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Avoid falling for the 12 scams of Christmas

14 December 2023

It’s that time of year again when residents could be subject to Christmas scams. Keep an eye out to prevent fraudsters from taking advantage of you.

To help residents stay aware of the scammers’ most commons tricks and avoid falling prey to the criminals, we have outlined the ’12 scams of Christmas’.

The 12 scams of Christmas

We encourage residents to stay alert so you can have an enjoyable and scam-free Christmas. It’s important to watch out for any offer that looks too good to be true.

1. Unsafe Christmas gifts

Dangerous toys and electrical goods, such as phone chargers that do not follow UK safety laws, continue to be sold. These items - which are often counterfeit - can be dangerous, damaging to the economy and potentially fund crime. We recommend you always buy from a reputable retailer and get a receipt for items bought. For peace of mind, also avoid buying items from those selling goods in bin liners claiming overstocked items.

2. Counterfeit gift cards

Fake gift cards are all over the internet and in the current crisis, it can be tempting when you see a deal that is too good to be true. To avoid scammers from cashing in on your desire to save, only buy from recognised retailers or from a store’s official website.

3. Subscription set up

Free gifts or trial offers can be used to lure you into giving up your bank details, sometimes by asking you to 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.

4. Credit and debit card fraud

This can involve 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. It could also involve fake websites that misrepresent genuine companies and goods. 

5. Fake charities

In the season of goodwill, fraudsters may try to take advantage of your generosity. 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 “”. If it does not, it is probably a scam. If you want to help people during the festive period, learn how you can support others during the cost of living crisis.

6. Pop-up shops

Online pop-up shops claim to deliver in time for Christmas but this is simply untrue. These stores tend to take your payment and vanish. Remember to exercise caution at high street pop-ups as well - they often sell counterfeit or faulty items.

7. Loan scams

Rising prices and the cost of Christmas can put a strain on any budget, and dishonest credit businesses often try taking advantage of people’s financial desperation. Beware of unsolicited text messages or 'cold calls' offering an unsecured loan, as those who accept can be charged large, up-front fees for little or no service. If you’re struggling with managing your finances, find out what support you could be entitled to.

8. E-season greeting cards

Be careful opening and sending online festive greetings. They can contain malware that reads your computer address book and can steal your credit card and bank details.

9. 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.

10. 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.

11. Scam ticket websites

People purchase non-existent tickets from scam websites to events such as music festivals, the theatre and airline tickets 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. People are left both out of pocket and unable to attend the event.

12. 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. 

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Up to: December 2023

Updated: 14 December 2023

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