Police and banks have warned consumers to be vigilant when shopping in this week’s Black Friday sales, with a rise in scams expected to cost shoppers milions.
Police said crime over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday period last year defrauded online shoppers in Britain of GBP2.5m.
Many never received goods they ordered from unfamiliar websites, and some were subsequently targeted by criminals using bank details given during transactions.
More than GBP15m was lost through fraud in the run-up to Christmas in 2020, with more than 28,000 reports of scams costing an average of more than GBP500. The numbers rose significantly because many bargain hunters were still avoiding high street shops, with a second lockdown imposed in the days before Christmas. Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, said that the incidence went up by 61% from 2019.
Action Fraud has advised consumers to take additional checks when shopping online, as Black Friday approaches on 26 November.
Pauline Smith, the service’s director, said people should always shop with official retailers, adding: “If you think you have found a bargain that is too good to be true, it probably is. Stop and think before making a purchase, as it could protect you and your money.”
Younger people were likely to be at risk, with just over a quarter of reports to the police coming from twentysomethings and more than half of scams involving electronic goods being purchases of games consoles such as Xbox or PlayStation.
People often fell foul of fake websites that looked identical to official vendors’ sites but were advertising goods at a much cheaper price. The fraud service particularly advised wariness if there was any pressure from a retailer to buy quickly.
Research from Barclays Bank found that many could be susceptible, with more than a third of Britons planning to shop online during the sales – and 14% of those happy to shop on unfamiliar websites for a bargain.
During last year’s Black Friday season there was a 17% increase in reported shopping scams with victims losing an average of GBP538, Barclays estimated.
Many would be open to common scams, with one in eight saying they would give their pin to a caller from a bank, and 25% saying they would help if asked to participate in an “internal bank investigation”.
The bank said the online sales were a great opportunity for fraud, and scammers often targeted victims again using details gathered in the first scam.