NCSC launches ad campaign to tackle Festive raud

Cybersecurity, News

Shoppers buying Christmas presents online have been urged to follow a new cyber safety campaign to avoid ‘festive fraud’ after callous criminals swindled an average of £775 from each victim over the same period last year.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) – a part of GCHQ – today launched a major government advertising campaign called Cyber Aware, outlining six key behaviours to protect accounts and devices from the majority of online crime – see below. 

Statistics by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau have shown that over last year’s Christmas shopping period (1st November 2019 and 31st January 2020) there were 17,405 reports of online shopping fraud, reporting a loss of £13.5 million – an average of £775 per incident.

With more people expected to shop online this year due to coronavirus restrictions, a new NCSC website and television advertising campaign have been launched to advise on the six essential behaviours.

  • With more people shopping online, major government advertising campaign ‘Cyber Aware’ will help people shop securely this Christmas
  • During the last festive period, victims of online shopping fraud in England and Wales lost an average of £775 each
  • Campaign to increase online protection has support of organisations such as Microsoft, Vodafone, BT, ASOS, Barclays and Citizens Advice

Says Lindy Cameron, Chief Executive of the NCSC:

“Technology will play an essential role over the festive period, with more people shopping online than ever before.

“Scammers stole millions from internet shoppers last Christmas – but by following our advice, you can protect yourself from the majority of their crimes.

“We hope the Cyber Aware campaign helps people to shop confidently online and enjoy their Christmas.”

The Cyber Aware campaign is delivered by the NCSC working alongside the Home Office, the Cabinet Office and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and aims to help individuals and organisations to protect themselves online.

“This year we have spent more time online than ever before. Whether it be working or shopping online, criminals and others often see the internet as another means to cause harm.

“As we approach the Christmas season, we should all be on our guard and take the practical Cyber Aware actions to keep us safe as we work, shop and socialise online.” – Penny Mordaunt, the Paymaster General

The campaign is supported by leading organisations including Microsoft, Vodafone, BT, ASOS, Barclays and Citizens Advice, who are actively helping their customers adopt Cyber Aware’s key behaviours.

Microsoft accounts and devices are protected with multi-factor authentication, which they say is an effective block against 99.9% of attacks on accounts.

Says Sian John, Chief Security Advisor at Microsoft UK: 

“If you are shopping online this year, spend the time you would have spent wrapping up warm to head out to the shops on checking your online security.

“If it feels suspicious or unusual it may well be – and that is why, at Microsoft, we recognise the importance of Cyber Aware behaviours like multi-factor authentication and having strong and secure passwords.

“Let’s make sure the gifts we give this Christmas go to the people we love, not to the fraudsters who just want to steal your money.”

The Office of National Statistics’ Retail Sales Index has shown a significant growth in online shopping this year and Ofcom’s annual Online Nation survey showed that UK adults are spending more time online than ever before.

The new adverts, which will run until Christmas Eve, mark the first time the NCSC has launched a TV, radio and online advertising drive, and builds on the Cyber Aware campaign launched at the start of the coronavirus outbreak in spring.

Adds Adam French, Which? Consumer Rights Expert: 

“As more of us than ever will be shopping online over the festive period, people need to be on the lookout for scammers who will use malicious and sophisticated tactics to try and spoil their Christmas.

“Shoppers should follow the number one rule – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. A well-known product being sold at a fraction of its standard price is one of the telltale signs that it’s unlikely to be legitimate.

“Take a closer look at these websites too, particularly if the brand name is unknown. Fake sites are often full of spelling mistakes, or generic images that don’t relate to what’s being sold – so steer clear if you spot any of these warning signs.

“People need to be particularly careful when following ads in search engines or social media, as Which? has found scam adverts have tricked almost one in ten people into paying out for sham purchases.”

6 tips to stay safe online this Christmas

The Cyber Aware campaign encourages the public to adopt six behaviours to protect their online accounts and devices. These are:

  1. Use a strong and separate password for your email
  2. Create strong passwords using 3 random words
  3. Save your passwords in your browser
  4. Turn on two-factor authentication (2FA)
  5. Update your devices and apps
  6. Back up your data

Nearly one in 10 have fallen victim to scam adverts on social media or search engines as platforms fail to adequately protect users, Which? finds

Chris Price
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