Online shoppers are being urged not to let fraudsters ruin their festive fun.
Detectives at Merseyside Police have warned members of the public to be vigilant when shopping this December and avoid falling victim to the 12 online frauds of Christmas.
The run-up to Christmas tends to be a busy time for shops and stores across Merseyside but millions of pounds are also spent online by shoppers keen to get a bargain or treat a loved one.
Detective Inspector Helen Bennett said: “The festive season and Christmas shopping can be a busy and stressful time but by taking a few extra minutes to make additional checks on the things you are buying means you have the peace of mind that your purchase – and your bank account – is safe and secure.
“Thousands of pounds will be spent in the next few weeks, both in shops and online, but people shouldn’t be complacent when they spend their hard earned money.
“We want people to enjoy themselves but stay safe online at the same time. We would advise people to follow some basic tips and look at the website – www.getsafeonline.org. A few simple checks now will save a financial hangover in the new year.”
Here are some top tips to avoid falling foul of the 12 online frauds of Christmas:
1. Online shopping fraud – During December around 50 per cent of people in the UK are expected to use the internet to buy more than half of their presents. As with every purchase if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Buy from reputable sellers and make sure you use an authentic website, check payment pages are secure and wherever possible pay by credit card.
2. Christmas e-cards – An increasing number of Christmas cards are being sent via email. Don’t open attachments or click on links in festive emails, text or social media posts you are not expecting as they could be scams. The email could also contain a virus that will embed itself onto your electronic device and collect your personal data.
3. Auction fraud – Auction sites are a popular way to buy Christmas presents. While the majority of items on sale are genuine, fraudsters use the festive period as a chance to ‘sell’ popular items such as smartphones and designer clothing. Always research a seller before you bid, be cautious when buying from sellers abroad and use recommended methods of payment rather than transferring money direct to a seller.
4. Holiday fraud – Just like any other time of year many people like to book a break over the festive season. Research your trip thoroughly and only book with a reputable travel company; always pay with credit card and use companies that are ABTA or ATOL protected.
5. Loan and investment scams – There is an increase in online loan appeal applications at this time of year as people seek to cover the costs of the festive period. Research any loan companies online before making any financial commitment and always read the terms and conditions. Never set up or a loan or investment which starts with a cold call.
6. Ticketing fraud - If you want to buy concert or event tickets as a Christmas gift be careful who is selling them and only buy from official sellers to save being disappointed. Only look at tickets from reputable websites that are secure (show a padlock) and avoid entering bank or credit card details on public or shared computers.
7. Donating to charity – The festive period is traditionally a time when charities seek donations. Most are legitimate but to be safe visit the charity’s website into your browser rather than clicking on a hyperlink embedded in an email and do not respond to requests to donate money through a money transfer company such as Western Union or Moneygram.
8. Mobile malware/malicious apps - if you are buying a new phone or laptop ensure you protect yourself by using a pincode or password, only download apps from official app stores and install anti-virus software.
9. Money transfers – Never send a money transfer for an online purchase. Never send money in advance to obtain a loan or credit card and never provide banking information to people or businesses you don’t know.
10. Social media scams – Most adverts placed on networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook are genuine but some frauders advertise giveaways in the hope people will click on bogus adverts and be redirected to a website full of scams. Do not have too much personal information on social media accounts which could allow your bank accounts to be compromised.
11. Dating romance/fraud – Many singletons will be making a New Year’s resolution to find their ideal partner and sign up to an online dating website. Always guard your privacy when chatting online and never send money or give credit card or online account details to anyone you don’t know or trust.
12. Mobile payments – More and more people are using mobile devices to make purchases. Do not save passwords or financial data onto your mobile device unless it is absolutely necessary and do not leave your Bluetooth on as cyber-criminals can hack into your device unnoticed.
If you have fallen prey to fraudsters, report it by contacting Action Fraud. Go to Action Fraud (the Uk’s first national fraud reporting centre) www.actionfraud.police.uk or call them on 0300 123 2040.