Teenager's £45,000 eBay con funded New York spending spree

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The Independent Online

A teenager conned more than 100 people out of £45,000 by persuading them to buy non-existent items on the internet auction website eBay.

A teenager conned more than 100 people out of £45,000 by persuading them to buy non-existent items on the internet auction website eBay.

The boy, 17, who cannot be identified, tricked dozens of customers by advertising cheap products he did not have. During his 13-month spree, the teenager used the money he raised to fund a lavish lifestyle of weekend breaks to New York, expensive electrical goods and limousine trips.

The teenager, from Pontypool, south Wales, pleaded guilty to 21 charges of fraud amounting to £16,105 at Cwmbran youth court. Magistrates were asked to take a further 64 fraud offences amounting to £28,860 into consideration.

The court was told that the teenager advertised the sale of a range of products at extremely low prices, ranging from mobile phones to computer games consoles. When bidders became interested in the product, he would contact them directly to arrange the transfer of money without using a third party.

Although he received between £200 and £2,500 for each purchase, the buyers received nothing in return. "Items listed for sale have never been in his possession," said Paul Moore, for the prosecution. In time, £45,000 accumulated in three bank accounts which enabled him to finance "the good life".

As the amount of his illicit gains increased, the teenager admitted that he swiftly became "addicted" to the thrill of making money with such little effort. The extent of his "addiction" was reflected in the fact that he continued to offend even while on bail after being arrested. He will be sentenced later at Newport Crown Court.

Speaking after the hearing, detectives described how eBay customers had inundated police with complaints after being tricked by the teenager. "Initially the boy started off by selling mobile phones but then he progressed to cameras and camcorders and other electrical equipment," said Detective Constable Steve Thomas, the investigating officer.

"Once the buyers started to bid he contacted them to agree a price and a way to transfer the money. He had to supply contact details for his victims to send him money which is eventually how we tracked him down."

Det Con Thomas added: "Customers must guard against making any payment using an unsafe method like a straight bank transfer - that's just giving money over. It's better to use a safe way like credit card payment or the site's PayPal scheme where buyers put the money in a third-party account until goods have been received."

A spokesman for eBay welcomed the teenager being "brought to justice" but emphasised the website's focus on security and said it was a safe environment in which to trade.