SHOPPERS in the West Mercia Police area were conned out of more than £270,000 last Christmas by online fraudsters.
More than £100,000 was also lost by Warwickshire residents during December 2013.
Between November 2013 and February 28 this year there were 279 reports of online shopping and auction fraud in the West Mercia area with the amount lost topping more than £191,000.
The two forces have now launched the #Be Cyber Smart campaign to raise awareness of internet-related crime and help people protect themselves while using the internet.
Residents are urged to follow simple safety tips including paying for items by card on a secure payment page and never transferring money into a seller’s account as the goods may not arrive and the money will disappear.
Before entering card details shoppers should ensure the address starts with https and there is a padlock or unbroken key symbol in the browser window.
Using credit cards is advisable as there is more chance of getting money back in the event of a problem and people should be wary of emails or social media sites offering bargains which are too good to be true.
Residents should also regularly check their bank statements for unauthorised transactions, ensure their wi-fi is secure and be wary of phone calls from someone posing as a retailer confirming an online purchase as it could be a fraudster attempting to get the victim to call the bank and check the purchase while they stay on the line and copy the bank details.
DCI Sean Paley, from Warwickshire and West Mercia Police specialist operations unit, said: “We do not want to put people off using the internet to buy their gifts – if used safely it is an excellent resource – but we do want them to take some simple but effective steps to help protect themselves against falling victim to online crime.
“Updating software and anti-virus systems can prevent people falling victim. It is really important to have the latest security software installed on computers. I would also urge people to apply the same logic when they are using the internet as they would do in the real world. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
Anyone who believes they have been a victim of fraud should report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 20 40.