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How to beat the online fraudsters this Christmas

That’s based on figures from 2020, when 28,049 online shoppers were scammed out of £15.4m over the Christmas retail period. Black Friday and Cyber Monday alone accounted for £2.5m of the total, with an average loss of £550.

“Christmas is an incredibly busy time for us all but, sadly, criminals will see this as an ideal opportunity to take advantage of shoppers who are caught up in the excitement of securing a bargain online,” said Pauline Smith, Head of Action Fraud. 

Her advice for a safe approach to online shopping is to trust your gut. “If you think you’ve found a bargain that is too good to be true, it probably is,” she said. “Stop and think before making a purchase as it could protect you and your money.”

There are many reasons why people remain at risk to fraudsters, including psychology, automatic behaviours and habits that can be taken advantage of. There are tools to help though. Get Safe Online has an easy-to-use function that helps you determine whether a website is likely to be legitimate or a scam – before you visit it. Simply type in the address of the website you want to check, and your results will appear in seconds. 

Action Fraud recommends some simple steps for keeping yourself safe when shopping online. 

1. Be a picky clicker – research the business you buy from

If you’re purchasing goods from a website you’re unfamiliar with, stay sceptical and do some checks. This means seeking out online reviews of the business in question. If you’re buying from an online marketplace, such as eBay, you can view the seller’s feedback history before handing over any money. And always use the website’s payment method, such as PayPal. Never send money directly to the seller’s bank account.

2. Be smart with cards, and look for the padlock

Some payment methods, such as credit cards, offer buyer protection. Under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, you’re covered by credit card purchase protection if you use your credit card to buy goods or services costing between £100.01 and £30,000.

3. Have a way with words: use a strong password and two-factor authentication

At work, you’re probably familiar with password policies designed to keep hackers away from company emails. The same principle should be applied to your personal account by using a strong unique password consisting of memorable yet random words, numbers and characters. 

That way, criminals should not be able to use your email to gain access to your other online accounts, such as those used for online shopping. Where possible, ensure that you enable two-factor authentication (2FA): this means having to input a second piece of information when logging in, often a secure code sent to your phone or generated by an app. 

4. Smells phishy? Be wary of text messages

If you receive an SMS text about an amazing offer, it may be trying to direct you to a fake website designed to look like the website of a high street retailer. Exercise caution and go separately to the official website, rather than clicking on any links. 

And remember, if it turns out to be an attempt at fraud, report it. Forward suspicious emails to and suspicious texts to 7726 (it spells ‘SPAM’ on a keypad). If you come across an iffy-looking website, report it to the National Cyber Security Centre

If you notice suspicious activity…

Don’t forget to please get in touch straight away if you’ve noticed any suspicious transactions on your account. Lines are open 24/7.

UK: 0333 202 3330

Relay UK: 18001 0333 202 3330 

Overseas: +44 161 933 7239

See more expert tips to help you tackle fraud with our article, video and FAQs from a customer event on the topic.

This material is published by NatWest Group plc (“NatWest Group”), for information purposes only and should not be regarded as providing any specific advice. Recipients should make their own independent evaluation of this information and no action should be taken, solely relying on it. This material should not be reproduced or disclosed without our consent. It is not intended for distribution in any jurisdiction in which this would be prohibited. Whilst this information is believed to be reliable, it has not been independently verified by NatWest Group and NatWest Group makes no representation or warranty (express or implied) of any kind, as regards the accuracy or completeness of this information, nor does it accept any responsibility or liability for any loss or damage arising in any way from any use made of or reliance placed on, this information. Unless otherwise stated, any views, forecasts, or estimates are solely those of the NatWest Group Economics Department, as of this date and are subject to change without notice.

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