SHOPPERS are being warned about hot tub scams where crooks advertise products that don't exist to steal your money.
The Greater Manchester Police is urging Brits to be vigilant after seeing an increase in hot tub fraud since the start of the coronavirus crisis.
It warned on Twitter that fraudsters are using online sites to advertise hot tubs for sale, request deposits and then say the delivery date is to be confirmed.
Crooks will then tell the victim the hot tub cannot be viewed due to lockdown restrictions, only to cut off contact, meaning the deposit is lost.
The warning comes after NatWest warned that hot tub fraud rose by a five-fold in May compared to April, although it didn't confirm exact figures.
The bank found the plug-in pools were the item involved in the third-most purchase scams, after Nintendo Switch games consoles and pets.
NatWest told The Sun the majority of fake ads are being advertised on eBay and Gumtree.
The Sun has also asked the Manchester Police where the non-existent tubs are being advertised, and we'll update this article once we hear back.
Commenting on the Manchester Police tweet, one user said he'd lost £315 in a hot tub scam.
The Sun has also seen a number of Twitter users in the US complain about the issue, with one tweeting: "I bought an inflatable hot tub the second week of pandemic for $99 and it was a scam."
While another added: "@AskeBay My girlfriend has just fallen for the 'Hot Tub Scam' that is rife within your website."
How to protect yourself from scams
BY keeping these tips in mind, you can avoid getting caught up in a scam:
- Firstly, remember that if something seems too good to be true, it normally is.
- Check brands are "verified" on Facebook and Twitter pages – this means the company will have a blue tick on its profile.
- Look for grammatical and spelling errors; fraudsters are notoriously bad at writing proper English. If you receive a message from a “friend” informing you of a freebie, consider whether it’s written in your friend’s normal style.
- If you’re invited to click on a URL, hover over the link to see the address it will take you to – does it look genuine?
- To be on the really safe side, don’t click on unsolicited links in messages, even if they appear to come from a trusted contact.
- Be careful when opening email attachments too. Fraudsters are increasingly attaching files, usually PDFs or spreadsheets, which contain dangerous malware.
- If you receive a suspicious message then report it to the company, block the sender and delete it.
- If you think you've fallen for a scam, report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use its online fraud reporting tool.
If you're after a hot tub for your garden, Jason Costain, head of prevention at NatWest, advises shoppers to use a credit or debit card when making a purchase online and to avoid making a direct bank transfer to a stranger.
He added: "It is also worth remembering that if a deal appears too good to be true it probably is."
The Manchester police is also urging shoppers to stay safe online by only dealing with reputable sellers and by checking the URL in the web browser.
Meanwhile, Chris Hayes, of the British and Irish Spa and Hot Tub Association (BISHTA) told The Sun consumers should clarify in writing when the product is to be delivered.
It's also worth checking reviews online, but you should be careful as some firms use false comments with only positive feedback, he added.
If you've fallen victim of a scam, make sure you report it to Action Fraud.
A Gumtree spokesperson told The Sun: “We take fraud very seriously and are committed to tackling scams, as well as educating people about how to avoid them.
"We work closely with the police, and other authorities, to ensure that Gumtree is a safe place for all our users – buyers and sellers.
“On our site we have a dedicated advice page on how to spot a scam, and we encourage anyone who thinks they may have come across a fraudulent advert to report it to us immediately."
The Sun also contacted eBay for comment.
In June, eBay reported sales of hot tubs were up 1,080 per cent as homeowners splashed out on their gardens.
If you want to splash out on a hot tub this year too but you’re on a budget, several shops including B&M, B&Q and Argos have you covered.
Meanwhile, con artists have unleashed coronavirus scams which have cost victims a total of £5million – an average of £2,400 per person.
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