Black Friday and Christmas bargain-hunters warned of online scams

By Vicky Shaw, PA Personal Finance Correspondent
·3-min read

Shoppers are being warned to watch out for scams as they scour the internet for Black Friday and Christmas deals on items such as games consoles and clothing.

With the coronavirus pandemic keeping many people away from the high street, bargain-hunters will be relying even more on online shopping.

People looking for items such as games consoles, bicycles and clothing may be at a higher risk of encountering a scam, according to intelligence from the banking and finance industry.

There has been an increase in criminals exploiting shoppers looking for these favourite Christmas gifts, according to UK Finance.

The trade association said consumers should follow the advice of the Take Five To Stop Fraud campaign, and look out for deals which sound too good to be true.

People should be wary of unverified offers and be careful about clicking on links, it said.

Criminals are also using the cover of Christmas shopping deals to roll out data harvesting scams, attempting to prompt consumers to provide details through phishing emails advertising cheap goods and by impersonating organisations and businesses.

These scams collect financial and personal information, including debit and credit card details, which is later used to commit fraud.

Social media platforms, online market places and auction websites are increasingly being used by criminals to carry out these purchase scams, where a customer pays in advance for goods or services that are never received.

More than £27 million was lost to such fraud in the first half of 2020, according to UK Finance figures, amounting to an average loss of around £720 per case.

It also warned that purchase scams may involve home improvement and DIY purchases such as patio heaters and sheds, as fraudsters adapt to more people staying at home and choosing to invest in their living environments.

Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance, said: “As consumer spending has shifted online, criminals have ruthlessly adjusted their approaches to pursue those shopping on the internet. With Black Friday (November 27) and Christmas approaching, fraudsters are again stepping up their efforts to take advantage of consumers searching for bargains.

“Intelligence from our members across the banking and finance industry shows that purchase scams are on the rise, with buyers of games consoles, bicycles and clothing at high risk – as well as those making home improvement and DIY purchases.

“The banking and finance industry is working hard to protect customers from this threat, with almost £7 in £10 of unauthorised fraud prevented in the first half of this year.

“However, we must all remain vigilant against scams. Always take a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information, and don’t let a criminal rush or panic you into making a decision that you’ll later come to regret.”

  • Stop - Think before parting with money or information

  • Challenge - Could it be fake?

  • Protect - Contact your bank or Action Fraud if you think you have become a victim

Here are some tips to help avoid a Christmas shopping con:

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 is OK to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.

Protect Contact your bank immediately if you think you have fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud.