LV= uses cookies to give you the best experience online and to provide anonymised, aggregated site usage data. You can find out what cookies we use and how you can disable them in our Cookie Policy. By continuing to use our website, you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy unless you have disabled them.

skip to main content

Catch up with the latest press releases from LV=

Large green heart

Black Market Xmas

Press release: 03/12/2009

  • Brits to spend £132 million online on ‘black market goods’ this Christmas

  • One in twelve shoppers using online auction sites have fallen victim to criminals selling stolen or counterfeit goods

  • iPods, mobile phones and electronics most likely to be fenced online

  • One in four shoppers fail to make checks into the seller’s background

  • Experts warn that China, Romania and Nigeria are common online black market hotspots

  • Counterfeit or stolen items are not covered by insurance and buying these items encourages crimes like burglary and theft

This Christmas will see a boom in Brits buying presents on the black market, spending £132 million [1] on stolen or counterfeit goods in the process.

Research from home insurer LV= reveals that one in three shoppers (35%) plan to use online auction sites and marketplaces on the hunt for bargains for friends and family. Four in ten [2] say they are happy to turn a blind eye to potentially stolen goods if the price is right.

Experts say that background checks are vital when shopping through online independent sellers, with one in twelve shoppers previously falling victim to criminals selling stolen or fake goods. Items commonly sold on by thieves include mobile phones, laptops and iPods [3]. DVDs, computer games and perfume are some of the most popular counterfeits, and could be unusable or unsafe.

Value for money is the top priority for over half of shoppers (52%) this Christmas, who said cost comes first over the legality and legitimacy of the goods they are buying.

As a result one in four (25%) bargain hunters will not make any checks into a seller’s online feedback before making a purchase. Close to eight out of ten people (78%) will not ask any questions about the background of the item for sale.

According to experts, the countries with a reputation for selling on counterfeit goods include China – one of the most popular with online buyers – plus Nigeria and Romania [4].

Anything stolen or counterfeit will not be covered by a home insurance policy so shoppers buying these goods could find themselves or their family out of pocket. Furthermore, buying from these sellers encourages further criminal activity such as burglary and theft.

John O’Roarke, managing director of LV= home insurance, said: “Christmas is coming and, with many people continuing to feel the impact of the recession, it’s not surprising that shoppers are hunting for the best deals online. What this research shows is that there is a huge market for stolen and counterfeit items on the internet and buyers should be wary of deals that look too good to be true.

“Anyone purchasing these goods is also encouraging further crime such as burglary and theft. We urge shoppers to think twice and take steps to ensure they are not buying stolen or counterfeit goods and thereby encouraging the black market.”

LV= offers the following advice to avoid ‘black market’ goods:

  • Carefully check the description and photographs of the item online and compare with other examples for sale.

  • Check if the price is similar to other sellers, and if it is much lower be suspicious.

  • When buying a designer item, such as a watch or bag, check that you are getting all the extras such as the box and certificate of authenticity.

  • If you are buying a designer watch, check that the number engraved on the watch itself matches the number on the certificate of authenticity.

  • If buying expensive items, avoid private sellers and buy from registered UK businesses. These are by law required to provide an address and phone number.

  • When dealing with private sellers, ask for a name and check they have working contact details before you part with any money and always check their online 'feedback'.

  • Avoid any seller who asks for payment only by cash or by moneygram type services.

  • Check if there’s a refund and returns policy – all legitimate UK businesses have to offer refunds and returns.

  • If you're dealing with an independent private seller, ask about their refund policy and get this in writing so you are less vulnerable in the event of the item being damaged, stolen or counterfeit.

  • Use online reviews and reputation sites to check out sellers.

  • Pay by credit card or take advantage of protection schemes provided by online payment suppliers. You will then be protected if the goods do not arrive or turn out to be fakes.

  • One of the biggest risks of ending up with stolen or counterfeit goods is when purchasing from abroad. Be particularly cautious when buying from China, Nigeria and Romania.

For more information, log on to

Notes to Editors:

Opinium Research carried out an online poll of 2308 UK adults aged 18 and over from 6th – 10th November 2009. Results have been weighted to nationally representative criteria.


LV= is a registered trademark of Liverpool Victoria Friendly Society Limited (LVFS) and a trading style of the Liverpool Victoria group of companies.

LV= employs more than 3,800 people, serves over 3.6m customers and members, and manages around £7bn on their behalf. We are also the UK's largest friendly society and a leading mutual financial services provider.

Liverpool Victoria Friendly Society Limited (LVFS) is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority, register number. 110035. LVFS is a member of the ABI, AMI, AFS and ILAG. Registered address: County Gates, Bournemouth BH1 2NF.

[1] According to the Opinium research, 33% of the adult population will buy from independent sellers this Christmas (therefore 16,094,760) spending on average £103. The findings show of all those who have bought from independent sellers, 8% of people have later found their goods to be counterfeit or stolen. Therefore if the probability of buying a stolen or counterfeit item on the internet is 0.08, Brits will spend 132,620,822 on counterfeit and stolen goods this Christmas.
[2] According to the Opinium research, 40% of those who buy from independent sellers say they are more interested in value for money than where something comes from
[3] According to online auction site expert Dan Wilson.
[4] According to online auction site expert Dan Wilson.