For most of us, Christmas is a time for giving. But not everyone feels that way. For some, Christmas spirit signals a time of easy pickings and a chance to help themselves to our hard earned cash.
It’s a sad fact that the Internet is not just a way to get the Christmas shopping done without fighting through the crowds – it is also home to the majority of Christmas money scams:
1. Fake charity appeals:
If you get an email asking for donations, apparently from a recognised charity, proceed with caution. Reputable charities never ask for money via email, so any website you are directed to will probably be designed to collect your personal and banking details – which will then be used to steal your money.
2. Holiday e-cards:
It’s great to be green of course, and e-cards are one way of cutting down on Christmas waste. But beware, some e-cards are not what they seem – people receiving them are directed to website designed to, you guessed it, steal their personal information and, ultimately their money. So, if you receive an e-card, or an email promoting e-cards, be careful what you click on.
3. Be careful what you Google:
Scammers are nothing if not resourceful. Research has found that results from a wide range of seasonal searches can be peppered with dodgy sites – searches ranging from Free Santa Screensaver to Free Santa Music can be risky.
4. A coffee and a scam:
Sitting in a coffee shop surfing the internet is not always as handy as it might seem. Make sure the wireless network is password protected, or someone might just be using specialist software to watch your every move, and steal your passwords. If you are visiting your bank from an unsecured, public network, you are asking for trouble.
5. Auction fraud:
More and more people are visiting auction sites to find bargains. But remember that if something looks too good to be true, it probably is. If you are not careful, you will pay up, but never receive the item you bought. Always check the sellers ratings and only use payment methods with in-built protection, such as PayPal or a credit card.
6. Themed attachments and ‘spam’:
Unsolicited email should always be treated with suspicion, more so in over the Christmas season. Any email from a sender you do not know, and which asks you to visit a website or open an attachment is probably not the festive fun it claims to be.
7. Laptop theft:
If you are going away for Christmas, lock away your laptop. If it is stolen, the chances are the thief will find a way to access your passwords and personal details, then have a merry old time spending your money.
8. Telephone scams:
Not every scam is carried out on the internet. Any phone call offering you a now or never offer and pressuring you to give out bank details is surely a ruse. Don’t fall for it.
9. Fly by night web merchants:
It’s amazing how many new discount websites spring up around Christmas. Many are genuine of course, but some are not – and they will typically be selling the year’s must have toy or gadget. The site might simply take your money and disappear, or those behind it might continue to use your details. Again, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
10. Door to door charity collections:
Good old shoe leather is still a valuable tool for seasonal scammers. Just make sure you see some proper ID before making a donation. Otherwise you will lose out and so will the real charities.