New data from our partner Action Fraud shows a sharp rise in people being defrauded via adverts on social media as the Christmas shopping season begins.

This Christmas the City of London police who run Action Fraud, supported by police forces across the country, are launching a national awareness campaign to help prevent people from becoming victims of online shopping fraud as well as other types of fraud which people fall victim to during the seasonal period.

Over 30 days from Black Friday to Boxing Day, the ‘Advent Calendar of Christmas Fraud’ will offer advice and tips on how to beat the fraudsters this Christmas.

New figures show that last year, victims reported losing over £10 million to fraudsters when shopping online for Christmas presents. The largest loss was one victim who lost £86,000 when he tried to purchase a boat from a fraudster on Ebay.

Figures for last Christmas show that last year 12,142 people said that they had been a victim of online shopping fraud during the Christmas period with 133 people saying that they had been defrauded on Black Friday and another 115 falling victim on Cyber Monday.

Fraudsters use these days to target shoppers with analysis showing that mobile phones and footwear were the items most popular for victims to be defrauded buying.

Increasingly young people are being approached by fraudsters on social media channels who offer seemingly great Christmas shopping deals. Last year more people than ever reported that they had been initially approached on Instagram with a 67 percent increase compared to the year before.

The campaign is timed to warn shoppers before the rush to pick up bargains on Black Friday and will run up to and beyond Christmas day as fraudsters also use the post Christmas sales rush to target shoppers.

Analysis of Action Fraud reports from last Christmas (2015) showed that Items such as home electricals, mobile phones and jewellery were the most common items which fraudsters offered to victims.

City of London Police analyses all Action Fraud reports and tries to prevent more people falling victim of fraud by requesting the suspension of the websites, bank accounts and phone lines that fraudsters use to commit their crimes. Last year 418 websites were disrupted by the team which was a 67 percent increase on the year before. Phone lines used by fraudsters were also disrupted by the team with 93 being taken down during December.

“Christmas is prime time for fraudsters to take advantage of the British public. During the festive season people rush to buy the presents they have been asking for, however fraudsters see this period of generosity as an opportunity to strike and steal money from unsuspecting victims. Our campaign is designed to give individuals up to date advice that will keep them one step ahead of the criminals that target UK shoppers from all over the globe. Everyone deserves a crime free Christmas so make sure it’s the criminals that are left short changed this festive period."

The City of London Police’s Commander Chris Greany, the National Co-ordinator for Economic Crime


Victims can use the following guidelines to prevent themselves being conned out of the Christmas they deserve:

  • If something seems too much of a bargain, it’s probably poor quality, fake or doesn’t exist.
  • Use methods like PayPal when buying on auction sites; never transfer money to someone you don’t know.
  • When making a transaction always look out for a padlock in the web tool bar, the padlock indicates that the site is secure.
  • The ’s’ on the end of ‘http’ is another essential indicator that a site is secure for making transactions.
  • If you’re buying tickets, always buy from official sources and never pay by direct transfer
  • If you’re buying a holiday online, research it thoroughly to ensure that is a genuine offer and check to make sure it is registered with ABTA and ATOL.
  • Secure Wi-Fi is vital for your privacy. Check that the network you’re using is secure before you make any financial transactions.
  • Always ensure that your keep your anti-virus software, operating systems and other security measures up-to-date on your electronic devices.