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Online Christmas shopping fraud: 11 steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim

Christmas shoppers are being urged to be aware of online fraud (Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Millions of shoppers will fall victim to online fraud this Christmas.

More than £16 million was lost to festive scams last year and the indications are that a similar amount will be racked up this Christmas.

Mobile phones, clothes, shoes and jewellery are the goods most likely to be fake, according to the Action Fraud group.

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Fake Yeezy trainers, Kylie Jenner make-up, air dryers, drones and Fitbit watches were among the most common items reported to Action Fraud as fraud rose 25% during the Christmas period last year.

Analysis also suggests that 65% of crimes at Christmas were linked to online auctions.

Millions of pounds was lost to online counterfeit goods last Christmas (Sergei Konkov\TASS via Getty Images)

So, how can you best protect yourself from falling victim? Here’s 11 steps you can take to reduce the risk…

  1. If it looks to good or too cheap to be true, it probably is. Don’t be fooled into thinking you’re getting a great deal.
  2. Be wary of high pressure sales tactics. If the seller is pressing you to buy now, this deal won’t last long, there’s others looking to buy, there’s a strong possibility that what they’re selling isn’t what it appears to be.
  3. Experts say dodgy retailers or online sellers often overuse words like “genuine”, “real”, or “authentic”. That’s because they’re trying to convince consumers they can be trusted when in reality they can’t.
  4. Spot the signs – the buyer or seller has a bad feedback history, or has only recently set up a new account to avoid a poor reputation.
  5. Be wary if you receive a private message or email offering to buy below the current bid or reserve price or to sell a similar item after an auction has ended
  6. Do not give any personal information (name, address, bank details, email or phone number) to organisations or people before verifying their credentials.
  7. Use methods like PayPal when buying on auction site and never transfer money direct to a stranger.
  8. Many frauds start with a phishing email. Remember that banks and financial institutions will not send you an email asking you to click on a link and confirm your bank details. Do not trust such emails, even if they look genuine.
  9. Make sure your computer has up-to-date anti-virus software and a firewall installed. Ensure your browser is set to the highest level of security notification and monitoring to prevent malware issues and computer crimes.
  10. The seller may try to direct you to a website that looks like the auction site, but has in fact been created by the fraudster to capture your payment details for themselves. Look for the padlock sign on the web address to ensure your card details will be encrypted securely before being sent across the internet. The website address should begin https:// rather than http://
  11. Don’t open suspicious or unknown emails, email attachments, texts or pop up messages. For example an email with an unusually worded subject heading.

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Commander Dave Clark, national co-ordinator for economic crime, said: “Fraudsters see the Christmas rush as an ideal opportunity to take advantage of people’s generosity without a single care about the consequences this may cause for the victim.

“With a sharp rise in fraud reporting at Christmas time it is more important than ever that people do everything they can to protect themselves from fraudsters, stopping them from enjoying the holiday season at the expense of others.”