With everyone feeling pressure on their personal finances, more people could be looking to pick up a bargain or two, which has prompted officers from Northamptonshire Police to issue online shopping advice ahead of Black Friday.
Officers from the Economic Crime Unit have issued the timely reminder to raise awareness of potential scams to coincide with the annual online sales event, which traditionally marks the start of the festive shopping season.
The warning comes after Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud and cyber-crime, revealed new figures that showed victims of online shopping scams lost on average £1,000 per person in the same period last year.
Scams ranged from one shopper losing more than £150 trying to purchase a mobile phone on social media to another being duped out of more than £7,000 during an attempted online campervan purchase.
Another victim lost almost £500 when trying to buy shoes on a social media platform, and a fourth lost £145 trying to make a similar purchase. So far this year, 727 Northamptonshire residents have reported losses averaging £493 (£358,761 overall) to online shopping-related scams.
With fraudsters out to make as much money as possible over the festive period, officers are warning bargain hunters to be extra vigilant and urging people to bolster their cyber security to help protect their hard-earned cash.
Fraud Prevent Officer of Northamptonshire Police’s Economic Crime Unit PC Neil MacKenzie knows only too well how relentless online criminals can be, and the impact their crimes can have on those who fall victim to their scams.
He said: “Fraudsters and online criminals are relentless and will stop at absolutely nothing, giving no thought as to whether you and your family are left without presents at Christmas time.
“More and more people are taking advantage of the ease and convenience of online shopping and it’s a great way to compare prices, find bargains and save money. But there are specific risks related to buying products and services online.
“In the first 10 months of this year, we’ve seen 727 county residents lose money to online criminals, and with the seasonal sales in full swing, no-one can afford to pay for a fraudster’s Christmas.
“So, whether you’re after festive items or everyday bargains, please take a look at our handy guide to help make your online shopping experience safer not just at this time of year but secure all year round.”
Online Shopping Safety Guide
• Avoid clicking on sponsored links or adverts in search results • Check the web address carefully to ensure you visit the genuine website • Do not rely entirely on product or online store reviews as these could be faked • Avoid social media posts offering vouchers, coupons and discounts unless verified • Use a different strong password for each account and set up 2-step verification • A great way of making a strong password is by combining three random words • Never share account passwords with anyone no matter who they claim to be • Consider using a reputable password manager if you use multiple accounts • Minimise the personal information you supply when setting-up a store account • Use a credit card or trusted payment provider when making an online purchase • Never accept requests to pay by bank transfer, vouchers, or PayPal Friends & Family • Always remember to sign out of your online shopping accounts • Close old or dormant online accounts that you no longer use
Anyone who thinks they have been a victim of fraud should contact their bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud online at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040. More information is available by searching #FraudFreeXmas.