How to avoid some of the most popular and cunning scams that fraudsters will use throughout this festive season.
Scams at Christmas are all too familiar. Here is a guide to help you avoid the 12 Scams of Christmas.
1. Do not give any personal information
Do not give any personal information (name, address, bank details, email or phone number) to organisations or people before verifying their credentials.
Always question unsolicited calls, texts or emails requesting your personal or financial information (name, address, bank details, email or phone number). Instead, contact the company directly using a known email or phone number.
Devious scammers have been known to deliberately change their number in order to mimic the contact details of a real company, such as banks and building societies.
This is a process known as number spoofing or smishing (SMS phishing) and sees crooks hide behind a fake identity in order to lull a victim into a sense of false security so they hand over personal details.
Scammers are now even able to hijack message chains.
Always check with the official organisation by ringing up the company yourself or visiting a branch before making a move on any dodgy-looking messages.
2. Make sure your computer has up-to-date anti-virus software and a firewall installed.
Make sure your computer has up-to-date anti-virus software and a firewall installed. Ensure your browser is set to the highest level of security and monitoring to prevent malware issues and computer crimes.
Always install the latest software and app updates on all of your devices. Protect your email account with a strong, separate password and enable two-factor authentication (2FA) where possible. Installing, or enabling, antivirus software on your laptops and computers will protect them from viruses and hackers.
Be aware of tech support scams, which claim there is something wrong with your computer when in reality.
This can happen by either a phone call, an email or a pop-up message appearing on your computer, stating something needs to be fixed.
Crooks will then demand cash to fix it, or they will install software on the computer which will allow the criminals to access personal and financial details.
3. Many frauds start with a phishing email
Many frauds start with a phishing email. Remember that banks and financial institutions will not send you an email asking you to click on a link and confirm your bank details. Do not trust such emails, even if they look genuine. You can always call your bank using the phone number on a genuine piece of correspondence, website (typed directly into the address bar) or the phone book to check if you’re not sure.
Never automatically click on a link in an unexpected email or text. Remember, email addresses and phone numbers can be spoofed, so don’t use those as a means to verify that a message or call is authentic. The best way to get in touch with a company is to use a known email or phone number, such as the one on the back of your bank card.
Be aware of fraudsters posing as someone of authority, including bank staff and even police, in order to convince someone to send cash from their account.
There are a particularly high amount of crooks pretending to be from the HMRC, offering victims a sizeable tax refund or threatening them with arrest.
Always check with the official authority and never take the direct word from someone who has called you before parting ways with any money.
4. Register a password for your card
Sign-up to Verified by Visa or MasterCard Secure Code whenever you are given the option while shopping online. This involves you registering a password with your card company and adds an additional layer of security to online transactions with signed-up retailers.
Layer up your protection. When shopping online, always check the web address to make sure you are on the correct site and sign-up to Verified by Visa or MasterCard Secure Code whenever you are given the option.
Social media and online marketplaces are common areas for scammers to prey on unsuspecting victims looking for a bargain.
Victims told Action Fraud they were hooked in with bargain deals on popular models only for their new phone to never turn up.
Never buy anything by bank transfer unless you know and totally trust the recipient, because you will not have any protection to get your money back if you pay this way.
Always avoid paying for items outside of the official website.
5. Obtain a copy of your credit file
You should regularly get a copy of your credit file and check it for entries you don’t recognise. Callcredit, Equifax and Experian can all provide your credit file. An identity protection service such as ProtectMyID monitors your Experian credit report and alerts you by email or SMS to potential fraudulent activity. If it’s fraud, a dedicated caseworker will help you resolve everything.
You should regularly get a copy of your creditfile. Callcredit, Equifax, Experian, ClearScore and Noddle can all provide you with a copy. If you spot anything suspicious, make sure your report it as soon as possible.
If you have been affected by a data breach that leaked your personal or financial details, monitor your credit file and bank accounts regularly for any unusual activity.
An identity protection service such as ProtectMyID monitors your Experian credit report and alerts you by email or SMS to potential fraudulent activity. If its fraud, a dedicated caseworker will help you resolve everything.
6. Destroy and preferably shred receipts
Destroy and preferably shred receipts with your card details on and post with your name and address on. Identity fraudsters don’t need much information in order to be able to clone your identity.
In general, most companies will not print your FULL credit card number on your sales slip receipt. In most cases, a company will only print the last 4 digits of the card number. The number may look something like: XXXX XXXX XXXX 1234. Or, it may contain only the last 2 digits. In most cases, most merchant accounts will only allow the merchant to know the last 4 digits of the card.
However, in older shops that use the older machines, there is a potential they could keep a copy of your credit card on file. If they use the old machines that slide over the card and make a carbon imprint, then yes, they generally have a copy. But newer machines that simply print a receipt usually only contain the last 4 digits.
You should shred anything that has personal information like your name, address, phone number, social security number, or bank account information. This might include a few documents you don’t initially think about, including ATM receipts, credit card receipts, bills, and even used airline tickets
7. Fake bills, invoices and refunds
If you receive bills, invoices or receipts for things that you haven’t bought, or financial institutions you don’t normally deal with or contact you about outstanding debts, take action. Your identity may have been stolen.
Stay in control, destroy your receipts and posts with you name on. If you receive a bill, invoice, or receipts for things you haven’t brought or normally deal with, take action. Your identity may have been stolen.
Phishing is a type of scam involving fake emails that appear to have been sent from a legitimate company.
Late this year there was a huge surge in the number of people reporting scam TV Licensing refund emails.
The fake emails claim the recipient has overpaid or is owed a refund which has not been paid because TV Licensing has the wrong bank account details.
Never send any personal details or click any links in the email until you have contacted the TV Licensing company.
8. Be wary of anyone contacting you out of the blue
Be extremely wary of post, phone calls or emails offering you business deals out of the blue. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Always question it.
Listen to your instincts and be wary of unsolicited calls, emails or online ads offering deals that sound too good to be true.
Genuine banks, or other trusted organisations, won’t pressure you into making a financial transaction, if something feels wrong then it’s usually right to question it, it’s probably a scam!
Reports of bogus charities are ripe during this time of year, with the season of goodwill making shoppers more generous than they perhaps would be at other times during the year.
As well as completely made up charities, keep an eye out for scammers misusing a legitimate charity’s name and supposedly appealing on their behalf.
Always check the charity is registered with the Charities Commission and ask to see official identification from the person who is asking you to donate.
9. Remain vigilant, even if you are already a victim of fraud
If you have been a victim of fraud, be aware of fraud recovery fraud. This is when fraudsters pretend to be a lawyer or a law enforcement officer and tell you they can help you recover the money you’ve already lost.
Be aware of scammers sending links to “claim companies” or vouchers for big brands in exchange for personal information over WhatsApp.
The message will always appear to come from a friend with a promise of a voucher if you just follow the link.
If you are unsure about the legitimacy of the company or voucher, avoid clicking the link.
10. Counterfeit Goods
Be vigilant for fake goods, from rip-off logos on supposedly ‘branded’ t-shirts and shoes that could fall apart after one wear, to electronics which could even be dangerous to use.
If it looks too good to be true, it probably is a scam, be aware of suspiciously cheap products.
Look for spelling and grammatical errors on websites and make sure you only part with cash on secure websites.
11. Holiday Scams
The cold weather has many hard-working Brits dreaming of their next sunny getaway. But there are criminals who have set up fake villa websites to try to trick you into paying down-payments or deposits for bogus holiday rentals.
Always be alert for companies who try and pile pressure on “limited time offer” deals and who try to persuade you into parting with cash straight away. It’s a Christmas scam!
12. Romance Scams
Looking for love in the new year often leads to a rise in the number of people joining dating sites and apps.
But be aware that scammers will be on the prowl.
In a romance scam, the victim is convinced to make a payment to a person they have met and believe they are in a relationship with.
The relationship is often developed over a long period and the individual is convinced to make multiple, generally small, payments to the criminal.
Contact a World-Class Investigator
Now, if you are considering hiring a World-Class Private Investigator due to a Christmas scam that might be keeping you awake at night AND If you’re still reading this AND avoiding most of these mistakes makes sense to you, you may want to give our office a call. If you’re comfortable discussing your issue over the phone, we can take a few minutes to do that (Of course, all conversations are strictly confidential). If you then see any value in it, we can meet at one of our offices to discuss how to resolve the issue in person.
Call us now on 0800 009 6423 and speak to a specialist.