The number of shoppers being swindled by 'phantom goods' scams in the UK is increasing, according to a study.
Citizens Advice analysed 3,600 scams logged by its consumer service between January and March this year and came across 555 cases of phantom goods, up from 490 over the same period in 2016-17 per cent increase.
Fraudsters who advertised items at cut prices on social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram and online market places such as eBay and Gumtree, had been able to lure scores of unsuspecting victims.
However, the items did not actually exist and the cheats had left people an average £1,100 out of pocket.
Scammers had been able to dupe people into taking out the deals making them look authentic with fake customer reviews so they appeared to be from a reputable trader.
Charity Citizens Advice said people were more likely to lose money from phantom goods scams than any other – 96 per cent of people lost cash, compared to 55 per cent across all scam types.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: ''Scams can have a lasting financial and emotional impact on people's lives, www.mirror.co.uk reported.
''With some many people shopping online to compare deals, scammers are using numerous tactics to target people with phantom goods. They are drawing people in with cut-price deals and then persuading them to buy items with phoney recommendations from customers.''
The charity's advice line received calls regarding 555 cases in the first three months of the year, up 17 per cent from the same period a year earlier, which included, scam sales of items ranging from jewellery and cameras to musical instruments and driving lessons.
The government said that social media accounts and websites linked to scams had been closed and hundreds of fraudsters had been arrested.
Although phantom goods only accounted for a fraction of scam cases, online shoppers have been urged to avoid paying for items online via a bank transfer.