By Dexter Penn, CEO, Kalgera
As Christmas Day fast approaches, many of us will be frantically last-minute shopping to ensure a Christmas to remember, not least after last year’s lockdown Christmas.
Typically, UK households spend around £740 more than normal during the month of December, according to the Bank of England. While this is good news for the economy, it’s not so good for cash strapped families – and it’s the opportunistic fraudster’s paradise.
The stresses of the holidays can make all of us vulnerable – and easy prey to increasingly sophisticated scams devised by scammers who love nothing more than to target us when we are most distracted.
To help keep you safe this Christmas, we’ve put together a list of the 12 Scams of Christmas to look out for to avoid festive misery.
- Subscription trap
Scammers offer you a free gift or trial offer if you pay postage to receive a ‘free gift’ – but you may unwittingly be setting up a Continuous Payment Authority (CPA) which allows them to take any amount out of your bank account at any time.
- Fake charities
Fraudsters love playing on our charitable nature especially at Christmas. Check the ID of any street collectors and the Charity Commission register to verify that a charity is legitimate before giving.
If you receive marketing emails, check the header or hover your mouse over any links to make sure it is genuine. Make sure the name of the charity website domain is correct. E.g. www.charityname.co.uk/donate. If in doubt go to the website using the address you know.
- Pop-up shops
These shops often offer unbelievable offers online or on the High Street. But beware, you could find yourself on the receiving end of Del Boy himself. These shops will often fail to deliver in time for Christmas and may even sell you counterfeit or faulty items, and then vanish.
- Bogus gift cards
Only buy from recognised stores and avoid ‘too good to be true’ offers online. If you are shopping online, make sure to use the store’s official website.
- HMRC voicemail tax scam
Which? has raised the alarm on this tax scam for people who file self-assessment tax returns. Ahead of the 31st January deadline, fraudsters leave threatening voicemail messages claiming to be agents of HMRC.
The message demands you to call them urgently on a number provided which of course re-directs you to a boiler room where fake agents instruct you to transfer large sums to fake bank accounts.
Listen to the HMRC tax scam voicemails to learn how to spot them.
Remember, for personal tax matters HMRC will only initiate communication with you in writing quoting your tax reference number.
- Push Payment Fraud
This type of fraud is growing fast and some people have lost their entire life savings, forever!
How does this happen? You or an older relative get a series of calls from someone claiming to be a person in authority, like their bank, a police officer, the tax office, or their energy or internet provider. The caller says that a lot of money is owed and threatens arrest unless immediate payment is made over the phone.
Scammers are sending WhatsApp messages pretending to be from close relatives saying they have lost their phone and asking for money to cover them for a few days until the new phone and mobile banking apps are set-up again. They even offer to help if you take a picture of the bank card. If you receive this kind of message, stop, count to 10 and call the relative on their normal phone. If they are really in trouble, you will know from the phone call – or they will call you.
A caller impersonates someone from your bank telling that your bank account has been compromised and you need to immediately open a new ‘secure’ account to prevent all your money being stolen. The fraudster then gets you to transfer your entire bank balance to a new bank account number they provide to ‘keep it safe’. The caller then promises to send confirmation via post/email/text – which of course they never do.
- Bogus Tech Support calls
A fake tech support technician will ring up offering to speed up a slow internet connection if you grant them remote access to your computer and pay a fee upfront.
If access is granted then each time you use your own computer fraudsters can help themselves to all your personal information and steal your money. To add insult to injury they will charge you a monthly fee for this ‘service.’
STOP listening and talking and hang up.
- Christmas Loan scams
Christmas can strain our budgets, and unscrupulous credit businesses and scam artists cash in on those most vulnerable. Scammers either send unsolicited text messages or ‘cold call’ victims offering unsecured loans, and those who accept can be charged large, up-front fees for little or no service.
- False tax refund offers
There’s been a wave of scam emails claiming you have overpaid your licence fee (or another tax) and are due a refund but your correct bank details are needed to refund your money.
You can probably guess where this is going… A similar scam also hit University students earlier this year claiming to refund tuition fees.
THINK before you click. If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.
- Bogus Christmas dustmen
Someone knocking on your door asking for a seasonal ‘bonus’ is almost certainly not a genuine refuse collector but an opportunist hoping to cash in on your generosity.
Wish them a Merry Christmas and then close the door. Any approaches for money by people claiming to be refuse collectors should be reported to the police or your local council.
- Unpaid or undelivered post
Fraudsters are cashing in on the increase in online shopping by using fake emails and text messages notifying potential victims of a missed delivery or a redelivery fee to be paid, before redirecting them to a page where they are instructed to enter bank details or make payments. Don’t click on any links or enter bank details
- The ‘celebrity’ endorsed scam
We’re seeing a number of scams supposedly endorsed by high profile people e.g. Martin Lewis and a recent scam involving a fake BBC page encouraging people to invest in an Elon Musk-backed bitcoin investment platform, encouraging people to invest money or bitcoin in exchange for high returns. Think before you take any action. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.