(Article updated 28 November)
Message from Avon & Somerset Police: With Christmas around the corner, online shopping can save you time, effort and money. However, don’t be caught out by convincing fake online shopping websites or fraudulent listings on buy and sell platforms. Avon and Somerset Police would advise people to be to extra cautious when considering purchasing items online such as concert tickets, phones, gaming devices and designer goods. Fraudsters will take advantage of lower stock levels of such items around Christmas time, and we see consumers searching for these in demand items often falling victim to fraud.
• Don’t be lured onto a fraudulent website by clicking on a link you have been sent in a text or email. You can report suspicious emails by forwarding them to firstname.lastname@example.org and suspicious text messages by forwarding them to 7726
• Ensure your email and online shopping accounts are protected with strong passwords and you don’t use them anywhere else
• Use the recommended payment method, or you may not be refunded for any losses to fraud. Pay securely and
with payment protection (such as using a credit card).
• When paying either by online payment service or payment card, ensure that the link is secure, in two ways:
- There should be a padlock symbol in the browser window frame, which appears when you attempt to log in or register. Be sure that the padlock is not on the page itself … this will probably indicate a fraudulent site.
- The web address should begin with ‘https://’. The ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’.
The above indicate only that the link between you and the website owner is secure, and not that the site itself is authentic. You need to do this by carefully checking the address for subtle misspellings, additional words and characters and other irregularities:
• Check credit card and bank statements carefully after shopping to ensure that the correct amount has been debited, and also that no fraud has taken place as a result of the transaction.
• Avoid carrying out any financial transactions over unsecure connections, such as public wi-fi
• Ensure you have effective and updated antivirus/antispyware software and firewall running before you go online.
• If you’re unsure about a link to a website don’t click on it. If the offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Do your research on a website and go with your instincts
When using auction sites:
• Remember that it’s easy to set up a fake profile
• Stay on the website when communicating with the seller
• Do your research on the seller to make sure they are genuine
• Decline any requests to pay by bank transfer or virtual currency
• If a seller asks for payment by PayPal Friends & Family, this will be so that they can avoid PayPal charges, but will deny you any payment protection which PayPal may otherwise provide.
You also need to be wary as a seller. Criminals sometimes pose as buyers on auction sites, sending spoof emails as proof of payment transfer to the genuine seller. The payment fails to materialise, but the goods have already been sent. There have also been cases where criminals have turned up to the victim’s home to collect an item and presented a fake banking app, showing that the funds have been sent. Always check your account online or ask your bank to make sure cleared funds have been received before sending or handing over any item.
If you are the victim of fraud, report it immediately to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting centre, by calling 0300 123 20 40 or by visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk
Beware – Courier Fraud
Courier Fraud occurs when people are duped into handing over money or valuables to criminals posing as couriers. Using a variety of different tactics, usually involving the impersonation of police officers or bank staff, criminals will call the victim and convince them to withdraw cash and hand it over to a courier who is sent to their home, or to hand over bank cards, PINs, high value items (i.e. jewellery or gold).
Residents are reminded that the police or your bank will NEVER call you to verify your PIN. They will NEVER send a courier to your home to collect cash or bank cards. The police will NEVER contact you as part of an investigation that requires you to withdraw cash or purchase jewellery, gold or vouchers (like Amazon Vouchers).
If you are a victim (e.g. if you have revealed your bank details over the phone or handed over your card to a courier) contact your bank straight away. If you have been a victim of courier fraud, report to Action Fraud the UK’s national fraud reporting centre, by calling 0300 123 20 40 or by visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk
Message from A&S Police – November 2022: A resident received a call from someone who claimed to be a London police officer working in Paddington station (which closed some time ago). Fortunately the resident became suspicious and hung up, but we want to remind residents to be wary of callers who claim to be a police officer working in a serious crime fraud unit in London or for another force.
They claim that their bank account has been compromised or that their bank card has been cloned. The purpose of these calls is to get people’s bank account details.
The offenders may also say that they are investigating your bank and need help to test the cash for counterfeit money. Victims are asked to withdraw a considerable amount of cash which will then be collected by a courier for “testing”. Of course it always fails and you never see the money again.
These criminals can be very convincing and will sometimes pass your call to another “department” which is another offender. They may also ask you to contact 101or 999 to confirm their identity. In this case the culprit doesn’t hang up so the line remains connected at their end so any other call you make is answered by them. If asked to do this, hang up and wait at least five minutes before making a call or ideally use another phone if possible.
It is important to note that the police do not accept Amazon vouchers or any other type of gift card as a form of payment, so if the offenders ask for these it WILL be a scam.
Please see this ‘What is Courier Fraud?’ leaflet for more information (image below).
Christmas shopping fraud alert – Message from ActionFraud
Fraudsters stole £15.3m from Christmas shoppers last year
New figures revealed victims of online shopping scams lost on average £1,000 per person during last
year’s festive shopping season.
The figures, which come from reports made to Action Fraud and analysed by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB), showed that shoppers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland were scammed out of £15.3m between November 2021 and January 2022, and that the age group most likely to fall victim was 19 to 25-year-olds. Scams ranged from one shopper losing more than £150 trying to purchase a mobile phone on social media to another being duped out of more than £7,000 during an attempted online campervan purchase.
Meanwhile, another victim lost almost £500 when trying to buy shoes on a social media platform, and a
fourth lost £145 trying to make a similar purchase.
Top tips to shop online securely this festive season:
Action Fraud and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) are urging online shoppers to protect their
accounts, check before they buy, and use secure payment methods in order to stay ahead of the threat from criminals this shopping season:
• Protect your accounts: set up 2-step verification and use three random words passwords to prevent cyber
criminals from gaining access to your shopping, bank or email accounts.
• Choose carefully where you shop: Research online retailers, particularly if you haven’t bought from them
before, to check they’re legitimate. Read feedback from people or organisations that you trust, such as
• Pay securely: Use a credit card when shopping online, if you have one. Most major credit card providers
protect online purchases and are obliged to refund you in certain circumstances. Using a credit card (rather
than a debit card) also means that if your payment details are stolen, your main bank account won’t be
directly affected. Also consider using a payment platform, such as PayPal, Google or Apple Pay. And
whenever you pay, look for the closed padlock in the web address bar – it means your connection is secure.
For more advice on how to shop online securely this festive season, visit:
(If you found this information useful, please forward it to friends, family members and colleagues)