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.
Ahead of Black Friday tomorrow – the day after the US holiday of Thanksgiving which traditionally marks the start of Christmas shopping – and Cyber Monday three days later, when online sales for Christmas are at their peak, Nottinghamshire Police is warning the public to take extra care shopping online.
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Fiona Price, a force fraud and cyber protect officer, said: “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.
“Use a payment method that offers buyer protection, such as PayPal, or a credit card, as most major credit card providers will help you get your money back if the item is faulty or damaged, or 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.
“Finally, watch out for phishing emails or texts. Some 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. 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, almost £2.5m was lost to criminals – an average loss of almost £550 per victim.
Shoppers reported buying phones, electronics, vehicles, clothing and footwear on sites such as Facebook, Ebay and Gumtree, only to have the items never arrive.
Pauline Smith, Action Fraud director, said: “Christmas is a busy time, but sadly, criminals see this is as an ideal opportunity to take advantage of shoppers caught up in the excitement of securing a bargain.
“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 – takefive-stopfraud.org.uk – 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 at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.