RESIDENTS across Essex have been warned after a spike in reports of fraudsters using Facebook Messenger to carry out their scams which have left victims £44,000 out of pocket.

Essex Trading Standards has issued the warning following a rise in incidents.

It sees the recipient get messages through Facebook Messenger from friends/family requesting to use their PayPal account.

The messages asks them to receive funds from the sale of items on eBay.

In June and July Action Fraud had 95 reports made to them, which specifically mention that the item sold was a camera.

An Essex Trading Standards spokesman said: "Messages are sent by fraudsters purporting to be friends/family stating that they have sold a camera on eBay but that they are unable to process the payment as they either do not have a PayPal account or because their PayPal account is not working.

"The request is that the message recipient receives the funds into their own PayPal account, then, after transferring it into their own bank account, they forward it onto an account controlled by the fraudster.

"If the victim agrees the payment is transferred into their PayPal account but, after the money is transferred out, the initial transaction is reversed leaving the account in negative balance.

"Multiple reports have also been received from victims stating that their Facebook Messenger accounts have been hacked and that these fraudulent messages have been sent to all their contacts on their behalf.

"The total reported loss for these reports is £44,035."

What you need to do if you get a message:

  • Verify financial requests: Be wary of unusual messages asking for assistance with financial transactions. Even if the message appears to be from someone you know and trust, you should check it’s really them that sent the message by calling them or speaking with them in person.
  • Unusual financial requests: Never respond to any requests to send money, or have money transferred through your account, by someone you don’t know and trust.
  • Secure your accounts: You can protect your important online accounts by using a strong separate password and, where available, turn on two- factor authentication (2FA).
  • If you have made a payment: Inform your bank, or payment service provider, such as PayPal, as soon as possible. They can help you prevent any further losses. You should also monitor your bank statements regularly for any unusual activity.

Report all scams to via 0808 223 1133.