It may be hard to hear for some of us, but Christmas is coming along quickly, and it's time to start thinking about gifts for family and friends. The festive season is stressful enough for most people, without the added layer of panic of not securing our favourite food, drink and presents due to potential shortages across the UK. And added onto this extra stress is a very real and obvious threat - those among us who enjoy to scam and fraud people out of money and special gifts for loved ones.
As reported by ChronicleLive, here are the most recent festive scams you should watch out for, and what to do if you think you've been hoodwinked. Fake delivery texts Many people will have experienced a fraudulent text or phone call in their lifetime, with most fake texts obvious in their spelling mistakes and UK numbers listed above.Shoppers could be hit by a Royal Mail text message scam over the festive period. (Image: Chronicle Live)
However, more professional scammers can make their texts look extremely real and believable with the wording they choose.
This type of fraud is called 'smishing' and can come from people pretending to be a delivery service, your bank, an official organisation or even the police!
Fraudsters are incredibly adaptable though, so we can expect to receive fake alerts about things in the news (delayed passports, benefit payments or driving licences) or Christmas cons like texts telling you a parcel couldn't be delivered. This scam was endemic last year and works by sending you to a fake website where you enter in personal details that are used to create a fake identity or steal your passwords. Items that don't exist
Many Christmas cons work by using bait. And this year, given the scarcity of everything from toys to turkeys, there's a lot of ways to reel people in. When we go online shopping, we tend to start with the shops we know and trust.
But as time ticks on and it becomes harder to find the items we want, people tend to cast their nets wider. We also tend to check less the more we panic. This opens the door for fraudsters advertising 'in-demand' items.
Look for weird website addresses, missing contact details and vague legal information at the bottom of the website. Ask yourself: how has this seller managed to get large quantities of something the big shops have run out of? Be cynical.
Social Media scams There have been so many complaints about social media scam adverts over the last few years it's shocking. Yet more and more people are seeking help after being ripped off by adverts online on Facebook, Instagram and other sites where people recommend goods and services like YouTube and TikTok.
Sign up to Edinburgh Live newsletters for more headlines straight to your inbox Businesses advertising on social media aren't often scrutinised that heavily by the website. They're often based in other countries where consumer rights rules are more lax.
Most of these firms stay just on the right side of legal by actually sending you 'the goods' you buy (to not do so is outright theft). But what you get isn't always what you pay for.Parents will be wanting to make Christmas extra special for their kids this year. (Image: Getty Images)
From dolls house furniture sent instead of real furniture, a photo of an iPhone instead of, erm, an iPhone and incredibly cheap versions of clothes that don't even remotely match the picture, scammers will do anything to bag some cash. You can complain through your card provider about these cons - but you'll have to return the goods even if they are rubbish.
Subscription and voucher traps While you're browsing online you might find that there are a few special offers available, like signing up for some free beauty products, or links to get discounts from retailers. Often these offers are 'subscription traps'.
These sites take your details and after the 'free' period ends' start to charge you for goods or services that you didn't want or authorise. These charges are monthly and you may not even have noticed the money leaving your account at all. Subscription traps that send you low quality goods for large prices are usually from firms based abroad and are often outright cons.
Membership services like discounts and voucher offers are sometimes legitimate businesses but still charge you a membership fee each month to get the 'offers'. Ask yourself before you sign up to anything - why does the firm need my card number if the goods are free? Missing mate scam
It's not that hard for scammers to seize control over people's emails. This allows them to target people with specific types of fraud - because they have access to all that person's email addresses. Asking for money outright does happen (usually people stuck abroad needing urgent help) but in the main, these innocuous looking emails are designed to get you to click on a link that contains malware that in turn infects your computer.
So if an old school-friend sends you a 'round robin' email out of the blue, don't click on it without pausing for thought. Make sure you have anti-virus software loaded on your computer or phone and you are running regular checks. Auction fraud
Let's finish with a classic. In the last few weeks, there have been a few people on the high street running auction fraud scams. This is where a man with a megaphone drums up a crowd with very OTT banter about the huge discounts for things like perfume.
The sales patter drags on for ages and the crowd gets drawn in. The real perfume is displayed prominently. You bid and pay for items in a bag but when you open it... either the items aren't the same or are cheap copies.
That's because you actually bid for the bag , not the perfume that you thought you were buying. This ancient scam works by using stooges who are 'thrilled' when they get the chance to put their first bid in. The same stooges can 'encourage' angry shoppers to back off.
Report this to the police if you get stung - it's an out and out scam. So, what do you do if you have been scammed? There's no foolproof solution to avoiding fraud, but there are things you can do:
- Try to pay by credit card first then debit card as both allow you to 'charge back' money if goods or services are not provided.
You may also be able to claim back from your credit card provider if there's a problem.
- Never click on a link in a text or email.
Always search for the legitimate website then contact the business to check if the message you've received is legitimate.
- If you've transferred money, contact your bank as soon as possible and ask them to recall the money.
You have a tight window to do this so act quickly.
- Don't make any online purchases before checking where the firm is based and how you'd contact them if there was a problem.
- Check out online review sites before purchasing to get a feel for how other people have found their experience.