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Beware auction sites, says Citizens Advice

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The UK's leading consumer advice charity is warning punters to be careful when buying goods over internet auction sites after seeing a sharp rise in the number of people who've been ripped off by unscrupulous traders.

Citizens Advice (CAB) says that people who use auction sites such as eBay have "very little protection" since sales are based on trust. Not only to do buyers risk losing their money, it warns, sellers may also end up with dodgy or even non-existent goods.

Even people who use escrow services - which act as third party service to ensure both parties receive their goods and cash - are not necessarily safe.

To make its point, CAB cites the case of one punter in London who sold his mobile phone via an auction site. Only after he sent his phone off after getting the all clear from the escrow service did he find out that the payment had been made using a stolen credit card. As a result, he lost his phone and received no payment.

In the Midlands, a guy who bought a £6,000 car only found out it had a major £3,000 fault once the vehicle arrived. While another punter was left out of pocket when he coughed up £610 for a computer which never turned up.

Susan Marks, Social Policy Officer at Citizens Advice, said: "Too many people are abusing the trust of others when using internet auction sites. This is a terrible problem, which can leave sellers without their money and buyers without their purchase or, even worse both.

"These sites are like buying goods at a car boot sale without the advantage of seeing what you are buying and being able to receive your money in person," she added.

Last month CAB warned net users to be on the guard against "shocking" rogue dialler scams after reporting an increase in the number of cases in which ordinary net users have been conned. ®

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