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Online shopping fraud

Buyers should be aware that fraudsters are looking to take advantage of the massive demand from Christmas shopping. They create bogus websites to advertise counterfeit goods and services that are often poor quality/unsafe, or items that will never be delivered.

Protect yourself

  • Use online retailers/brands you are aware of and trust and for major brands always go to the official website to find a list of authorised sellers

  • Check delivery, insurance, warranty and returns policies

  • Be especially careful when purchasing expensive items

  • Make sure you have adequate anti-virus software that will enable your computer to flag any untrustworthy sites

Christmas e-cards
Lots of people send Christmas cards by email. Many are genuine; however, be aware that cyber-criminals are creating their own versions, which you do not want to open.
The email may contain a virus (malware) that will embed itself onto your electronic device – all without your knowledge – and then collect personal data, financial information, passwords and usernames which can then be used to commit fraud.

Protect yourself

  • If you receive an anonymous e-card, play it safe and delete the email as it could be infected

  • Use a reputable anti-virus product on your electronic device, making sure it is regularly updated and always turned on

  • If you believe your electronic device has been infected, switch it off and disconnect from the internet to prevent further information being stolen

  • To find out more about removal tools, go to also contact your bank and change passwords and usernames

Auction fraud
Auction sites, such as eBay or Gumtree, are a popular way to buy Christmas presents. Whilst the majority of items on sale are genuine, there may also be some items for sale that could be counterfeit or do not even exist.
Fraudsters use the festive period as an opportunity to ‘sell’ popular items such as smartphones, gadgets and ‘designer’ clothing at low prices on auction sites. Be careful when making a purchase as the goods may not exist or what you receive might be an imitation of the legitimate version.

Protect yourself

  • Always use recommended methods of payment rather than transferring money direct to a seller

  • Research the seller before you bid. If available, check their feedback but be mindful this can also be falsified

  • Be cautious when buying from sellers abroad or private individuals. If you are in any doubt, back out of the sale

  • If you are collecting what you have bought, take someone with you or let someone know where you are going

Holiday fraud
During or just after the festive period many people are keen to take a few days away, often in search of some sunshine or snow. With the expense of buying Christmas presents most will be going online and looking out for a deal. However, it’s important to be aware of fraudsters advertising fake holidays on websites or social media. These often come in the form of cheap ‘too good to miss’ package trips, bargain-booking offers for villas and ski chalets or calls and texts offering tempting last-minute deals.

Loan and investment scam
There’s an increase in online loan applications at this time of year as people seek to cover the costs of the festive period. Fraudsters will exploit this opportunity by intercepting applications to legitimate lenders or by creating their own bogus company websites. You may also be tempted to put your money into an investment scheme which promises high returns and low/no risk.

Protect yourself

  • Authentic loan providers will not ask for an advance fee. If they ask for an advance fee just say no

  • Research any loan or investment companies online before making any financial commitment. Also make sure to read the terms and conditions

  • If the loan or investment opportunity seems too good to be true, it probably is

  • Never set up a loan or make an investment which starts with a cold-call, it’s always better to just hang-up

  • Go to for a list of unauthorised firms and top tips on how to avoid dodgy investments

Ticketing fraud
If you’re planning to buy tickets for a Christmas present, remember there are many bogus websites offering fake tickets. A tried and trusted formula for fraudsters is to offer cheap deals for tickets to events that have already sold out. In reality the tickets do not exist and anyone who tries to buy one will end up losing their money and a memorable day or night out.

Protect yourself
• Only look at tickets from reputable websites that are secure (showing a padlock) and before buying do an internet search for reviews on the gig/sporting event to see if anyone has fallen victim to a ticketing scam
• Avoid entering your bank or credit card details on public or shared computers
• Make sure you have good, up-to-date anti-virus software on all your electronic devices


Donating to charity
Most charity collections and appeals are legitimate but be aware fraudsters are looking to exploit our charitable nature and steal donations. One of the most common ways of doing this is online.

Protect yourself

  • Visit the charity’s website by typing the address into your browser rather than clicking on a hyperlink embedded in an email

  • Before you donate, check the website you are on is secure – the web address should begin with https:// (the ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’) and look for the padlock symbol

  • Do not respond to requests to donate through a money transfer company such as Western Union or MoneyGram

  • If you are still worried, a legitimate charity will advise you on other ways to give on their website or via a phone call


Mobile malware/ malicious apps
Many people get smartphones or tablets for Christmas. Cyber-criminals are constantly developing new ways to infect these devices through malicious apps or through infected websites/URLs. Although most malware is found on the Android operating system there have also been recent cases of strains being developed for Apple’s iOS.

Protect yourself

  • Make sure you have the latest version of software installed for increased protection

  • Only download apps from official app stores like Google Play and Apple Store and always check reviews and ratings as well as developer information before downloading a new app

  • Install anti-virus software and keep it up to date

  • Do not click on links in emails from unknown sources or visit suspicious websites on your new devices

Money transfers
An authentic online seller will ask you to pay by card on a secure payment page, or occasionally by cheque. However tempted you are because ‘it’s the last one in stock’ or it’s ‘two days before Christmas’,never transfer money directly into the seller’s bank account.
As well as at Christmas time, there are many situations where you may be asked to transfer money to other people and there are a number of respectable services you can use. But be aware fraudsters are also looking to cash-in by persuading people to transfer money for products and services that do not exist.

Protect yourself

  • Never send a money transfer for online purchases

  • Wait the six or seven working days it takes for a cheque to clear before transferring any money or sending/mailing any goods. Doing this will mean you don’t lose anything even if the cheque bounces, proves to be fraudulent or is cancelled

  • Never send money in advance to obtain a loan or credit card or to pay for ‘processing fees’ on lottery or prize winnings

  • Never provide your banking information to people or businesses you do not know

Social media scams
Most of the adverts placed on networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are genuine. However, fraudsters are also advertising give-aways and offers in the hope that people will click on these bogus adverts and be redirected to a website full of scams.
Cyber-criminals may also be on the hunt for personal details which can be used to steal people’s identities and commit fraudulent transactions.

Protect yourself

  • Do not have too much personal information on social media accounts which could allow your bank accounts to be compromised

  • Be wary of installing add-ons to your internet browser as some can be used to extract personal and financial information from your search history

  • If you click on a social media advert do the necessary checks before buying anything from the website you land on


Dating/romance fraud
Many singletons will be making a New Year’s resolution to find their ideal partner and signing up to an online dating website, but you also need to be on the lookout for fraudsters trying to win your affection and then asking for money to pay for them to visit you or help out with a family problem. Do not listen to promises of repayment – better to sever contact and look elsewhere.

Protect yourself

  • Guard your privacy when chatting online and be selective with the information you provide about yourself

  • Never send money or give credit card or online account details to anyone you do not know and trust

  • Trust your instincts, if something feels wrong take steps to protect yourself

Mobile payments
More and more people are using mobile devices, especially smartphones to make purchases. Data is usually stored in the phone’s memory and may be compromised if the device is ‘hacked’ or stolen.

Protect yourself

  • Do not save passwords or personal/financial data onto your mobile device unless it is absolutely necessary and make sure the phone is passcode protected

  • If stolen, most mobile devices have the software to wipe all data from their memory remotely – learn how this works

  • Do not leave your Bluetooth on as cyber-criminals can hack into your device unnoticed. Also install anti-virus software and check the security features



:: More on cyber fraud

More information on fraud and scams in our help hub

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