Christmas is approaching, and a growing number of shoppers are purchasing this year’s gifts online. However, new data from Action Fraud shows that the percentage of fraudulent online transactions (and the total amount of money lost each year) is on the rise.
According to the newly released data for 2016, more than 15,000 people lost an estimated £16 million due to online fraud in last year’s Christmas shopping season, with men aged from 20 to 29 the most frequently targeted victims.
The total amount stolen in fraudulent online auctions, misleading sales and other scams is up 45% compared to the same period in 2015, indicating that online fraudsters are making bigger moves during each year’s Christmas shopping period.
Some of the most commonly targeted transactions include online auction purchases, in which fraudsters commonly ripped off consumers by selling fake products. Drones, designer sneakers and high-end makeup were among the most commonly counterfeited products sold online.
On average, victims lost as much as £727 from each fraudulent transaction, indicating that both the scale of the problem and the amount being taken from each victim can be significant.
Action Fraud, which is operated by the City of London Police, believes that this year’s Christmas shopping season could be a particularly lucrative period for fraudsters, as well as a challenging one for consumers.
Police Commander Dave Clark stated “Christmas is a busy time of year when we are required to make several quick decisions, especially when it comes to prevent buying.”
“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.”
Along with the product categories listed above, City of London police have listed mobile phones as items that are commonly used in fraudulent schemes. Consumers often purchase technology from online auctions, only to receive different items from the ones they expected.
Designer sneakers, such as the Yeezy footwear range, are also common items sold by online fraudsters. Action Fraud has recommended avoiding online sales and auctions where an item’s price “seems cheaper than expected” or “too good to be true.”
Other fraud prevention tips for consumers include using PayPal to pay for goods purchased on online auction websites, as this allows for a quick and easy refund if the goods sold aren’t what they’re supposed to be. Consumers should also avoid transferring money directly to strangers.
When purchasing tickets, consumers are recommended to only ever buy them directly from an official source and never pay by direct transfer. The City of London Police also recommend that consumers check holiday deal sellers for ABTA and ATOL registration before spending money.
Other potential hazards include email phishing schemes designed to steal login data, which can be reported online to Action Fraud.