THE dangers of online shopping were highlighted when a man was yesterday convicted of using eBay to cheat customers.

Wayne O'Boyle took £5,000 from victims by advertising electrical goods he did not have on the internet auction site.

Judge John Walford, at Teesside Crown Court, said: "It strikes at the heart of the internet auction system.

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"What he did is too easy for anyone with half a brain and a degree of cunning."

The 27-year-old, from Marton Road, Middlesbrough, used bogus names, email addresses and telephone numbers so customers could not trace him.

The items he advertised over four months included a television that sold for £820, and digital boxes for £213 and £107.

Rupert Doswell, in mitigation, said O'Boyle began by buying items on eBay, then selling items, and it led to him selling goods before he got them and then finding that he could not get them.

The court was told that O'Boyle has saved £1,000 to start repaying his victims and will soon return to work after counselling for depression.

Judge Walford said: "You have embarked over four months on what is fraudulent trading, and it is something that is so easy for someone who is unscrupulous to do.

"The trouble is that people go on eBay thinking that they are dealing with people of good faith who are offering items for sale and, in your case, they were not.

"This sort of activity that you embarked upon has to be deterred."

O'Boyle pleaded guilty to 11 charges of obtaining money by deception between September and December last year. The judge deferred sentence for six months with conditions that O'Boyle returns to work, saves the total of £4,992, and becomes fit to carry out unpaid work for the community.

A spokesman for eBay said the company worked closely with police to provide evidence needed to secure convictions.

He said: "Last year alone, we helped secure 200 arrests and over 70 guilty verdicts."

The principal trading standards official for Stockton, Jimmy Jones, said: "We do get complaints, often about non-delivery and counterfeit items, and have investigations ongoing."

Phillip Holman, the head of trading standards in County Durham, said: "It is very difficult to guard against this sort of thing. If we receive a complaint about something like this, we pass it straight on to the police."