Northumbria Police is supporting a national campaign launched today aimed at keeping people safe online this Christmas.
Last year, individuals and businesses reported losing more than £16million to online fraudsters through online shopping and auction fraud over the festive period – a 42 per cent increase in total financial loss compared to 2013.
Research by cyber detectives found the most common time for victims to initially make contact with the fraudster was on Black Friday, November 28, and Cyber Monday, December 1.
On those days, 221 and 205 people fell victim to fraudsters, but a further 220 people fell victim between December 20 and December 23 as they tried to snatch a last-minute bargain.
The most common item being bought and sold by victims and fraudsters were mobile phones. People reported trying to get good deals on some of the most popular models of smartphones, but what they thought was going to be a bargain never actually arrived, leaving them without presents to give on Christmas Day.
Others reported being defrauded while trying to buy footwear, clothing, watches, gaming consoles, computers, furniture and home electricals.
In light of these statistics, Northumbria Police will be supporting a national fraud prevention campaign that was launched by the City of London Police, Action Fraud and Get Safe Online today.
The campaign will last for 10 working days and will provide practical fraud and cyber crime protection tips which aim to prevent people from getting conned out of the Christmas that they deserve.
Detective Inspector Angela Hufton, head of Northumbria Police’s Cyber Crime Unit, said: “We would ask shoppers to be extra vigilant at this time of year and not to let the thought of what appears to be a bargain affect your usual care and common sense. If something seems too good to be true, it likely is.”
Police national co-ordinator for economic crime, Commander Chris Greany, said: “This Christmas we want everyone to think about their online activity, especially when they are about to buy something over the internet. When it comes to online shopping, if something looks like it is a great bargain, it’s probably poor quality, fake or doesn’t even exist.
“Fraudsters and online criminals are relentless and will stop at nothing, giving absolutely no thought as to whether you and your family are left without presents at Christmas time.
“The fact that victims lost 42 per cent more money last year compared to the year before suggests that fraudsters are making gains and are taking every opportunity they can during the festive period.
“The aim of this campaign is to provide advice which will help people to protect themselves and ensure that they don’t get conned out of Christmas.”
Tony Neate, CEO of Get Safe Online, said: “It never fails to surprise me how cruel and shameless online criminals can be over the festive season, working as hard as they can to con people out of their presents and purchases.
“Christmas should be a happy time, but in the last few years, we have seen the numbers for online crime at Christmas go up and up, particularly as the hype around Black Friday and Cyber Monday bargains keeps getting bigger.
“Working with Action Fraud and the City of London police, we are hoping this campaign will highlight how people and businesses need to be extra cautious when grabbing those deals online.
“Simple steps like double checking to see if the website and product is legitimate before making a payment, and also looking for any customer reviews which often act as a good touch point for safe online shopping. If you feel like something is suspicious, it probably is, so it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
“By working together, we can hopefully stop online crime coming to town this Christmas, and make sure next year, online crime goes on the decrease.”
To report a fraud and receive a police crime reference number, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use their online fraud reporting tool.