge, Protect.

Criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police so it can be difficult to spot scam texts, emails and phone calls. However, there are things we can all do to protect ourselves.

Always remember to challenge if someone contacts you asking for your personal or financial information – be direct and say NO. Saying NO can feel uncomfortable but it’s OK to reject, refuse or ignore requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.

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