Warning to be safe while shopping online

By Barrie Hudson - 20 November 2020


Wiltshire Police are reminding consumers want to remind consumers of potential problems around shopping online.

The move is part of National Consumer Week and International Fraud Awareness Week.

The force said in a statement: "We’re coming towards the end of the second week of the current national lockdown, and many people might be looking to get themselves prepared ahead of the festive period by shopping for gifts online. 

"As people are again furloughed and usual socialising is curtailed for now, some may find they have more time on their hands. With non-essential stores currently being closed, shopping online is on the rise.

"Many retailers are already advertising their ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’ sales, fully aware of the current rise in online spending, in a bid for customers and sales. 

"But it’s important to remember criminals know this is a time people are looking for a deal and might be tempted to click on a suspicious link or share personal information. Don’t be rushed into making purchases or sharing information, stop and think to consider if something might not be legitimate.

"Unfortunately, since the previous lockdown, there was an 80 percent increase in the number of reported problems consumers had with online shopping – ranging from scams and defective goods to not knowing their consumer rights and struggling to get refunds. 

"National Consumer Week is this year highlighting these issues and letting people know where they can get advice and support – a great place to start is at www.citizensadvice.org.uk/ncw20 or call 0808 223 1133.

"Lockdown has also sadly provided the perfect conditions for fraudsters to take advantage of vulnerable people, extracting large sums of money from them. 

"Courier fraud, romance fraud, fake phishing emails and scam phone calls have all been on the rise. 

"Alongside banks and other forces, we’ll be reminding our communities of common scams and tips on how to protect themselves, their friends and families."

Wiltshire Police Fraud Manager Alison Wiles said: “Courier fraudsters are possibly the most callous in my opinion – they’re able to look their victim in the eye and lie to them, often frightening a vulnerable person into giving them huge sums of money.

"They initiate contact primarily over the phone, posing to be a trusted police officer or bank official and ask the victim to either purchase expensive items for ‘evidence’ or remove large quantities of money from their account after claiming a mistake has been made, only to be collected by a fake courier.

“Older or less technically-minded people living alone in isolation during lockdown are more at risk, we’d like to ask those in our communities who are more savvy when it comes to fraud, to look out for your less knowledgeable friends, family or neighbours. It could make a huge difference.”

Police and Crime Commissioner, Angus Macpherson added: “Many people will be turning to the internet to plan for the festivities ahead, but it’s important to remember the basics, don’t get caught out by scammers aiming to benefit from the extra time we’re spending online. 

“Having regular conversations with less fraud aware, often older people, could easily help prevent someone you know becoming a victim of these fraudsters. 

"Prevention is always our preferred strategy - let’s all do our bit to try and curtail these scams.”

It’s important too, for businesses to be aware of how to protect themselves against fraud. At a time when money might be tight and increased day-to-day stresses, the risks are at an all-time high. 

A variety of resources are available to download at www.fraudweek.com/fraudweek/resources.

Fraud can be reported to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040, or via their website at www.actionfraud.police.uk.

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