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Online shoppers urged to not be tempted into committing fraud when festive shopping

28 December 2021
  • 1 in 40 Brits admit to falsely claiming a refund when shopping online in last 12 months;
  • For those aged 16-45, 1 in 3 don’t view this as illegal and 1 in 9 see this as ‘reasonable’;
  • Over 42,500 instances of online retail accounts being misused between 2018 - 2020

As shoppers across the UK look to bag themselves a bargain in the post-Christmas sales, Cifas, the UK’s leading fraud prevention service, is urging consumers to not be tempted by opportunities to commit fraud.

A recent survey carried out by Cifas found that over the last 12 months, 1 in 40 UK consumers admitted they had falsely claimed a refund for an online purchase by stating the item hadn’t been received. A further 1 in 10 consumers knew someone who had done this, making it one of the most prevalent forms of first-party fraud in the UK.

The survey also revealed that younger consumers were more likely to commit this type of fraud, with 1 in 9 shoppers under the age of 45 believing this was a reasonable thing to do. Worryingly, 1 in 3 under the age of 45 did not recognise this type of activity as illegal.

Retail fraud remains one of the most common types of fraudulent activity. Between 2018-2020 there were over 42,500 instances of UK consumers filed to the National Fraud database for misusing their online retail accounts for reasons including falsely claiming a refund.

Fraud costs the UK economy billions of pounds each year, and those found guilty of committing fraud could face penalties including being filed to the National Fraud Database, and in some cases, a prison sentence.

Amber Burridge, Head of Fraud Intelligence for Cifas, said: ‘With uncertainty caused by the recent surge in COVID-19 cases and high levels of inflation, some households may be worried about their income over the next few months and are looking for easy ways to make money. Committing fraud should certainly not be viewed as a possible way to do this, and there are real consequences for people caught doing so.

‘Fraud is never a victimless crime. Online retailers suffer from high levels of fraud each year, and these losses are often passed onto us as consumers in higher prices for goods and delivery.’

Notes to Editor


The survey was carried out by Opinion Matters on behalf of Cifas with a nationally representative sample of 2,000 UK adults between 4-8 October 2021. The research outlined ten scenarios of an individual committing first-party fraud, asking respondents to respond anonymously as to how reasonable the actions of the individual were, whether they were acting illegally, and whether they, or someone they know, has committed the same actions in the last 12 months.

Survey Results

When presented with a scenario falsely claiming a refund on an online order:

Question: 'Have you or anyone you know done this over the last 12 months?' All ages
Total responses 2,000
'Yes - I have done this' 47 (2.4% / 1 in 40) 
'Yes - I know someone else who has done this' 200 (10% / 1 in 10)


Question: 'How reasonable or unreasonable would you view [this person's] behaviour to be?' 16-45 All ages
Total responses 906 2000
Score indicating 'reasonableness' 99 (11% / 1 in 9) 123 (6.2% / 1 in 17)


Question: 'Do you believe [this person's] behaviour is illegal? 16-45 All ages
Total responses 906 2000
Score not indicating the behaviour is illegal 303 (33% / 1 in 3) 448 (22% / 1 in 5)


About Cifas

Cifas is the UK’s fraud prevention service. We lead the fight against fraud by sharing data, intelligence and learning. The organisations that collaborate with us are drawn from all sectors, working together to stop fraud.

About Opinion Matters

Opinion Matters is an independent market research agency that create bespoke market research solutions for businesses, organisations, and agencies worldwide.  Opinion Matters abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.

Posted by: Cifas Press Team

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Posted by: Cifas Press Team

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