CONSUMERS must guard against online fraud this Christmas as a new wave of criminals gears up to scam them, a top garda has warned.
With 'Black Friday' today followed by 'Cyber Monday', online purchases are set to peak this weekend with consumers here expected to fork out €74m over four days.
But a new generation of cyber criminals with worldwide reach is poised to try and take advantage of the heightened activity, Assistant Commissioner Derek Byrne warned.
He was speaking at the launch of a online safety campaign by gardai, crimestoppers and online retailers such as DoneDeal, BuyandSell and Carzone.
"As sales rise exponentially, so too does the risk from criminals who don't even have to be in the same country, they could be as far away as West Africa, or Russia or China," he said.
Online shoppers need to beware of being scammed with counterfeit purchases and of online criminals seeking to infect their computers and access their personal data which could then be used for monetary gain. A Grant Thornton report earlier this year estimated that cyber crime costs the economy over €600m a year.
Mr Byrne said that consumers should always do their homework and buy from reputable sites, as well as being wary of prices that were too far below the normal asking price for particular items.
Sought-after electronic devices such as iPads and smartphones, as well as cars and fake pharmaceuticals were often the subject of scams, with some originating online through advertising websites but using old-fashioned methods to defraud consumers.
Gardai have recorded over 20 incidents this year of cars being purchased with fake bank drafts and then sold on to unsuspecting purchasers for cash, and buyers are urged to research car histories thoroughly and try and meet sellers at the bank to verify that bank drafts are authentic.
Identity theft is also a huge issue with fraudsters using a host of ways to try and get your personal financial details for their own purchases.
These include phishing where you are targeted by email, vishing where fraudsters contact you by phone, and smishing where you are contacted by text.