Christmas shoppers urged to stay safe online

November 26th 2018

This Christmas, Action Fraud is reminding shoppers to take extra care when shopping for gifts online. As consumers search online for bargains and gifts for loved ones, fraudsters are seeing this as an opportunity to trick people with the promise of great deals and big cash savings.

  •  Online shopping fraud has increased by 24% during the Christmas period* between 2015 and 2018.
  •  Over 15,000 reports of online shopping fraud were made to Action Fraud during the 2017/18 Christmas period.
  •  Victims reported losing more than £11 million in total.

The latest report by Action Fraud shows that fraudsters conned 15,024 shoppers out of more than £11 million over the Christmas period last year.

People are being defrauded on popular social media websites and online auction sites. Action Fraud works together with online selling platforms including Gumtree to combat fraud and to issue protect advice to consumers.

Mobile phones were once again the most common item that people tried to buy from fraudsters. Victims reported being hooked in with bargain deals on some of the most popular models of smart phones, only for the phone to never actually arrive and leaving them without presents to give on Christmas Day. Apple iPhones accounted for 74% of all mobile phones purchased that turned out to be fraudulent.

Electrical goods (including games consoles), household items, computers, clothing, and accessories also featured in many of the reports. Examples including Fingerling toys, UGG Boots and Apple MacBooks were among the most popular items victims reported losing money to fraudsters on.

Last year, more than 30% of reports were made by women aged between 20 and 29, however anyone can fall victim to Christmas shopping fraudsters during the festive period.

This year’s campaign urges all shoppers to look out for the warning signs that mean an offer may be too good to be true. Action Fraud will provide useful fraud and cybercrime prevention tips throughout December to stop people from getting conned out of the Christmas they deserve.

Don’t get caught out by the Christmas rush

  • If something seems too much of a bargain, it’s probably poor quality, fake or doesn’t exist.
  • Don’t pay for goods or services by bank transfer unless you know and trust the person. Payments via bank transfer offer you no protection if you become a victim of fraud.
  • Make sure you’ve installed the latest software and app updates. Criminals use weaknesses in software to attack your devices and steal information, such as your payment details.
  • Use a strong, separate password and two-factor authentication (2FA) to protect your email account. Criminals can use your email to access other online accounts, such as those you use for online shopping.
  • Don’t click on a link in an unexpected email or text. The volume of online shopping related phishing emails increases during the holiday period. Remember, if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Every report matters – if you have been a victim of fraud, report it to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040.

Detective Chief Superintendent Pete O’Doherty of the City of London Police, said: Unfortunately, at what is an expensive time of year for many, the internet has provided fraudsters with a platform to lure people in with the promise of cheap deals.

“Our report shows that fraudsters will stop at nothing for financial gain during the festive period, which is why we are working hard together with our partners to highlight the threat and to prevent people from falling victim.

“To stop fraudsters in their tracks, be cautious of where and from whom you’re buying, especially if it is technology at a reduced price.

“Follow our simple advice so that your presents can be enjoyed by friends and family and not lost to fraudsters, and if you think you have been a victim of online shopping fraud, report it to us.”

Tony Neate, CEO of Get Safe Online commented: “Christmas can be a really busy and often stressful time, so it can be easy to rush into making a quick purchase online to secure a must have gift or bargain without taking the time to check that everything is as it seems.

“But, taking a couple of minutes to familiarise yourself with a few simple online safety tips can be the difference between getting all your shopping done in time and becoming a victim of online fraud.

“Really simple steps such a paying via a credit card over a bank transfer or only using reputable shopping sites can make a big difference towards protecting yourself online this Christmas.”

*Christmas period measured from November to February


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