Fraudsters are getting more and more sophisticated, making online scams harder to spot. They can create fake websites that look like the genuine article and trick people into parting with their cash.
So if you’ve fallen victim to an online scam, you’re not alone and there’s no need to feel embarrassed. We take a look at what you can do to report it and get your money back.
How was the payment taken?
The most important questions is - how was the payment taken by the fraudster? The answer to this question determines who you need to contact to claim your money back. In most cases, you should try and get in touch with the seller first. But if you have no luck, there are other avenues to explore.
If you’re a victim of fraud and you made a payment via bank transfer, you need to contact your bank to let them know as soon as possible.
Depending on a number of factors, they might be able to stop the transaction from going through. Similarly, if you spot an unauthorised transaction on your bank statement that you don’t recognise, you can ask your bank to investigate it. They may be able to reimburse you for the money that you’ve lost, depending on the circumstances.
As of 28th May 2019, certain banks in the UK entered a voluntary code of practice for authorised push payment (APP). This means that customers can now request refunds for payments that have been made to scammers in error (rather than limiting refunds to unauthorised payments taken behind your back). However, if the banks deem that you acted in a ‘grossly negligent’ way, no refund will be given.
If you made a purchase online using your debit card, but you never received the item, it didn’t match the description, or it was faulty, the first port of call would be the seller. If you don’t get anywhere with them, you could ask your bank if there’s anything they can do to help.
For example, your bank may agree to apply for a ‘chargeback’ (depending on the circumstances and their discretion). This is when your bank claims the money back from the seller’s bank and reimburses your account with the funds. Be sure to contact your bank as soon as possible to request this, because there’s a cut-off point around 18 months after the payment was taken.
You could also request a chargeback for purchases on your credit card. But only if they were under £100. If the transaction was between £100 and £30,000, and you were a victim of fraud, or the item was faulty or didn’t match the description, you might be covered by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
This means you may be able to apply to the seller and your credit card company to request your money back (though only one refund can be given). Bear in mind that there’s no guarantee, it depends on your circumstances and the lender’s discretion.
Tip: If you have made a complaint to your bank or lender and have not heard a response within eight weeks, or you are not satisfied with their response, you can escalate the matter to the Financial Ombudsman.
The official PayPal website advises that the first point of contact should be the seller. And you can raise a dispute with them via the Resolution Centre by logging in online (on the website, not the app). If you can’t resolve the issue directly with the seller, PayPal suggests escalating it further, within 20 days of the original complaint being made.
In some circumstances, you might be able to get a refund for the cost of the purchase plus shipping through the PayPal Buyer Protection Scheme. This may apply if you bought an item through PayPal which doesn’t turn up, or you receive an item which doesn’t match the advertisement, for example. But this scheme doesn’t cover payments made through a copy-cat PayPal website.
Wired a payment
Unfortunately, if you wired a payment to scammers, it’s unlikely that you will be able to get your money back. Wire services include PayPoint and Western Union, for example. Visit Western Union’s fraud section to see what you can do.
Being a victim of fraud can be very upsetting. If you need emotional support for overcoming this, consider getting in touch with a charity like Victim Support, The Samaritans or Age UK who will be able to offer free, non-judgemental support.
Disclaimer: All information and links are correct at the time of publishing.