The UK bicycle business is showing an increasingly united front in the face of fraudsters attempting to cash in on the vulnerabilities of online retail.
Several e-tailers have recently been the target of online opportunists, some of whom hack websites to obtain discounted product. Others rely on the redirection of mail or depot interceptions to steal a bike, often leaving false payment details behind.
Chris Feltham, owner of Cycle World, is one retailer who has recently thwarted an attempt to fraudulently obtain a bike priced at £1,600.
He told BikeBiz: “We’ve had a few attempts to relieve us of bikes this year. For the most part, common sense can be used to spot the opportunist, but there was one instance where I was nearly left £1,600 down. The scammer found a loophole in our website and altered the price of a bike to just £1.99 before ordering. The bike was sent out as usual, and was about to leave the local depot when I realised the error on the transaction.”
Recent activity on the BikeBiz forum has demonstrated how widespread dodgy transactions are, with retailers reporting a dismaying amount of cases of theft and fraud.
Online store creator and specialist Si Watts of I-BikeShop.com told BikeBiz that he didn’t think there had been a significant rise in attempts, but did believe, however, that trade members’ increasing willingness to share suspicious customer information was halting the progress of thieves.
“I have noticed recently that retailers are more prepared to ‘share’ information. When I discover that a client believes they have had an attempted scam, I can cross-reference the I-Bikeshop order system for other orders with different clients using the same details. The scam often occurs on several sites within a few hours as the scammer tries to get at least one to be successful. I reckon that if more people shared their info, fewer people would be caught out.”
And that’s a sentiment echoed by Feltham: “For the benefit of my own and others’ online business, it would certainly help if the trade shared suspicious information; that’s why I posted about my close call on the BikeBiz forum earlier this year.”
For those concerned about possible retail fraud and the sale of stolen bikes, keep an eye on the ‘possible fraudulent activity and cycle theft’ thread now located at bikebiz.com/forum.
The latest Home Office figures on cycle theft revealed that 104,239 bikes were reported stolen over the past year.
How to avoid online fraud…
Online expert Si Watts advises that retailers should look out for anomalies in their orders, such as:
-Orders where only a mobile telephone number is supplied and the email address is a non-locatable one (like @hotmail.co.uk, @msn.co.uk, @yahoo.co.uk)
-Orders where the item is one which you know is available elsewhere for considerably less.
-Orders where a separate delivery address is requested and the delivery address is outside the billing address town. In particular, where the distance between the two addresses is greater than 30 to 40 miles.
-Phone orders where there seems to be little concern for the product being bought, only it’s value; e.g. "I need a bike for about £750"
-Orders where the supplied postcode does not match the street address provided.
-Orders which fail an AVS check
-Orders where the customer requests to be telephoned by the delivery driver about an hour before delivery is made.