Christmas shoppers are being urged to watch out for scammers looking to cash in on the last-minute present buying frenzy this year.
The number of online shopping scams increased by 20 per cent in December last year compared to December 2020, according to Lloyds Bank.
The typical person was tricked into handing over £427 with those aged between 55 and 64 losing around £1,000 on average.
The study found that a third of people take more of a risk at Christmas when shopping online.
According to separate research by Capital One UK, 1.9 million Britons say they were scammed during the festive period last year and a further 3million fear they may have been scammed.
Most of these scams start via online platforms such as Instagram or Facebook Marketplace, with victims lured in by the promise of cut-prices or hard-to-find goods.
The most common items reported as part of online shopping scams in a typical December include trainers, clothes, gaming consoles and phones.
But experts are also warning parents to be aware of scammers exploiting their desire to get this year’s most in-demand toys for their children.
James Walker, chief executive of data protection firm Rightly said: ‘Often, through hype and stories either in the media or on social media, a particular gift becomes the “must-have” present for that year.
‘In the past it’s been the latest PlayStation, or one year it was the Woody doll from Toy Story that no one could find for love nor money in the run up to Christmas.
‘The scam occurs when scammers present fake websites claiming to sell the essential gift. The demand for a particular gift is a gift itself to scammers.
‘Customers can’t believe their luck – they’ve found the perfect present and the kids will be super excited. They pay for the gift. It never arrives.
‘Always remember, if it looks too good to be true, then it almost certainly is.’
Lloyds also found that a third of people take more of a risk at Christmas when shopping online.
This might include buying from a website they haven’t heard of before, especially if they are buying something that is hard to find elsewhere. Around one in five people said they would take more risk in order to find the cheapest price.
The research also found that more than half of people still consider a bank transfer to be a safe payment method for buying items online, despite it offering much less protection than paying by credit or debit card.
Festive fraud: Christmas is a time when the deliveries start flying and scammers are seeing an opportunity to cash in
Liz Ziegler, fraud prevention director at Lloyds Bank, said: ‘With people especially keen to bag a bargain this Christmas given the cost of living squeeze, heartless fraudsters will be ready to trick unsuspecting victims out of their hard-earned cash.
‘Online shopping scams come in all shapes and sizes, but the vast majority start with items advertised on social media, where it’s too easy for fraudsters to use fake profiles and advertise goods that simply don’t exist.
‘The safest way to pay for things online is always by debit or credit card, and buy from a trusted retailer. Remember that if a deal looks too good to be true, it usually is.’
Watch our for Christmas parcel scams
Another scam popular at this time of year involves fake emails and text messages which claim a parcel is awaiting delivery, and ask the recipient to click on a link to pay a fee in order to collect it.
Christmas is a time when the deliveries start flying and scammers are seeing an opportunity to cash in.
The website will ask for personal and banking details and the fraudsters can then use this information to impersonate the victim’s bank, and ask them to transfer money.
Worryingly the research found that more than a quarter of Britons say they always or often click on links in messages that appear to come from a delivery company.
Walker adds: ‘There are many varieties of this scam. One claiming to be from the Post Office, for example, asks you to pay a fee and provide some personal information so that a parcel can be delivered.
‘Then, scammers use the information to contact you, maybe by phone, to convince you that they are really from the company. One thing leads to another and eventually they’ve emptied your bank account.
‘Keep ahead of the scammers. If you get a message like this, ask yourself “Am I expecting a parcel?”‘
‘At this time of year, you may well be, but always remember, neither the Post Office nor any major courier company will ever ask you to enter personal data via a text message – they just wouldn’t do that. So you can assume if you have a message like this, it’s a scam.
‘If you want to check on a delivery, go direct to the seller’s website, or the real courier company directly, not by clicking on a link you’ve been sent.’
Top tips to stay safe from scams this Christmas
- Always use your debit or credit card when you shop online. This helps to protect your money should anything go wrong.
- Low prices and great deals can hide scams. See if you can find them elsewhere. And remember, if an item is selling out, fraudsters can charge more to trick desperate buyers.
- Fraudsters use social media to post scam offers. They can even send them straight to your inbox. Always search for deals yourself.
- Make sure a seller or website is genuine. Look for good reviews from different buyers. Be wary of mixed, bad or no reviews at all. It’s safer to buy from a trusted retailer.
- Ask questions before you buy. If a seller can’t give any details about an item or tries to hurry you into paying, it’s a sign of a scam
- Never click on links in messages, even if you think you know the sender. Visit the genuine website of the delivery company to track a parcel.