Action Fraud, the UK’s central point of contact for information about fraud, has recently announced that:-
- victims reported losing nearly £16 million to Christmas shopping fraudsters last Christmas - £6 million more than the year before
- the number of reports of overall Christmas shopping fraud rose by over a quarter last year, with online auctions fraud accounting for 65% of the reports
- mobiles phones continue to be the most likely thing that people try to buy from fraudsters, with clothing and accessories second on the list
- ‘trending’ items victims reported losing out to fraudsters on included Yeezy trainers, Kylie Jenner make-up, hair dryers, drones and Fitbit watches
There is no reason to believe that these trends will not be reflected in the Isle of Man.
Martyn Perkins, Chairman of the OFT says:
'The build up to Christmas can be hectic at times, but consumers purchasing last minute gifts online via websites, social media and auction sites, should take time to try to make sure that they are not doing business with fraudsters selling counterfeit or unsafe goods, taking your money without delivering the gift, or stealing your identity.
Making rushed decisions often plays into the hands of the fraudsters and, with many people working to a tight budget at Christmas, the last thing we want is for fraudsters to profit at the expense of consumers.'
The OFT was recently contacted by a local consumer who had purchased a product via social media. The product proved to be unsafe and the consumer remains out of pocket. When it goes wrong, it is often the case that the seller disappears without trace. Purchasing gifts online obviously means that you can’t view them beforehand, for example, to check for safety labels.
Mr Perkins added:
'Our consumer advisers all too often have to deal with the victims of online fraudsters.'
Below are just a few tips on how to avoid becoming the victim of online Christmas shopping fraud:
- Go into 'extra careful mode' and weigh up the risk when buying from unidentifiable sellers on social media or auction sites who you may not be able to track down in the event of a problem.
- Beware of those selling high street retail items who have little or no selling history. Try to stick to those with good feedback.
- If something sounds too good to be true then it is most probably a scam!
- You have more protection if you pay by credit card.
- When using a new shopping site, always Google the site name and check reviews – do a simple Google search (“site name + scam”) and you can read what others have experienced.
- Check the URL in the web browser. A tactic often used by fraudsters is to change the address very slightly, such as …@ebayz.com’
- Keep the security measures, for example, anti-virus software, up-to-date on your computer and electronic devices and create ‘strong’ passwords for your online accounts.
In summary, whilst it is very convenient to buy online when we are busy, there are risks and it is worth taking some precautions. You may be safer buying on the high street, but remember to keep the receipt!
Further advice can be found on the Action Fraud website or by contacting the OFT.