Online shopping fraud statistics

Online shopping fraud and scams increased by 37% in the first half of 2020. Find out the latest figures and how to avoid online shopping scams.

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Online Shopping and Auction Fraud

As we are forced to become armchair shoppers due to COVID, we are more likely to be a victim of fraudulent shopping scams over the internet. While online shopping is a fantastic way to compare prices, save money and find the best shopping deals, there are also risks.

We explore the latest statistics into the rise of online shopping and auction fraud and some give some tips on how to have a safe online shopping experience.

What is online shopping and auction fraud?

Online shopping and auction fraud is when a product is advertised in a misrepresenting manner on an online shop or auction site. It also includes when customers who buy products through these sites do not receive the items they purchased

Online shopping is becoming increasingly popular. For example, since the start of 2016, the value of internet retail sales has almost tripled. As a result, online shopping and auction fraud is becoming more common.

What are the most common types of online shopping and auction fraud?

The most pressing issue for a victim of online shopping or auction fraud is that they have no chance of returning the goods or having their money refunded.

There is also a danger that your identity details could be compromised. Fraudsters could steal your identity and use it to access your personal finances or obtain goods or finance from alternative sources.

Here are some of the most common reports of online shopping and auction frauds:

  • Buyers receiving goods late, or not at all
  • Sellers not receiving payment
  • Buyers receiving goods that are either less valuable than those advertised or significantly different from the original description
  • Failure to disclose relevant information about a product or the terms of sale.

How much is lost on online shopping and auction fraud?

In the first half of 2020 (1st January-30th June), there was a reported loss of £29.7 million attributed to online shopping and auction fraud. This works out as an average loss of £726 per case of fraud.

The reported losses from online shopping and auction fraud have been rising. In July 2020, the total reported losses for online fraud totalled £6.3 million, which is up 31% (£1.5 million) from the same month last year.

Number of online shopping and auction frauds committed: the impact of COVID-19

The number of reported online shopping and auction frauds committed has been increasing. This is likely down to the rise in popularity of online shopping over recent times.

With the occurrence of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, consumers relied on online shopping more than ever before, with a 33% increase in online retail sale value in the first half of 2020 compared to 2019.

First half of 2019 vs. First half of 2020 (1st January-30th June)

With consumers being more dependent on online shopping, fraud in this area has become more common. We compared the number of online shopping and auction fraud reports for the first half of 2019 and 2020 (1st January-30th June).

There were 40,914 reports of online shopping and auction frauds in the first half of 2020, up by over 11,000 reports (37%) compared to the same period in 2019 (1st January-30th June). As a result, online shopping and auction fraud accounted for 65% of all consumer fraud reports in the first half of 2020.

Number of consumer fraud reports Of which are online shopping and auction fraud
2020a 62,868 40,914
2019a 49,928 29,918

July 2019 vs July 2020

We also compared the number of reported consumer frauds and the proportion of which were online shopping related in July 2019 vs July 2020. There were 9,090 reported cases of online shopping related fraud in July 2020, 60% more compared to the 5,680 reports in July 2019. If the July data is anything to go by the trend of online shopping fraud may continue to increase throughout the remainder of 2020.

Number of consumer fraud reports Of which are online shopping and auction fraud
July 2020 13,918 9,093
July 2019 10,471 5,677

Who is most susceptible to online shopping and auction fraud?

Our analysis found that certain groups of people are more susceptible than others to online shopping scams.

Age Groups

People in their 20s are most likely to be a victim of online shopping fraud, making up 29% of the total reports so far in 2020. They are followed by people in their 30s (23%), 40s (17%) and teens (12%). As a result, 80% of all online shopping fraud victims were under the age of 50.

Age of Victims Victim %
0-9 0.17%
10-19 11.90%
20-29 28.92%
30-39 22.77%
40-49 16.56%
50-59 11.78%
60-69 5.52%
70-79 2.04%
80-89 0.32%
90-99 0.02%

Gender Differences

In our analysis of gender differences, there wasn’t too big a difference. Men accounted for 48.4% of fraud victim, whilst women accounted for 42.2%, leaving 9.4% unknown.

Guidance to help avoid online shopping and auction fraud

There are a few things you can do to mitigate the risk of online shopping and auction fraud. ActionFraud has suggested various steps both buyers and sellers can take.

Buyers:

  • Install the latest software updates, to fend against criminals using weaknesses in software to steal data such as payment details.
  • Check the domain name carefully and check the retailer is legitimate.
  • Make sure you have a strong, separate password for your email, so criminals can’t use your email to access other online shopping accounts.
  • Don’t click on a link in an unexpected email or text. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Where possible, avoid paying for goods by money transfers as they are not secure.
  • Be careful when using direct banking transactions to pay for goods. Make sure transactions are secure.
  • Don’t send confidential personal or financial information by email.
  • Use an online payment option such as PayPal, which helps to protect you.

Sellers:

  • Be careful about accepting cheque payments. Although cheques may clear, you are still liable if the cheque is forged or stolen.
  • Do not accept a cheque for a higher amount and refund the difference. This is a common fraud that only comes to light when the buyers’ cheque turns out to be stolen or forged.

“Unfortunately, it was always likely that the increase in online shopping would mean more people falling victim to scams. Although they can be hard to spot, there are a few things you can do to avoid being scams when shopping online:

1) Use secure payment methods
“If you can, avoid paying for goods by bank transfers as they are harder to recover. Similarly, if you are paying online through a website make sure that it is secure. If you can see a lock icon on the left hand side of the url bar, this means the website is secure. If you want to be extra careful, using a credit card or an online payment platform like PayPal which offer additional protection.

2) Contact the website you buy the product from
“If you experience an issue using a reputable online marketplace like eBay, then they advise you to contact the seller first to ensure they haven’t just been slow to post the item. If that doesn’t work, then these sites will have guidelines and help available to try and resolve the problem before you escalate the matter to your credit card issuer, payment service used or even the police.

3) Keeps your details and passwords safe
“Never share your passwords with anyone and never send confidential personal or financial information by email. Additionally, make sure your passwords are strong and have a different password for each account or at least use a unique one for your email, so criminals can’t use your email to access your other online shopping accounts. Consider using a password manager like lastpass which will create very strong passwords for each online account, make sure you enable multi-factor authentication.”

4) Make sure you have the most up-to-date browser and security software
“Installing the latest software updates will help to prevent fraudsters accessing and stealing your payment details through weaknesses in out-dated software. This can be easy to forget about but can make a big difference.”

Jon Ostler, UK CEO at finder.com

Am I a victim of shopping and auction fraud?

  • You’ve bought goods from an online seller that are either late in arriving or don’t arrive at all.
  • You’ve received goods from an online seller that don’t match the original description.
  • You’ve given identity details or personal financial information to an online seller who has used them in criminal ways.

If you believe you are a victim of online shopping and auction fraud, report it to Action Fraud.

Sources

  • Action Fraud
  • Office for National Statistics (UK)

For all media enquiries, please contact

Matt Mckenna
UK communications manager
T: +44 20 8191 8806
matt.mckenna@finder.com@MichHutchison/in/matthewmckenna2

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