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What will you be buying online this Christmas?

The lead-up to Christmas is a time when, for many of us, our spending soars. This year, even more of us will be taking advantage of the choice, convenience and best prices that we can only get online … whether it’s those special presents, a festive break or that outfit that’s sold out on the high street.

Unfortunately, however, November and December are also the busiest time for fraudsters – who exploit the fact that you’re distracted and will do anything to find a bargain.

We’ve come up with these expert, easy-to-follow safety tips to help protect you from falling victim to seasonal scams such as fraudulent shopping websites, fake goods, convincing phishing emails and ads for offers that are too good to be true.

  • Don’t pay for anything by transferring money directly to people or companies you don’t know, however desperate you are to buy. If it’s a fraud, it’s doubtful the bank will be able to recover or refund your money. The safest way to pay for anything is by credit card.
  • Make sure shopping websites are authentic by carefully checking the address is spelled correctly. Fraudsters can set up convincing websites with very similar spelling to the authentic one.
  • Ensure that payment pages are secure, by checking that addresses begin with ‘https’ (‘s’ is for secure) and there’s a closed padlock in the address bar.
  • When you’ve finished paying, log out of your account. Simply closing the page may not do this automatically.
  • Counterfeit goods are of inferior quality, can be dangerous and contravene copyright law, costing the livelihoods of workers who make the real thing. Don’t buy fakes intentionally or get duped into buying them, however cheap or ‘authentic’.
  • Beware of ‘free’ or ‘low-cost’ trials – whether slimming pills or the latest tech – without thoroughly reading the small print and trusted reviews. You could be signing up for large monthly direct debits which are difficult to cancel.
  • Check that a holiday or travel you book online is genuine by researching it thoroughly. Look for independent reviews, and make sure travel agents / tour operators are genuine by checking for an ABTA/ATOL number.
  • Buy concert, event, fixture or entry tickets from official sources such as box offices, sports clubs or reputable fan ticket exchange sites. If you don’t, you could be paying for fake or non-existent tickets.
  • Watch out for unexpected emails, texts or posts urging you to click on a link or attachment. For example, at this time of year fake parcel firm delivery messages containing harmful attachments disguised as delivery notes are commonplace.

#safechristmas

If you think you’ve been a victim of online fraud, report it to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre on 0300 123 20 40 or at www.actionfraud.police.uk In Scotland, call Police Scotland on 101.