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21st of September, 2010

192.com survey uncovers Wild West of the web

  • 17% have been ripped off online
  • Survey finds 30% will lie when selling a product or service
  • 18% of Brits don't feel safe using on online auction sites
  • Action Fraud and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau report spiralling e-scams

September 21 Research from identity checking experts 192.com has revealed that 17% have been 'ripped off' online and 18% don't feel safe using online classified advertising sites like Gumtree. The highest proportion in the poll who had been ripped off were aged 18-24, of which, one in five were victims.

192.com's nationally representative poll of 1,500 people found that older people were less likely to be defrauded online, though nervousness of online trading effected all age groups. The 55-64 age group had been ripped off less online than younger age groups (12% compared to 20%) yet 16% of the over 55s rarely or never felt safe trading online, just four percent less than the most effected age group,(the 18-24s).

The study reflects national trends. According to Action Fraud, the UK's national fraud reporting centre, a third of crimes reported to them in July concerned online shopping and auction fraud, and the overall volume of calls about fraud also increased.

A City of London Police spokesperson told 192.com: "I can confirm that since January the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has each month received more than twice as many reports of online shopping and auction fraud from Action Fraud than any other type of fraud."

Putting this spiralling fraud into context, is 192.com's survey found that a shocking 30% lie to somebody they're selling a product or service to. Yet, 33% of the survey also said they are 'most likely' to trust someone they meet for the first time.

Commenting on the findings, Robin Kramer, Psychologist at the University of Bangor said: "Our default position is to trust someone rather than not. When considering deceiving others, we come across more situations as we get older in which we judge the benefits to ourselves to outweigh the costs to others. Under these circumstances, the temptation to lie can significantly increase."

This perfect storm is illustrated by the case of Ken Hercock 45, an Elvis fanatic from Scunthorpe.

"I've been an Elvis fan since I was five. I was looking for rare fan footage of Elvis in concert in the 1970's. I put in a Google search for it, and up came a website selling footage of my idol," said Mr Hercock.

"I paid for the footage with PayPal and waited. When it had not arrived after three weeks I knew something was wrong."

Mr Hercock found that the e-trader had ripped of a number of Elvis fans with a similar non-delivery scam. An online campaign was set up amongst the Elvis fans, but the fraudulent trader was never found.

"It wasn't the money, it was the principle. That an Elvis fan should rip off a fellow fan was really hurtful. I just wanted to ask how many others he had taken for a ride."

192.com's research found that when victims can't find a postal address of their defrauder, legal proceedings are hampered because a summons can't be served: "You do need to have address for a defendant, Her Majesty's Court Service cannot find one for you," confirmed a HMCS spokeswoman.

The 192.com survey also found consumers trying to protect themselves by carrying out their own online-background checks.

  • 52% said they would background check a website if it doesn't have an address or phone number
  • Thirty percent said they are likely to carry out back ground checks on someone the met online, using Google, Facebook and 192.com

Dominic Blackburn, Product Manager of 192.com said:

"192.com data is based on public records, so it's much harder for a fraudster or fraudulent business to hide behind a false ID, as they can on Facebook."

"Before transacting online, give yourself some reassurance by using 192.com to verify the name and contact details of the person or business you're dealing with. If you can see through the mask of the internet and pin down a name and address, then there is some recourse if it all goes wrong."

How to background check your e-trader with 192.com

  • Trading with an individual? Use 192.com's free directory enquiries to verify someone's address
  • For added ID verification, access the 24 million records on the current edited electoral roll, and find out how long an individual has lived at a particular address, and who with. This will give you a fuller picture of the person you're transacting with, while supplying accurate contact details should you need to deliver legal correspondence to them
  • Is your online trader a business? 192.com Director and Company reports can reveal their profitability, and the range of their business interests

For more information contact the 192.com Press Office.


192.com is the UK's most awarded online directory, helping find people, businesses and places for millions of users every month. On 192.com, users can search over 700 million records including free directory enquiries, edited electoral roll information, local business listings, interactive mapping, aerial photography and property reports.

192.com Survey

Conducted by One Poll, nationally representative online poll of 1,500 between July 23 and July 28 2010. Results were broken down by age and region.

Robin Kramer, Ph.D, MA (oxon) MSc, BA (hons)

Evolutionary Psychologist at Bangor University specializing in signalling of information and social interaction. Triple scholar, having studied at Oxford University, Washington and Lee University, Virginia , the University of Sussex and the Precepts and Concepts Laboratory Indiana University. Publications: Kramer, R. S. S., & Ward, R. (2010). Internal facial features are signals of personality and health. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. Advance online publication. Kramer, R., & Ward, R. (2010). Looking healthy may win you elections. PsyPAG Quarterly, 75, 12-16. Kramer, R. S. S., Arend, I., & Ward, R. (2010).