With money a little tighter this winter, scammers are increasingly targeting people in the lead up to Christmas. It’s important to know how to recognise a scam and how to report anything you think is suspicious.

You can use the Citizens Advice online scams helper tool to get advice that’s relevant to your situation. We’ll use the answers you provide to advise on how to check whether something might be a scam and what to do if you’ve been scammed. 

The tactics used by scammers become more sophisticated every year, making scams tricky to recognise, but there are things you can look out for:

If it looks to good to be true 

If a deal or offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. For example, if tickets to an event are much cheaper than they’re being sold elsewhere or a holiday is a lot less than you’d expect to pay, there’s a good chance the offer isn’t genuine. 

If a stranger contacts you  

Be wary of people contacting you out of the blue on social media sites or via text or email offering an item for sale or a deal on something. If someone you don’t know contacts you it’s safest to ignore them, or report it if you think you’ve spotted a scam.

Making sure a seller is genuine 

If you’re buying from a website you haven’t used before, it’s a good idea to spend a few minutes researching it. You should look up the company’s terms and conditions and its address, which is normally found in the website’s ‘contact us’ section – this should have a street name, not just a post office box.

If it’s a registered UK company you can check its details on the Companies House website

Checking the reviews 

If you haven’t bought from a seller before you should check what other people have said about the company. It’s worth looking at different review websites to see other people’s feedback – don’t rely on reviews the company has put on its own website. 

If you’ve been asked for payment in an unusual way 

Scammers will often ask you to pay in an unusual way, or very quickly. For example, you’ve been asked to send money through a transfer service like MoneyGram or Western Union or pay via vouchers (e.g. iTunes gift cards).

Remember to never give away your personal information like a password or PIN and never click on or download anything you don’t trust. 

If you’ve been scammed 

If you’ve been scammed there are organisations you should report the scam to. If you’ve transferred money in the last 24 hours, speak to your bank and the police. You should also contact the police if you feel unsafe. You can report scams to Citizens Advice and Action Fraud

Don’t feel embarrassed about reporting a scam – scammers are clever and it can happen to anyone. Reporting a scam helps track down and stop scammers, helping to prevent it happening to others too. 

If you need advice about scams you can find more information on the Citizens Advice website or call the consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133.

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