The 12 scams of Christmas

Written by
Rebecca Goodman
Insurance expert
12 December 2021
6 min read
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At Christmas when we’re all spending more online, it’s even more important to be as vigilant as possible against criminals. 

This year we’re all hoping for a slightly more normal Christmas and spending on all things festive has already begun, from stocking fillers to turkeys. 

But while you’re booking your big food shop and planning the Secret Santa, fraudsters are working hard to get their hands on your cash with these 12 popular scams. 

1. Brushing 

Have you ever received something you didn’t order? If so, you may have been a victim of a brushing scam. 

It involves companies stealing names and addresses (usually from leaked databases) and sending out products. 

These products and parcels often don’t have many details or a return address and may come from a different country. 

The fraudster then uses the “confirmed purchase” to leave their own fake review on their company website, or wherever they sell their goods, in order to make themselves look more trustworthy to future customers. 

It may seem harmless but if someone has their hands on your name and address, you have no idea what they might be using it for - including setting up fake accounts in your name. 

2. Christmas e-cards 

If you’re going paper-free, Christmas e-cards are a good alternative - but if you’re the recipient of these cards, be extra vigilant about where they come from. 

Criminals can target you with fake Christmas cards sent via email, which include links to websites that can infect your computer or lure you into parting with your personal details. 

3. Delivery scams 

Online shopping may often seem quicker and easier than heading to the high street, but there are a range of scams linked to buying things this way. 

When you order online, you’ll usually receive a text telling you when a package will arrive. 

But fraudsters have also begun sending these and they often include links to fake websites designed to steal your personal details and identity. 

4. Auction fraud 

Ebay is great for finding a bargain but not if the item you’re buying is a fake or, worse, doesn’t exist at all. 

If this happens it can be hard to get your money back, so if you’re buying something always double check the seller and use the recommended payment method to give yourself as much protection as possible. 

What if you arrive at your dream destination to find out it’s nothing like you thought it would be? 

5. Airbnb fraud 

Christmas is the perfect time to get away with your family and maybe this year you’ve booked an Airbnb to stay in together. 

But what if you arrive at your dream destination to find out it’s nothing like you thought it would be? 

This is a scam and it involves people listing properties on holiday rental websites with inaccurate descriptions and, in some cases, listing properties that don’t exist at all. 

When picking a property, always check the owner’s reviews and ratings, never pay in cash, and be wary about properties being advertised over email and not on an official website. 

6. Fake dating profiles 

The festive season is often a time for socialising – so it follows that it’s also a time when criminals actively target people through portals such as dating websites. 

This is usually via fake profiles that claim to be someone who doesn’t exist . To avoid being a victim, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. 

No one should be asking you to transfer money or hand over further personal details via one of these websites. 

Always use a trusted, well-reviewed website, keep messaging with others on the website itself as much as possible, speak on the phone - and never reveal any personal details until you’re sure the person you’re talking to is genuine. 

Christmas is a time for giving, but not to a fake charity 

7. Investment scams 

If you’re contacted out of the blue about an amazing investment opportunity, alarm bells should be ringing. 

It may sound amazing and the person on the end of the phone or email could be promising the earth, but their main aim is to convince you to part with your cash. 

After this you’ll probably never hear from them again - or see your cash again. 

Just because it’s Christmas, don’t let your guard down. 

8. Charity donations 

Christmas is a time for giving, but not to a fake charity. 

If you want to give money to charity, always check if the website is genuine, the charity exists - and only send money in a secure way such as via a card payment or PayPal. 

You should never have to transfer cash or send via a service such as Western Union. 

9. Fake competitions 

What could be better than winning a lump sum of money, just in time for Christmas? Absolutely nothing unless it’s a fake competition created by criminals. 

The festive season is tough for many and can be especially hard for those short of cash. 

Fraudsters know this and they may send fake texts, emails, or phone calls to tell you you’ve won something you weren’t expecting. 

You’re then usually asked to give personal details or click on a link - and this is where the criminal accesses your details which it can use to hack into your other accounts or apply for things in your name. 

10. Instagram hacking 

Companies use social media websites, such as Instagram, to target new customers often through giveaways and competitions. 

Most of these are genuine - but some are not. If you end up clicking on a fake account, you could end up on a website full of scams and fake offers. 

Be wary of companies you haven’t heard of before, never hand cash or personal details over, and verify company names with your own research before going any further. 

Three in five consumers have received fake delivery texts 

11. Phone payments 

It’s easy to store your payment details on your smart phone and makes it quick to pay for items. 

However, if your phone is stolen, it then becomes the property of a criminal who also has access to all the information stored on it. 

Crimes like this rise at Christmas time because people become more desperate for money and unsuspecting victims can let their guard down. 

Always keep the most recent security programme on your phone, use passwords and two layers of authentication, and try to avoid storing passwords and PIN numbers on it. 

12. Subscription traps 

Who doesn’t love a freebie, especially if something is being sent to you on a regular basis? 

But there’s no such thing as a free lunch and if you’re being offered something for free, always be wary. 

This type of subscription trap usually offers a freebie in return for your personal details or payment information. 

Once the freebie arrives, you will then be charged - even though you were told the item was free. Never hand over payment details if you’re being asked to take part in a freebie and always check the website is genuine before handing over personal information. 

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Don’t forget that while you may think that this article is brilliant, it is intended for information purposes only and should not be mistaken for financial advice or recommendations.