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PCC warns online shoppers to be wary of scams in the last few days before Christmas

Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall, is warning online shoppers to be cautious of scams in the final lead up to Christmas. Due to COVID-19, many retailers have had to limit the crowd levels on their premises and subsequently many shoppers have moved from traditional to online shopping.

Criminals are exploiting COVID-19 for personal gain and are targeting people online. To avoid being targeted by scams when online:

  • Make sure websites are authentic by checking the address is spelled correctly – it’s easy for scammers to set up convincing, fake websites.
  • Check the website is secure by checking that addresses begin with ‘https’ (‘s’ is for secure) and there’s a closed padlock in the address bar.
  • Pay by credit card if possible – transferring money directly via bank accounts can reduce the chance of getting your money back if the site is fraudulent.
  • Do not click on links via email, texts, or social media messages that you are not expecting. Fake parcel delivery updates, special offers and prizes are commonplace on the lead up to Christmas.
  • Be vigilant about clicking ads on social media – most are genuine but it’s still possible for fraudulent ads to appear.

Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall, said: “Many of us have had to change our shopping habits this year due to COVID-19 and even more so this Christmas with many retailers still facing restrictions.

“Online shopping is a convenient way for many to shop, but it also makes it easier for criminals to target those who are trusting and may be more vulnerable to scams.

“Technology is advancing every day but so are the criminals who commit crimes from the comfort of their home – cyber criminals can be difficult to trace as they can be anywhere in the world.

“The best way to fight these criminals is to be educated on how to spot and avoid fraud and scams.

“Always check that the sites you visit online are secure and always be wary of unexpected emails.

“If you do fall victim to a scam, please report it to the Police on 101 or to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.”

Cumbria Constabulary’s Cyber Dependent Crime Specialist, Niall McNicholas said: “In recent weeks we have trends in the North West regarding reports of a various number of fake text messages and scam phone calls.

“These callers and text messages pretend to come from large online retailers such as Amazon or even in one instance, the Royal Mail, asking you to click on a link or download software onto your devices. Doing so could give a criminal remote access to your computer and create a risk of your data or personal information being stolen.

“Recent example of such software includes ‘TeamViewer’ or ‘AnyDesk’ which have recently used by criminals. If in doubt, don’t do it.

“If you are called by a company and you are unsure, remember, its ok to politely end the call or ask for time to check. A genuine salesperson will understand. Never be pushed or rushed. If you feel under pressure or flustered just politely hang up and tell someone you know and trust.

“A safe way to shop online is to browse secure websites yourself rather than being directed to a potential fake website from an online advertisement you can’t be sure about. These scams are out there so be careful.”


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