Kent Trading Standards is urging the county’s shoppers to shop safely online ahead of the festive break.
More than 28,000 customers were conned out of their money while internet shopping last Christmas, losing £15.4 million to copies of legitimate websites, or completely fictional ones, say Action Fraud.
Around £4 billion is also lost to the UK economy each year in tax from the sale of counterfeit goods. As well as reducing the amount of money available to fund vital public services, fake goods – particularly electrical items and children’s toys – can be dangerous, causing fires, electrical shocks and other accidents.
A recent British Toy and Hobby Association survey found that 88% of toys bought from third-party online marketplace sellers were illegal for sale in the UK and that around half were unsafe for children. Meanwhile, 98% of counterfeit phone chargers tested by Electrical Safety First were rated extremely dangerous – and purchased from online marketplaces.
Mike Hill, Kent County Council Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services, said: “Counterfeit sellers use sophisticated-looking websites and social media to promote ‘bargain-price’ products, such as mobile phones and game consoles. They will take your money but you will never receive the goods or, if you do, they are at best cheap fakes and at worse faulty and dangerous.
“So please be vigilant and don’t let cyber criminals ruin your Christmas.
“Check who you are buying from by doing a quick search for the company’s address; ensure the payment section begins with ‘https’ and displays a padlock, or key, logo in the address line to indicate it is secure – and if the price looks too good to be true, it probably is.”
Head of Kent Trading Standards Steve Rock said: “Scammers trick millions of people into parting with billions of pounds for dangerous fake goods via the internet every year. Anybody can be scammed, but the elderly and vulnerable are more at risk. So, look out for neighbours, friends and relatives and if you think you, or they, are a victim of a scam, you can report your concerns online.
“You can also get lots of advice about buying the real-deal and avoiding nasty surprises, and sign up for Scam Alerts, via the KCC website
“For advice on any consumer problems, or to report counterfeit goods to Trading Standards, call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133 or visit the Citizen Advice website.”
Meanwhile, HMRC is urging shoppers to be aware of post-Brexit changes to ensure you know what you will owe and are not hit with unexpected customs charges.
Most importantly, HMRC say:
- Check with the seller whether the goods originated in the EU and whether they qualify for a zero-tariff
- Check if your order contains goods subject to excise duties, such as tobacco, alcohol or perfume
- Check if your order is worth more than £135, before extra costs, such as shipping and insurance are applied, and
- Remember there are new charges if you’re sending presents overseas – or if someone abroad sends gifts to you
For more HMRC guidance about buying online from the EU read: www.gov.uk/government/news/hmrc-urges-shoppers-to-be-aware-of-post-brexit-changes-before-key-christmas-shopping-dates