Police are warning shoppers not to fall victim to Christmas conmen and on-line scams as they finish their hunt for last-minute gifts.
Officers say fraudsters will be taking advantage of this and creating bogus websites to advertise goods and services that are counterfeit or will not be delivered.
Items advertised on these bogus sites as genuine will be fake, of poor quality and often unsafe to use.
Detective Inspector Rob King said: “I want everyone to enjoy the festive season and to remember it going in to the New Year as a happy time of year and not the time when we fall prey to online fraudsters.
“Last Christmas, over 8000 people were defrauded by bogus websites and a total of £12million was stolen by fraudsters from people shopping on line or participating in on line auctions.
“Thankfully there are simple tips that you can take to help protect you and keep online fraudsters at bay this Christmas time, such as using brands and retailers that you trust and remaining vigilant when buying online.
“Remember to trust your instincts; if an offer looks too good to believe then there is usually a catch.”
Top safety tips include:
Always use sites that you know or ones that have been recommended to you.
Ensure the website address begins ‘https’ at the payment stage – this indicates a secure payment.
Avoid paying by money transfers - they aren’t secure. Use an online payment options such as PayPal, which helps to protect you.
If your bid for an online auction item is unsuccessful, don’t be tempted to trade off-site if another seller approaches you with a similar item.
Keep security software and firewalls up-to-date.
Keep receipts and check these against your statement – if you spot a transaction you did not authorise speak to your card company immediately.
If you feel you have been a victim of these frauds, or any other, you should report to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or visit www.actionfraud.police.uk.