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Scam Epidemic: Nationwide warns Christmas shoppers about spiralling purchase fraud

Scam Epidemic: Nationwide warns Christmas shoppers about spiralling purchase fraud
Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

Nationwide has warned consumers to be aware of purchase scams as the Christmas shopping season gets underway.

Data from the building society shows that scams happen all year round, with August the busiest month for crimes. But it warns that Christmas is also “fertile ground” for scammers.

Purchase scams are where fraudsters entice people into buying an item that doesn’t exist and never arrives. Items that scammers use to target victims range from cars and phones to holiday rentals, pets and concert tickets.

According to Nationwide’s internal data, in the 13 months to October 2023, purchase scams peaked during the summer period with one in 10 (10%) of the total number of cases recorded happening in August this year.

Between July and September, purchase scams made up 45% of all scams reported to Nationwide. The average claim of £556 recorded per purchase scam case remained consistent across the 13-month period.

According to UK Finance’s Annual Fraud Report, purchase scams were the most common type of authorised push payment (APP) scam last year, accounting for 57% of APP scam cases.

Nationwide is encouraging any customers concerned about a purchase to use its Scam Checker Service, which is available in branch or by calling a 24/7 freephone number (0800 030 4057). If the payment goes ahead and the customer is subsequently scammed, unless Nationwide told the customer not to proceed, they will be fully reimbursed.

Anyone can fall for a purchase scam

Jim Winters, Nationwide’s director of economic crime, said: “Purchase scams are the most common type and anyone can fall for them. People may assume that the Black Friday and festive periods are when most purchase scams occur, but our data shows that this isn’t the case – they happen across the entire year.

“Criminals will work non-stop trying to target consumers making purchases, whether that’s holidays, concert or sporting tickets, birthday and Christmas presents. That’s why we always encourage people to remain vigilant when making purchases online no matter what point in the year and, for Nationwide customers, use our Scam Checker Service before making any payments if you are even slightly concerned.”

How to stay safe from scammers

If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers will often try and lure people in with offers of goods at heavily discounted prices.

Pay by card or secure payment app. Credit and debit cards offer more consumer protection than bank transfers should the goods not arrive or arrive not as described. Secure payment apps also offer good protection and almost all genuine sellers use them.

Beware of fake websites. Always use official websites when buying items such as concert or sporting tickets, or holidays. Scammers can create fake copies of genuine sites, so always look at the URL and the padlock/https tags, which tell you it is a secure site.

Don’t be rushed. Scammers will often create a sense of urgency, by saying something is a limited offer. This tactic encourages people to act without taking time to consider the purchase.

Research. Always do your research before buying anything. And with more expensive items, such as scar, take the time to see it in person and check all the documents thoroughly.

Keep an eye on your account. Make sure you regularly monitor the transactions on your account, such as by using a banking app. If you spot a suspicious transaction let your bank or building society know as it can take steps to protect you.