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Protecting yourself against scams over the festive season

It’s important that we’re aware of potential scams, especially at this time of year when our spending often increases and as Christmas approaches.

The festive season is supposed to be the time of goodwill, but unfortunately it also provides opportunities for criminals to strike and try and target consumers.

Find out more about the different types of scams, loan sharks and bogus callers and how you can stay safe this festive season.

The most common types of scams

Anyone can fall victim to a scam and they come in many different forms. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about but we must stay vigilant and be aware of the different ways they can present so we can try and protect ourselves. The 7 of the most common types of scams include:

  • Doorstep scams - in this situation, scammers may come to your door and pretend to be someone they’re not to try and get money from you
  • Postage or mail scams - you may receive fake post containing false claims or offers
  • Phone and text scams - when you receive a phone call or message from someone who tries to get your personal information or persuade you to buy products you don’t need
  • Email and online scams - unexpected emails or pop-ups asking you to click on a link or confirm your bank details
  • Relationship scams - when someone tries to earn your trust by forming a fake relationship with you in order to take money from you
  • Identity theft - Your personal information is stolen from you, or someone impersonates you to access your money or run up debts in your name
  • Investment and pension scams - scammers may try to steal from your pension, perhaps by offering seemingly attractive investment opportunities.

For more advice on how to keep yourself safe from scams, in particularly as we increasingly spend online, check out the Citizen’s Advice website which also provides information on where to go to find out about scams in your area.

Loan sharks

We can sometimes become tempted to borrow money to help us through what can for some be an expensive time of year. However, this often means an influx in loan sharks targeting people for money.

Loan sharks are illegal lenders who often target vulnerable people. They might seem friendly at first but borrowing from them is never a good idea – even if you feel you have no other option.

You can spot a loan shark by noticing that they:

  • Offer little or no paperwork (such as a credit agreement or record of payment)
  • Refuse to give information (such as the interest rate or how much you owe)
  • Take items as security (like passports, bank cards or driving licenses)
  • Increase the debt or add additional charges at any time
  • Refuse to allow you to settle your debt
  • Become nasty; resorting to intimidation, threats, or violence.

You can check whether the lender is legitimate by viewing the FCA Financial Services Register to see if they’re authorised. The Financial Conduct Authority keeps details of all authorised lenders, so if the lender contacting you isn’t listed as having a current authorisation to lend money, don’t borrow money from them or let them come into your home.

And, if you’re worried about the impact of the festive season on your finances, please get in touch. We can discuss your individual circumstances and how best we can support you.

Bogus callers

Bogus callers are people who turn up to your home pretending to be someone they’re not. They pose as trading standards officers, council staff, charity collectors and more, with plausible stories to get access to your home and obtain your personal details, or to trick you into parting with your money.

Bogus traders can:

  • Persuade victims to have unnecessary work done
  • Overcharge you for their work
  • Provide a poor standard of work
  • Fail to give notice of a consumer’s cancellation rights.

When someone arrives at your home, always ask to see a caller’s ID badge. Alternatively, if they give you their name and details from the company they work for, don’t forget you can contact the company to double-check this. All of our staff at VIVID carry ID badges and should show these to you when visiting your home.

If you’re not expecting anyone to visit you for a product or service, do not let them into your home and if you’re really unsure, don’t open the door. If you feel intimidated or unsafe, you can also report the bogus caller to the police on 101. You can report all types of scams to Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud. Action Fraud contact number is 0300 123 2040.