Black Friday scams: Consumers warned to be on their guard after more than 20,000 shoppers conned last Christmas

Shoppers have been warned to be on their guard as wide-ranging scams executed by organised gangs of criminals are costing the economy millions of pounds every festive season.

Shoppers have been warned over Black Friday scams

Research published today has revealed the scale of the frauds which were conducted over the Christmas period last year.

Police have confirmed that scam online shopping “bargains” that turned out to be too good to be true cost shoppers £15.4m during Christmas last year.

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Action Fraud, the national centre for fraud and cyber crime, received reports relating to 28,049 shoppers conned out of their cash when shopping online during the Christmas period in 2020 - an increase of almost two-thirds compared with a year earlier.

A separate study has shown that last year’s Black Friday season saw a 17 per cent increase in reported shopping scams with victims losing an average of £538.

More than half of Britons will change their usual behaviour in search of a good deal, and 38 per cent are planning to shop the Black Friday sales, the survey for Barclays found.

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Ahead of Black Friday this week, Action Fraud is warning people to take extra care when shopping online.

Action Fraud’s director, Pauline Smith, said: “If you think you have found a bargain that is too good to be true, it probably is. Stop and think before making a purchase, as it could protect you and your money.

“Always shop with official retailers and follow our simple advice to enjoy shopping online safely and ensure you are not left empty-handed this Christmas.”

Nearly £2.5m was lost to criminals during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sale events last year - an average loss of almost £550 per victim.

Shoppers reported buying mobile phones, electronics, vehicles, clothing and footwear on websites such as Facebook, eBay and Gumtree, only for the items to never arrive.

One common tactic used to defraud victims is the use of fake websites purporting to be reputable companies.

They are created to look identical to the real website and will advertise items at a much cheaper price than the normal retail price to entice victims.

Black Friday has become a huge event to boost retail sales in the run-up to Christmas.

The annual sales bonanza emerged in the USA on the first Friday after Thanksgiving, and has now also become a consumer phenomenon in the UK.

But the poll by Barclays found almost a fifth of Black Friday shoppers said they felt pressure last year to buy items as quickly as possible, opening up the threat of fraud.