‘Tis the season to enjoy buying special gifts and treats, but shoppers do need to be vigilant to make sure they don’t get ripped off by scammers.
The sad reality is that scams online, via the telephone and face-to-face are on the increase, and everyone is a potential victim. As people embrace the Christmas spirit of giving, and shopping becomes squeezed into increasingly hectic schedules they can become more vulnerable to scams.
Does it sound too good to be true?
Merton Trading Standards are warning residents to be on their guard against telephone scams, online swindlers, rogue doorstep traders, dodgy street sellers, bogus charities and even scams with delivery companies. A key message is ‘that if a deal sounds too good to be true – then it probably is.’
Get-togethers over the festive period provide a wonderful chance for people to spread the word on scam avoidance, to help protect elderly or vulnerable family members, friends or neighbours.
When buying presents and Christmas treats for your friends and loved ones Merton Trading Standards advise getting online savvy, being wary of street traders and say ‘no’ to door- knockers peddling cheap, potentially dangerous goods which don’t comply with safety standards.
Christmas is the time for giving to charities but do double-check who you’re giving your cash to and what you’re signing, if asked to make donations by direct debit. Be wary of vague statements on collection tins such as ‘donations to poor children.’
Watch out for unusual delivery slips being put through the door, asking you to ring a premium rate numbers for you to reschedule deliveries. Be wary of people delivering presents and asking for a small delivery charge to be paid for with a card – this only might be for a £1 but scammers can go on to use the card later.
Telephone scams – stop and think
Currently there is a spike in the number of telephones scams and Merton Trading Standards are advising residents to stop and think before responding for callers claiming to be from their bank or the police. Never give any details on your bank account to such callers.
- Never, ever give any details on your bank over the telephone. If concerned call your bank by using the number on the back of your bank card. However do make sure the line is clear first by using your mobile to ring the land line or by ringing a friend first. This step ensures the telephone line is clear and you won’t still be talking to the scammers!
Remember – Your bank or police would never:
- Ask you to transfer money to a new account for fraud reasons, even if they say it is in your name.
- Phone you to ask for your 4-digit card PIN or your online banking password, even by tapping them into the telephone keypad.
- Ask you to withdraw money to hand over to them for safe-keeping.
- Send someone to your home to collect your cash, PIN, payment card or cheque book if you are a victim of fraud.
- Ask you to purchase goods using your card and then hand them over for safe-keeping
Protect yourself online – stop and think
- Check out who you are buying items from online. Will you be able to find the company again? Just because it says co.uk doesn’t mean the company is based in the UK. Look for a company’s geographical address, and search online to see if any problems have been highlighted by shoppers. Use a protected method of payment such as Paypal or a credit card and don’t use public Wifi to make purchases.
- Avoid free online trials offering to kick start your New Year resolutions, with deals such as those helping with weight loss. Many ask for bank details for delivery costs and conceal a contract in the small print. Scammers use these hidden contracts to regularly take cash from their victim’s account.
- Never give out any information to callers claiming to be from your energy providers asking for your bank details, because you are due to a refund. If in doubt ring the company yourself using the number on your bill.
Merton Trading Standards regularly hold talks on scams at venues across the borough, which all residents are invited to attend. Groups can also ask officers to give a talk by getting in touch via the Consumer Advice helpline, as below.
Scammers are highly professional criminals, and so it’s important that people report their activities so they can be investigated and warnings can be issued.
If you become a victim of a scam, contact Consumer Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06. Report it to the police via the Action Fraud online site. For advice on fraud or cybercrime, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.