Scotland business

Coronavirus: Online tool to target fake testing kits

Man making purchase online Image copyright Getty Images

An online tool has been updated to pick up fake testing kits, illicit homemade sanitiser and "miracle" coronavirus cures on sale on eBay.

The free checker is designed to warn online shoppers of potential high-risk purchases before they buy.

It has already been embedded on the websites of Trading Standards Scotland and national consumer advice service consumeradvice.scot.

It aims to stop illicit sellers from "taking advantage" of consumers.

The checker, created by Edinburgh-based Vistalworks, allows users to paste in an eBay listing URL in order to get an indication of whether a product is legitimate or not.

Vistalworks said its consumer protection software was developed in conjunction with Police Scotland, HMRC and Trading Standards Scotland.

It has also developed a Chrome browser plugin which allows online shoppers to hover over any eBay UK listing to see if it is a potential high-risk purchase.

Vistalworks said information from its own analysts and Trading Standards Scotland was being used to create "coronavirus-specific" updates to its software.

The checker is currently restricted to eBay, but Vistalworks plans to extend it to other platforms, including Amazon and Facebook.

Image copyright Vistalworks
Image caption Vistalworks boss Vicky Brock says she expects more illicit sellers will try to take advantage of worried consumers

Vistalworks chief executive Vicky Brock said: "With consumers' anxiety about the seriousness of coronavirus growing, and mainstream retailers' supply chains taking unprecedented stress, we know there will be a significant rise in the number of illicit sellers trying to take advantage of worried consumers.

"We've already seen this in the online marketplace listings we monitor.

"To tackle these emerging threats, we've updated our eBay checker to pick up fake testing kits, illicit homemade sanitiser, and a whole array of 'miracle' cures, including specific items which our analysts and Trading Standards Scotland have become aware of in the last weeks."