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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
NHS Test and Trace service is now in operation. You may be contacted by the Service if: ▪️You have tested positive for Coronavirus or ▪️You have been in contact with a person who has tested positive for Coronavirus.
Be aware of scammers taking advantage of the launch of the service.
The NHS Test and Trace service will contact you by email, text or phone. Text messages will come from the NHS. Calls will come from 0300 0135000. Children under 18 will be contacted by phone wherever possible and asked for their parent or guardian’s permission to continue the call.
On the contact tracing website, you’ll be asked for information including: ▪️your name, date of birth and postcode ▪️if you live with other people ▪️any places you’ve been recently, such as a workplace or school ▪️names and contact details of any people you were in close contact with in the 48 hours before your symptoms started (if you know these details) If you cannot use the contact tracing website, you’ll be asked for this information over the phone.
The NHS Test and Trace service will not:
▪️ask for bank details or payments ▪️ask for details of any other accounts, such as social media ▪️ask you to set up a password or PIN number over the phone ▪️ask you to call a premium rate number, such as those starting 09 or 087
Do not click links in texts or emails Do not press 1 if you are telephoned
Kent Police Cybercrime unit have received reports of a new phishing attempt purporting to be from Amazon, asking customers whether they would like to apply to the Amazon Grant relief fund, to receive a grant of up to £1,000. The recipient is asked to click on a link if they wish to be enlisted.
We have received reports of the same scam being attempted by telephone.
Because drivers are not using their vehicles during the Coronovirus restrictions, some have decided to register them as Off Road, to get Vehicle Tax and Motor Insurance refunds.
Think carefully before before submitting a Statutory Off Road Notice (SORN) but if you do decide to, use the government website, https://www.gov.uk/make-a-sorn, through which it is FREE.
Do not pay to ‘SORN’ your vehicle.
Websites may encourage you to SORN your vehicle or even claim that it is a legal requirement to SORN it if it is not being drive. They then charge to submit the notice for you and collect your personal details.
It is FREE to do it on the government website
Check before you SORN your vehicle
You cannot register your vehicle Off Road if it is used or parked on a public road. To be registered Off Road it must be stored on a private drive, in a garage or on private land.
If you cancel your motor insurance you will not be covered for damage to or theft of it. We would only recommend cancelling your insurance if you are confident that it is fully secured.
Some insurers are giving refunds or extending motor insurance policies during the ‘lock down’
Tax and Insure your vehicle before driving it
If you do decide to register it Off Road during the ‘lock down’, do remember to Tax and Insure it before you drive it. You could be fined and you vehicle seized and destroyed if you drive without tax or insurance.
Since February 2020, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has identified 21 reports of fraud where Coronavirus was mentioned, with victim losses totaling over £800k.
Of the 21 reports, ten were made by victims that attempted to purchase protective face masks from fraudulent sellers. One victim reported losing over £15k when they purchased face masks that were never delivered.
We have also received multiple reports about coronavirus-themed phishing emails attempting to trick people into opening malicious attachments or revealing sensitive personal and financial information.
One common tactic used by fraudsters is to contact potential victims over email purporting to be from research organisation’s affiliated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
They claim to be able to provide the recipient with a list of coronavirus infected people in their area. In order to access this information, the victim needs to click on a link, which leads to a malicious website, or is asked to make a payment in Bitcoin.
Reporting numbers are expected to rise as the virus continues to spread across the world.
Watch out for scam messages:
Don’t click on the links or attachments in suspicious emails, and never respond to unsolicited messages and calls that ask for your personal or financial details.
If you’re making a purchase from a company or person you don’t know and trust, carry out some research first, and ask a friend or family member for advice before completing the purchase. If you decide to go ahead with the purchase, use a credit card if you have one, as most major credit card providers insure online purchases.
For more information on how to shop online safely, please visit: https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/shoponlinesafely