Shoppers are being urged to be aware of the dangers of fraud in the lead-up to Christmas, as last winter saw a 25% rise in reported shopping fraud.
According to national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre Action Fraud, 15,423 people reported being a victim of shopping fraud in the run up to Christmas in 2016. In total, more than £16 million was reported stolen, a 45% increase on 2015.
Most cases (65%) related to fraud on online auction sites, such as eBay. On average, these victims lost around £727. The most frequently reported fraudulent sales included items such as mobile phones, clothing and accessories, footwear, watches and jewellery.
Pop-icon items such as Yeezy trainers, Kylie Jenner make-up, hair dryers, drones and Fitbit watches have also become a “trending” fraudulent sale item according to Action Fraud.
The City of London Police’s commander Dave Clark, the national co-ordinator for economic crime, comments: “Christmas is a busy time of year when we are required to make several quick decisions, especially when it comes to present buying. Our fraud awareness campaign is highlighting that it is very much ‘the thought that counts’ especially when it comes to avoiding fraudsters.
“Fraudsters see the Christmas rush as an ideal opportunity to take advantage of people’s generosity without a single care about the consequences this may cause for the victim.
“With a sharp rise in fraud reporting at Christmas time it is more important than ever that people do everything they can to protect themselves from fraudsters stopping them from enjoying the holiday season at the expense of others.”
'Think before you buy'
Action Fraud has some key tips for protecting yourself from becoming the victim of shopping fraud this Christmas:
- Think before you buy: If something seems too much of a bargain, it’s probably poor quality, fake or doesn’t exist.
- Never click on unsolicited emails or text messages. Criminals can use the technology to make emails or texts look like they come from a legitimate business or organisation.
- If you’re buying tickets, always buy from official sources and never pay by direct transfer.
- If you’re buying a holiday online, research it thoroughly to ensure that is a genuine offer and check to make sure it is registered with ABTA and ATOL.
- Think when you're buying: Use methods such as PayPal when buying on auction sites; never transfer money to someone you don’t know.
- Secure Wi-Fi is vital for your privacy. Check that the network you’re using is secure before you make any financial transactions.
- Keep your purchases secure: Always ensure that you keep your anti-virus software, operating systems and other security measures are up-to-date on your electronic devices. Take a Tech Free 15 minute break to protect your devices.
- Create strong passwords that are unique for each account you have. A good way to create a strong and memorable password is to use three random words. See How to create a password to give you peace of mind.
If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, contact your financial provider immediately, and notify Action Fraud via its website or by calling 0300 123 2040.