As consumers prepare for one of the biggest shopping days of the year, Cifas, the UK’s leading fraud prevention service, is warning shoppers of the dangers of online fraud.

With a large proportion of the UK still in lockdown, online sales are expected to soar this Black Friday as shoppers look for bargains on the ‘virtual high street’. However Cifas is warning consumers to be extra vigilant of fraud as data reveals a 19% increase in cases of identity fraud on telecom products filed to the National Fraud Database in 2020, when compared to the same period last year. In addition, facility takeover fraud – where a fraudster abuses personal data to hijack an existing account or product such as a bank account or phone contract – rose 20% in the same period.

Fraud has been steadily rising over the last five years, with 364,643 cases of fraudulent conduct filed on the National Fraud Database last year – the highest number ever recorded.

Technology played a key role in facilitating most of this fraudulent conduct, with 87% of identity fraud in 2019 occurring through online channels. Criminals mostly obtained the information they needed to commit fraud through smishing and phishing attacks, where victims are tricked into giving personal and financial information, and spoofed websites where a website is made to look like a well-known brand in order to obtain personal details. These details can then be used to obtain credit in forms such as credit cards, loans and mobile phone contracts in the name of the victim.

Amber Burridge, Head of Fraud Intelligence at Cifas, said ‘Criminals will do everything they can to take advantage of the large number of people expected to look for bargains online on Black Friday. From fake social media posts to spoofed websites, fraudsters have a wide range of sophisticated ways to make people believe that they are interacting with a trusted, legitimate company or person.”

“My advice to consumers is to be vigilant when buying online, and make sure you check the product is being sold by a reputable source. Never feel rushed or pressured into a decision that you may later regret, and always use the secure payment method recommended by reputable online retailers and auction sites.”