Police say reports of online shopping fraud have surged by 30% over the pandemic.
The new figures are being put down to the COVID-19 restrictions increasing customer use of online shopping.
Figures from Action Fraud show that criminals conned 17,407 shoppers out of almost £13.5 million over the Christmas period last year, an increase of over 20% when compared to the same period in 2018.
Action Fraud is warning the public to take extra care when shopping online, ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, as shoppers search for bargains and gifts for loved ones in the run up to Christmas.
The following advice has been issued:
Be selective about where you shop - Seeing a padlock in the address bar means the connection and your information is secured, but it's not a guarantee that the shop itself is legitimate.
Only provide necessary information - The padlock sign means that your connection is encrypted, so your information will reach the site without anyone else being able to read it. You also have the option to only fill out mandatory information.
Use secure protected payment - If you decide to go ahead with the purchase, ensure that the section where you enter your payment details is secure – this means that your payment details will reach the site without anyone else being able to read them.
Keep your accounts secure with strong passwords - Create a strong password made up of 3 random words for each of your online accounts. Longer passwords that would be difficult for others to work out are more secure but these can be hard to think of and remember, so using three random words can help you make passwords that are both long and strong. You can add numbers and symbols to make it harder for hackers to crack as well
Take care with unexpected communications - You may receive communications purporting to be from an online store, or come across online adverts with enticing offers. Some of these may legitimately be from stores you have agreed to receive communications from or who would like to attract your custom, but some may be set-up by fraudsters and contain links to fake websites designed to steal your money and personal details.
If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, police advise you to contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud online at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.