How to avoid scams during the high-risk Christmas season

Fraudsters steal millions of pounds over Christmas every year (Pexels)

With the countdown to Christmas drawing us ever closer to the merriest day of the year, many of us are running around trying to complete our purchases.

From decorations and trees to groceries and gifts, the shopping list is often quite long.

Aware of this sense of urgency and the cost-of-living crisis that has made shoppers more likely to seek out great deals, many scammers are turning the holiday season to their advantage.

Online Christmas shoppers across the nation lost more than £15.3m last year alone, according to fraud experts at Proxyrack.

Here are the five common business scams they’ve spotted and how to avoid them.

1. Suspicious links

Whether it’s an email, text message, or online ad, you should pay attention to links to websites that look suspicious and avoid clicking on them.

Often the legitimacy of the sender can be verified by studying the email address or comparing a phone number with the official number listed for a company.

A Cadburys gift scam, for example, has recently been circulating on WhatsApp linking to a Russian URL that bears no resemblance to the Cadbury website.

If you can’t find a source on the company’s website who corroborates contact details, it’s likely fake.

If in doubt, get in touch with the relevant company’s customer service team and double check.

2. Browser Extensions

During the holiday season, there’s often a rise in browser extensions claiming to help you save money.

While some may be legitimate, there are many developed by scammers to mine phishing data.

The safest way to avoid this is to not install new browser extensions during the Christmas season.

If you choose to install new extensions, be sure to do your research. Look at platforms like Trustpilot to confirm their legitimacy and see if any customers are suspicious of the tool.

Scammers often lure customers in by promising them money-saving deals (Pexels)

Scammers often lure customers in by promising them money-saving deals (Pexels)

3. Billing scams

Fraudsters may send you a message claiming to be a company you purchased from, telling you that your payment failed and that you need to update your payment information immediately.

They often communicate a sense of urgency, claiming you’ll lose a deal or your order won’t be delivered unless you submit your payment details right away.

If you find yourself in a situation like this, your best bet is to contact the company you bought from directly to find out more.

4. Unknown websites

Scammers are also known for creating fake websites that claim to offer incredibly cheap prices for products.

Their hope is that customers make purchases from these websites, providing their name, home address, telephone number and payment details, which they can then use to their advantage.

To avoid this, always check the legitimacy of the website by looking up their name online before making a purchase. When in doubt, avoid ordering anything from unfamiliar websites, especially during the Christmas season.

5. Verification code scams

This scam is used by hackers to pass a two-factor authentication put in place to protect your data.

They get in touch with you posing as your bank or a company you recently purchased from, claiming you need to confirm a verification code to finalize a purchase.

These scammers will often already have your password and username but, with verification, they will be able to access more data and potentially hack into your customer account altogether.

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