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Online shopping scams

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In September, a study by Finder reportedly found that online shopping scams had increased by over a third in the first half of 2020.

The national lockdowns resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic have frequently been singled out as the reason for this notable rise in cases, which comes as no surprise. As such, it is also unsurprising that further waves of online shopping scams may continue as we enter the second month of the latest national lockdown in England.

Indeed, the figures in the Finder report suggested that online shopping and auction scams accounted for around two-thirds of fraud reported by consumers in 2020. Clearly, the threat of online shopping scams cannot be underestimated.

The risks of online shopping scams

When we ended the unique year of 2020, circumstances changed little when the first of the new lockdowns hit us at the start of 2021.

Continued measures and social distancing restrictions have resulted in forcing and/or encouraging consumers to continue shopping online for almost everything now. The growing requirements of online shopping may breed a misplaced complacency in consumers, who could be becoming accustomed to the typical ease and assumed security of online shopping.

Through online shopping scams, cybercriminals will particularly be looking to take advantage of these unusual times. The January sales, during which the bargain-hunting attitude can cause shoppers to let down their guard, may well have been good hunting grounds for them.

One key form of scam involves online marketplaces or auctioning platforms, on which scammers pose as genuine sellers and ask people for upfront payment for an item that never arrives. Because these scammers may not use a website’s built-in payment platform, operating by direct bank transfers instead, the money is often irretrievable.

Fake deals that probably are too good to be true are also used as bait for unwary online shoppers. Such scams can also be used to try to dupe people into handing over personal information that can be abused for further scams and fraud.

How can consumers be vigilant?

It is important to remain switched on whenever you are online shopping. Sometimes, preventing a scam is as simple as taking a moment to consider whether a deal might be too good to be true.

If a site is purporting to sell a product at an incredibly low price, it might be worth checking how other sellers have priced the same item or similar ones. If the price is significantly higher on the majority of sites, this might be a hint that a scam is at work.

Some other important steps to take include checking a website is authentic (many scammers pose as well-known, reputable sellers by using similar graphics and URLs to the real sites) and being careful about the passwords you use. You should not re-use the same passwords across many websites and you should ensure that each password is as complex as you can make it.

Protecting your online security

While cybercriminals can be hard to catch, at Your Lawyers – T/A The Data Leak Lawyers – we aim to hold real companies to account for their failures to protect your information.

Where there has been any lapse on the part of a company to protect your data, and this leads to scams and fraud or loss of control of personal data, we could help.

For free, no-obligation advice, please do not hesitate to contact our team here.

IMPORTANT: advice on this page is intended to be up-to-date for the 'first published date'.

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