Action Fraud is warning the public to remain vigilant and take extra care when shopping online.
Despite retail and non-essential shops re-opening across the UK, many of us continue to shop online. Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime, is warning the public to remain vigilant and take extra care online, after statistics show 16,352* people fell victim to online shopping and auction fraud during lockdown.
Since shops were forced to close due to the coronavirus outbreak on 23 March, Action Fraud has received reports of online shopping fraud totalling £16.6million* in losses.
Members of the public have reported buying mobile phones (19%), vehicles (22%), electronics (10%) such as games consoles, AirPods and MacBooks , and footwear (4%) on sites such as eBay (18%), Facebook (18%), Gumtree (10%) and Depop (6%), only to have the items never arrive.
Nearly a quarter of victims (24%) were aged 18 to 26 residing in cities including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool, Bristol and Nottingham.
Pauline Smith, Head of Action Fraud, said:
“The global outbreak of coronavirus has seen all our lives turn upside down. With the lockdown being introduced, so many more people are now online shopping, including those who have never done so before. It is therefore unsurprising that there has therefore been an increase in fraud being committed.
“However, we are still seeing young people in their 20’s falling victim the most. This has been the case for the last 18 months which implies this is not just a trend brought about because of coronavirus. We would make a plea to this group to take extra care when shopping online.
“It’s important to shop on sites you know and trust. If you’re using a site you’ve not used before, do your research and check reviews before making a purchase. Always be wary of emails, texts and social media posts that offer products for considerably less than their normal price – this is a common tactic used by criminals. Where possible, use a credit card to make online purchases as this will offer you more protection if anything goes wrong.”
Ben Russell, Deputy Director at the National Economic Crime Centre, said:
“We are working with our partners in policing, government and the private sector to look at ways to design out fraud and help protect the public. But we all have a part to play in preventing fraud, and a big part of this is down to our own vigilance. When buying from another person online, don’t send money upfront, use a credit card if possible and remember, if something looks too good to be true, it probably is.”
To protect yourself from falling victim to online shopping or auction fraud, remember the following:
Where to shop
- If you’re making a purchase from a company or seller you don’t know and trust, carry out some research first and ask a friend or family member for advice before completing the purchase.
- Use a strong, separate password for your email account. Criminals can use your email to access other online accounts, such as those you use for online shopping.
- Some of the emails or texts you receive about amazing offers may contain links to fake websites. Not all links are bad, but, if you’re unsure, don't use the link and type the website directly into your browser instead.
- If you decide to go ahead with the purchase, use a credit card if you have one. Other payment providers may not provide the same protection.
Do your research
- For more information on how to shop online safely visit actionfraud.police.uk/shoponlinesafely.
- If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, report it to Action Fraud online at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.