Consumers be aware when selling goods through social media

By Claire Kendall, Trading Standards Milton Keynes

Trading Standards in Milton Keynes is aware of a new scam that is affecting consumers and a drop shipper in the local area.

The consumers offer items for sale through eBay, Facebook etc. They receive an offer to buy from an individual, who goes by a different name for each transaction. The consumer then receives a fake email from the scammer, appearing to come from the selling platform. It states that the scammer has transferred the money. The scammer then gives an address for the delivery of the goods. The seller posts the items (normally cameras, iPhones, and the like) to the address. The seller never receives the payment and the selling platforms do not get involved. This is because the scammer does not carry out the transaction through their system. This means the consumer loses their goods and has no way of recovering the value of the item. Consumers are reporting that they are losing £100s with each fraudulent transaction.

The occupier of the address given by the scammer is another victim in this scenario, in this case, a business offering logistics services. They receive the goods and consolidate a package for their client before sending the goods on to the scammer. Of course, the drop-shipper is unaware of any issues. They have now received significant negative feedback on public websites declaring that they are scammers. The reality is that the real scammer has abused their service.

How to spot the scam

This type of scam can be difficult to spot. These are a couple of things you can look out for:

  • A drop shipper will need to have a reference number on the package to know who to send it on to. Look for suite or apartment numbers with a lot of digits.
  • Before sending your goods, visit Google Maps, look up the address and have a look at street view. Are you looking at a residential property or an industrial unit/warehouse etc? Industrial areas may not be a good address for you to contact the buyer of your items.

If you’ve been a victim

If you have been the victim of a scam please call Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133 or visit Citizen’s Advice

15 reasons to stay local

At Essentially Local we’ve always believed in supporting local and there are at least 15 reasons! Local brings economic, social, and environmental benefits to a community. Even though some people are only just seeing the value, we and many others have been highlighting the benefits for years.

Small Business UK wrote one of our favourite articles in 2018. Incredible to think that this was before the pandemic. It’s brilliant because it highlights 15 reasons why you should shop at a local company. Not just the shops though! We believe in the value of a local trades and health and wellbeing business too.

All about the brand

Buying from larger organisations means you are simply buying into the marketing of a big brand. They tell you they are better and you believe them! Which do you prefer? What are your reasons for choosing brands over local? We love the individuality and personal touch of going local.

Whose decision is it?

Brands often aim to make you feel like they’ll give the guarantees. In reality, they are simply taking away your decision-making. Think about it this way, if you buy coffee from a High Street business, they sell the experience as being the same wherever you go. I have the latte 10 times already, I like it so I won’t go anywhere else or try and anything different. In some instances, they’ll even say the same words of introduction. In truth, isn’t it nicer to talk to someone because they want to talk to you, rather than because it is part of the script? Don’t you think there is something rather exciting about going into a shop and discovering new products that you won’t find in the supermarket?

Time of day

Reports tell us that 60% of us used the local convenience store during lock-down. Were you one of those people? Interestingly, it wasn’t just about the products or safety, for many people it was about seeing a friendly face. A face that understands your situation and knows what you are going through.

Yes, although not everyone will get it right all of the time, that’s human nature, at this moment, it is good to have someone other than the wall or cat to talk to. Consider this, where would your Grandma be without the friendly hello from the corner shop or post office?

We dare you

Our challenge for the week is to choose one local business or service that you have never used before and buy from them. Think about how you feel, think about the benefits it could have brought. Consider if you hadn’t bought from them what would you have done? Then let us know about your experience – whatever it is, good, bad or indifferent. We’d also love you to think about one of the 15 reasons to stay local and what benefits your decision made. What could it have brought to the community, environment, the business and local economy?

Illegal dog breeders charged

Are you one of the thousands of people who have enjoyed the company of a new puppy during a lockdown? Sadly, many new owners discovered too late that their puppies were born as a result of horrendous and often illegal puppy breeding and selling. New owners have suffered as much as their new furry friends with extortionate vet bills and often the loss of their beloved pet.

Finally, there has been some good news regarding illegal puppy sellers operating in Milton Keynes. Thirteen people from Milton Keynes were charged with conspiracy to commit fraud and the trial was scheduled for April 2021. At this time the outcome is still not known.

The sellers were charged because they told lies about the condition of the puppies they were involved in selling. Their scam involved the sale of, often poorly, puppies to unsuspecting customers, leaving the new owner with high vet bills and in some instances the new puppy died. Judge Sheridan, Aylesbury Crown Court, has prohibited any further sales of puppies by the 13 individuals, without written permission by the Crown Prosecution Service, before the trial.

Puppy sales rose during lockdown with an estimated 3.2 million people taking on a new pet. If you are thinking of buying a puppy, here are some red flags for you to look out for:

  1. The owner meets you outside their address with the puppy in their arms (chances are the seller does not live in that house at all!)
  1. The owner is advertising multiple litters in quick succession on the web platform you use – remember breeders are restricted to the number of litters they can have per year.
  2. When you get to the house of the breeder, there is no sign of the mother dog – the breeder must only arrange for you to visit when the mother is present
  3. When you get to the house of an owner who has decided they cannot cope with the puppy, there are no dog toys, they offer you one can of food, one bowl, the puppy has no relationship with the so-called owner, these could all be signs that you are dealing with a distributor of puppies which have come from a puppy farm and may have medical issues which you will need to pay for later, as the seller will not help you afterwards!
  4. If the seller says they are a breeder, ask to see the licence. Under The Animal Welfare Regulations 2018 which covers the breeding of dogs, a breeder is required to have a licence. This applies to breeders who breed 3 or more litters of puppies in a 12 month period or if they are breeding dogs and advertising a business of selling dogs.

If you have any suspicions about puppy sellers please call Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133. They will pass the information on to Trading Standards who can investigate further.