04 Dec 2023

Stocking killers: Purchase scams threaten to not just ruin Christmas Day but every day

  • Nationwide warns about dangers of buying before checking as crooks target festive spenders
  • But data shows that purchase scams are an all-year affair, with August the busiest month for crimes
  • Nationwide’s Scam Checker Service protects people who are unsure about making a purchase

As much as Christmas is fertile ground for criminals targeting shoppers, Nationwide Building Society is warning people to remain vigilant throughout the year as purchase scams are not seasonal.

Between July and September, purchase scams made up 45 per cent of all scams reported to Nationwide. Purchase scams are where scammers entice people into buying an item that doesn’t exist and never arrives. Items that scammers use to target victims range from cars and phones to holiday rentals, pets and concert tickets.

According to Nationwide’s own internal data, in the 13 months to October 2023, purchase scams peaked during the summer period with one in ten (10%) of the total number of cases recorded happening in August this year.

The average claim recorded per purchase scam case remained consistent across the 13-month period, with an average claim per case of £556.31. This ranges from £796.43 in October 2022, compared to £428.77 in May this year.


Number of purchase scam cases recorded

Average claim record per case (£s)

October 2022



November 2022



December 2022



January 2023



February 2023



March 2023



April 2023



May 2023



June 2023



July 2023



August 2023



September 2023



October 2023



According to UK Finance’s Annual Fraud Report1, purchase scams were the most common type of APP scam last year, accounting for 57 per cent of APP scam cases.  

Nationwide encourages any customers concerned about a purchase to use its Scam Checker Service, which is available in branch or by calling a 24/7 freephone number (0800 030 4057). If the payment goes ahead and the customer is subsequently scammed, unless Nationwide told the customer not to proceed, they will be fully reimbursed.  

Jim Winters, Nationwide’s Director of Economic Crime, said: “Purchase scams are the most common type and anyone can fall for them. People may assume that the Black Friday and festive periods are when most purchase scams occur, but our data shows that this isn’t the case – they happen across the entire year. Criminals will work non-stop trying to target consumers making purchases, whether that’s holidays, concert or sporting tickets, birthday and Christmas presents. That’s why we always encourage people to remain vigilant when making purchases online no matter what point in the year and, for Nationwide customers, use our Scam Checker Service before making any payments if you are even slightly concerned.”

Top tips for keeping safe when shopping online throughout the year include:

  • If something looks too good to be true, it probably is: scammers will often try and lure people in with offers of goods at heavily discounted prices. Always do your research about the website, product and what the standard price is - if something looks too cheap, it may well be a scam.
  • Pay by card or secure payment app: credit and debit cards offer more consumer protection should the goods not arrive or arrive not as described. If you need to pay by bank transfer, try and collect the goods and pay once you have seen them. Secure payment apps also offer good protection and almost all genuine sellers use them.  Avoid bank transfers unless you know the recipient.
  • Beware of fake website: always use official websites when buying items, such as concert or sporting tickets, or holidays. Scammers can create fake website of genuine sites, so always look at the URL and the padlock/https tags, which tell you it is a secure site.
  • Make sure you don’t feel rushed: scammers will often create a sense of urgency. Saying it’s a limited offer or price is designed to encourage people to act without taking time to consider the purchase.
  • Research: always do research before buying anything. And with more expensive items, such as a car, take the time to see it in person and check all the documents thoroughly.
  • Keep a regular eye on your account: make sure you regularly monitor the transactions on your account, such as by using a banking app. If you spot a suspicious transaction let your bank or building society know as they can take steps to protect you.


Notes to editors

1 Annual Fraud Report 2023_0.pdf (ukfinance.org.uk) – Page 53