Shoppers should beware of online “bargains” that are actually scams, fraud experts have warned ahead of Black Friday.
Scam online shopping bargains which were ‘too good to be true’ cost shoppers £15.4 million over the Christmas period last year, according to new data.
Action Fraud, the UK’s reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime, has revealed almost 30,000 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.
It is likely many more people were conned as victims often feel too embarrassed or upset to admit that they have been scammed.
Ahead of tomorrow’s Black Friday event and Cyber Monday three days later, Nottinghamshire Police is warning the public to take extra care when shopping online.
Fiona Price, a fraud and cyber protect officer at the force, said: “There are a number of ways shoppers can mitigate the risk of falling victim to scams this Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
“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. Online Marketplaces generally don’t facilitate payment or delivery of your items, so we recommend not paying in advance, taking screenshots and checking out the persons profile before arranging to meet them.
“Use a payment method that offers buyer protection, such as PayPal, or 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. If a seller asks you to pay in gift cards, it’s a scam.
“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.
“Finally, 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. Be aware of phishing emails and texts purporting to be from couriers such as Royal Mail and DPD. These tend to increase during busy online shopping periods.”
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.
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.”
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.
For more advice, visit: https://takefive-stopfraud.org.uk/