Most common scams

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The top five most likely festive scams of 2017 are listed below.

Fake websites selling counterfeit goods

Many shoppers will be buying presents online for their loved ones this Christmas but end up purchasing fake goods by mistake. The most common complaints to the Trading Standards Service are about:

  • GHD hair straighteners
  • UGG boots
  • make-up
  • jewellery

However consumers have also reported buying a wide variety of fake goods ranging from clothes and shoes to iPods.

The main areas of risk are auction sites and entirely fake websites.

Consumers should:

  • try to stick to familiar brand-name or retailer websites
  • use search engines to research a website to see if people have had problems with it
  • be aware that a website that includes ‘.uk’ in its address does not mean the trader is based in the UK
  • be aware that a seller based abroad can often be impossible to trace. Police in the UK have recently closed down thousands of fake websites

Fake credit providers/ online loan applications

Christmas can be a time when consumers find it difficult to make ends meet and many are forced to borrow money to pay for food and presents. The scammers prey on those who have a poor credit history or need money quickly.

A person will typically reply to an advert for a fast loan and will have their application approved regardless of their credit history. Before they receive the loan, they are told they must pay an upfront fee to cover insurance for the loan.

In most cases, consumers are asked to send money to India as admin fees. Once this fee is paid, the victim does not hear from the company again and the loan is never received.

Consumers should:

  • be very careful when dealing with loan companies that charge upfront fees
  • not believe adverts that claim that a loan is guaranteed
  • not wire money to loan companies using money transfer when applying for loans

Free Trial slimming and beauty products

As the New Year approaches, many consumers resolve to get fit and lose weight. Some consumers are duped into buying slimming tablets online. Consumers are led to believe that, when buying their free sample online, they are paying only for its postage and packaging. However, they had in fact signed up to a 69 per month regular supply of the product.

Consumers should:

  • always read the terms and conditions carefully to know exactly what they are signing up to
  • remember that ‘miracle’ health scams often target vulnerable people, such as those who are desperate to lose weight or find a cure for illness
  • remember that it is unlikely that such products have been properly tested or that there is any proof that they are medically effective. Some of these products may even be harmful

Help! Ive been robbed scam

This travel scam sends fake distress messages to family and friends requesting that money be wired or transferred so that they can get home. Trading Standards predicts this scam could rise during the busy travel season.

Consumers should:

  • be wary of any email that you receive that asks you to wire money, even if the message appears to come from a friend
  • make sure that their email account details are as secure as possible
  • be wary of possible phishing scams designed to steal their webmail account details

Remote PC Support

In this latest scam, householders receive a phone call from a person claiming to represent major PC or software companies. Some of the callers claim that the consumers home PC has a virus, system crash or is running slowly.

They go on to say that they can resolve the problem with the computer remotely if the consumer gives them their credit card details and/ or remote access to their PC.

Consumers should:

  • be suspicious of unsolicited calls related to a security problem, even if they claim to represent a respected company
  • never provide personal information, such as credit card or bank details, to an unsolicited caller
  • not go to a website, type anything into a computer, install software or follow any other instruction from someone who calls out of the blue

If you’ve been the victim of a scam

If you think you’ve been the victim of a scam, or have information about a suspected scam, tell family and friends. You should also contact consumer advice helpline Consumerline by: