As part of National Consumer Week and International Fraud Awareness Week, we want to remind our customers and readers of some of the issues of shopping online and what can be done to limit the risks.

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, according to data from Wiltshire Police, since the previous lockdown, there was an 80% 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.

Commenting on the increased number of cases on fraus, and the risks of not staying aware while online, Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Angus Macpherson commented: “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. Find a variety of resources available to download at www.fraudweek.com/fraudweek/resources.

If you’ve been a victim of fraud, please report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040, or via their website at www.actionfraud.police.uk.

Source: Neighbourhood Alert
Sian Rivers (Police, Communications Officer, HQ)

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