Scam warning for bargain hunters browsing ‘closing down’ sales

by The Technical Blogs


Bargain hunters are being warned about criminals offering fake “clearance” and “closing down” deals.

Bogus sales are typically advertised on social media or through fake websites, and often draw on brands that have been in the news recently announcing store closures, Santander said.

The bank said that the troubles of retailer Wilko, which tumbled into administration in August, have been exploited by scammers.

Criminals may also pretend to be offering “end-of-summer sales”.

Santander said the exploitation of events by scammers was evident last month.

In August alone, more than 5,000 disputes were raised, including those involving scammers imitating companies having closing-down sales or holding end-of-season clearances, according to Santander’s data.

Cases doubled from 869 in the week starting August 14 to around 1,700 in the week starting August 21, as many customers realised that their hope to grab a deal was actually a scam.

Numbers remained high throughout August, with more than 2,200 cases reported to the bank in the final week of the month, with a total value of nearly £85,000.

On average, customers are losing £37 each in these scams, Santander said.

Even if the advert uses recognisable logos and brand names, people should be alert and ensure they are visiting genuine websites

Chris Ainsley, Santander UK

Chris Ainsley, head of fraud risk management at Santander said: “Fraudsters see the news of large retailers closing shops as an opportunity to try and turbocharge their own closing down or clearance sale scams.

“We often see a worrying spike of this type of scam when an announcement like this is made public. If you see an advert for discounts which sound too good to be true, it probably is a scam. Even if the advert uses recognisable logos and brand names, people should be alert and ensure they are visiting genuine websites.”

Scammers try to entice people by appearing to advertise heavily discounted products.

These bogus websites may only allow people to keep items in their basket for a short time period, adding pressure to secure a “bargain”.

The website harvests significant data from the customer as part of the checkout process, including their address and email address. This information may also be used in future scam attempts.

“VIP” shipping services may be added, with no option to remove them, inflating the rip-off.

While the payment screen may look legitimate and have the branding of a well-known provider, the website is not secure or legitimate and the payment is not processed by the official provider. The goods never arrive.

Santander is reminding people to always check where they are buying items from and remember that branding can be copied.

When buying online, check the payment pages are secure by looking for the padlock symbol in the address bar. The website should start with “https”.

Follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign and, if you have any doubts, take a pause to think before parting with your personal details or money.

A quick chat with a friend or relative can also be a good way to “sense check” what you are doing.


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