The scammers’ new target is those who are desperate to buy must-have or hard-to-find items in the run up to Christmas, but are struggling to buy from well-known retailers.

Liz Ziegler
Retail Fraud & Financial Crime Direct
18 October 2021
5 min read

Fraud is now one of the most common crimes in the UK and very much a threat to our national security. Educating consumers is therefore really important, particularly given fraudsters are always on the lookout for new ways to trick victims out of their hard-earned cash. 

In the run up to Christmas Lloyds Bank has been working to get the message out to shoppers to stay safe during the annual shopping rush, and particularly anyone that’s thinking of taking extra risks to bag those in-demand gifts.

Purchase scams

Purchase scams are already prevalent this year; we’ve observed a 10% increase. Purchase scams occur when someone is tricked into sending money via bank transfer (usually a Faster Payment) to buy goods or services, often advertised online, that don’t actually exist. 

Fraudsters took advantage of supply chain issues during the early days of the pandemic, when many shops were closed and people trying to get hold of items online were forced to pay inflated prices or buy from sellers on social media. 

The scammers’ new target is those who are desperate to buy must-have or hard-to-find items in the run up to Christmas, but are struggling to buy from well-known retailers. 

 

Top 10 most common purchase scams reported over the last three months:

  1. Vehicles and parts
  2. Phones and accessories
  3. Puppies and dogs
  4. Trainers and shoes
  5. Gaming consoles
  6.  Clothes and fashion
  7. Home furniture
  8. Amazon vouchers
  9. Watches
  10. Event tickets

 

Purchase scams come in all shapes and sizes, but the vast majority start with items advertised on social media, where it’s far easier for fraudsters to use fake profiles and advertise items that don’t exist. 

As part of our consumer education focus, our messages are clear. When shopping online, we’re telling shoppers to keep safe by purchasing from a trusted retailer, and always paying by card for the greatest protection. 

While the sums involved in purchase scams may not always be eye-watering, losing hundreds of pounds in the run up to Christmas could be devastating for families, not to mention the heartbreak of not receiving that much sought-after gift. 

When fraudsters are most likely to strike

We need to make sure Christmas doesn’t come early for the criminals. Our Lloyds Bank research suggests that supply chain issues and people’s shopping habits could leave them more vulnerable to scams, with shortages of in-demand gifts meaning almost two thirds (63%) of Brits say they are prepared to take more risks when shopping in the lead up to Christmas.

As a result, almost two fifths (39%) said they would purchase from anywhere which had the product they were looking to buy, even if it wasn’t a well-known retailer or one they had bought from before. More than one in five (21%) even said that they would not be put off by a website that had either no reviews or purely negative ones.

In fact, around 50% of all scams reported to us relate to purchases with our research suggesting that 10% happen when buying clothes, 8% when trying to book a holiday and worryingly in the lead up to Christmas most (14%) when buying gifts.

The median amount lost in a purchase scam is around £190, although it’s not unusual for fraudsters to walk away with thousands of pounds from a single transaction. Small amounts can sometimes be just as devastating for the individual victim concerned.

 

63%

of Brits say they are prepared to take more risks in the lead up to Christmas

 

Are bank transfers safe?

Many consumers remain unaware that bank transfers and in particular Faster Payments were not designed as a way of paying for goods and services online, and therefore offer little protection if something goes wrong. As customer use of the Faster Payments scheme has shifted, the service is being increasingly exploited as the execution point for scams. 

Originally conceived as a person-to-person payments scheme, the development of customer to business transactions and direct commerce means new protections are needed for end users – change which needs to be addressed at an industry level, with social media platforms, online marketplaces, telecommunications, online search engines and open banking participants also needing to play their part.

Buyers who pay by credit card or debit card benefit from the well-established Section 75 and Chargeback rules which have been protecting customers for decades. 

 

Top tips we’re sharing with consumers:

  • Always use your debit or credit card when you buy online. This helps to protect your money should anything go wrong.
  • Fraudsters use social media to post scam offers. They can even send them straight to your inbox. Always search for deals yourself.
  • Check any offer that comes by text or email to make sure it's genuine. Call the sender to find out using a number you trust, not one in a message. Or visit the website to check. Never click on a link without checking first.
  • Low prices and great deals can hide scams. See if you can find them elsewhere. And remember, if an item is selling out, fraudsters can charge more to trick desperate buyers.
  • Make sure a seller or website is genuine. Look for good reviews from different buyers. Be wary of mixed, bad or no reviews at all. It's better to buy from a trusted retailer.
  • Ask questions before you buy. If an item is expensive, offer to pay a deposit. If a seller can't give any details about an item or tries to rush you into paying, it’s probably a scam.
Liz Ziegler
About the author Liz Ziegler

Liz is the Retail Bank Fraud & Financial Crime Director.  She has held a number of senior roles in Lloyds Banking Group, mainly in the Retail Bank, across credit cards, customer services, transformation as well as integrations & divestments. 

Liz's background Close

 

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