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Scam epidemic: Black Friday fraud is on the rise

Scam epidemic: Black Friday fraud is on the rise
Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

Both Barclays and TSB have issued urgent warnings about the number of purchase scams ahead of the busy Christmas period.

Data from Barclays reveals a 22% increase in money lost to purchase scams during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales last year.

The bank said that purchase scams, where people buy goods which never arrive or aren’t as advertised, resulted in shoppers losing £970 on average over last year’s Black Friday period.

TSB said it had also seen a spike in purchase scams, with this type of fraud accounting for more than half (52%) of all cases at TSB, and 77,000 cases recorded by UK banks in the first six months of 2023 alone – more than 400 a day. TSB data found that, on average, more than £500 is lost per case.

Barclays research found that during Black Friday, 41% of Brits feel pressure to purchase items as quickly as possible to avoid losing out on the best deals. It found that 42% would buy from unfamiliar sellers if they had particularly good prices, rather than shop on safer and more reputable sites. Additionally, 30% feel the pressure to buy more items than they normally would, to make the most of the deals available.

Do your research

The bank is urging shoppers to do sufficient research before making purchases. Its analysis found that almost nine in 10 (91%) Brits don’t check whether the seller is registered on Companies House, and another nine in 10 (87%) don’t look to see if a business has a valid address. Additionally, almost half (46%) don’t read customer reviews.

Dr Peter Brooks, chief behavioural scientist at Barclays, said: “People act differently under pressure, and scammers will take advantage of the way shoppers behave during Black Friday sales.

“Sales are typically all about speed, and scammers will play on people’s emotions to instil a sense of time pressure or create a perceived scarcity for an item. They will also bank on people not doing the appropriate due diligence before making a purchase, and getting swept up in the rush and excitement of Black Friday.

“Never feel pressured into making a purchase, and if something doesn’t feel right, take a step back and ask someone you trust – a family member, friend, or your bank – for advice.”

Most scams start on social media

Barclays data shows that social media is now the source of 88% of all purchase scams, and scammers will reel in shoppers by advertising the most in-demand items on these platforms.

TSB’s research yielded similar results, with 77% of all purchase scams at TSB originating on Facebook Marketplace, followed by Instagram (9%), Twitter (4%), Snapchat (3.5%) and eBay (2%).

The bank pointed out that eBay’s payment platform and customer verification has led to a miniscule fraud rate, compared to Facebook Marketplace. It is urging customers to stick to trusted outlets that allow customers to pay for items using a secure payment platform, such as eBay, Amazon, Vinted and Gumtree.

Paul Davis, TSB director of fraud prevention, said: “At this time of year, many of us are looking online for a bargain. But it can quickly go wrong when shopping on social media sites – which are rife with scam adverts for items that simply don’t exist.

“Over this busy shopping period, it really pays to stick to responsible shopping sites that offer payment platforms. And don’t be easily caught out by a bargain you see on social media – if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”