Interactive Investor

Fraudsters use Christmas shopping to scam victims

16th November 2020 14:12

Marc Shoffman from interactive investor

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As Black Friday approaches, banks are warning that criminals are increasingly targeting online purchases.

Online bargain hunters are being warned that their money and financial data could be targeted by scammers as the Christmas shopping season begins.

The festive shopping period typically starts with Black Friday on 27 November as shoppers look to buy gifts for relatives and friends.

But it has also become a good time of year for scammers to prey on unsuspecting shoppers, especially as lockdown measures and strict social distancing rules may mean more people turn to the internet to get their gifts.

Banking trade body UK Finance has warned that social media platforms, online marketplaces and auction websites are increasingly being used by criminals to carry out purchase scams, where a customer pays 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.

Criminals are also using the cover of Christmas shopping deals to steal people’s data. 

These data harvesting scams use emails or texts advertising cheap goods, or impersonating big brands, to prompt consumers to provide their personal and financial details. This includes debit and credit card information, which is later used to commit fraud.

Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance, says: “As consumer spending has shifted online, criminals have ruthlessly adjusted their approaches to pursue those shopping on the internet.

“With Black Friday and Christmas approaching, fraudsters are again stepping up their efforts to take advantage of consumers searching for bargains.”

She says members report that scams are targeting people with fake listings for consoles, bicycles and clothing as well as for home improvement and DIY purchases.

Cybersecurity software firm Clario warns many shoppers, particularly younger people, mistakenly believe scams could never happen to them.

It has released research this week showing generation Z, those born after 1995, are less likely to think of themselves as vulnerable or important enough to be targeted by hackers.

A third of respondents in this cohort agreed with the statements ‘I’m not vulnerable enough to be targeted by hackers’ and ‘I’m not important enough to be targeted by hackers’. 

In comparison, only 20% of Britons aged over 60 agreed with the statement.

Scarlet Jeffers, vice president of experience at Clario, says:

“Now more than ever, we need to change people’s perceptions and raise awareness of how consumers can strengthen their cybersecurity to not only protect their personal data but their livelihoods.

“Victims face not only financial losses but also negative emotions that contribute to further psychological effects, proving cybercrime goes beyond just losing one’s finances or identity.”

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