Cifas has noted that 68% of all cases on the National Fraud Database relate to identity fraud. This translates to 277,000 cases - the highest volume ever recorded. Fraudsters have stolen £580m in the first six months of 2023, which suggests a total loss of £1bn by the end of the year.
Fraud over the festive season
Action Fraud reported that during the festive period last year, buyers lost nearly £11m to scams – an average loss of almost £639 per victim.
With Black Friday and Cyber Monday marking the beginning of the festive shopping season, it results in a global increase of 82% in the average number of suspected digital fraud attempts.
Unfortunately, the bad news doesn't end there. According to the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), scammers are likely to increase the use of AI tools to develop more convincing fraud campaigns.
“Regrettably, cyber criminals view this time of year as an opportunity to scam people out of their hard-earned cash, and the increased availability and capability of technology like large language models is making scams more convincing.”
Fraud prevention tips for the festive season
It’s not all doom and gloom, as we have some tips to help keep your money and information safe this festive season.
1. Watch out for scams & use common sense
If it sounds too good to be true, it almost always is. Don't feel pressured into making a purchase for fear of missing out - it makes you more vulnerable. Remember to check the reviews and ratings of sites that you have not used before.
2. Only shop from legitimate websites
Carry out your searches yourself and avoid clicking on links in emails or on social media, promising great deals. Adverts can look like they are from legitimate retailers, but they have been created by fraudsters.
3. Keep anti-virus software up-to-date on all devices
Make sure that you download any updates as soon as they become available in order to protect yourself. If you click on a link or download an attachment in an email, hackers might inject malware into your device, which could steal your login credentials or your payment information.
4. Don't use public WiFi when shopping online
Public WiFi is not secure and can be easily mimicked or hacked. You should be especially careful to avoid accessing sensitive sites like your bank. If you need to use public WiFi, turn on a VPN which will make it impossible for hackers to intercept.
5. Don't respond to unsolicited messages
That includes texts, tweets, phone calls or emails. Be particularly careful with links in messages, as they may not be as authentic or genuine as they sound. If in doubt, double-check with the retailer if the email you have received is legitimate.
6. Use strong passwords
For all your accounts, particularly when shopping online. Don't use the same password across multiple sites, and never share your passwords. By following this guidance, you're less likely to fall victim to hackers.
7. Check that URLs match the retailer's genuine domain
Ensure there's a secure padlock sign on the payment page before you buy. Watch out for poor spelling and low-quality images, which may indicate a 'spoof' site created in a rush. Even if the URL looks like that of a trusted retailer, it could be a retailer scam where the URL almost precisely matches the retailer's website.
8. Opt out of saving details
If retailers ask if you'd like to save your payment details, decline. It is important never to save your bank details with any online store, even if you are sure it is a legitimate website.
9. Use a credit card for purchases over £100
This offers you greater fraud protection. Credit cards typically provide an extra layer of security as they are not linked to your money, and your credit card supplier is jointly liable with the supplier for any fraudulent activity. This is particularly ideal for larger purchases that are over £100.
10. Turn on alerts from your card issuer or bank
Then you will immediately be notified if any irregular spending occurs. Without notifications turned on, you might miss the opportunity to nip the fraudulent activity in the bud.
11. Check your social media privacy settings
Sharing too much information online makes you an easy target for identity theft. Ensure that you guard against fraudsters accessing your information by double-checking your privacy and security settings across your social media accounts.
12. Sign out of your account when you've finished
This is crucial if you're using a shared computer. Staying signed in opens the door to the theft of your personal information and hacking opportunities. Remember always to sign out even if you are in a rush.
Helpful sites for more advice on fraud
Take Five is a national campaign offering straightforward, impartial advice to help everyone protect themselves from preventable financial fraud. This includes email deception and phone-based scams, as well as online fraud – particularly where criminals impersonate trusted organisations.
Financial Fraud Action UK
Financial Fraud Action UK is responsible for leading the collective fight against financial fraud on behalf of the UK payments industry. Their membership includes banks, credit, debit and charge card issuers, and card payment acquirers in the UK.
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