New data from Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud and cyber-crime, reveals that 28,049 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.
Action Fraud is warning the public to take extra care when shopping online as reports of online shopping fraud have continued to surge as shoppers continue to buy from web based retailers in light of the pandemic.
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.
E-cards are gaining popularity as they are cheaper and easier to send than the traditional Christmas cards via the post, but they do come with risks as fraudsters use e-cards as a method for delivering malware. Clicking on a link to an e-card could result in viruses being downloaded and your personal and financial information being stolen. Always check that you recognise the sender of the e-card and if so, contact them directly to verify it is actually from them, as their email account could have been hacked. Make sure your anti-virus software is kept up-to-date.
The Chartered Trading Standards Institute has raised concerns about on-line purchases of toys. Research carried out by the British Toy and Hobby Association (BTHA) has revealed that nearly half of the toys purchased from third-party sellers via on-line marketplaces were unsafe for children, and an even bigger proportion were illegal to sell in the UK. BTHA has produced a consumer tips guide available on their website: About – Toy Safety.
Action Fraud’s advice on how to protect yourself
Choosing where you shop: 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.
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 are 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. You can report suspicious websites via the National Cyber Security Centre’s scam website reporting service.
Christmas Charity Fraud
Another common Fraud at this time of year is Charity Fraud, data from Action Fraud reveals that £1.6m of the public’s money was lost to online charity fraud over the past year.
The call for the public to give safely this Christmas is being co-ordinated by the Fundraising Regulator – the body which oversees charitable fundraising in the UK. It is encouraging the public to take steps to protect themselves online, particularly as the nation approaches the festive period, during which appeals for charitable donations increase.
The campaign is urging members of the public to conduct some simple checks before giving to charity, to make sure their donations reach the intended recipient. This includes:
- Check the charity name and its registration number on the Charity Commission website to find out whether the charity is legitimate.
- Use the Fundraising Regulator’s online Directory to find out whether a charity has registered with it and committed to excellent fundraising.
- Look out for the Fundraising Badge on charity marketing materials – when people see it, they can have confidence in charity’s fundraising.
- Ask questions about the cause – if people are still unsure about giving, they should always ask for more information. Legitimate causes will be happy to respond.
Christmas Workplace Fraud
Organisations can also be victims of fraud around the Christmas period, here are some of things to be aware of.
- As staffing levels drop over Christmas some unscrupulous suppliers/contractors may see this as an opportunity to try and slip things past you. Ensure all staff (especially temporary staff) are aware of what checks need to be made and why they are so important.
- Always check again who you are dealing with if a supplier gives you their changed bank account details. Make sure staff (especially temporary staff) are made aware of mandate fraud and how to prevent it.
- The UK has one of the highest rates of CV fraud in the world. Fraudsters will use seasonal demands for part-time staff/agency workers etc. to slip through pre-employment screening.
- Fraudsters hit at Christmas and peak holiday seasons, hoping to get past checking and authorisation controls…check drops in staffing levels do not open opportunities for fraud.
- If a supplier gives you a gift this Christmas, remind yourself and your staff of your organisation’s Gifts and Hospitality policy, it could be a bribe.
For further information contact