UK Shoppers Lost £15m+ to Scammers Last Winter

Online shoppers lost an average of £1000 each last year over the busy Christmas shopping period, according to new figures, prompting experts to urge greater caution over the coming three months.

The figures cited by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) on November, 14 come from cases reported to Action Fraud and so are likely to under-represent the true scale of fraud losses over the period.

Even so, they stand at a total of £15.3m lost between November 2021 and January 2022, with younger shoppers more likely to fall victim. Nearly half (47%) of those scammed were 19 to 25-year-olds.

The data revealed some interesting insights into current fraud trends. Around half of the 20,000 incidents reported to Action Fraud involved a social media site, while 20% related to the purchase of electronics and 13% to mobile phones.

The third most common category was vehicles, accounting for 8% of reports. One victim lost more than £7000 trying to purchase a camper van online, the NCSC said.

“Online shoppers will understandably be looking for bargains during the Black Friday and Christmas shopping period and we want them to do so safely,” said NCSC CEO, Lindy Cameron.

“Sadly we know that criminals will look to exploit consumers at this time of year which is why good cybersecurity has such an important role to play. I would urge everyone to help us fight the scammers by following our Cyber Aware advice to set up two-step verification and use three random words passwords.”

The NCSC also urged consumers to think more carefully about where they shop online, researching any unfamiliar web stores to check they’re legitimate – such as by looking for feedback and reviews from trusted sources.

It advised shoppers to use a credit card when paying for goods online, as most schemes provide buyer protections, and if details are stolen then at least the victim’s bank account details won’t be exposed.  

The security agency added that users should always look for a closed padlock in the address bar when buying online: if there isn’t one displayed, the connection is not secure and card data may be stolen.

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