How to keep yourself safe from seasonal scammers

Man leaning over a woman's head to steal from her purse

As the festive season gets closer, we see more scams raising their ugly heads. If you’re in debt right now, have been in debt before or think you’re going to go into debt over Christmas, it makes a lot of sense to protect yourself from criminals. The same goes if you’re simply Christmas shopping online. It makes sense to be extra-wary at this time of year. Here’s how to keep yourself safe from seasonal scammers.

Help, you’ve had a phone call from a bailiff – Or have you?

If you think you’ve had a phone call from a bailiff, either demanding payment or threatening to come round to your place to collect a debt, be very careful. There are plenty of criminals out there claiming to be bailiffs when they’re nothing of the sort.

Some of them provide a telephone number for a genuine debt collection agency or even your local bailiff’s office. They might provide bank account details that seem genuine and often give out the names of real Certificated Enforcement Agents.

Protect yourself by staying calm and not panicking. Think first. Is it possible that you owe money? If you are not in debt, it’s unlikely. Get the name of the debt collection agency the ‘bailiff’ works for, hang up, and give the company a call yourself to verify whether or not they are genuine.

Whatever you do, don’t panic and don’t hand over any money. Never give someone your card or bank details over the phone. And never pay money on a card or by bank transfer without first getting – and checking – the official paperwork.

Scams are fraud, and fraud is illegal. If you think you’ve encountered a scammer, whether or not you fell for their lies, report it to the police.

What if someone turns up on your doorstep demanding money?

If someone turns up on your doorstep claiming to be a bailiff, take the same precautions. Stay calm, don’t let them into your home, ask for the official ID, check it, and insist they give you their employer’s details. Call the employer yourself to check. And never hand over cash or financial details of any kind on the doorstep, especially when the person can’t show you the official paperwork.

If you feel unsafe or threatened at any point, call the police.

Debt collection scams involving businesses

Seasonal debt collection scammers target businesses, too. We’ve heard about scammers who pretend to be court bailiffs working on behalf of a local court. They quote a warrant number and say there’s a bailiff on the way to deal with a debt relating to another company, often thousands of pounds. They say that unless the debt is paid before the bailiff arrives there’ll be an extra fee – usually a couple of thousand pounds – and they’ll start removing goods to cover the debt if the bailiff doesn’t get the money owed in full immediately.

When someone like this contacts you and ultimately asks you to make a bank transfer into a ‘protected client account’ to stop a fictional bailiff turning up, stay calm. As a business owner, you should know whether or not you owe a debt. If you’re sure you don’t, you’re probably right.

If the scammer persists, get as many details as you can before hanging up on them. There’s no reason why you should remain polite when someone is rudely trying to rip you off! Then report the scammer to the police asap.

Take extra care when shopping online

in 2016 alone the City of London police estimated about £10 million was lost to seasonal scammers. One victim lost £86,000 trying to buy a boat from a fraudster on eBay. As online shopping increases in popularity, so do the number of Xmas scams.

This is a busy time of year for people who celebrate Christmas, and it’s tempting to just get things done online as fast as you can, by mobile or on your PC. But you can lose a lot of money if you’re not careful.

Festive scams range from dodgy holiday deals to malicious apps and websites set up to steal your personal data and credit card information. Take the 2017 scam that circulated via WhatsApp, for example, promising 99% discounts on Amazon.com, or the 2018 Facebook scam advert from China selling a mini-laser printer, where the scammers took people’s money and never sent the goods.

If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. If a product looks too amazing to be real, or too cheap for words, it probably is. If possible, avoid entering your credit or debit card details into a website payment form unless you are 100% sure it’s trustworthy. Alternatively only shop at sites where you can pay using PayPal.

The same goes for email offers at this time of year. Phishing emails can look horribly similar to emails sent by big retailers and trusted brands. It’s better safe than sorry, best to just delete them without opening them however good the offer seems.

We wish you a very merry…

Here’s to a wonderful Christmas. We hope you have a great time, and we wish you a profitable and happy new year. Stay wise, stay safe, stay on the ball and you should avoid those festive scams!

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