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Police are warning punters to be on their guard against internet scams after seeing a spike in complaints from victims ripped off by crooks.

In particular, cops are concerned at the increasing number of people snared by "phishing" scams that appear to be genuine requests for personal and banking details from well known sites such as eBay and Amazon.

Police are also worried about "Second Chance Offer" scams operated on sites such as eBay. In these cases, someone who misses out on winning an auction is contacted later and told the deal has fallen through and offered the chance to snap up the item privately. Although money is sent in good faith, the gear never appears.

Said Inspector Alex Harkness of Fife Police: "The people who are committing these crimes are very professional. They create web sites with links that appear to be connected with the genuine sites, people are then conned into passing over credit card or bank details and money is then stolen from them."

Two weeks ago police warned that online retailers are likely to become the next target of "phishing" scams. Up till now online banking web sites or auction sites such as eBay have been the main target for scammers.

But the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit warned that online retailers now need to be on their guard, ®

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