Don’t fall prey to the 12 scams of Christmas

Published: Friday 7th December 18

It may be the season of goodwill but fraudsters are working overtime at Christmas, warns Wandsworth Council.


To help residents spot the scams and not fall prey to the criminals, the council has come up with a guide to the 12 scams of Christmas.
Shoppers are warned to look out for bogus charities, fake online gift cards and telephone calls from scammers or con-artists.
The council’s community safety spokesman Cllr Guy Senior said: “We want our residents to enjoy a peaceful and scam-free Christmas, so please watch out for any offer that looks too good to be true.
“I would urge consumers to check labels and branding to make sure they are genuine. Any product on sale anywhere other than the official retailer should be considered as suspect.

“Also, be careful if you are contacted by email, landline or by text and when in doubt, it is always best to trust your instincts and put the phone down or don’t reply to the email.” 

The 12 Scams of Christmas:

1. Subscription trap
This scam offers a free gift or trial offer, if you pay postage and packing to receive a ‘gift’. Beware as you may unwittingly be setting up a Continuous Payment Authority (CPA) which allows the firm to take any amount out of your bank account at any time.
2. Bogus charities
Fraudsters are all too ready to take advantage of the feeling of Christmas goodwill. If you receive a marketing email, check it is genuine. Check the header or hover your mouse over the link - it should read along the lines of www.charityname.com/donate. If it does not it is probably a scam.
3. Pop-up shops
Online pop-up shops claim to deliver in time for Christmas. They will not. They will take your payment and vanish. High Street pop-ups often sell counterfeit or faulty items.
4. Dangerous Christmas gifts 
Unsafe toys and electrical goods, such as phone chargers, which fail to comply with UK safety laws, continue to enter the marketplace. Not only are these potentially dangerous, they can also damage the economy and fund crime. Some of these items may be counterfeit. For peace of mind, always buy from a reputable retailer and get a receipt for items bought. Do not buy items from people selling goods in bin liners claiming overstocked items.
5. E-season greeting cards.
These online festive greetings can contain malware that reads your computer address book and can steal your credit card and bank details.
6. Bogus gift cards
The internet is awash with fake gift cards. Only buy from recognised stores. If you can’t get out, make sure you are on a store’s official website.
7. Loan scams
Christmas time can put a strain on any budget, and unscrupulous credit businesses are cashing in on people’s financial desperation. Scammers either send unsolicited text messages or “cold call” victims offering them an unsecured loan, and those who accept can be charged large, up front fees for little or no service.
8. Counterfeit and illicit alcohol and tobacco
Properly produced and certified alcoholic drinks are made using ethanol, which is a type of alcohol that is safe to drink, however fake alcoholic drinks may contain cheaper forms of alcohol – found in products like anti-freeze and industrial solvents – which can make them unsafe for consumption. Selling fake cigarettes is also illegal. Those who smoke illegal cigarettes, are putting their lives at risk. Many illegal cigarettes contain arsenic, pesticides and rat poison. 
9. Phishing emails 
Fraudsters send you a message and attempt to make you click on a link to a fake site or open some malware that infects your machine. Logos, email addresses, even the link might look genuine but you'll get more than you bargained for if you do as the email asks. Check twice and click once.
10. Scam ticket websites 
People purchase non-existent tickets from scam websites to events such as music festivals and the theatre believing the sites are legitimate. However, after paying for the tickets, they are not delivered and any calls and emails go unanswered. Sometimes scammers will suggest a customer representative will meet the victim at the venue on the day of the event, but nobody turns up. Victims are left both out of pocket and unable to attend the event. 
11. Slimming or miracle cure scams 
Fraud involving health and medical-related products (e.g. consumer advertising for ‘miracle’ cures and weight loss products) and fake online pharmacies. It is unlikely that the products have been properly tested or proven medically effective, some might even be dangerous. The advertising often includes fake testimonials from ‘satisfied customers’, unsubstantiated claims about product effectiveness, false claims about clinical tests and worthless ‘money back’ guarantees. 
12. Credit and debit card fraud 
Involves fraud attributable to the misrepresentation of a product advertised for sale; the non-delivery of purchased products (e.g. through an Internet auction site); false brokerage; or fraudulent payment through a payment service provider, e.g. PayPal. Fake websites that misrepresent genuine companies and goods.

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