Beware Cyber Hackers, Security Watchdog Warns Christmas Online Shoppers

December 4, 2020 Updated: December 4, 2020

Britain’s national cyber security watchdog has warned online shoppers to be wary of being defrauded by cyber hackers over the upcoming festive season.

Launching its Cyber Aware campaign on Friday, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) warned that because people will be shopping more online this Christmas due to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, there’ll be more opportunities for cyber fraud to be committed.

The NCSC, part of government communications headquarters GCHQ, said that according to National Fraud Intelligence Bureau statistics, each victim of cyber-crime last year lost an average of £775 ($1,000).

It offered online shoppers six tips on making transactions more secure this Christmas, including using different and stronger passwords, updating devices, and backing up data.

“Scammers stole millions from internet shoppers last Christmas—but by following our advice, you can protect yourself from the majority of their crimes,” Lindy Cameron, chief executive of the NCSC, said.

“We hope the Cyber Aware campaign helps people to shop confidently online and enjoy their Christmas.”

Christmas Calendar and Gifts
A Christmas countdown calendar is seen among some of the festive items in the Christmas gift and decoration section in the branch of retailer Marks and Spencer at Westfield White City on in London on Oct. 20, 2020. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

At the end of November, Action Fraud, the national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre, launched its own #FraudFreeXmas campaign.

Last year, 17,405 shoppers were scammed out of £13.5 million ($18.1 million) over the festive period, Action Fraud said, a 20 percent hike on the same period in 2018.

It cited Black Friday and Cyber Monday as fraud hotspots when, in the run-up to the big day, people are hunting for online bargains and gifts for loved ones.

“Christmas is an incredibly busy time for us all. Many shoppers get caught up in the excitement of Black Friday, so it can be easy to rush into making a quick purchase online to secure a bargain,” Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud, said in a statement.

“Unfortunately, criminals will see this as an ideal opportunity to take advantage of shoppers and will tempt them with the promise of cheap deals.”

Smith said that most of the online scams over 2019’s festive period involved “too good to be true” deals in electronics and mobile phones, and advised online shoppers to stick to the official retailers.

She also advised buying with a credit card, if possible, which affords some protection if things go wrong.

Tips included doing some research on unfamiliar websites or sellers to make sure they are legitimate, such as looking for reviews, and being wary of emails touting great deals, which may lead to fake websites or install malware on your device.

If you do fall victim to fraud or cyber-crime, you should contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud at actionfraud.police.uk.