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eBay frauds

Date: May 30, 2005
Source: news.telegraph
By: David Derbyshire

A growing number of criminals are using internet sites such as eBay to sell counterfeit and stolen goods, police said yesterday.

The warning comes just days after a woman was convicted of selling a fake Louis Vuitton handbag on the auction website. Launched in 1999 in Britain, eBay is now the UK's most visited commercial website. More than 10 million Britons have registered with the site, which offers 50 million items from around the world at any one time.

Earlier this year Gwent Police disclosed that they were dealing with more internet fraud cases each month than in 1998, 1999 and 2000 put together. Most cases involve people selling goods that do not exist. The sale of counterfeit goods and pirate DVDs and CDs is also a problem.

A spokesman for the National High Tech Crime Unit, which monitors cybercrime, said: "Over the last three or four years organised criminals and individuals have discovered that the internet is quite useful for getting rid of stolen goods.''

The growth of online auctions has coincided with the rise of CCTVs in the high street and a clamp down on illegal street-corner trading. Criminals who previously sold from suitcases are now offloading fake, stolen and pirate goods on the internet.

Ebay says that fraud accounts for a minuscule fraction of transactions on the site. Garreth Griffith, the site's head of trust and safety, believes most problems can be avoided by taking common sense precautions.

"The beauty of the website is that it is totally transparent - everyone can see what is out there," he said. "I feel we are on top of it. It is not a runaway problem.

"We also have more than 1,000 people globally at Ebay working solely on trust and safety.

''It's not just a case of us saying caveat emptor, let the buyer beware.

''We are doing everything we can to keep bad guys off the site."

The site's security relies heavily on its feedback system. All buyers and sellers can be rated and comments posted about their behaviour for everyone to see. The site also encourages buyers to contact sellers by e-mail and ask for telephone numbers.

"The dodgy guys either never get back to you or they are cagey," said Mr Griffith. "If someone is trying to sell a fake good or something that doesn't exist, often they don't have a photo, or they use a stock photocopied from elsewhere, or the description is vague."

In addition to eBay's UK and Irish trust and safety team in Dublin, the company runs an anti-counterfeiting programme backed by 11,000 manufacturers.

The feedback scores and trading history of sellers is not always a reliable guide to honesty. Dishonest sellers can build up a good feedback score by buying lots of items with little value. Once their rating is good enough, they will then start selling fraudulently.

This week Angela Makki, 48, was given a six-month suspended sentence for selling a fake Louis Vuitton handbag on eBay for 980. Earlier this month Phillip Shortman, 18, from Pontypool, Gwent, was jailed for a year for selling non-existent mobile telephones, cameras and other equipment on eBay. He made 45,000, but was arrested after police were inundated with complaints.

Matthew Phillips, 19, from Bonvilston near Cardiff, made 2,000 by selling counterfeit business software. He admitted fraud and was sentenced to 150 hours community service.
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