Over £16m lost to e-commerce fraud during lockdown

Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime, has warned the public to take extra care online, after statistics show 16,352 people fell victim to online shopping and auction fraud during lockdown.

Since shops were forced to close due to the Coronavirus outbreak on 23 March, Action Fraud has received reports of online shopping fraud totalling £16.6 million in losses.

Members of the public have reported buying mobile phones (19 per cent), vehicles (22 per cent), electronics (10 per cent) and footwear (four per cent) on sites such as eBay (18 per cent), Facebook (18 per cent), Gumtree (10 per cent) and Depop (six per cent); only to have the items never arrive.

Nearly a quarter of victims (24 per cent) were aged 18 to 26 residing in cities including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool, Bristol and Nottingham.

Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud, said: “With the lockdown being introduced, so many more people are now online shopping, including those who have never done so before - it is therefore unsurprising that there has therefore been an increase in fraud being committed.

“However, we are still seeing young people in their 20’s falling victim the most," she continued. "This has been the case for the last 18 months which implies this is not just a trend brought about because of Coronavirus."

Ben Russell, deputy director at the National Economic Crime Centre, added: “We are working with our partners in policing, government and the private sector to look at ways to design out fraud and help protect the public, but we all have a part to play in preventing fraud, and a big part of this is down to our own vigilance.

"When buying from another person online, don’t send money upfront, use a credit card if possible and remember, if something looks too good to be true, it probably is.”

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