With the autumn season well and truly here, shoppers have already started buying Christmas presents for their loved ones.
According to the Bank of England, a typical UK household will spend just over £2,500 a month – but in the run up to Christmas spending habits change.
In December alone UK households spend on average £750 more than a typical month.
Sadly, scammers take advantage of the extra money UK households fork out over the festive period, Liverpool Echo reports.
Although Christmas is just under three months away, shops and supermarkets have already put festive items on sale.
And with Black Friday not too far away, you may be starting to plan for what you’ll buy as Christmas presents – but now shoppers are being warned to against falling victim to scams.
A spokesperson for Action Fraud said: “Online shopping fraud is the most common type of fraud people fall victim to around Christmas, as they’re buying gifts for friends and family.
“Mobile phones are one of the most common items that people try to buy from fraudsters. Victims report being hooked in with bargain deals on some of the most popular models of smart phones, only for the phone to never actually arrive and leaving them without presents to give on Christmas Day.
“Apple iPhones account for a large proportion of all mobile phones purchased that turn out to be fraudulent.
“Electrical goods (including games consoles), household items, computers, clothing, and accessories also feature in many reports to Action Fraud around the Christmas period.”
Here are some of the most common scams people can fall victim to in the lead-up to Christmas – and what you can do if you think you’ve been targeted.
WhatsApp scams have become increasingly common, and the festive period is no different.
Scammers are using the chatting app to spread fake vouchers from what appear to be big named supermarkets as people go searching for ways to save money.
But be aware that there are almost always a scam.
Often they will promise you money off your shop if you complete a survey, or follow a link and fill in your details.
But this is a classic scam and they are just trying to get your details.
Counterfeit goods is a longstanding problem, where you think you’re buying a genuine product or brand – but it’s a fake.
This problem becomes increasingly tricky online, where you can’t inspect the goods beforehand.
Last year, the Europol unit shut down 20,520 websites for illegally trading counterfeit merchandise online.
Be aware that if an offer looks too good to be true – it probably is.
If the brand is real, it will be from a reputable retailers, such as the brand itself.
Always check customer reviews before buying from a new website. Use websites such as Brand-i, which can tell you if the site is selling a genuine article.
Keep in mind that if you have trouble returning an item you think is counterfeit, you can claim it back under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act – but only if you have paid with a credit card.
If it was through debit card you can try getting it back via “chargeback”, which is when you dispute a transaction to secure a refund.
Scammers will often try to contact you through phone calls and texts.
They have become incredibly wise to intelligent caller IDs on smartphones, and many are using software that makes it look like the call is coming from a legitimate company.
Number spoofing, or smishing (SMS phishing) often makes it look like it’s coming from a company you’re familiar with.
For example, consumer watchdog website Which? saw one pretending to be from Argos – somewhere a lot of people will go to buy their Christmas presents.
People were reporting getting texts looking like they were from Argos, promising a refund of £247 from an overpayment, and a link to follow to supposedly claim the money. However, it was a scam.
Tech support calls
Sometimes scammers target computer owners to tell them something is wrong with their computer.
They may ask you to install software to fix the issue – which may allow them access to your personal information.
There may also be a demand for payment – and that is when you know for sure it’s a scam.
You should never download any software you’re unfamiliar with – and if you’re not tech savvy you should ask a friend who is, or call the customer services for your computer.
What to do if you’ve been scammed
If you’re contacted by a scammer, you should report it to help authorities stop the criminals responsible.
You should report fraud or cybercrime to Action Fraud using their online reporting tool.
You can also report by calling 0300 123 2040 Monday to Friday 8am – 8pm. If you are calling from abroad please call +44 300 123 2040.
Meanwhile, if you think you’re account details or PIN have been stolen you should contact your bank immediately so they can protect your account.
If you’ve lost money, there might be things you can do to get it back.
Check the Citizen’s Advice website for more details.