FICO urges consumers to watch out for Festive Fraud

Christmas sits at the end of the calendar as a bright, gleaming target … for fraudsters. Each year, consumers across the country scramble to find the perfect gifts for friends and families. Shopping centres and high streets are flooded with bargain-hunters as the festive spending commences with Black Friday sales. But while this year will differ for a range of reasons, what remains the same is criminals searching for opportunity.

Even if the UK emerges from its second lockdown on 2 December, fraud experts at global analytics software provider FICO still predict significant growth in e-commerce. Previous high levels of festive footfall will become hours of screen time as consumers scroll through page after page for the best deals. And with this ever-increasing amount of time and money spent online, fraudsters have an abundance of opportunity to steal personal data and funds.

UK Finance reports over £27m was lost to fraud at online marketplaces and auction websites in the first half of 2020, averaging at a loss of £720 per case. Its latest intelligence shows a recent rise in purchase scams on Christmas gifts and home improvement products.

To help educate and protect consumers, Matt Cox, managing director, EMEA, Fraud, Cyber and Compliance at FICO has outlined his top five tips and best practices to stay ahead of fraudsters.

Top tips to combat festive fraud

Revisit password habits

It turns out that long passwords are even more important than strong passwords. The length and strength of a password, combined, is the strongest deterrent to a hacker cracking your password with brute-force computing power. It’s also important is to use a unique password for each of your accounts, particularly important ones; not just bank accounts but PayPal, Klarna, Gmail and Amazon.

Take advantage of additional authentication features

Make use of any additional authentication capabilities offered by apps and websites you visit frequently. The easiest type to use is a one-time use passcode, which can be texted, emailed or pushed via an app. You can also use hard token code generators where they still exist.

Use trusted payment methods

Do your research, read the reviews, and check Google carefully to see if the app is a scam. If in doubt, use well established methods like PayPal, Apple Pay, Amazon pay, Ideal and any other local providers.

Be sceptical

It’s the season of giving. And during a pandemic fraudsters are bound to capitalise on the opportunities to scam the most giving and caring. Although GoFundMe states that “the overwhelming majority of fundraisers on our platform are safe and legitimate,” scams do happen there and many other places. To protect yourself from charity and disaster relief fraud make sure the donation website is legitimate. It’s very easy for criminals to create lookalike websites that siphon off credit card and personal information, which can then be quickly used to run up fraudulent transactions.

Monitor credit report and bank balance

Everyone needs to monitor their credit reports and their finances. Not just to stay informed about credit history, but also to spot anything suspicious as quickly as possible.