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Cifas Black Friday research reveals spike in retail account takeover fraud of 96%

Warning from Cifas about the dangers of online fraud during Black Friday.

  • Latest research shows the number of consumers having their online accounts hijacked has soared by 96%
  • Identity fraud has also shot up by 71% - meaning consumers are at greater risk during the online shopping period

Cifas, the UK’s leading fraud prevention service, is warning consumers about the dangers of online fraud in the lead-up to Black Friday, when many shoppers are poised to take to the internet in search of a good deal.

The research, released as part of the Cifas Faces of Fraud campaign, showed that there was an overall increase in online fraudulent conduct of 9% in the first nine months of 2019, compared to the same period last year.

The majority of online fraudulent conduct was made up of identity fraud, where individuals pose as unwitting victims or create a fictitious persona to apply for goods and services online. Identity fraud accounted for 53% of online fraud, representing a 71% increase on last year.

Telecommunications companies were hit hard by fraudulent conduct, with an overall increase of 21% compared to the previous year. The main increase was due to account takeover – for instance where individuals claim another person’s mobile phone upgrade to obtain expensive handsets to sell on - which saw a 35% increase compared to last year, making up nearly half of the cases recorded by the telecoms industry.

However it was instances of retail account takeovers that soared the highest this year – 96% compared to the previous year. This occurs when someone takes over a person’s online account – for example an online shopping account – and changes details such as the delivery address, usually with the intention of sending goods to themselves. Most individuals gain access to their victims’ accounts using personal data extracted in phishing or smishing schemes.

Unsurprisingly, it was younger people who were the most common victims of identity fraud on online retail accounts, with under 21s having the highest proportion compared to other age groups. Ten percent of victims under 21 had their details used for online retail and 17% for telecoms. Although younger people tend to be more savvy about fraud schemes, they are also more likely to be targeted online simply because they are more active in online spaces.