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Online Crime is Coming to Town; victims of online shopping fraud lost £16 million to cyber crooks last Christmas

23rd November 2015

This Christmas, Action Fraud, the City of London Police and Get Safe Online are joining forces to launch a national campaign warning people that online crime is most definitely coming to town. 

This is in light of figures from last Christmas which show that individuals and businesses reported losing £16,426,989 to online fraudsters through online shopping and auction fraud . This is a 42% increase in total financial loss compared with the 2013 festive period where £9,522,491 was lost by victims. 

Last year’s report shows that the most common time for victims to initially make contact with the fraudster was on 28 November- Black Friday (221 victims) and 1 December - Cyber Monday (205 victims), as people head online to try and bag the best festive bargains out there. This serves as a warning to consumers to be extra vigilant on these key Christmas shopping days as online fraudsters are watching and waiting to capitalise on the biggest shopping frenzies of the year. 

Black Friday and Cyber Monday aren’t the only days fraudsters are taking advantage of, they also make the most of last minute shoppers; 220 people said they were stung by fraudsters between 20-23 December last year when they were trying to buy last minute presents. 

The most common item being bought and sold by victims and fraudsters were mobile phones. People reported trying to get good deals on some of the most popular models of smart phones, but what they thought was going to be a bargain never actually arrived leaving them without presents to give on Christmas day. Others reported being defrauded whilst trying to buy footwear, clothing, watches, gaming consoles, computers, furniture and home electricals. 

People across the country were hit by online shopping and auction fraud, with the most victims living in London and the West Midlands. 

In light of these worrying statistics, on Monday 23 November the City of London Police, Action Fraud and Get Safe Online will be launching a national fraud prevention campaign which will be supported by police forces across the country. 

The campaign will last for 10 working days and will provide practical fraud and cyber crime protection tips which aim to prevent people from getting conned out of the Christmas that they deserve.

Police National Coordinator for Economic Crime, Commander Chris Greany said: “This Christmas we want everyone to think about their online activity, especially when they are about to buy something over the internet. When it comes to online shopping if something looks like it is a great bargain it’s probably poor quality, fake or doesn’t even exist. 

“Fraudsters and online criminals are relentless and will stop at nothing, giving absolutely no thought as to whether you and your family are left without presents at Christmas time. The fact that victims lost 42% more money last year compared to the year before suggests that fraudsters are making gains and are taking every opportunity they can during the festive period.

“The aim of this campaign is to provide advice which will help people to protect themselves and ensure that they don’t get conned out of Christmas”. 

Tony Neate, CEO, Get Safe Online commented: “It never fails to surprise me how cruel and shameless online criminals can be over the festive season, working as hard as they can to con people out of their presents and purchases. Christmas should be a happy time! In the last few years, we have seen the numbers for online crime at Christmas go up and up, particularly as the hype around Black Friday and Cyber Monday bargains keeps getting bigger. 

“Working with Action Fraud and the City of London police, we are hoping this campaign will highlight how people and businesses need to be extra cautious when grabbing those deals online – simple steps like double checking to see if the website and product is legitimate before making a payment, and also looking for any customer reviews which often act as a good touch point for safe online shopping. If you feel like something is suspicious, it probably is, so it’s always better to be safe than sorry.  

“By working together, we can hopefully stop online crime coming to town this Christmas, and make sure next year, online crime goes on the decrease.”

To report a fraud and receive a police crime reference number, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use our online fraud reporting tool.

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