Action Fraud is warning the public to take extra care when shopping online, ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, as shoppers search for bargains and gifts for loved ones in the run up to Christmas.
Action Fraud launched its #FraudFreeXmas campaign with a stark warning about ‘too good to be true’ Black Friday deals. Figures reveal reports of online shopping fraud have surged by 30% over the pandemic as many of us continue to shop online in light of current restrictions.
Figures from Action Fraud show that criminals conned 17,405 shoppers out of almost £13.5 million over the Christmas period last year, an increase of over 20% when compared to the same period in 2018.
Pauline Smith, Head of Action Fraud, said:
“Christmas is an incredibly busy time for us all. Many shoppers get caught up in the excitement of Black Friday, so it can be easy to rush into making a quick purchase online to secure a bargain.
“Unfortunately, criminals will see this as an ideal opportunity to take advantage of shoppers and will tempt them with the promise of cheap deals.
“We advise that you’re cautious of where and who you’re buying from. Our figures show that most scams last year involved mobile phones and electronics, so always shop with official retailers and don’t be enticed by deals that seem too good to be true. Where possible, use a credit card when shopping online as this will offer you more protection if anything goes wrong.
“Follow our simple advice to enjoy shopping online safely and ensure you’re not left empty handed this Christmas.”
During Black Friday and Cyber Monday sale events last year (25th November 2019 – 8th December 2019), over £3 million was lost to criminals as shoppers reported buying mobile phones (15%), vehicles (9%) and electronics (8%), on sites such as Facebook, eBay and Gumtree, only to have the items never arrive.
Over half of victims were male (55%) aged 20 to 29 (19%) residing in cities including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Nottingham, Leeds and Bristol.
This year, Action Fraud will highlight a different type of fraud, and provide important protect advice, every week during December to prevent people from getting conned out of the Christmas they deserve, starting with online shopping and auction fraud ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
To protect yourself from falling victim to online shopping or auction fraud, remember the following:
Choosing where you shop: If you’re 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’re buying from. If you’re 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’re 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@example.com. You can report suspicious texts you have received by forwarding the original message to 7726, which spells SPAM on your keypad.
When things go wrong: Anyone can fall victim to fraud. 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.