Christmas scams warning as criminals cash in on cost-of-living crisis

Research reveals 20% increase in online shopping scams during last year festive season -

Someone typing on a laptop in a dark room
Many scams start via online platforms claiming to offer cut-price or hard-to-find goods
(Image credit: PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo)

Christmas shoppers hunting for bargains as the cost-of-living crisis bites are being warned of a surge in scams over the festive season.

New research from Lloyds Bank found that the number of online shopping scams increased by 20% in December 2021 compared to the previous year, as fraudsters looked to “cash in on the last-minute shopping rush”. The average amount handed over by victims was £427, but those aged between 55 and 64 lost an average of around £1,000.

Experts fear even more people may fall for frauds this year, as struggling households try to cut costs. According to Lloyds, a poll of more than 2,000 UK adults found that 33% “would take more of a risk at Christmas, such as purchasing from a website they haven't heard of before”. And around one in five “would take more risk if their priority is to find the cheapest option”.

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A total of more than £1.3bn is known to have been stolen through fraud and scams during the whole of last year, and “it’s estimated that the true figure is closer to £4bn”, said The Times . The Office for National Statistics has calculated that more than one in ten people have been scammed – “which means you’re more than five times more likely to be ripped off than burgled”, the newspaper added.

Many scams “start via online platforms such as Instagram or Facebook Marketplace, with victims lured in by the promise of cut-price or hard-to-find goods – especially during busy shopping periods like Christmas”, said the Daily Record.

Other scams to watch out for include false text messages and emails claiming to be from the government that offer an energy bill discount as part of the Energy Bill Support Scheme. Such emails may be titled “Are you eligible to apply for energy bill rebate” or “Government energy rebate scheme”, said Action Fraud. Some of the emails include the Ofgem logo in order to appear legitimate.

Thousands of UK taxpayers have also been sent fake HMRC emails and texts during 2022, with messages ranging from tax rebate offers to threats of arrest.

Action Fraud is urging people to forward suspicious text messages to 7726, while dodgy-looking emails can be forwarded to People who fear they are being conned can also call 159, a free hotline launched by Stop Scams UK that “connects the vast majority of UK banking customers safely and securely with their bank when they receive an unexpected or suspicious call about a financial matter”.

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