12 Scams of Christmas

Making sure you’ve got everyone’s presents sorted. Trying to remember where you left the occasional chairs. Writing your cards and sending them all off. For those who celebrate Christmas, there’s a lot to think about and your attention tends to be focused on making lasting memories with loved ones.

Because of this, Christmas is a peak time for people to be targeted by fraudsters.

To help, we have put together a list of the top 12 scams to be aware of this Christmas, to help you be better prepared so you can concentrate on the people that matter to you.

1. Romance scams

Are you seeking festive love or friendship? So are scammers but for different reasons.

Scammers will create fake profiles on dating apps or social media to trick people into believing they are in a relationship. The scammer is often very flattering, and the relationships and messages can become very intense very quickly.

Once they’ve spent a lot of effort building up trust with their victim, they may start suggesting that you communicate outside of the dating site, make excuses about meeting in person such as being stuck overseas, having a family emergency or business issues, and will then start asking for money to help with their problems assuring you they will pay you back as soon as they can.

Don’t fall victim to fake profiles.

Top Tips:

  • Be wary about sharing contact details outside of the dating app or website
  • Think about why someone would be so quick to declare their love
  • Don’t be convinced by profile pictures – do some research. Check whether they are on other social media sites
  • Do a reverse image search using TinEye or reverse.photos
  • Never agree to send money to someone you haven’t met in person
  • Talk to your friends and/or family. Isolating you is a common tactic of these scammers.

2. Fake websites

Maybe you’re looking for a specific gift and all the major retailers have sold out, or maybe you’ve reached outside of your known and trusted websites in search of something extra special. This could open the door to online shopping fraud.

Scammers create fake websites that look identical to the genuine one, with the goal of stealing your personal details and money. They often do this by luring you to enter your details to purchase gifts with promises of ‘exclusive deals’ or ‘great discounts’ on sold out items.

Top Tips:

  • Try to stick with reputable websites you recognise and trust
  • If you need to use a website you haven’t visited before, research, research, research - as much as possible - to give yourself peace of mind
  • Check website addresses - Secure website addresses start with 'https' and display a locked padlock.

3. Christmas delivery scams

Are you expecting a parcel to be delivered to your address? As we know, the number of deliveries increase in November and December time due to the festive period and it can sometimes become difficult for you to keep track of when everything is arriving. Scammers take advantage of this fact and pose as known delivery companies.

They will contact their victim either by email, text or even telephone claiming that they have not been able to deliver the goods. They will then ask for a fee to re-deliver. In doing this, the criminal’s goal is to get your personal details such as address, date of birth, bank details etc.

Top Tips:

  • The first question to ask yourself is ‘are you expecting a parcel’? If the answer is no, then you should disregard the communication immediately
  • If you were not expecting to receive the text or email, never click on the link
  • Always double check with the company you ordered the parcel from directly, as they will often be able to investigate further for you
  • Delivery companies should not be asking you for personal information, if they do, treat with caution.

4. Too good to be true deals

We all love a bargain don’t we. But are things as they appear to be advertised?

It can be hard to tell the real from the fake as scammers can make websites and use photographs of real items to make them seem more legitimate. Stay vigilant for counterfeit goods. These can be from badly made clothes to dangerous electronics which fail to comply with safety laws. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. A bargain is only a bargain if its genuine.

Top Tips:

  • Be wary of offers which look too good to be true
  • Read the customer advice – make sure you know your rights to refunds etc.
  • Be suspicious of requests to do bank transfers
  • Think – why are the goods so cheap?
woman in red coat holding phone

5. Refund scams

Christmas is a peak season for refunds and whether you’re looking to return a jumper that’s too small or a book you received two copies of, be wary of companies reaching out directly to offer you your money back.

You may receive an email or text pretending to be from the Council, HMRC or a well-known store promising a credit or tax refund and a link to click to claim the money back. Often the link included with the email or text will take you through to a phishing website designed to steal your personal information or banking details. Don’t provide your details.

If you believe the offer of a refund is valid, the best approach to take is to reach out to the company separately and directly through an official email address or phone number.

Top Tips:

  • Think - were you expecting the call? Verify the organisation and call them back using a number they have on their website or from previous correspondence
  • Think before you click - always act carefully when you receive an unsolicited link
  • Whilst emails may appear legitimate, sometimes they are fictitious. Hover over the email address to ensure the senders details are as you would expect them to be
  • A company would not ask you to pay a fee in order to receive your refund.

6. Charity fraud

There are so many genuine, worthwhile causes and groups collecting on our high streets, and Christmas is when many of us choose to give back and donate. Unfortunately, not all of them are as honest as they may seem.

You may be approached by someone while you are out shopping, or they may knock on your door during the day. Scammers may falsely represent a charity and try to get you to donate or set up a long-term subscription, which is for their own gain.

Top Tips:

  • If you’re suspicious, ask the person to present their ID. Official charity employees and volunteers should carry an identifying pass
  • Always remember, if you have any concerns, it is OK to tell the person you are not interested and either close the door or walk away.

7. Christmas e-card scams

Christmas e-cards can be a simple and fun way to wish your friends and family a Happy Christmas. When you receive them into your inbox, however, always act cautiously and be safe.

Cyber criminals send out what initially seem like harmless Christmas e-cards that once opened, likely contain viruses and malware that will attempt to attack your device, often without you knowing.

Top Tips:

  • If you receive an anonymous e-card, do not open it and delete it from your inbox immediately
  • If it appears to be from a person you know, always double check their email address is correct
  • If you have any doubts, check with the person through an alternate method to make sure it is genuine
  • Make sure your security software if up to date to help prevent any attacks on your devices.

8. Holiday scams

Are you thinking of escaping from the busy period or planning your 2024 holiday to get you through the winter blues? Whilst you can get some great deals out there, fraudsters can take advantage of this.

Criminals advertise fake flights, accommodation, car hire etc. which don’t exist. And the worst of it is, you may only realise when you reach your accommodation or the airport.

Top Tips:

  • Make sure the website is genuine
  • Don’t make payment via bank transfer – where possible use your credit card
  • Ensure that your booking is ABTA or ATOL covered
  • Research – search the internet and make sure that the property, airline etc. exist
  • Check photos using tiney.com or reverse.photos.

9. Ticketing fraud

Are you thinking of buying your loved one a football ticket or ticket to go to see their favourite band or show? Many of us see Christmas as a chance to really treat our friends and family - and what better way than gifting them an experience they’ve always wanted to try.

Scammers take advantage of this and sell tickets which are fake or do not exist. They do this across various channels such as resale websites and social media. Once you have bought your ticket, either the ticket will not arrive, or you will receive a fake ticket.

Top Tips:

  • Use a reputable ticket box or agent
  • Pay for the tickets on your credit card if possible
  • Do not send a bank transfer
  • Think – if someone says they will meet you at the venue with your tickets, be mindful that they may not turn up
  • Remember – the site you are using could be fake.

10. Social media scams

Social media can be great place to talk with your friends and family and see what they have been getting up to over Christmas, but be wary of those ads that try to intrude.

Social media scams usually involve someone falsely representing a well-known company, but they could also try and impersonate one of your friends and family as well. Like many scams on this list, their goal is to get you to click through to their website, often by offering discounts or access to low stock gift items.

Top Tips:

  • If the advert appears to be from a company you recognise, but you have any doubt, always check with them directly through another source
  • If you receive a link from a friend or member of your family that you weren’t expecting, their account may have been taken over by a scammer, so always contact that person via a different method to make sure it is safe and they did send it to you.

11. Rogue traders

Are you wanting to spruce up the house before the new year and add a little sparkle? Make sure that you don’t fall victim to rogue traders.

Doorstep crime happens where householders are targeted by rogue traders offering products or services including building work/roofing/driveway resurfacing. The work may be offered at a reduced price for payment in cash. It may be offered because neighbours have had it done and there are left over materials.

Often the work is not completed, completed but not of the expected standard or completed but additional invoices issued for further issues which have been identified (often made up). The scammers may even provide you with photos of areas of your property they have “inspected” when in fact the photos are of a different property.

Top tips for staying safe:

  • Always check the identity of anyone asking to enter your home
  • Never agree to work offered on your doorstep until you have had time to do some research into the company
  • Never pay up front for goods or services you haven’t received
  • Use a reputable search site such as “Check a trade” to engage tradesmen
  • Get a number of quotes for any work to make sure you are paying fair market rates.

12. Pension and investment scams

Are you approaching the new year and re considering your investment/pension options? Have the returns you have been offered sound amazing… Almost too good to be true?

Investment and pension scams happen when a criminal offers you a fake, but often convincing opportunity to make a profit after you have handed over your hard-earned money.

This can happen in 3 main ways:

  1. The investment opportunity is totally fictitious and does not exist
  2. The investment exists but the scammer takes the money instead of putting it into the opportunity
  3. The scammer pretends they are representing a legitimate and trusted investment group, but they are lying.

Top Tips:

  • Genuine companies are very unlikely to cold call you, have the confidence to hang up if you receive a call out of the blue
  • Check the details of any companies using: The FCA, Companies House or Trading Standards
  • Use Internet search engines to search the phone number you are being called from to see if there are any scams reported
  • Take the time to understand the investment or pension fully before you commit, including any fees and the structure. Seek independent financial advice if you’re unsure.

Protect yourself

If you think you may already have been a victim of one of these scams, you can find out more information about what to do on our I think I’ve been scammed page.

For more information about how to keep yourself protected and to find out about the latest scams visit our SAFE hub.

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