Christmas shoppers are being warned they could become victims of fraud after a big leap in incidents during the last festive season.
Shopping fraud rose by a quarter last Christmas, with most victims targeted on online marketplace sites, police have said.
Victims reported losing almost £16m in total, a rise of 45% on the previous year.
City of London Police Commander Dave Clark said: “Christmas is a busy time of year when we are required to make several quick decisions, especially when it comes to present buying.
“Our fraud awareness campaign is highlighting that it is very much ‘the thought that counts’, especially when it comes to avoiding fraudsters.
“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.”
Image: Many people will avoid the crowds and decide to do their shopping online
On the force’s Action Fraud website, 15,243 people reported a shopping fraud, while 9,932 of them said they were defrauded online.
It’s estimated there are around 300 marketplace sites in Europe – the best known are eBay and Amazon – where goods are sold by retailers and individuals.
Chris Dawson, who runs the online advice blog tamebay.com, explained how fraudsters use phishing emails to lure victims onto bogus marketplace sites.
He said: “Recently I received a phishing email which purportedly was from Amazon, but it wasn’t from Amazon, it was pretending to be.
“It was an attempt by scammers to get me to click on an email and give away my personal information.
“It had a big link saying ‘click here to sign into your Amazon account’.
“If you clicked that link on this spam email it would take you to a site where they would ask you to enter your name and your bank information.”
Image: eBay says its money back guarantee protects shoppers from fraud
Action Fraud said mobile phones were the most likely purchase from fraudsters, followed by clothing and accessories, shoes, computers and home electronics.
eBay said in a statement: “The vast majority of purchases made through eBay’s marketplace go through with no problems at all.
“However, if your item doesn’t arrive or wasn’t what was described in the listing, we’ll make sure that you get the item you ordered or a refund if you paid using PayPal.
“Our money back guarantee covers billions of pounds’ worth of purchases each year and ensures that buyers can shop confidently, with knowledge that they will receive the item they purchased or their money back.”
Harry Rose, Which? Money Editor, said: “Our recent investigation showed how easy it is for fraudsters to send spoofed texts, pretending to be someone that they are not.
“Consumers must be extra vigilant this Black Friday and think twice before clicking on the link in any unsolicited messages.”