U.K. shoppers warned of increasing fraud ahead of 2023 holiday season

Anton P. | November 14, 2023

The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) of the U.K. has warned online shoppers of an increase in fraud incidents expected in the leadup to the 2023 holiday season.

According to data presented by the Atlas VPN team, 27.8K online fraud cases were already reported in October 2023, a slight uptick from September 2023 (26.5K incidents). 

Similarly, over 27.7K incidents of fraud were reported in November 2022, a month marked by major shopping events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The number of scam reports also showed a noticeable increase from October 2022 (27K incidents), followed by a decrease in December 2022 (24K incidents).

The NFIB expects higher significant average losses this year (individuals lost around £10.6M to scams during the 2022 holiday season), as AI has made it simpler for criminals to develop convincing fraud campaigns. This ranges from better-written phishing emails to entirely fake websites designed to lure financial information.

The numbers are based on the NFIB Fraud and Cyber Crime Dashboard data. The data encompasses the period between October 2022-2023. 

A similar upward trajectory in fraud incidents was also registered from April 2023 to August 2023, with a total of 139.5K reports throughout these months. Scammers have been known to become more active during the warmer months as more people start to purchase travel packages and participate in summer flash sales.

In total, over 350K fraud reports have been made from October 2022 through 2023, resulting in a whopping £2.6B out of the pockets of unsuspecting customers and into the hands of cybercriminals.

Over 77K consumers fell victim to online shopping scams

Although numerous tactics were used to trick Britons, one proved far more effective than the others. Considering the entire number of reported consumer fraud occurrences from the previous 13 months, online shopping and auction fraud (77.6K incidents) dominate by nearly 50K reports. 

Other consumer non-investment fraud was the second-most common type (26K incidents), comprising any cases that were too specific or niche to be grouped into other categories. Fraud in these cases is defined as any case of knowingly making a false representation of a product or service with the intent to profit from it, hurt someone else, or put someone else in danger of losing money.

Ticket fraud and dating scams slightly lag behind with around 9.2K instances recorded for each. Surprisingly, fraudulent door-to-door sales — compared to the other digitally-oriented strategies — round out the top five (6.2K instances).

How to remain safe while shopping online?

The advent of AI has made it much harder for consumers to identify scams based on their poor grammar and spelling, low-quality brand assets, and unusual email addresses. However, a few hallmarks of any scam should be looked out for. 

  1. Urgency and scarcity: Cybercriminals often reach out to victims with messages offering limited-time or limited-quantity deals, hoping the target will succumb to the sense of urgency before critically evaluating the offer.
  2. Suspicious emails: Imitating a reputable brand via email or text may be an easy way to catch a victim with their guard down, yet they often possess multiple red flags. Be wary of misleading links, incorrect capitalization, and odd formatting.
  3. Unsecured websites: If a scammer has set up a fraudulent website to trap online shoppers, checking if the site is HTTPS encrypted (indicated by a small padlock icon next to the URL) could protect you from losing money on it.

Online shoppers should be especially weary during global events and holidays, as ​​criminals leverage the rush of emotions felt by consumers when making large or multiple purchases, making them less cautious.

Anton P.

Anton P.

Former chef and the head of Atlas VPN blog team. He's an experienced cybersecurity expert with a background of technical content writing.



© 2023 Atlas VPN. All rights reserved.