The countdown to Christmas is here! Festive music, food and last-minute holiday shopping will keep us all busy this season. UK shoppers spent £78.7 billion on Christmas in 2017 and unfortunately fraudsters have their eyes on your money. The stress of the holidays makes us vulnerable and anyone can get caught out, even if you’re usually on top of things.
We’ve put together our list of the Top 10 Scams to look out for this year to help you avoid festive misery. Although some of these scams might seem obvious, remember scammers love targeting us when we are most distracted.
Top 10 Christmas Scams
1. Subscription trap
Scammers offer you a free gift or trial offer if you pay postage to receive a ‘free gift’. Stop and think as you may unwittingly be setting up a Continuous Payment Authority (CPA) which allows them to take any amount out of your bank account at any time.
2. Fake charities
Fraudsters love playing on our charitable nature especially at Christmas. Check the ID of any street collectors and the Charity Commission register to verify that a charity is legitimate before giving.
If you receive marketing emails, check the header or hover your mouse over any links to make sure it is genuine. Make sure the name of the charity website domain is correct. E.g. www.charityname.co.uk/donate. If in doubt go to the website using the address you know.
3. Pop-up shops
These shops often offer unbelievable offers online or on the High Street. Beware! These shops will often fail to deliver in time for Christmas and may even sell you counterfeit or faulty items, and then vanish.
4. Bogus gift cards
Only buy from recognised stores and avoid too good to be true offers online. If you can’t get out, make sure to use the store’s official website. Remember recipients can lose or forget about gift cards and companies can also go bust (many have done so this year) so think twice before spending.
5. HMRC voicemail tax scam
Which? has raised the alarm on this tax scam for those of us who file a self-assessment tax return. With the deadline looming to file your tax return on 31st January, fraudsters have been leaving threatening voicemail messages claiming to be agents of HMRC.
The message demands you to call them urgently on a number provided which of course re-directs you to a boiler room where fake agents instruct you to transfer large sums to fake bank accounts.
Listen to the HMRC tax scam voicemails to learn how to spot them.
Remember, for personal tax matters HMRC will only initiate communication with you in writing quoting your tax reference number.
6. Push Payment Fraud
This type of fraud is growing fast and some people have lost over £100,000 forever!
How does this happen?
You or an older relative get a series of calls from someone claiming to be a person in authority, like their bank, a police officer, the tax office, or their energy or internet provider. The caller says that a lot of money is owed and threatens arrest unless immediate payment is made over the phone.
A caller impersonates someone from your bank telling that your bank account has been compromised and you need to immediately open a new ‘secure’ account to prevent all your money being stolen. The fraudster then gets you to transfer your entire bank balance to a new bank account number they provide to ‘keep it safe’. The caller then promises to send confirmation via post/email/text and of course they never do.
7. Bogus Tech Support calls
A fake tech support technician will ring up offering to speed up a slow internet connection if you grant them remote access to your computer and pay a fee upfront.
If access is granted then each time you use your own computer fraudsters can help themselves to all your personal information and steal your money. To add insult to injury they will charge you a monthly fee for this ‘service.’
The octogenarian mother of one of the Kalgera team gets these calls from time to time. “Luckily, our Mum has been well-drilled so she just hangs up, but there are plenty of people of all ages who are worried about their tech going wrong and not being able to fix it.”
STOP listening and talking and be like our Mum, hang up.
8. Christmas Loan scams
Christmas can strain our budgets, and unscrupulous credit businesses and scam artists cash in on those most vulnerable. Scammers either send unsolicited text messages or ‘cold call’ victims offering unsecured loans, and those who accept can be charged large, up-front fees for little or no service.
9. False tax refund offers
There’s been a wave of scam emails claiming you have overpaid your licence fee (or another tax) and are due a refund but your correct bank details are needed to refund your money.
You can probably guess where this is going… A similar scam also hit University students earlier this year claiming to refund tuition fees.
THINK before you click. If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.
10. Bogus Christmas dustmen
Someone knocking on your door asking for a seasonal 'bonus' is almost certainly not a genuine refuse collector but an opportunist hoping to cash in on your generosity.
Wish them a Merry Christmas and then close the door. Any approaches for money by people claiming to be refuse collectors should be reported to the police or your local council.
’Tis the season to be jolly – but be scam aware this Christmas!
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