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eBay Fraudsters Jailed

The Guardian reports a couple were jailed yesterday after defrauding thousands of customers around the world through the internet auction site eBay. In what one detective described as the biggest online scam he had seen, the pair stole £298,796 from unsuspecting bidders they called idiots.

Nicolae Cretanu, 30, was sentenced to 3½ years and his wife Adriana, 23, was given 30 months for an elaborate scam that lasted two years.

The gang advertised fictitious goods, including cars, motorcycles, war memorabilia, electrical items, tickets to sporting events and then contacted bidders saying they had failed in their attempt to secure the item.

The two offered bidders a "second chance" to purchase similar products, telling the customer to pay by money transfer through Western Union before receiving their purchase which always failed to appear.

Detective Chief Superintendent Nigel Mawer, head of Scotland Yard's specialist economic crime unit, said: "The message we are trying to get over to the public is, do not send money by money transfer to a person whose identity you do not know personally."

He said the £300,000 in this case was "but a drop in the ocean" against the estimated £1bn a year conned from people who wired funds in this way, adding: "eBay scams are a substantial part of that."

eBay, which celebrated its 10th birthday this year, made $759m (£427m) profit last year, during which goods worth more than £2bn were sold through its UK website alone