When compiling the list of top ten Christmas scams for people to watch out for, the ones targeting relaxed people at home and in a festive mood spring to mind. However, if many of the population are more vulnerable at this time this does not mean that they should be complacent at others. All these frauds are operated throughout the year, it is just that at Christmas many seem to let their guard down and are more trusting.
Top ten scams
1. Sale of counterfeit goods – with millions on the look out for presents, the chance of a bargain buy is attractive. This is the time when counterfeiters have a field day. Rushed purchases and trying to beat the other shoppers means that less care is taken and sometimes the obvious overlooked. Do not buy from anybody other than a reputable purchaser.
2. Following on from number (1) above is the fraudulent on line auctions. My wife greeted me the other evening with the news that she had found the Mulberry handbag she was looking for on eBay. It was priced at £100 – could I believe her luck? Well the bag retails for about £800 in the Mulberry stores and you just might get £50 off in a high street retailer such as House of Fraser or John Lewis. Fortunately she saw sense and did not buy. The bag was either counterfeit or would simply not turn up.
3. Credit and Debit card fraud. With the increased use of plastic to smooth the Christmas buying out, less attention is placed on the transactions we make when our statements arrive. The fraudsters are more active during these busy periods, stealing your details and spending at your expense. Make sure you spot any discrepancies so that you can quickly begin to sort the matter out with your card provider. Otherwise you may be liable for continued fraudulent use for some time!
4. Fraudulent lottery wins. It is the festive season when a lot of poorer people feel the pinch. Especially the elderly are highly delighted when they receive notification of a lottery win that they did not know they had entered. The only trouble is that because it is a lottery situated abroad they have to pay some money upfront as a highly plausible “foreign transfer tax” to release the money.
5. Identity theft leading to fraudulent money transfers, purchases and loans is more prevalent during the period of increased transactions for presents that are occuring. You may overlook your normal diligent approach to throwing out personal details with your rubbish or the way your credit card is handled as you are visiting restaurants, bars and clubs more frequently at this time of year. The crooks know this and step up their activity.
6. Fake emails bring good returns for the “phishers” at this time of year. Many people take a break and therefore Internet activity goes up.
7. Loan scams are a problem over the Christmas break as many people find the expected spend at this time too much, especially those that are suffering as a result of the economic downturn. The opportunity of a small loan to tide you over the break is attractive but make sure you know what you are signing up to! Many of these short tem loans have an extortionatly high level of interest applied, which becomes crippling if a payment is late. Stick to conventional and regulated borrowing rather than a pay day loan or borrowing from disreputable sources.
8. Premium rate phone line scams always seem to increase the volume of trade they do at this time of year as a result of more people being on holiday and more being receptive to a bit of sweet talking over the phone. Do not let your guard down - and if a caller asks you to key in a response do not comply – you will simply be opening your account to them!
9. Rogue door step sellers also like to find people at home. Some of these may be genuine tradesmen but most door to door callers must be treated as potential fraudsters. Be carefull not to let people into your home unecessarily. If they seem to want to come in when you are not interested they may just want to case your house for a later theft.
10. A particular favourite at this time of the year is the slimming or miracle weight loss solution. In fact any health product always does well at this time of year as we are very concious of the over indulgence we we have committed. Do not fall for the false promises and only buy goods that you want for the right reasons. Remember – the best cure is moderate eating of the correct foods and plenty of excercise. There is no miracle solution!