6 Scams to look out for this Christmas

Putting up the tinsel is no reason to let your defences down. Knowing the methods that cybercriminals use can help you stay safe.

Last year, according to the Centre for Retail Research, UK consumers spent almost £80bn at Christmas. A fair proportion of that money was spent online. Unfortunately, this means rich pickings for fraudsters, who like to make the most of the festive season by coming up with ever more ingenious ways to target consumers during the Christmas rush. So how can you spot the scams and, more importantly, protect yourself?

Fake online shops As the retail rush ramps up, fake online stores pop up to prey on our desire for a bargain. Sometimes, these sites will be poorly designed, but the scammers are betting that, in the festive rush, enough people will be too distracted to be able to tell the difference between these sites and legitimate “pop-up” shops. Tip: Look for online reviews of the site and think about phoning the contact number. If there isn’t one, this could be a warning sign.

Charity phishing Scammers know that many people feel charitable at this time of year and so target your good will. They may send emails from a bogus charity or ones that purport to come from a legitimate charity but contain a link to a scam site. Tip: If you want to give to good causes at Christmas, go through the charity in question’s own site.

Fake delivery emails In the run-up to Christmas, many people have dozens of packages arriving and often lose track of what they’ve ordered. Scammers know this and send out emails that purport to come from legitimate courier companies. These ask recipients to click on a link. When they do, they download malware or are taken to a scam site. Tip: Check the sender’s address to ensure it is a legitimate company and go to the company’s own website to track orders.

Wish list scams Wish lists are a way for people to post what gifts they want online. However, these are often easy for anyone to view and, for a fraudster, can be a goldmine. Such lists often contain personal information and this makes the list owner vulnerable to identity theft. Cyber-criminals can also use items on the list for targeted phishing scams. Tip: Ensure the privacy settings on any online lists are set to high.

E-voucher scams These are often shared on social media or email and claim to offer free vouchers from well-known brands. Potential victims are told that, to claim a voucher, all they need to do is click on a link. This can take them to a fake site where they will be asked for their details. Tip: Look out for poor grammar and, if in any doubt, check the voucher by emailing the shop.

Social media scams Scammers use social media to tempt people with irresistibly good deals on goods such as electronics and jewellery. The social networks are also a place where links to phishing sites and malware can be widely shared. Scammers may even be “friends” of real friends of yours who say yes to every connection request. Tip: The best defence here is not to click on links that look even remotely suspicious.

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