With five days remaining before Christmas, SecuriGroup is running a campaign to help its clients and followers avoid potential fraudulent situations that arise during the festive period. Below is a detailed analysis of potential risks and how to best combat the situation.
1. Online Shopping Fraud
In 2015, 74% of all adults purchased goods or services online, and this December, over 50% of UK citizens are expected to use the internet to buy more than half of their Christmas presents. However, buyers need to be aware that fraudsters are looking to take advantage of this massive demand by creating false websites to advertise counterfeit goods and services that are often poor quality/unsafe, or items that will never be delivered. To prevent this, SecuriGroup recommends:
- If possible, use online retailers/brands you are aware of and trust. For major brands, always go to the official website to find a list of authorised sellers.
- Check the delivery, insurance, warranty and returns policy.
- 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.
2. Social Media Scams
Most of the adverts placed on networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are genuine. However, fraudsters also advertise promotions and offers with the intent that people will click on these false adverts and be redirected to a website full of counterfeit materials. Cyber-criminals may also be on the hunt for personal details which can be used to steal people's identities and commit fraudulent transactions. To combat this, SecuriGroup recommends:
- Do not have too much personal information on social media accounts which could allow your bank account(s) 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.
3. Dating / Romance Fraud
A rise in members of the public looking for a partner tends to occur around the festive season, with many signing up to online dating websites. Popularity for the websites has grown dramatically in recent years, but SecuriGroup recommends being on the lookout for fraudsters trying to win your affection and then asking for money. Requests for money take many forms, including paying for them to visit you or helping out with a family problem. Do not listen to promises of repayment – better to sever contact and look elsewhere. To prevent this, SecuriGroup recommends:
- 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.
4. Holiday Fraud
During (or just after) the festive period, many members of the public are interested in taking a few days off work, often in search of some sunshine or snow. With the expense of buying Christmas presents, many individuals look for last-minute deals advertised online. However, it is 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. To combat this, SecuriGroup recommends:
- Always pay with a credit card; if they don't accept, don't buy from them.
- Use companies that are ABTA or ATOL protected. Verify this protected status by contacting the Civil Aviation Authority.
- Research the internet and consider the reviews of the company or person you wish to use before booking your trip.
5. Donating to Charity
The festive period is traditionally a time when charities seek donations. Most collections and appeals are legitimate, but be aware that fraudsters are looking to exploit your charitable nature and steal donations. One of the most common ways of doing this is online. To combat this, SecuriGroup recommends:
- 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, Virgin Money or TransferWise.
- If you are still worried, a legitimate charity will advise you on other ways to give on their website or via a phone call.