17 May 2023

HSBC UK warns of the dangers of making off-piste payments

People looking for a last-minute getaway this coming bank holiday weekend, or looking for a family holiday during the school summer holidays, have been warned against making off-piste payments outside of authorised app and website payment processes, following new research from HSBC UK which shows the scale of the issue, with potentially millions of people willing to put their money at risk.

The research, conducted by YouGov, reveals:

  • Only one in three (36%) of people said they would always go through the approved payment process when paying for goods or services from an online provider
  • More than four in ten (44%) people would consider taking the payment offline if it meant they secured a bargain
  • Almost half of women (48%) say they are more likely than before to seek out offers and discounts before making a purchase, with one in three men (36%) doing the same
  • 14% of people said they use online marketplaces like Ebay, Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree to find bargains

HSBC UK’s own data shows that the number of ‘Purchase Scams’, where you are paying for items online, was over 20% higher in March this year than the previous month, with 1,000 cases (32 cases per day) reported, the highest number for over 18 months.

Money is being put at risk due to cost of living bargain-hunting and cutting corners to cut costs.

David Callington, HSBC UK’s Head of Fraud, said: “We know with increased cost of living, and when money is tight, people are more likely to seek out a bargain, and we also know that cutting corners to cut costs can put our customers’ money at risk. Our research shows that potentially millions of people are willing to make payments outside of an approved app or online payment process, opening themselves up to scammers who are preying on those willing to take the risk.

“Scammers are devious criminals who use a range of techniques to steal money from people without any concern for the mental or financial wellbeing of their victims. Ruining a romantic bank holiday weekend away or a family holiday is purely collateral damage to a scammer. They are only interested in getting your money, not the impact it will have on you, your family or your finances.

“With last minute arrangements being made for the bank holiday, and with the school summer holiday approaching, the temptation to snap up a bargain might in fact lead you to losing all of the money you send as a payment. Whether people are booking to stay at a property though dedicated websites, or buying new or used items through online marketplaces, many of the platforms give you the opportunity to connect with the provider or seller before making a payment, and many people are sadly willing to put hundreds or even thousands of pounds at risk by agreeing to take the payment offline, outside of the authorised process. By doing this, you are effectively turning it into a private agreement and losing the protection the platform has in place should the sale be a scam, isn’t as described or you need to cancel.”

HSBC UK’s Fraud and Security Centre has information on the most common scams, in addition to the latest scam warnings. A case study of someone who fell victim to a purchase scam can be found here.

Typically, purchase scams:

  • ask you to send money via bank transfer rather than using a card or cheque
  • offer a too-good-to-be-true deal or discount
  • have ‘limited availability’, or are a ‘special offer’ to encourage you to act quickly
  • persuade you to send money before receiving a service
  • are advertised on social media or other online marketplaces, or in some cases through legitimate looking websites that have actually been set up by fraudsters

Remember to:

  • use safe sites when shopping online
  • use safe ways to pay, such as your debit or credit card
  • check the returns and cancellations policy
  • research the retailer online to make sure they’re legitimate
  • stop and think - would you be willing to send cash in the post for an item you’ve ordered?
  • research and check the validity of the item before paying - ask to see it if possible
  • approach an independent professional to authenticate the goods or services you’re purchasing

Media enquiries to:

HSBC UK Media Relations, Steve Gracey, 07920 413401
Email: UKPressOffice@hsbc.co.uk

Notes to editors:

  1. YouGov total sample size was 2106 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 5th - 6th April 2023. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

About HSBC UK:

HSBC UK serves over 14.75 million customers across the UK, supported by 24,000 colleagues. HSBC UK offers a complete range of retail banking and wealth management to personal and private banking customers, as well as commercial banking for small to medium businesses and large corporates. HSBC UK is a wholly owned subsidiary of HSBC Holdings plc.

HSBC Holdings plc, the parent company of HSBC, is headquartered in London. HSBC serves customers worldwide from offices in 62 countries and territories. With assets of $2,990bn at 31 March 2023, HSBC is one of the world’s largest banking and financial services organisations.