Fraud Experts Warn of Dangers of Online Marketplace Sites

Car owners were yesterday warned that they could be putting themselves at risk of identity theft by selling vehicles online using classified advertising sites like Gumtree, eBay and Autotrader.

Experts at CIFAS, the UK’s fraud prevention service, are aware of sophisticated fraudsters targeting private car sellers. Using the initial information listed, the fraudsters coax additional details from the seller using private messaging tools designed to assist the buyer to make a decision and cross reference with other social media channels to build a profile.

Even handing over basic information such as a name, date of birth and postcode can leave the door open for fraudsters, and is information that can be easily exchanged, without realising, by unsuspecting victims.

The warning comes comes as a new study by Censuswide found close to one in five Brits has fallen victim to identity theft, whilst an additional one in seven of us know someone who has had their identity stolen.

Londoners are the biggest victims of online ID theft, with 27 per cent admitting it’s happened to them, followed by 26 per cent of Glaswegians and 20 per cent of respondents from Bristol. In comparison, only eight per cent of those polled from Plymouth had fallen foul of an online fraudster, 10 per cent from Sheffield and 11 per cent from Liverpool.

The survey of 2,300 people revealed that 25-34 year olds are the most active online users – and also the most guilty of over-sharing, as opposed to their parents’ generation of 55+ who are much more cautious when it comes to posting any personal details.

Richard Hurley, a spokesman for CIFAS, commented: “The ease of using online marketplace sites has undoubtedly contributed to their popularity, but the public must be aware of the dangers associated with them too. If someone starts asking you questions about your car online, you can’t be too careful as to their motives – do you know and trust the person who is asking?

“If a stranger asked you for these details in the street, you wouldn’t give them up, so it’s worrying people let their guard down so easily online. For the modern fraudster, knowing somebody’s personal or financial details is a licence to print money.”

Buying and selling online is a particular passion for the 25-34 age group. A massive 70 per cent frequently use eBay to buy and sell goods, 20 per cent go to Gumtree while 13 per cent trade on Etsy.

With 74 per cent of those polled admitting they avoid posting certain details online to reduce the risk of being hacked, it is again the 25-34 age group who provide the most opportunities for fraudsters to exploit. 25 per cent admitted they have posted a picture of their home online and 27 per cent a photograph of their car. This compares to just just four per cent (home) and five per cent (car) for the over 55s.

The poll revealed that selling cars via online marketplace sites is particularly high risk – with 34 per cent of 25-34 year olds polled using online marketplace sites to sell their last car. Those surveyed seemed aware of the potential dangers. 47 per cent knew that revealing details of their vehicle’s log book could leave them open to fraud, while 36 per cent cited the registration plate, 33 per cent the chassis number and 24 per cent the MOT certificate as high risk details to divulge.

However, in practice, one in five of the 24-34 year olds polled (19 per cent) admitted that they would share personal details with someone online if they were selling something ‘and the person was trustworthy’. More than one in four (28 per cent) also confessed that they don’t always know who they are talking to online.

The 55+ age group have twice as many passwords as younger online users. The survey revealed that 24-35 year olds have an average of five passwords to cover all of their online activities, while those 55+ have an average of 11 passwords.

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