Tis the season… for online fraud

27 November 2020

Bargain hunters are not the only ones who’ve been looking forward to the Black Friday sales… fraudsters have been getting ready too. The fraud rate – that is the number of attempted frauds as a proportion of overall transactions – for the six weeks from the beginning of October was 385% higher than in the same period last year and 117% higher than the average daily rate this year, according to data from Sift. This year’s high fraud rate seems to reflect in part the increase in online shopping as a result of the lockdown of traditional retail outlets.

We anticipate the fraud rate will continue to remain high as shoppers head online to get a Black Friday deal and do their Christmas shopping. The Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping frenzy provide fertile ground for criminals to post fake adverts for goods which are never sent, but in exchange for which money has been sent or personal information provided. UK Finance disclosed in September 2020 that the average loss per customer for a purchase scam, where the customer pays in advance for goods or services that are never received, was £720. Only 22% of these losses are reimbursed.

On 23 November, Action Fraud launched a new campaign to tackle fraud over the festive period: #FraudFreeXmas. Action Fraud reported that criminals conned shoppers out of almost £13.5m over last year’s Christmas period, with most scams involving mobile phones and electronics. The campaign contained stark warnings about "too good to be true" Black Friday deals and urged customers to take care online.

Action Fraud is warning the public to take extra care when shopping online, ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, as shoppers search for bargains and gifts for loved ones in the run up to Christmas.

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