Police have urged consumers to do their best to stay safe online in the final run-up to Christmas – to beat any fraudsters plotting a festive rip-off.
Detectives in Cumbria say reports of people being defrauded out of cash or goods go up at this time of year.
And as more people than ever go online to get their presents and festive treats, the need to know how to stay secure becomes ever more important.
So police are issuing tips from officers and partner organisations such as Trading Standards and the Get Safe Online website, with the hope people will take in the advice and keep themselves clear of crime.
The advice is issued at a time of year when people might be stressed about their remaining Christmas shopping and rush into making panic buys.
Detective Sergeant Stephanie Goulding said: “These last few weeks before Christmas can be really busy and it can be easy to rush into making a quick purchase online.
“But we would like to remind shoppers to take extra care when shopping for gifts online and take the time to check everything is as it seems.
“As consumers search online for bargains and gifts, fraudsters are seeing this as an opportunity to trick people.
“They might do this with the promise of great deals and big cash savings.
“People may be defrauded on popular social media websites and online auction sites.
“Remember, if it looks too good to be true – it probably is.”
In December last year 20 online frauds were reported in Cumbria.
The figure is up by about a third on the type of figure the force might get in the summer months.
Although the reports are not a large number, each victim of fraud can suffer financial problems and be hit emotionally.
DS Goulding added: “We work hard together with our partners to highlight the threat and to prevent people from falling victim.
“To stop fraudsters in their tracks, be cautious of where and from whom you’re buying.”
DON’T GET CAUGHT OUT – SOME TIPS:
- Don’t pay for goods or services by bank transfer unless you know and trust the person.
- Make sure you’ve installed the latest software and app updates. Criminals use weaknesses in software to attack your devices.
- Use a strong, separate password and two-factor authentication to protect your email account. Criminals can use your email to access other online accounts, such as those you use for online shopping.
- Don’t click on a link in an unexpected email or test.
SHOPPING IN ONLINE MARKET PLACES:
Cumbria Trading Standards has issued the below advice if things go wrong when using online market places – websites where traders and private individuals list and sell products.
What can you do if something goes wrong?
- Contact the seller directly to try to resolve the issue.
- Check the online marketplaces’ terms and conditions; they may have their own protection and dispute resolution systems.
- Some traders belong to an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme, which means they offer a way to solve the problem without going to court.
- If you have bought from a private seller, consider making a claim to the local Small Claims Court.
Be savvy – check the product details:
- This should include: photos; a description; cost of the item; delivery charges; contact details for the seller and any cancellation rights.
- It should also be clear if it’s being sold by a trader or private seller – this is important as your rights are different.
- It is wise to read previous reviews as these can often flag potential issues – but watch out for fake reviews. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Use a payment method that protects you:
- You’ll have a better chance of getting your money back if there’s a problem by using a credit / debit card or PayPal, particularly if it’s an overseas seller.
- For more safe shopping advice visit: www.getsafeonline.org.uk
If you are a victim of fraud that is a crime in progress and you need an immediate police response, dial 999.
If you think that you have been the victim of a fraud and it is a non-emergency situation report this to the Cumbria Constabulary on 101 and to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040, or by visiting their website www.actionfraud.police.uk.