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Online Christmas shoppers targeted by fraudsters: how to stay safe

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Shoppers are being urged to take extra care when buying gifts online after fraudsters tricked people out of millions of pounds over the festive period last year.

A report from Action Fraud shows that criminals conned 15,024 shoppers out of more than £11m in the run up to Christmas 2017.

Social media websites and online auction sites proved to be popular hunting grounds for criminals, the research warned.

Mobile phones were the most common item that people tried to buy from fraudsters. Victims reported being hooked in with bargain deals on popular models of smart phones, only for the phone to never arrive. Apple iPhones accounted for 74% of all mobile phones purchased that turned out to be fraudulent.

Electrical goods, household items, computers, clothing, and accessories also featured in many of the reports.

Fingerling toys, UGG Boots and Apple MacBook’s were among the most popular items victims reported losing money to fraudsters on.

More than 30% of reports were made by women aged between 20 and 29 last year.

Detective Chief Superintendent Pete O’Doherty, of the City of London Police, said: “Unfortunately, at what is an expensive time of year for many, the internet has provided fraudsters with a platform to lure people in with the promise of cheap deals.

“To stop fraudsters in their tracks, be cautious of where and from whom you’re buying, especially if it is technology at a reduced price.”

Top tips to avoid Christmas fraud:

  1. If something seems too much of a bargain, it’s probably poor quality, fake or doesn’t exist.
  2. Don’t pay for goods or services by bank transfer unless you know and trust the person. Payments via bank transfer offer you no protection if you become a victim of fraud.
  3. Make sure you’ve installed the latest software & app updates. Criminals use weaknesses in software to attack your devices and steal information, such as your payment details.
  4. Use a strong, separate password and 2FA to protect your email account. Criminals can use your email to access other online accounts, such as those you use for online shopping.
  5. Don’t click on a link in an unexpected email or text. The volume of online shopping related phishing emails increases during the holiday period. Remember, if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  6. If you have been a victim of fraud, report it online or by calling 0300 123 2040.

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