How to spot scams during the holiday season
5 min | 21 November 2022
Although online scams and fraud are a year-round risk, during the festive period, attempts to scam shoppers could become more apparent as people are simply shopping a lot more than usual. This then gives fraudsters a chance to use different ways to take advantage.
After a couple of years of doing things differently the festive season is looking a little more normal again. Unfortunately, it’s also a prime opportunity for scammers. Here are some areas to be aware of.
Messaging and social media
One scam involves fraudsters impersonating someone you know on text messages or other messaging apps or services. They could hack an account, pretend to be a family member or friend, and ask for money for an ‘emergency’. Or they could impersonate someone from a ‘new number’ (sometimes using a familiar profile picture) and then demand money for the emergency.
Social networks can be a popular spot for scammers, plugging 'too good to be true' deals on gifts like electronics, clothes or jewellery through links to phishing sites. They could also pose as new ‘friends’ of your real friends, to draw you in to following a link.
What to know: look out for any suspicious messages or calls from your contacts. If you do receive something from someone close to you that seems odd, contact them directly another way, like by calling them using their original number to see if it's genuine. On social media, avoid clicking on any links that look suspicious or offer something too good to be true.
It’s the time of year when we’re looking for ways to buy things that could be in high demand. So you could stumble across a fake shopping website that claims to sell what you're after – but is lying in wait to steal your card details.
What to know: websites that look like they’ve been designed in a rush or don’t contain any contact details for the company should raise suspicion. Check that there's a padlock icon before the URL to help identify a secure website. Look at independent review websites (like TrustedReviews (Opens in new window) or Trustpilot (Opens in new window)) to see if the company seems genuine and to confirm that people have shopped from there before.
You’ll probably shop online a bit more than usual during the run-up to the holidays. Scammers could try to take advantage by sending fake delivery emails and texts that impersonate a legitimate courier company (even Royal Mail) asking you to click on a link – for example, to track your package, reschedule a ‘missed’ delivery or pay for a postage shortfall. It could end in malware downloaded onto your computer or a visit to a fraudulent website.
What to know: check the company’s website directly for your order and tracking details. Royal Mail (Opens in new window) has some examples of fraudulent messages on its site. When it comes to emails about deliveries, carefully check the sender’s address for spelling mistakes or unusual characters. Importantly, don’t reply to any suspicious emails or texts.
Watch out for pension and charity scams in the season of giving
If you’re over 55, you have greater access to your pension, which can increase the chance of someone looking to trick you into parting with your cash with the promise of investment funds with ‘guaranteed high returns’ or ‘insider knowledge’ of tax loopholes.
A pension scam could be a cold call, text message, email or letter that's out of the blue and unsolicited. Since 2019, cold calls about pensions have been banned, so anyone calling you without your consent should immediately raise suspicion, even if they’re offering a ‘no obligation’ pension review or consultation.
What to know: be suspicious if a caller is pressuring you to decide immediately about their offer and wants your pension details, documents or a transfer. It’s best to hang up immediately, and be wary of someone who doesn't give you a valid way of contacting them back (or if they do, only provides mobile numbers or PO box addresses).
You can use the FCA register (Opens in new window) to check the legitimacy of anyone who is authorised to advise you on your pension. It also holds a list of unauthorised firms – known as the FCA warning list (Opens in new window) – which you can use to make checks.
Scammers often prey on the goodwill of others by sending emails or texts from fake charities asking for an urgent donation. You might even recognise the charity’s name, but it could be a fraudulent source linking to a scam site.
What to know: give directly to the charity you wish to donate to, either through its own website or over the phone. You can search for registered UK charities (Opens in new window) online.
With so much to do and organise during the holidays, it’s all too easy to follow a link or respond to a sophisticated-looking offer that isn’t genuine. However, staying alert to suspicious emails, texts or phone calls could help you avoid becoming a victim of a scam this festive season.
If you think you might be the victim of a scam or fraud involving any of your Chase accounts, please contact us right away.