You may have done your Christmas shopping and wrapped your presents, but the time after Christmas is one of the busiest for shopping – both on the High Street and online. It’s one of the few times when we may have both time and money to spend!
It’s the busiest time of year for scammers too, who are looking forward to the festive spirit making us carefree and vulnerable. The buzz of Christmas shopping, the hustle and bustle of the season, and, possibly, the odd glass of mulled wine can make us all more susceptible to scams. Sadly, it’s essential to remain vigilant and well-informed, in order to avoid this Christmas period being one you won’t forget for the wrong reasons.
Here are some key tips to help you steer clear of scams during the Christmas period.
1. Be Wary of Offers That Seem Too Good to Be True
Scammers often lure unsuspecting shoppers with exceptionally attractive deals. If an offer appears too good to be true, it probably is. Always double-check the legitimacy of the offer. Be cautious of high-value items being sold at low prices, particularly on unfamiliar websites or via unsolicited emails.
2. Check the Authenticity of Websites
There’s a spike in online shopping during Christmas, and, unfortunately, in the number of fake websites too. These sites often imitate legitimate retailers to swindle people into divulging their personal and financial details. Always scrutinise the URL of the website – ensure it starts with ‘https://’. Beware of websites with poor grammar, spelling errors, or low-quality images, as these can be indicators of a fraudulent site. But also beware that scam websites are improving, and if you are suspicious, don’t give out any information. If you’re not sure, ask someone else what they think – it’s always better to be cautious.
3. Protect Your Personal Information
If anybody asks for personal information, take some time to think and to get a second opinion. Reputable organisations will never phone you and ask for your bank details or passwords. If you think that the request may be genuine, don’t respond there and then. Take some time, get a second opinion, and only then contact the company directly using a phone number or email address, which you have looked up yourself.
And don’t be polite! Many of us can’t shake off our courteous natures, and we just can’t bring ourselves to be rude and just put the phone down. Scammers don’t deserve your courtesy, so feel free to tell them what you think!
4. Opt for Secure Payment Methods
When shopping online, utilise secure payment methods like credit cards. These often provide additional consumer protection compared to other methods like bank transfers or cash payments. Steer clear of direct bank transfers to sellers, especially if it’s your first transaction with them.
5. Exercise Caution with Email Links and Attachments
Phishing scams become rampant during the Christmas season. Don’t click on links or download attachments from emails, unless you have taken some time out to reflect, particularly if they come from unknown sources. These could redirect you to scam websites or download malware onto your device.
6. Do Your Homework Before Donating
Christmas is a time for charity, but it’s crucial to know where your donations are going. Scammers often create counterfeit charity websites or impersonate street collectors. Always conduct thorough research and donate to established charities. Verify the charity’s registration and read reviews prior to donating. It’s usually better to avoid making donations on a whim – a genuine charity won’t mind if you want to take some time before making a donation.
7. Regularly Check Your Accounts
Consistently monitor your bank statements and online accounts for any unusual activity. Promptly report any unauthorised transactions to your bank.
A bonus tip for Christmas
Whilst it might not be top of your list of things to do at Christmas, spending a few minutes checking out the latest scams before you go shopping online is something we should all do. Scammers are devious and continually evolve their tactics. You can visit websites like Action Fraud or Age UK to find out what the latest scams are. Consumer group, Which, also has a scams alert page. Bank websites can also be helpful.
Christmas should be a time of joy and tranquillity, not anxiety and loss. By staying alert and adhering to these tips, you can safeguard yourself and your loved ones.
Wishing you a secure and happy Christmas season!
Philip Wise | email@example.com
Managing Director and Chartered Financial Planner