Make sure your Christmas break goes without a hitch by protecting yourself and your loved ones from fraud this festive season.

Whether you’re online shopping, donating to charity or securing a loan to help pay for the big day, Christmas time brings a whole host of opportunities for fraudsters to get their hands on your money.

Here, fraud and cyber prevention officer Dave York, from Cambridgeshire Police takes you through the 12 frauds of Christmas, with information on how to protect yourself. 

Faulty goods

With more of us avoiding the last-minute dash to the shops in favour of browsing from the comfort of our own home, online shopping sales have boomed over the past few years, but sadly, so have the frauds surrounding them. 

Make sure you use a trusted retailer’s official website and buy direct if you can. If you are ordering from a third-party website, check the terms and conditions, including delivery, returns and insurance to make sure the company is legitimate

Make sure your antivirus software is up to date as this will enable your computer or device to flag suspicious sites

Charity fraud

Christmas is traditionally a time when many charities ask for donations. Most of these requests are legitimate, but sadly fraudsters may look to take advantage of your charitable nature and help themselves to your cash.

If you are donating online, visit the charity website direct and do not respond to requests through money transfer companies.  Consider other ways of donating such as over the phone or in person.

Romance fraud

It’s not only Valentine’s Day when people consider looking for love. Family, friends and loved ones are a big part of Christmas celebrations and people often turn to online dating during the festive season.

Always use trusted dating sites and be wary of anyone who wants to take the conversation away from the platform too quickly.

Beware of the use of fake photos and videos – the person you are talking to or looking at may not be who they say they are. A quick Google reverse image search will show you if their profile picture has been used before

Loan fraud

Christmas can be expensive, so it’s understandable that many people turn to loans to help with the cost of presents, food and other festive goods.

Loan frauds usually happen when a person applies for a loan, is accepted and then told they have to pay an upfront fee to cover the insurance. Once this fee is paid, the victim never hears from the company again and the loan is never received.

Only borrow from legitimate and trusted lenders, such as your bank and be wary of loan providers who charge an upfront fee.

Ticketing fraud

Concerts, gigs, theatre performances and sporting events are a big part of getting into that festive spirit and a great way to make happy memories.

Only buy tickets from reputable and official sites, selling them for the correct price or directly from the venue. Legitimate websites will display the “padlock” symbol in the search bar. Always pay for tickets on your credit card, this way you’re protected by the Consumer Credit Act.

Holiday fraud

During the festive season, many of us like to book a few days away – whether escaping to the slopes or seeking a spot of winter sun, Christmas is a busy time for travel.

Beware of anyone asking you to pay them by direct bank transfer, not through a website. A scammer will often use photos of accommodation copied from other sites. Carry out a Google image search to check where else an image has been used.

The scammer, or their advert, may claim they belong to a legitimate trade body or consumer protection scheme, such as the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA). Contact the body or scheme to check the person’s credentials. Research the property yourself. See if it has its own website.

Money transfer fraud

Fraudsters take full advantage of the chaos and rush around Christmas time. You’re so set on getting all your presents that you might not think twice when asked to pay for something via bank transfer, rather than inputting your card details.

However tempted you may be because something is “the last one in stock”, never transfer money directly into a seller’s bank account.

There are plenty of genuine sellers out there, but be aware fraudsters are also looking to cash-in by persuading people to transfer money for products and services that don’t exist.

Christmas e-card scams

With more and more people looking to cut costs and save the environment, Christmas e-cards (virtual Christmas cards you can send digitally via email) are becoming ever more popular.

While most are genuine, be aware that cyber criminals are creating their own festive e-card, which, once opened, can install malware on your device enabling the scammers to collect your personal, sensitive data.

If you receive an e-card from an unknown email address or someone you don’t know, play it safe and delete it.

Quishing scams

Quishing, also known as QR code phishing, involves tricking someone into scanning a phony QR code with their phone or device.

The QR code then takes the user to a fraudulent website that might download malware or ask for sensitive information. 

QR codes are often found on things like parking machines, charging points, emails, even restaurant menus, and you may well use them even more this time of year as you dash between car parks to purchase presents and meet up with friends in cafes and restaurants.

If the QR is on a poster in a public area, always check whether it appears to have been stuck over the poster, window or billboardIf the sign or notice is laminated and the QR code is under the lamination or part of the original print, chances are it’s more likely to be genuine

If in doubt, download the app from the official Google or Apple store or search the website on your phone’s internet browser, rather than scanning a QR code to take you there. It may take longer, but it’s more secure

Social media scams

Beware fraudsters on social media platforms advertising festive giveaways and offers.

While many will be genuine, some are designed to encourage you to click on phony adverts, which take you to bogus sites and ask for personal or financial details.

Carefully consider the amount of personal information displayed and posted on your social media accounts as fraudsters can use this to their advantage

Malware fraud

Mobile phones, tablets and anything tech are the gifts of choice for many at Christmas, but these are a cyber-criminal’s dream! Fraudsters are constantly developing new ways to infect our devices through malicious apps or infected website URLs.

Make sure you have the latest version of software installed for increased protection.

Only download apps from official app stores like Google Play and Apple Store and avoid clicking on links in emails from unknown sources.

Auction fraud

Auction sites such as eBay and Vinted are a great way to buy Christmas gifts – items are often cheaper and you get a great feeling from giving new life to something unwanted. However, while most items and sellers on auction sites are genuine, there are those looking to make a quick buck at your expense.

Always use recommended methods of payment rather than transferring money direct to a seller.  Research the seller before you bid. If available, check their feedback but be mindful this can also be falsified.

Be cautious when buying from sellers abroad or private individuals. If in doubt, back out of the sale.