A campaign tackling cyber crime is being backed by Northumbria Police.
From Monday, officers have been raising awareness for people to stay safe online in the run-up to Christmas.
Last year, individuals and businesses reported losing £16,426,989 to online fraudsters through online shopping and auction fraud over the festive period – with the two main targets being Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
The two-week campaign is providing practical fraud and cyber crime protection tips which aim to prevent people from getting conned.
Detective Inspector Angela Hufton, head of Northumbria Police’s Cyber Crime Unit, said: “We would ask shoppers to be extra vigilant at this time of year and not to let the thought of what appears to be a bargain affect your usual care and common sense. If something seems too good to be true, it likely is.”
Police National Co-ordinator for Economic Crime, Commander Chris Greany said: “This Christmas we want everyone to think about their online activity, especially when they are about to buy something over the internet.
“When it comes to online shopping if something looks like it is a great bargain it’s probably poor quality, fake or doesn’t even exist.”
“Fraudsters and online criminals are relentless and will stop at nothing, giving absolutely no thought as to whether you and your family are left without presents at Christmas time.
“The aim of this campaign is to provide advice which will help people to protect themselves and ensure that they don’t get conned out of Christmas.”
Tony Neate, chief executive of Get Safe Online, said: “It never fails to surprise me how cruel and shameless online criminals can be over the festive season, working as hard as they can to con people out of their presents and purchases.
“Christmas should be a happy time but in the last few years, we have seen the numbers for online crime at Christmas go up and up, particularly as the hype around Black Friday and Cyber Monday bargains keeps getting bigger.
“Working with Action Fraud and the City of London police, we are hoping this campaign will highlight how people and businesses need to be extra cautious when grabbing those deals online.
“Simple steps like double checking to see if the website and product is legitimate before making a payment, and also looking for any customer reviews which often act as a good touch point for safe online shopping. If you feel like something is suspicious, it probably is, so it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
“By working together, we can hopefully stop online crime coming to town this Christmas, and make sure next year, online crime goes on the decrease.”
To report a fraud and receive a police crime reference number call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use their online fraud reporting tool.