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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 October, 2004, 06:14 GMT 07:14 UK
Boy's eBay con nets 45,000
eBay has safety measures in place to protect users
Police have issued a warning to users of internet auction sites after a teenage fraudster conned eBay customers to fund a luxury lifestyle.

The 17-year-old from Pontypool, south Wales, built up 45,000 in various bank accounts by offering goods for sale that did not exist.

He treated himself to weekends in New York, and hired stretch limousines for nights out with friends.

He also bought designer clothes, expensive gadgets, and a quad bike.

Cwmbran youth court heard that, when police raided his home, they found top-of-the-range computers, hi-fi equipment, and flat-screen TVs.

Gwent Police have now issued a warning to users of internet auction sites to make sure they use make use of security measures to avoid losing their money.

They want buyers to use secure ways of paying and to follow safety advice given by the sites.

Detective Constable Steve Thomas, who led the investigation, said it was sometimes difficult to monitor security on such sites, and some people had not received property for which they had paid.

"Customers must guard against making any payment using an unsafe method like a straight bank transfer," he said. "That's literally just giving money over".

He said it was better to use other methods such as a credit card payment or the site's PayPal scheme.

Internet auctions attract millions every day
After he was arrested, the teenager told police he had been "living the good life" with the money he had taken off unwitting customers.

He said he could not stop defrauding his victims because he was addicted to the eBay website, and it "gave him a buzz."

Magistrates heard that the boy - who cannot be named because of his age - used the proceeds of his scam to fly to New York with two friends.

They stayed at a five-star hotel overlooking Times Square and took a helicopter ride over Manhattan.

He was always dressed in expensive designer clothes and loved to buy the latest electronic gadgets.

He could not drive, so he hired stretch limos to take his friends on nights out.

But police were alerted by eBay customers who had been conned by the teenager.

He was arrested and freed on police bail while an investigation was carried out.

The court heard he had advertised mobile phones, computer consoles, cameras, and camcorders for sale - none of which had ever been in his possession.

Prosecutor Peter Moore said: "He set up three bank accounts to handle cash, which he obtained via bank transfer. But he was not content with taking people's money - he later taunted them by e-mailing them with details of how he'd spent it."

The court heard the boy duped more than 100 eBay customers over 13 months. One victim lost 2,500.

The boy admitted 21 charges of fraud amounting to 16,105 and asked for a further 64 offences - amounting to 28,860 - to be taken into consideration.

Magistrates decided they did not have enough power to deal with the boy and he will be sentenced at Newport Crown Court next month.

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