Christmas scams: British are being warned to watch out for crooks
Christmas shopping is expected to cost the average household more than £800 this year, according to research from Retail Research and Voucher Codes. But shoppers have been told to keep an eye out for sneaky crooks who have their sights set on the British public at a time when they are parting with more money than usual. Research from McAfee found at least 15,000 online shoppers lost £11million to scams last Christmas, showing hackers will stop at nothing during the festive period. So how can you avoid being the victim of a vicious scam this Christmas?
Which?, the Consumers’ Association, has shared their top tips to keep you and your cash safe during the holidays and all-year round.
Eleanor Snow, Which? Consumer Rights Editor, said: “Christmas is the season of spending.
“It poses an excellent opportunity for scammers to take advantage of the British public who may be more willing to part with their cash than usual.
“We would advise people to stay vigilant.”
Which? is warning shoppers to be vigilant for fake goods, from rip-off logos on supposedly ‘branded’ t-shirts and shoes that could fall apart after one wear, to electronics which could even be dangerous to use.
If it looks too good to be true, it probably is, according to Which? who advise to be aware of suspiciously cheap products.
Look for spelling and grammatical errors on websites and make sure you only part with cash on secure websites.
Reports of bogus charities are ripe during this time of year, with the season of goodwill making shoppers more generous than they perhaps would be at other times during the year.
As well as completely made up charities, Which? also warns to keep an eye out for scammers misusing a legitimate charity’s name and supposedly appealing on their behalf.
Always check the charity is registered with the Charities Commission and ask to see official identification from the person who is asking you to donate.
Devious scammers have been known to deliberately change their number in order to mimic the contact details of a real company, such as banks and building societies.
This is a process known as number spoofing or smishing (SMS phishing) and sees crooks hide behind a fake identity in order to lull a victim into a sense of false security so they hand over personal details.
Scammers are now even able to hijack message chains.
Always check with the official organisation by ringing up the company yourself or visiting a branch before making a move on any dodgy-looking messages.
Christmas scams: Crooks could try to get hold of your personal details by phone or text
Social media and online marketplaces are common areas for scammers to prey on unsuspecting victims looking for a bargain.
Victims told Action Fraud they were hooked in with bargain deals on popular models only for their new phone to never turn up.
Which? advises customers to never buy anything by bank transfer unless you know and totally trust the recipient, because you will not have any protection to get your money back if you pay this way.
Always avoid paying for items outside of the official website.
Be aware of scammers sending links to vouchers for big brands in exchange for personal information over WhatsApp.
Which? has noticed how the message will always appear to come from a friend with a promise of a voucher if you just follow the link.
If you are unsure about the legitimacy of the voucher, avoid clicking the link.
Phishing is a type of scam involving fake emails that appear to have been sent from a legitimate company.
Late this year there was a huge surge in the number of people reporting scam TV Licensing refund emails.
The fake emails claim the recipient has overpaid or is owed a refund which has not been paid because TV Licensing has the wrong bank account details.
Never send any personal details or click any links in the email until you have contacted the TV Licensing company.
TECH SUPPORT SCAMS
Which? is warning customers to be away of tech support scams, which claim there is something wrong with your computer when in reality.
This can happen by either a phone call, an email or a pop-up message appearing on your computer, stating something needs to be fixed.
Crooks will then demand cash to fix it, or they will install software on the computer which will allow the criminals to access personal and financial details.
The cold weather has many hard-working Brits dreaming of their next sunny getaway.
But there are criminals who have set up fake villa websites to try to trick you into paying down-payments or deposits for bogus holiday rentals.
Always be alert for companies who try and pile pressure on “limited time offer” deals and who try to persuade you into parting with cash straight away.
Be aware of fraudsters posing as someone of authority, including bank staff and even police, in order to convince someone to send cash from their account.
Which? has noted a particularly high amount of crooks pretending to be from the HMRC, offering victims a sizeable tax refund or threatening them with arrest.
Always check with the official authority and never take the direct word from someone who has called you before parting ways with any money.
Christmas scams: Fraudsters are taking advantage of the festive season
Looking for love in the new year often leads to a rise in the number of people joining dating sites and apps.
But be aware that scammers will be on the prowl.
In a romance scam, the victim is convinced to make a payment to a person they have met and believe they are in a relationship with.
The relationship is often developed over a long period and the individual is convinced to make multiple, generally small, payments to the criminal.
Fake celebrity endorsements are often used by scammers to make it look like their bogus Bitcoin or cryptocurrency investment is legitimate.
Four of the Dragon’s Den stars – Deborah Meaden, Gavin Duffy, Eleanor McEvoy, and Eamonn Quinn – have all had their photos used in online ads for Bitcoin scams without their permission.
It is important to know that cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin or Ether, are not regulated in the UK so you are not likely to get your money back if something goes wrong – even if it was a legitimate investment.