Christmas scams that could drain your bank, including gift card payment traps

As Christmas approaches, people get stressed out about buying their gifts and favorite food on time.

Fears about Christmas toppings and gifts have grown in recent weeks due to a shortage of truck drivers due to Brexit and the pandemic.

The good news is that with a little planning ahead – and a little bit of managing the children’s expectations – Christmas 2021 can still go smoothly.

However, shoppers have been warned of the dangers of those looking for quick cash this holiday season.

This is the time of year when most people get ripped off or tricked into fraud.

Scammers will try by all means to get you your money back

These are the latest Christmas scams to watch out for and some tips on what to do if you think you’ve been duped, according to a report from Mirror Online, thanks to advice from consumer rights expert Martyn James of Resolver.

Fake delivery SMS

Most people will have received a few questionable texts from scammers trying to panic or trick them into transferring money.

This type of fraud – called “smishing” – works by using relatively inexpensive technology to send you an automated text message or call, supposedly from your bank, government organization, or the police.

However, scammers are incredibly adaptable, so we can expect to receive bogus alerts about news items (passports, benefit payments or delayed driver’s licenses) or Christmas inconveniences like text messages letting you know that a parcel could not be delivered.

This scam was rampant last year and works by sending you to a bogus website where you enter personal information that is used to create a fake identity or steal your passwords.

Items that do not exist

Many Christmas drawbacks work by using bait. And this year, given the scarcity of everything from toys to turkeys, there’s plenty of bait.

When we shop online, we tend to start with stores that we know and trust. But as time goes on and it gets harder to find the items we want, people tend to widen their nets.

We also tend to check less, the more we panic. This opens the door for scammers who advertise “in-demand” items.

Look for weird website addresses, missing contact details, and vague legal information at the bottom of the website.

Ask yourself: how did this salesperson manage to get large quantities of something the department stores are running out of? Be cynical.

Social media scams

I have seen so many complaints of fraudulent social media ads over the past few years that it’s shocking.

Yet more and more people are seeking help after being scammed by online ads on Facebook, Instagram, and other sites where people recommend goods and services like YouTube and TikTok.

Companies that advertise on social media don’t often get a website scrutiny. They are often based in other countries where consumer rights rules are more lax.

Most of these companies stay on the right side of the law by actually sending you the “goods” you buy (failing to do so is outright theft). But what you get isn’t always what you pay for.

I’ve seen dollhouse furniture sent instead of real furniture, a photo of an iPhone instead of, uh, an iPhone, and insanely cheap versions of clothes that don’t even match the photo by far.

You can complain to your card provider about these inconveniences, but you will have to return the goods even if they are garbage.

Subscription and good traps

If a deal sounds too good to be true, it’s usually wrong.

As you browse online, you might find that there are a few specials available, like signing up for free beauty products or links to get discounts from retailers.

Often times, these offers are “subscription traps”. These sites take your contact details and after the “free” period ends, they start charging you for goods or services that you did not want or authorize.

These fees are monthly and you might not even have noticed that the money is coming out of your account.

Subscription traps that send you shoddy products at high prices usually come from companies based overseas and are often downright against.

Membership services like discounts and voucher offers are sometimes legitimate businesses, but still charge you a membership fee each month to get the “offers”.

Ask yourself before signing up for anything: why does the business need my card number if the goods are free?

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Missing companion scam

It’s not that hard for crooks to take control of people’s emails. This allows them to target people with specific types of fraud because they have access to all of that person’s email addresses.

It’s possible to ask for money (usually from people stranded overseas in need of urgent help), but overall these seemingly harmless emails are designed to trick you into clicking a link containing malware which in turn infects your computer.

So if a former classmate sends you an email out of the blue, don’t click it mindlessly.

Make sure you have anti-virus software loaded on your computer or phone and that you perform regular checks.

Auction fraud

Let’s end with a classic. Over the past few weeks, I have seen a few people on the streets running some fraudulent auction scams.

This is where a man with a megaphone draws a crowd with some very OTT jokes about the huge discounts for things like perfume. The pace of sales drags on and crowds are drawn.

The real scent is brought out. You bid and pay for items in a bag, but when you open it… either the items are not the same or cheap copies.

This is because you are bidding for the bag, not the perfume you thought you were buying. This ancient scam works by using cronies who are “thrilled” when they get the chance to make their first bid.

The same cronies can “encourage” angry buyers to back down. Report this to the police if you get bitten – it is an outright scam.

What can I do if I have been scammed?

There is no foolproof solution to avoiding fraud, but there are things you can do:

  • Try paying by credit card first, then by debit card, as both allow you to “charge back” for money if goods or services are not provided. You can also request a refund from your credit card provider if there is a problem.
  • Never click on a link in text or email. Always search for the legitimate website and then contact the company to check if the message you received is legitimate.
  • If you transferred money, contact your bank as soon as possible and ask them to call back the money. You have a tight window to do it, so act quickly.
  • Don’t make any purchases online before checking out where the business is located and how you would contact them if there was a problem.
  • Check out online review sites before you buy to get a feel for how other people have found their experience.

Resolver has helped nearly a million people solve a problem for free over the past year. Contact us here:

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