It’s the most wonderful time of the year to be an online fraudster

Cyber crime at Christmas by Nasstar Plc

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…especially if you’re an online fraudster!

Welcome to the most wonderful time of the year … if you’re an online fraudster. Police estimate that at least 15,000 UK shoppers lost a staggering £11m during the Christmas shopping period last year. And it’s not just the Christmas period that fraudsters are cashing in on. Since the advent of the US-driven Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales period around Thanksgiving, the window for potential scams has extended even more. This means UK businesses and consumers need be on high alert when it comes to identity fraud and online scams at this, the busiest and most costly time of the year.

Nowadays, most of us would rather shop from the comfort of our own homes in our pyjamas, a glass of mulled wine in hand rather than battle through the crowds at our local shopping centre. However, just because the experience is generally more relaxed when shopping online, this doesn’t mean that we should let our guard down completely when it comes to digital security.

Businesses and consumers need to think holistically about the fraud ecosystem in order to protect themselves. By simply improving data protection practices and being more digital savvy at this time of the year, we can help to nip fraud in the bud in the long run by stemming the breach of personally identifiable information (PII) which is the most common ingredient in a Christmas shopping scam.

Fraud is estimated to cost the UK a staggering £193bn each year and unfortunately, just as retailers are hoping to see their annual income increase in the run-up to Christmas, so are the scammers.

So why does fraud increase at this time of the year? A lot of online retailers choose to accept a greater degree of risk during the busier shopping periods, in order to reduce the likelihood of valid sales being declined or escalated to fraud teams. Fraudsters have cottoned on to this and often use the busier periods to target lager purchases as they know they are less likely to be flagged as anything out of the ordinary as everyone is doing the same.

It’s clear that we as consumers need to double down on security, but how? Here are a few top tips to keep you safe online this festive period:

  • Https only! Always look for the padlock icon shown in your browser. By clicking on this you can view the site’s SSL certificate. You should never submit your personal or payment details to a site that is not SSL encrypted and you cannot be sure that it is above board.
  • Protect your plastic. Using a credit card to purchase your Christmas gifts will afford you the peace of mind of additional insurance, liability covers and fraud checks. Also, if by some unfortunate luck you are hit by a breach, most credit cards are not linked to your current account and therefore this will be protected.
  • Toughen up passwords. You should already be in the habit of using complex passwords at work so why not in your personal life? Make sure you have a unique password for each online account you hold and if like many of us, you struggle to remember them all – consider using a password manager tool such as KeePass.
  • Ignore annoying pop-ups. Those pesky online fraudsters often take advantage of our good nature at this time of year to bombard us with dodgy pop-ups that could end up being more sinister than just annoying. The stress of ordering a last-minute present means that some of us fall victim to installing or clicking on adverts that we’d usually ignore. Once clicked or installed, these pop-ups could cause all sorts of trouble on your PC or laptop.

Have a lovely Christmas and new year and stay safe online!

Lydia Cooper, Nasstar Plc

Nasstar is an established and well-regarded IT services provider to the legal sector with more than a decade’s worth of experience supporting barristers, solicitors and legal professionals with their IT needs.

Our legal team has worked with a large number of law firms and chambers to deliver cloud-based IT solutions that are specifically tailored to the legal sector and adhere to SRA guidelines for managed IT, data security and cloud hosted services, ensuring that our clients are always fully compliant, no matter how often rules and regulations change.

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