Don't fall victim to the 12 scams of Christmas!

Release Date: 11 December 2019

It may be the season of goodwill but fraudsters are working overtime at Christmas, says Richmond Council.

To help residents spot the scams, keep safe and not fall prey to the criminals, Richmond Council have come up with a "12 scams of Christmas".

Particularly, shoppers must look out for bogus charities, fake online gift cards and beware telephone calls from scammers or con-artists.

Robyn Thomas, Head of the Community Safety Partnership, said:

"We wish you a merry Christmas and for the everyone to have an enjoyable and scam-free time so please watch out for any offer that looks too good to be true.

"Be careful if you are contacted by email, landline or by text and when in doubt, it is always best to trust your instincts and put the phone down or don’t reply to the email.

"I would also urge consumers to check labels and branding to make sure they are genuine. Any product on sale anywhere other than the official retailer should be considered as suspect and potentially dangerous.

"Don't become another scam victim this Christmas."

The 12 Scams of Christmas

1. Subscription trap

This scam offers a free gift or trial offer, if you 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.

2. Bogus charities

Fraudsters are all too ready to take advantage of the feeling of Christmas goodwill. 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 www.charityname.com/donate. If it does not it is probably a scam.

3. Pop-up shops

Online pop-up shops claim to deliver in time for Christmas. They will not. They will take your payment and vanish. High Street pop-ups often sell counterfeit or faulty items.

4. Dangerous Christmas gifts

Unsafe toys and electrical goods, such as phone chargers, which fail to comply with UK safety laws, continue to be sold. Not only are these potentially dangerous, they can also damage the economy and fund crime. Some of these items may be counterfeit. For peace of mind, always buy from a reputable retailer and get a receipt for items bought. Do not buy items from people selling goods in bin liners claiming overstocked items.

5. E-season greeting cards

These online festive greetings can contain malware that reads your computer address book and can steal your credit card and bank details.

6. Bogus gift cards

The internet is awash with fake gift cards. Only buy from recognised stores. If you can’t get out, make sure you are on a store’s official website.

7. Loan scams

Christmas time can put a strain on any budget, and unscrupulous credit businesses are cashing in on people's financial desperation. Scammers either send unsolicited text messages or "cold call" victims offering them an unsecured loan, and those who accept can be charged large, up front fees for little or no service.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. Scam tickets websites

People purchase non-existent tickets from scam websites to events such as music festivals, the theatre and airline tickers 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.

11. 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.

12. Credit and debit card fraud

Involves 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. Fake websites that misrepresent genuine companies and goods.

Notes for editors

If you are a journalist and would like further information about this press release, contact Fenna Maynard on 020 8487 5182.

Reference: P402/19

Updated: 31 December 2019