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It's the thought that counts: Buyers urged to think as Christmas shopping fraud reports rise

21st November 2017

  • Action Fraud Christmas shopping reports rise by over a quarter in 2016
  • 15,423 people reported being a victim of shopping fraud
  • Online auction fraud accounted for 65% of reports
  • Victims reported losing over £16 million in total, 45% more than the year before

This Christmas the City of London Police, who run Action Fraud, and supported by police forces across the country, are launching a campaign to help prevent people from becoming victims of shopping and auction fraud, as well as other types of fraud which people fall victim to during the seasonal period. From today and throughout the Christmas period, the City of London Police will be reminding Christmas shoppers that ‘It's the thought that counts’ at Christmas time and the importance of thinking about potential fraudsters and how to avoid them.

New figures released today show that last year, victims reported losing nearly £16 million to Christmas shopping fraudsters, increasing from £10 million lost the year before. Action Fraud reports rose by 25% when comparing the Christmas period in 2016 with the same period in 2015. Analysis of last year’s crimes also shows that 65% of crimes at Christmas were linked to online auctions sites, with the average loss for these reports coming in at £727.

Trending items victims reported losing out to fraudsters on included Yeezy trainers, Kylie Jenner make-up, hair dryers, drones and Fitbit watches.

Mobiles phones continue to be the most likely thing that people try to buy from fraudsters, with clothing and accessories second on the list and footwear shooting up from sixth to third place. Watches have also over taken jewellery and are now more commonly offered by fraudsters.

Although it is possible for anyone to fall victim to Christmas shopping fraudsters, last year over 13 percent of reports were made by men aged 20-29.

This year’s campaign is asking people to slow down when they are doing their Christmas shopping so that they are able to not only think about the gifts they are purchasing, but who they are purchasing them from. By making a rush purchase it could be the case that they are simply paying into the hands of a fraudster. A series of videos will be a released over the seasonal period which show how one small mistake can result in a Christmas without gifts.

City of London Police analyses all Action Fraud reports and tries to prevent more people falling victim to fraud by requesting the suspension of the websites, bank accounts and phone lines that fraudsters use to commit their crimes. Last year 658 websites, emails addresses and telephone numbers were disrupted during the Christmas period.

The City of London Police’s Commander Dave Clark, the National Co-ordinator for Economic Crime said:

“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

  • 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 like 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.
  • 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.