Buyer beware - shoppers could lose close to a billion pounds in scams this Christmas, experts warn

 Cropped close-up of five people sitting on a bench with shopping bags - only shows their legs.
Cropped close-up of five people sitting on a bench with shopping bags - only shows their legs.

Shoppers in Britain might lose up to £800m in online shopping scams this festive season, new research has warned.

A report from F-Secure says scams are set to accelerate rapidly over the next two months as shoppers clamor to do their festive shopping, which could end up costing the country the aforementioned eye-watering figure.

Other research has found that more than 13 million Britons have fallen victim to online shopping scams over the last year, which have totaled £1.4bn in loses in the UK.

Big or small - the threat is the same

F-Secure commissioned a survey of 2,000 adult Britons who had been scammed while shopping, and discovered that those under the age of 25 were the hardest hit in financial terms, losing up to £245 during the Christmas period. However, it was the 25-34 age demographic that was most likely to fall victim to such scams.

It also found that men are marginally more likely to be scammed than women (28% to 21%).

Fashion and gift shopping were the two most likely shopping categories where scams would occur (16% each). This was closely followed by shopping scams relating to tech or IoT devices (15%), beauty (13%), and food (13%). Sports equipment, furniture, vehicles, and travel were all at 12%. Event ticket shopping was 11%.

What's more, the research also found that smaller, independent retailers are more likely to suffer as a consequence, as Brits avoid shopping with them in the misguided belief that they will be safer sticking with major retailers.

However, small independent stores only accounted for 27% of UK shopping scams last year, which is only slightly more than platforms such as Amazon and eBay (23%).

F-Secure recommends that shoppers use credit cards where possible, as there may be a better chance of being reimbursed in the event of a scam. It also advises shoppers to check site reviews, but to be wary of too many top ratings, as this can indicate the purchase of fake reviews.

It also recommends that stores with prices that seem too low should be met with caution, and to therefore check for other possible signs of danger. F-Secure also has its own 'Online Shopping Checker' tool that it claims can identify whether a store is legitimate or not.

Aside from the festive season, Black Friday is also a concern for shopping safety. Research from Imperva has found that Account Take Over (ATO) attacks are expected to rise over this period, where cybercriminals try to access user accounts with stolen passwords. During Black Friday last year, ATO attacks increased by 66% around the world.