‘Tis the season to be wary warns Cornwall’s Trading Standards  

12 December 2017 Posted by

Shoppers are being warned to be wary of opportunistic scams this Christmas by Cornwall Council’s Trading Standards team.

The safest way to avoid the disappointment of being ripped off or receiving broken, substitute or poor quality gifts to give as Christmas presents, is to buy goods from genuine, established shops and businesses.

However, with more and more people opting to buy presents online, Cornwall Council’s Trading Standards team are urging people to be cautious before entering their payment details on websites or giving them over the phone.

Fair Trade Team Manager Nigel Strick said: “Last Christmas, Royal Mail handled over 138 million parcels, with almost 90% of shoppers buying some or all of their presents online. The average household spends almost £800 on Christmas, which means a lot of money is being paid to online businesses for goods that people haven’t actually seen.

“Unfortunately, this volume of online spending and the pressure associated with ‘must have’ Christmas presents means that there is even greater risk of being targeted by on-line fraudsters, so it pays to take a few precautions and be safe.”

To help people avoid falling victim to scammers and ensure they have a merry Christmas, Trading Standards has issued the following advice:

  • Fake delivery emails or phone calls: In the run-up to Christmas, many people have dozens of packages arriving and often lose track of what they’ve ordered. Scammers know this and send out emails or make phone calls that purport to come from legitimate courier companies. Usually these ask for payments to ‘release’ the parcel or redirect victims to scam websites containing malware or further scams.
  • Stay safe: Never agree to make any payment for the release of a parcel. Delivery companies will usually leave a card if you are out so use the information on that card to check on the delivery company’s website. Check the sender’s address to make sure it is something you are expecting and go to that company’s own website to track orders.
  • Fake online shops: As the pressure mounts to find that ‘must have’ gift or to save money on Christmas present buying or even to find the time to buy the all-important presents so does the number of bogus websites offering exactly what you need and often at bargain prices. Sometimes these sites will look identical to other, legitimate websites – but it’s all part of the scam, designed to trick you into parting with your money. How do you protect yourself against this? What can people do?
  • Stay secure: Look out for the padlock sign on the left of the toolbar and look for ‘https’ instead of ‘http’” at the start of the website address before you enter any sensitive information. This means a website is secure.  Look for online reviews of the website to see if others have had problems or can confirm its authenticity. And check that you know exactly who you are dealing with – the name of the business, its registered office, contact details in case of problems, etc.
  • E-voucher and ticket scams: Trying to save some money or grab a bargain can lead you open to e-voucher or ticket scams. These are often shared via social media or by direct e-mail and can claim to offer free vouchers from well-known brands. But click on the link and you will inevitably be taken to a fake site where you will be asked for a small payment or for your personal details. Online ticket agencies are often the best way to purchase must have tickets for shows, concerts and events – but even some of the larger online sites these days offer tickets they don’t have.
  • Email safety: Be careful when opening any e-mail from an unfamiliar address, no matter how tempting the offer sounds. Poor spelling and grammar is one tell-tale sign that something isn’t right. If in doubt, check the voucher by contacting the actual shop, and only buy tickets from the officially authorised website or box office.
  • Social media scams: Social media sites are often used to advertise amazing deals on electronics, toys, perfumes, fashion clothing and jewellery. But be warned, lots of these offers are completely bogus or are offering counterfeit copies. Either way, your disappointment is the only thing that will be guaranteed. Social networks also make it easy to share links to phishing sites and malware. Only deal with genuine, authorised outlets and websites – companies that you have dealt with before.

Cornwall Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Protection Sue James said: “Remember, if an offer in your email or text inbox sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  It pays to be wary and to treat anything suspicious in the same cautious way that you would any unexpected emails or texts offering to save you money.”

Scams can be reported on 03454 040506 , with advice on the latest scams and how to avoid them available via the Action Fraud website.

Businesses in Cornwall selling goods via the internet can get advice and information about obligations and liabilities from Trading Standards by calling 0300 1234 212 (option 2).

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Simon, Research & Information Officer, Amethyst, Community Safety Team

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