• With more customers likely to shop online on Black Friday due to social distancing restrictions, UK Finance urges the public to be on the lookout for online scams.
  • Latest intelligence suggests a recent rise in purchase scams on Christmas gifts and home improvement products, as more people stay at home and shop online.
  • Consumers should follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign, and look out for deals which sound too good to be true, be wary of unverified offers, and be careful clicking on links.

UK Finance is warning people to be alert to online shopping scams, as more customers are expected to turn to the internet for Black Friday bargains and Christmas gifts this year due to coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

As one of the UK’s busiest shopping and bargain-hunting period approaches, recent intelligence from the banking and finance industry suggests there has been a rise in purchase scams with criminals exploiting consumers shopping online for common Christmas gifts, such as games consoles, bicycles and clothing.

These scams also involve home improvement and DIY purchases such as patio heaters and sheds, as fraudsters adapt to more people staying at home and choosing to invest in their homes and living environments.

Social media platforms, online market places and auction websites are increasingly being used by criminals to carry out these purchase scams, where a customer pays in advance for goods or services that are never received. Over £27 million was lost to such fraud in the first half of 2020, according to UK Finance figures, amounting to an average loss of around £720 per case.

Criminals are also using the cover of Christmas shopping deals to roll out data harvesting scams, attempting to prompt consumers to provide details through phishing emails advertising cheap goods and by impersonating organisations and businesses. These scams collect financial and personal information, including debit and credit card details, which is later used to commit fraud.

With non-essential shops currently closed in England and other areas of the UK facing stricter social distancing measures, consumers are likely to mirror their spending habits from April — the first full month of lockdown — which saw a record proportion of card payments being made online 2, meaning more people may be at risk of such data harvesting scams

To stay safe, consumers should remember that criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police and follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign to stay safe when shopping online. Stop and think. It could protect you and your money.

Stop: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
Challenge: Could it be fake? It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
Protect: Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud.

Katy Worobec, Managing Director of Economic Crime at UK Finance, said:

“As consumer spending has shifted online, criminals have ruthlessly adjusted their approaches to pursue those shopping on the internet. With Black Friday and Christmas approaching, fraudsters are again stepping up their efforts to take advantage of consumers searching for bargains.

“Intelligence from our members across the banking and finance industry shows that purchase scams are on the rise, with buyers of games consoles, bicycles and clothing at high risk — as well as those making home improvement and DIY purchases.

“The banking and finance industry is working hard to protect customers from this threat, with almost £7 in £10 of unauthorised fraud prevented in the first half of this year. However, we must all must remain vigilant against scams. Always take a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information, and don’t let a criminal rush or panic you into making a decision that you’ll later come to regret.”


Notes to editor

For more information please call the UK Finance press office on 020 7416 6750 or email

1. UK Finance is the collective voice for the banking and finance industry. Representing more than 250 firms across the industry, we act to enhance competitiveness, support customers and facilitate innovation.
2. UK Finance’s Card Spending Update for April 2020 is available here. One third (34.3 per cent) of the total value of debit and credit card transactions was made online, up from 29.6 per cent the previous year. Similarly, 16 per cent of the volume of card transactions was through online purchases, an increase from 13.3 per cent in April 2019 and the highest monthly figure on record. Data tables for the month are available here.
3. UK Finance data shows that 25 to 34 year olds are most likely to shop online regularly, with 89 per cent shopping online at least once a month – compared to 68 per cent of those aged 65 and over shopping online at least once a month.
4. A summary of the UK Payment Markets 2020 report is available here.
5. UK Finance’s 2020 Half Year Fraud Update can be found here.
6. More advice on how customers can protect themselves from coronavirus scams is available from the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign.
7. The banking and finance industry is protecting the public from fraud by:

  • Investing in advanced security systems to protect customers, including real-time transaction analysis, behavioural biometrics on devices and technology to identify the different sound tones that every phone has and the environment that they are in.
  • Working closely with the government and law enforcement to tackle fraud through a national Economic Crime Plan, including regularly exchanging information and coordinating responses to emerging threats such as scams linked to Covid-19.
  • Delivering the Banking Protocol – a ground-breaking rapid response scheme through which branch staff can alert police and Trading Standards to suspected frauds taking place. The system is now operational in every police force area and has prevented £116 million of fraud and led to 744 arrests since it began being rolled out in 2016.
  • Working with text message providers and law enforcement to block scam text messages including those exploiting the Covid-19 crisis. 821 unauthorised sender IDs are currently being blocked to prevent them being used to send scam text messages mimicking trusted organisations, including 70 related to Covid-19
  • Working with the regulator Ofcom to crack down on number spoofing, including through the development of a ‘do not originate’ list. Ofcom has said this work has led to significant successes in preventing criminals from spoofing the phone numbers of trusted organisations. For example, when HMRC added numbers to this list they reported reducing “to zero the number of phone scams spoofing genuine inbound HMRC numbers.”
  • Sponsoring a specialist police unit, the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU), which tackles the organised criminal groups responsible for financial fraud and scams. In the first half of 2020, the unit prevented an estimated £12.5 million of fraud, secured 30 convictions, and disrupted seven organised crime groups (OCGs).
  • Introducing a voluntary code to better protect customers and reduce the occurrence of authorised push payment (APP) fraud. The code became effective for signatory firms on 28 May 2019.
  • Working with Cifas on the Don’t Be Fooled campaign, which aims to inform students and young people about the risks of giving out their bank details, and deter them from becoming money mules. The campaign website is here:
  • Working with Pay.UK to implement the Mule Insights Tactical Solution (MITS), a technology that helps to track suspicious payments and identify money mule accounts.

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