Scam online shopping bargains which were ‘too good to be true’ cost shoppers £15.4 million over the Christmas period last year.
New data from Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime, reveals that 28,049 shoppers were conned out of their money when shopping online over the Christmas period last year – an increase of almost two thirds (61 per cent) when compared to the same period in the previous year.
In the run up to Christmas, Action Fraud is warning the public to take extra care when shopping online as reports of online shopping fraud have continued to surge as shoppers continue to buy from web based retailers in light of the pandemic.
Pauline Smith, Director of Action Fraud, said:
“Christmas is an incredibly busy time for us all but sadly, criminals will see this is as an ideal opportunity to take advantage of shoppers who are caught up in the excitement of securing a bargain online.
“If you think you have found a bargain that is too good to be true, it probably is. Stop and think before making a purchase as it could protect you and your money.
“Always shop with official retailers and follow our simple advice to enjoy shopping online safely and ensure you are not left empty handed this Christmas.”
During the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sale events last year (23 November – 6 December 2020), almost £2.5 million was lost to criminals – an average loss of almost £550 per victim.
Shoppers reported buying mobile phones (26 per cent), electronics (17 per cent), vehicles (10 per cent) and clothing and footwear (8 per cent) on sites such as Facebook (18 per cent), eBay (14 per cent) and Gumtree (7 per cent), only to have the items never arrive.
Over half (54 per cent) of reports that mentioned electronics referenced popular game consoles such as Xbox and PlayStation 5.
The highest percentage of reports (27 per cent) came from 20 to 29 year olds and over two thirds (68 per cent) of victims were aged 20 to 49 years old.
One common tactic used to defraud victims is the use of fake websites that are purporting to be reputable companies. These websites are created to look identical to the real website they are imitating and will advertise items but at a much cheaper price than retail price to entice victims. In reality, these websites are fake and the victim will never receive the item they have paid for.
How to protect yourself
Choosing where you shop: If you are making a purchase from a website or person you don’t know and trust, carry out some research first. Look online for reviews of the website or person you are buying from. If you are purchasing an item from an online marketplace, you can view the seller’s feedback history before going ahead with the purchase.
Payment method: Use a payment method that offers buyer protection, such as a credit card if you have one, as most major credit card providers will help you get your money back if the item is faulty or damaged, or if it never arrives.
Staying secure online: 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. You should also enable two-factor authentication (2FA), where possible, which gives your online account additional protection by double checking that you really are the person you claim to be, when logging in. For further information about how to stay secure online, visit www.cyberaware.gov.uk.
Watch out for phishing emails or texts: Some of the emails or texts you receive about amazing offers may contain links to fake websites. If you are unsure, don't use the link and visit the website directly instead. If you receive an email you’re not quite sure about, you can report it by forwarding the email to the Suspicious Email Reporting Service at [email protected]. You can report suspicious texts you have received by forwarding the original message to 7726, which spells SPAM on your keypad. You can report suspicious websites via the National Cyber Security Centre’s scam website reporting service.
Action Fraud also advises that the public follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign to keep themselves safe from fraud.
- Stop: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
- Challenge: Could it be fake? It’s okay to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
- Protect: If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud online at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040. If you're in Scotland, you can report it to Police Scotland on 101.
For more advice, please click here here.