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NCSC’s Cyber Aware campaign to help shoppers tackle online fraud

The National Cyber Security Centre today launched a new Cyber Aware campaign to educate online shoppers about fraudsters applying various tricks and techniques to defraud them and how to protect themselves from online fraud.

According to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, during last year’s Christmas shopping period, that is between 1st November 2019 and 31st January 2020, a total of 17,405 instances of online fraud were reported and these resulted in online shoppers losing as much as £13.5 million to online scammers and fraudsters.

This meant that on average, victimised online shoppers lost £775 every time fraudsters tricked them into sharing their card details or transferring money in exchange for Christmas offerings. According to NCSC, with more people expected to shop online this year due to coronavirus restrictions, there is a real possibility of incidents of online fraud rising steeply this Fall.

The cyber security watchdog – a part of GCHQ – has listed six behaviours that Internet users must practice to protect themselves from online fraud and to plug all digital loopholes that cyber criminals are trained to exploit. These are:

  1. Use a strong and separate password for your email
  2. Create strong passwords using 3 random words
  3. Save your passwords in your browser
  4. Turn on two-factor authentication (2FA)
  5. Update your devices and apps
  6. Back up your data

“Technology will play an essential role over the festive period, with more people shopping online than ever before. Scammers stole millions from internet shoppers last Christmas – but by following our advice, you can protect yourself from the majority of their crimes. We hope the Cyber Aware campaign helps people to shop confidently online and enjoy their Christmas,” said Lindy Cameron who replaced Ciaran Martin as the chief of NCSC this summer.

“This year we have spent more time online than ever before. Whether it be working or shopping online, criminals and others often see the internet as another means to cause harm. As we approach the Christmas season, we should all be on our guard and take the practical Cyber Aware actions to keep us safe as we work, shop, and socialise online,” said Penny Mordaunt, the Paymaster General.

A major reason why online shoppers must apply utmost caution when buying goods online this Christmas is that it is not easy to get back their money from banks once they are victimised by fraudsters and scammers. According to online payment service Shieldpay, almost 23 percent of online shoppers in the UK have been victims of online fraud, with 8% falling victim to online scams more than once. In 14% of all incidents, shoppers have lost more than £1000 to online fraudsters.

The firm said that even though victims of online fraud lose £608 on average to every incident, the amount offered to them by banks as compensation is only £55 on average. Only 37 percent of victims have been fully compensated by their banks.

Many online shoppers trust their own instincts about security when carrying out online shopping, yet tens of thousands of shoppers end up getting victimised during every online shopping fest. This is because cyber criminals are now adept at setting up highly-believable e-commerce sites with SSL certificates, sending out phishing emails with genuine brand logos and celebrity endorsements, and creating lookalike domains of popular online brands that are difficult to spot as fake.

Between September 2019 and August this year, NCSC removed as many as 22,000 malicious URLs that were being used by cyber criminals to perpetrate online scams. These included 471 fake online shops selling fraudulent coronavirus related items, 555 malware distribution sites set up to cause significant damage to any visitors, 200 phishing sites seeking personal information such as passwords or credit card details, and 832 advance-fee frauds where a large sum of money is promised in return for a set-up payment.

Commenting on the NCSC launching its Cyber Aware campaign to help the public tackle online fraud, Carl Wearn, head of e-crime at Mimecast, said that it is really positive to see the Government taking proactive steps to educate consumers on this increased threat. This will help them to stay on their toes and minimise the risk of them losing money or sharing data with cybercriminals that can be used for future fraud.

“Consumers should beware of any messaging pressuring them into making quick purchasing decisions such as flash sales or prize offers by clicking on a link for example, as these are quite often scams. Sales and offers are usually well-advertised, and it is always worth navigating to a retailer’s main website via your browser to check that an offer is legitimate.

“Please be aware that a bewildering array of frauds can be undertaken at this time, and please consider the security of any devices if you’re purchasing any connectable devices this season. When buying online ensure you use a credit card if at all possible, as you’re likely to find it easier to replace and gain a refund if it is subsequently misused. Many also offer purchase protection insurance for extra peace of mind. As always, but particularly at this time of year where we are after the must-have items for family and friends, if something seems too good to be true, then it often is,” he added.


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