Christmas shopping scams: what to look out for

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2020 has been an unusual year, and more of us than ever are buying items online this holiday season. 

While you might see some tempting deals out there, there are a few things you should always be looking out for to protect yourself from scams. These are our top tips for staying safe when shopping online.

Be super careful about making bank transfers

Sending money by bank transfer is similar to giving someone cash. As soon as it’s been sent, it becomes difficult to get back if you realise you’ve been scammed. 

Most purchase platforms - like Depop and Shpock - advise on the best way to pay or have a secure payment platform of their own. Other sites like Gumtree also offer advice on the best way to pay. 

Be wary of bargains

Does the price feel too good to be true? Chances are, it probably is. 

If you spot something advertised below retail price then it’s possible that the seller has no intention of sending you the item. Or they might not even have it to sell themselves. 

Search for a retailer that will let you pay by card - even if you have to pay the recommended retail price.

Scammers might tempt you with out-of-stock items

After the latest in consoles or phones? If they’re out of stock in retailers, scammers are more likely to advertise them online, as they know they’re in high demand!

Take care when you see these adverts: even if you really want the latest tech, try to inspect the product in person before you part with your money. If you’re unable to see the item in person, we recommend buying through a platform with buyer protection.

Make sure you fully read the description - cheeky scammers can pull tricks like just selling an empty box or even a photo of an item! 

Hearing lots of excuses? That’s a red flag.

Is the seller saying they can’t talk right now? Or they don’t have Paypal and need a bank transfer? Maybe they don’t have the item and need to send it from another location? 

These are all things scammers can say to avoid providing you with legitimate proof that the item exists and they’re ready to sell it to you. 

Take care if you can’t collect it in person

Found the perfect gift and the only way to get it is through the post? If that’s the case, make sure you have proof of purchase for the item you’re buying, proof of postage, and pay through a secure method of payment so that if something goes wrong, you can get your money back. But be careful - these proofs can be easily faked by cunning scammers. 

Get more information on protecting yourself from scams

We’ve published some previous advice on buying puppies and kitten online here (but remember, puppies and kittens aren’t just for Christmas) and other scams which are common on social media.  

The best advice we can give is to be careful with who you’re sending money to. Please always check that you're sending money to someone you know and trust, and if you have any doubt please don't make the payment.

Although Christmas is when scams like this are more common, this advice applies year round - always take care in who you’re sending money to, no matter the time of year.

For more information on scams to watch out for, head to the Take Five hub from Stop Fraud for lots of handy advice.

Happy Holidays!