The UK government has warned bargain hunters to be extra vigilant when searching for deals online this Black Friday and in the run-up to Christmas, confirming that cyber criminals netted more than £12m online during the same period last year.
The UK government issued the warning on Thursday, also revealing that its Action Fraud hotline received more than 10,000 reports about active cyber scams last year. Each scam reportedly earned the criminals an average of £1,700 per victim.
Dave Clark, detective chief superintendent of the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, highlighted scams masquerading as deals on technology products, like the Apple iPhone and iPad, as being particularly problematic.
"Online shopping has revolutionised the way we buy our Christmas presents, with each year more and more people choosing to search for gifts over the internet rather than heading to the shops. However, the result is that online fraud is top of the festive scam list," he said.
"To reverse this trend we all need to be extra careful about what we're buying online and from whom, especially if it is popular technology at a reduced price. By carrying out all the necessary checks you should guarantee that your presents will be enjoyed by friends and family and not lost to fraudsters."
Security minister James Brokenshire said the government has already taken affirmative steps to prevent online fraud, and is working with the newly created National Crime Agency's (NCA) National Cyber Crime Unit to find and block scams.
"We are taking the fight to cyber criminals with the newly created National Cyber Crime Unit, but the public should also stay vigilant to ensure they don't lose their hard-earned money on fakes and frauds. Following straightforward steps while shopping online will help the public to avoid cyber fraudsters," he said.
"Shoppers can find great bargains online ahead of Christmas and this time of year provides a welcome boost to retailers. But shoppers should remember if something looks too good to be true it often is."
Fighting cybercrime has been an ongoing goal of the UK government since it launched its Cyber Security Strategy in 2011. The Strategy has seen the government mount several cybercrime-fighting initiatives including the creation of the NCA's Cyber Crime Unit earlier this year. In October the NCA announced plans to recruit and train 400 new specialist cybercrime fighters by the end of 2014.
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