Consumers across the UK have lost millions to fraudsters and scammers since the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown.
Figures published by Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, show that more than 16,000 consumers have fallen victim to online shopping and auction fraud since the onset of the pandemic.
Shops across the UK were forced to close on 23rd March due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, and since then, housebound Brits have continued to shop online in record numbers. In total, Action Fraud says it has received online shopping fraud reports amounting to £16.6 million in losses.
Many consumers have reported being conned when purchasing a range of items and accessories, including mobile phones, vehicles and various electronics such as games consoles or MacBooks.
In most of these instances, the items never arrive and the buyers are left out of pocket.
“The global outbreak of coronavirus has seen all our lives turn upside down. With the lockdown being introduced, so many more people are now online shopping, including those who have never done so before,” said Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud.
“It is, therefore, unsurprising that there has been an increase in fraud being committed,” she added.
Nearly one-quarter of fraud victims (24%) were also aged between 18 and 26, Action Fraud statistics show. However, these stats may not be entirely related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We are still seeing young people in their 20’s falling victim the most,” Smith noted. “This has been the case for the last 18-months which implies this is not just a trend brought about because of coronavirus.”
Action Fraud has advised consumers to take care and shop with caution during the pandemic. Many cybercriminals and fraudsters have been capitalising on the situation and targeting online shoppers.
In particular, phishing scams have increased since the onset of the lockdown. The organisation warned consumers not to fall prey to fake websites or emails promising deals that are too good to be true.
“Not all links are bad, but, if you’re unsure, don’t use the link and type the website directly into your browser instead,” Action Fraud advised.
In April the NCSC issued a warning to organisations and consumers that cybercriminal activities had increased since the onset of the pandemic.
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Since the beginning of lockdown, the cyber centre warned that threat actors were employing new tactics to target businesses and organisations around the world.
Ben Russell, deputy director at the National Economic Crime Centre, said that while law enforcement is working hard to combat fraud and online scams, consumers should follow the advice and remain vigilant.
“We are working with our partners in policing, government and the private sector to look at ways to design out fraud and help protect the public,” he said.
“But we all have a part to play in preventing fraud, and a big part of this is down to our vigilance. When buying from another person online, don’t send money upfront, use a credit card if possible and remember, if something looks too good to be true, it probably is,” Russell added.